The ReWrite: World of Farmcraft

There’s a lot to be said for Blizzard’s iterative design philosophy: it means that new features are getting added to the game in each successive expansion, and it means that those features rarely get the opportunity to become stale by doing them over and over again without providing some new form of content.

All that being said, there are certain concepts that have been introduced into the game that I feel would have been really interesting to see if they’d been in the game from the very start. It flies in the face of iterative design to do that, but this is a chance for me to mix things up and that’s pretty much what I’m all about on PW:R, so here we go:

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Garrisons: Analysis Part One of Many

I really can’t talk enough about how much I love the concept of Garrisons for Warlords of Draenor. A lot of other sites have given the basic overview of how they work, so I’ll let Blizzard cover that while I get into some nitty gritty about it — insofar as gritty examination is possible when it’s clearly still in an early design phase.

Allow me to get that Disclaimer out of the way: EVERYTHING about Warlords of Draenor is in design flux at this point, and the information Blizzard has released, in addition to all of my analysis and speculation below, might end up changing dramatically before the beta AND before the release of the expansion. So take everything with a grain of salt.

All that said, there’s a lot that we don’t know about Garrisons as it stands right now:

  • What do all of the buildings do? For the primary profession buildings, it seems pretty straightforward: park followers who have the appropriate skill there, and they’ll research recipes and craft them. For some of the other buildings, we know what they’ll do either because something showed up in one of the mockup slides or Cory Stockton answered a direct question about them. For some of the buildings though, it’s not clear what they’ll do.
  • How many followers can you assign to each building? What kind of effect is there in having multiple followers at the same task?
  • How many followers are we talking about total? The Barracks adds room for discrete numbers of followers per rank, but that’s specifically for the number of followers you can send on missions simultaneously. This means that having a maxed out Barracks would allow you to dispatch a single raid, but then you’d have two followers left that can quest (because you need more than 2 followers to do anything other than quest, if it’s a mission).
  • There’s also a lot of questions about what mechanisms govern followers. Infirmaries reduce downtime for followers, which implies that followers will need recovery time after going on missions. Upgrading the Garrison from tier to tier improves Travel Speed for Followers, implying that there’s a method to reduce mission time, which the Stables might play into.

There are certainly more questions, but I’ll get into them later. For now, let’s talk specifically about plots and choices.

Building Dynamics

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CLICK MEH SEYMOUR

By the time you get to the last tier (Tier 3, pictured above) your garrison appears to have 14 plots (4 small, 6 medium, and 4 large), but all told there are 24 buildings (neither count including the Town Hall).

  • 11 small buildings (1 each for the primary non-gathering professions, and Archaeology, and the Salvage Yard which doesn’t appear to have a stated purpose.)
  • 7 medium buildings (the rest of the professions show up here, with the Pet Stables, Trading Post, and the Lumber Mill, which also doesn’t have a stated or implied purpose.)
  • 6 large buildings (all of the major follower-affecting buildings are here.)

What this means is that the stated intent of “you’ll be able to cover professions you don’t have, but not enough plots to cover all of them” is definitely in play, since there are 10 small profession buildings (since the Salvage Yard doesn’t appear to be linked to a profession) but you only have 4 small plots to work with. Thus, with small buildings, there are a couple of interesting discrepancies to note:

  • Assuming the Storehouse is for Archaeology, that makes it the only secondary profession (aside from Fishing) to get a small building. Assuming that most players are going to use their four small plots to supplement the professions they don’t have, that puts Archaeology at a disadvantage, since it doesn’t generate gear or consumables, but instead only generates lore objects and vanity items.
  • Not knowing what the Salvage Yard is potentially restricts that choice even further; if it’s something that a player deems mission-critical, then that leaves only three small plots for supplementary professions. (More speculation on the Salvage Yard below.)
  • The Fishing Shack is mentioned as a starting building, but doesn’t appear in any of the mockups. Since Fishing only generates Cooking mats (and the occasional crate), that also puts it at a disadvantage compared to other primary profession buildings.

With medium buildings, there’s less constraint on choices, since you’ll have 6 medium plots but have 7 buildings to choose from. The interesting choice that comes into play is whether to aim for getting complete coverage in gathering professions and hiring followers while also reaping the benefits of the Trading Post and… whatever the Lumber Mill is supposed to do. (More speculation on the Lumber Mill below.)

With large buildings, there’s a greater constraint than with medium, but not as bad as small, since it’s 4 large plots and 6 buildings.

  • Without knowing how many characters you can dispatch on missions without a Barracks, there’s no way to judge how vital the Barracks itself will be.
  • The Academy is valuable in the leveling game while you work on building a team, but once you’ve got a diverse team it has less value. Assuming that we never permanently lose followers and that getting certain skills on followers won’t take an excessive grind, of course.
  • Assuming the Mage Tower provides a caster buff similar to what the Armory offers to melee followers, the Armory still has an advantage since it can also be used to train followers to a higher quality. However, the interesting choice between Mage Tower and Armory will be based on whether you can field a dungeon/raid team that meets the skill requirements of the mission AND hits the role requirements as well. The big question is whether the Mage Tower has a second purpose aside from the caster buff.
  • The Infirmary feels like it’s more valuable in an early game because reducing downtime means more income, but depending on what kind of follower population you can have, you might be able to mitigate the downtime penalty simply by cycling through followers, since you’ve got a max amount you can dispatch even with Barracks.
  • And not knowing what the Stable does makes it impossible to judge its choice value. It could improve travel speeds to reduce overall mission times, or it could just be a display point for our favorite mounts. Could be both.

So overall, even without knowing exactly what the limitations and abilities of certain buildings will be, there’s a decent amount of Interesting Choice to be had about all of the buildings, as well as a lot of replayability (or just making different choices with your alts’ garrisons). I feel, however, like this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Speculation:

Lumber Mill: Historically (as in the RTS games), the Lumber Mill strengthened building durability and was the delivery point for lumber. Since there’s no indication that the Garrisons will be attacked by external forces, and because lumber isn’t a player resource in this game, it’s hard to tell exactly what the Lumber Mill will get used for. It could play into the Garrison Supplies statistic, or it could enhance ranged DPS damage (which the Armory’s melee buff doesn’t explicitly cover). If so, it would be the only medium building to directly affect followers, which plays into the choice dynamics of large buildings.

Salvage Yard: The Salvage Yard uses an Engineering icon, and “Salvage” is the term that’s been used in the past for Engineering players to draw materials or vendor trash out of Mechanical corpses. However, in every slide where we see the Salvage Yard mentioned, there’s another small building (Tinker’s Garage/Engineering Works) that more directly connotes the Engineering profession. So what’s the Salvage Yard for?

  • Salvage Yard might be where you’d take items to be Disenchanted, since the Enchanter’s Tent will probably only research new enchants and apply them to your gear.
  • Building on that, I can imagine missions rewarding non-gear items that could be Salvaged in order to generate garrison supplies or new follower-specific gear.

More To Come:

There’s a lot to talk about with Garrisons, and I’m aiming to do this not only as an analysis of what was delivered at BlizzCon, but also an opportunity to make suggestions about the system and create a dialogue with Blizzard about how it works. All told, if this system is only half as dynamic as what was presented, it’s still going to be a huge selling point for Warlords of Draenor and likely the reason a good number of players come back. ^_^