Garrisons Are Not Housing, Even If We Wish They Were
Massively has a pretty fierce takedown today of Garrisons in Warlords of Draenor, the next WoW expansion. Author Eliot Lefebvre seems disappointed in almost every aspect of the feature, saying, “[Garrisons are] a half-baked Facebook game integrated into the leveling experience. Except those usually give more housing options.”
Dang, dude. That’s cold.
I’ve played with Garrisons a bit in the WoD beta, and to be honest I don’t find them very interesting. They’re essentially the farm from Pandaria combined with SWTOR’s companion crafting quest system, integrated in a way that makes them mandatory while levelling. I don’t feel any particular attachment to my Garrison, and the focus is more on function over form.
That all being said, I think more than anything Blizzard is dealing with a pretty serious perception issue here: Garrisons are not and have never been housing, and people who are expecting housing features are going to be very disappointed.
If you look back at the original feature announcement at Blizzcon 2013, to their credit Blizzard shied away from using the h-word. Garrisons are a “personal fortress” that provide “a piece of land to call your own”. They allow for customization of “layout, appearance, and gameplay effects” with “a number of configurations”.
The only documented time I can see “housing” come up is in a comment by Tom Chilton during a panel on the first day of Blizzcon where he said, “Garrisons are the World of Warcraft version of housing…integrated directly into the world.” In retrospect he probably shouldn’t have used that word, but the phrasing is enough to provide a little wiggle room in interpretation.
(Side note, but this is the Tom Chilton who said in an interview in 2010 that “housing will be introduced to World of Warcraft some time right after “never”.” That’s the same attitude the company had for years about a costume system and oh gee, transmog turned out to be one of their most popular new systems ever. Dorks.)
The media and player interpretation of the Garrisons announcement sort of skipped over the details and went straight to housing. GameSkinny, for example, lead with the headline, “BlizzCon Announces Player Housing“. Even WoW Insider, arguably the most Blizzard-friendly news site, reported the news as “Player housing in Warlords of Draenor“, although the article itself correctly states that the feature is more like a Real Time Strategy minigame than anything.
Garrisons are not player housing, even if we wish they were. They are a personal quest hub, the farm writ large. Anyone who approaches the feature expecting player housing is going to be very disappointed. And I understand that disappointment! I would have loved housing back in my WoW days.
But as much as many players might want housing in WoW, this is not it, and as Blizzard has repeatedly shown disdain at the idea of implementing anything approaching the housing in RIFT or WildStar or Everquest II or even Ultima Online I think for the foreseeable future this RTS clicky thing is sadly as close as we’re gonna get.