BlizzCon 2013: World of Warcraft Garrisons Interview with Ray Cobo
Player housing isn’t quite as new to World of Warcraft as this weekend’s announcement at BlizzCon 2013 may have made it sound.
After all, we saw Blizzard’s first stab at it with Mists of Pandaria’s Sunsong Ranch. Once fully upgraded by befriending the denizens of the fertile Valley of the Four Winds, the place could be downright cozy, but its associated cosmetic options took a back seat to the utility of having a place to harvest crafting materials.
The garrison system in WoW newly announced Warlords of Draenor expansion seems to preserve that philosophy, but with far greater potential for personalization than we witnessed with our little plot of crops. I had a chance at BlizzCon to speak about the project with Ray Cobo, a senior producer for World of Warcraft, and his answers suggest that there’s a lot to get excited about.
One thing’s clear: size matters. The land allotted at Sunsong would barely fill one of the larger plots scattered within the walls of the new garrisons, with each plot serving a different purpose and benefit. A mine might provide miners with a handy way of collecting nodes, for instance, while an inn might attract powerful followers who live only to bring you loot on a platter. As a player continues work on his or her garrison, it advances through three stages of progression until, at last, it becomes a sight to behold.
That is, if anyone’s around besides you to behold it. Housing achievements don’t always need an audiences to warrant appreciation — witness the homes of Skyrim or Gravehal Keep from Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning’s Dead Kel expansion — but the multiplayer-centered design of MMORPGs seems particularly amenable to show-and-tell. With garrisons, though, you’ll be the sole onlooker most of the time, but I’m told that it’s a pleasure to see your sprawling complex loom on the horizon as you ride up.
That personal admiration was also true of Sunsong, but Cobo noted that other players can see their friends’ garrisons as long as the friend in question is their party leader. The big issue with visits by friends, he said, is giving them something to do.
“We want to give players a reason to go visit other people’s garrisons,” he said, speaking of the potential for specialized crafting or obtaining special mats.
There’s certainly also room for adding bragging rights into the mix, as the announcement panel yesterday mentioned displayable trophies for certain achievements, such as a big globe to commemorate the exploration of every zone.
Cobo said he admires such options, but he emphasized that the chief point of garrisons is utility.
“Player housing from other games is very cosmetic,” he said, citing examples from other MMOs that let players “set up drapes” or rearrange carpets but little else. “In WoW, we really want to make sure that there’s a reason to do it.”
Cobo said players should think of garrisons along the same lines as base building in the original Warcraft strategy series, but with approximately 12 or 15 minor and major plots for building structures that offer various benefits.
Again I thought of Sunsong Ranch, with its convenient seed packs for herbs that allow me to supply my alchemy and inscription professions without needing to rely on stacks of herbs from the player auction house. I asked if Blizzard had any plans for something exactly similar to Sunsong planner for garrisons or Warlords of Draenor in general. The aforementioned mining nodes seemed like a step in the right direction, but at least in my conversation with Cobo, the focus seems to be loot acquisition. With garrisons, Cobo told me, “you get access to items and rewards that you normally wouldn’t get by questing, raiding, or that kind of stuff.”