The new expansion for World of Warcraft has been announced at BlizzCon. Warlords of Draenor.
Go back in time.
SEE! the doomed world of Draenor.
FEEL! the drums of the clans inspiring young orcs to war.
BATTLE! the famous warlords of the past to save modern-day Azeroth from destruction.
WITNESS! Thrall meeting his mommy and daddy and realizing they put their loincloths on one hole at a time just like everyone else.
SAVE! an entire world and change events that will have no effect on our own timeline, so are they real fake people or fake fake people?
PLAY! in a different leg of the bifurcated trousers of time (copyright Terry Pratchett).
Lots of stuff came out, and for that news stuff I suggest you go visit WoW Insider or MMO Champion. Anything you could possibly want to know about BlizzCon and World of Warcraft announcements can be found there.
If a game developer farted at BlizzCon, WoW Insider was there, liveblogging it.
I’m saying it’s exhaustive coverage. Or is that supposed to be extensive? No, no I was right the first time. Just kidding! Sorta. It’s all done with love. And a level of stalking that is a little scary if you stop and think about it.
Enough blathering. I’m going to talk about the single new WoW feature I’m most excited about, that’s right, you saw it in the post title…
Garrisons are the new WoW player housing. Except it’s not a freaking house, or a hut on a farm, it’s your own walled fortress city.
A city. You get a city.
I’m sorry, but we go from an overgrown plot of weeds and rocks doing slave labor for a panda to building our own populated fortress.
Blizzard, you had me at “Followers”.
First, the official word on Garrisons from the official Blizzard CM blog post;
In Warlords of Draenor, you’ll make a permanent impact on the world with a Garrison: your own personal fortress that you build, staff, and manage. You’ll customize your Garrison’s layout, appearance, and gameplay effects, and attract followers to operate it. The Garrison allows World of Warcraft players to own a larger part of the world than ever before, and opens up a wide variety of interesting gameplay decisions—with as much or as little micromanagement as you wish.
Your Garrison exists seamlessly in the world, but you won’t need to go into an instance portal to visit your home base—as you travel through Draenor, you’ll see your Garrison looming on the horizon.
Read on for more details.
Followers are NPCs (non-player characters) that you recruit to join your Garrison. You’ll send them on missions to improve your Garrison and earn loot for your character. You can also allocate them to complete tasks—things like crafting or gathering resources, which they’ll do whether you’re online or offline.
Followers have a character level, an item level, and traits that affect missions and tasks. For example, if they have the Mining trait, you’ll be able to assign them to a Mine in your Garrison to gather resources for you. There are common, uncommon, rare, and epic followers, and their rarity affects the number of traits they can have.
To run an effective Garrison, you’ll first need to recruit followers. Some will make their own way to your base, but you can also upgrade your Inn to attract more followers. You can also win followers to your cause as you progress through the game’s story, when completing quests, or simply by coughing up the right sum of gold to hire mercenaries.
When they’re not away on missions, your followers hold down posts at your Garrison, where you can visit them at any time. A major goal for the Garrison system is for followers to be dynamic and interesting—for example, if a follower fails a mission that takes place in a local dungeon, they might be taken prisoner; the next time you adventure in that dungeon, you’ll be able to rescue them.
You’ll send your followers on missions for varied purposes. Successful missions will give you the resources you need to keep developing your Garrison, but you’ll also have the chance to acquire powerful loot for your character, and your followers will gain experience for each mission they run.
The resources you’ll acquire during missions include both existing crafting reagents and Garrison-specific materials. For example, if you assign a follower to a mining mission, you could receive ore, but you might also unearth stone, a new kind of resource used to construct and upgrade buildings.
Though followers are great for solo play, the system also has multiplayer elements. When you dispatch a party of your followers on certain missions, you’ll also be able to join forces with your guildmates’ followers, even if your guildmate is offline.
Followers grow in power in a way that mirrors players’ progression. From levels 90–100, followers will gain character levels, which have a significant impact on their abilities and mission success chance. They’ll also increase their item level as you equip them with follower-specific gear; once they’ve reached level 100, equipment will have a larger role to play in their overall effectiveness.
Garrisons & Buildings
Buildings are the individual “pieces” of your Garrison—Stables, Farms, Mines, Armories, and more. They improve your ability to recruit, use, and train followers; to craft; to complete missions; and to run missions more quickly by reducing your followers’ downtime.
Each building in your garrison can be upgraded, which amplifies its mechanical effect and visuals. For example, an upgraded Barracks will grow bigger and more impressive, but it’ll also increase the number of followers you can send on missions at one time (for example, 5 followers at once for a level 1 Barracks, then 7 followers, then 12—though the exact numbers are still in flux).
Customizing Your Garrison’s Look
Buildings in your Garrison can be placed in a number of configurations. You can only place small-sized buildings (primarily crafting-related) on small plots; a larger building, like a Barracks, won’t fit. Bigger buildings can be constructed early on—even a “starting” Garrison has room for a large structure. As your Garrison increases in level, you’ll get access to more and larger building space, and increase the versatility and power of your holdings.
Garrisons are visually distinct depending on whether you’re a Horde or Alliance player, and you’ll be able to place your Garrison in one of several zones on Draenor. You’ll also specify your Garrison’s layout (the physical location of buildings within your Garrison’s walls), and select the buildings you’d like to include. Choosing to “spec” your buildings (more on that below) will also change cosmetic aspects of those buildings, like furniture types and decorations, in addition to imparting different gameplay effects.
Garrisons can be shown off to same-faction players in your party, who can walk around your base, converse with your NPCs, and appraise your layout. You’ll have a reason to show your Garrison off, too: trading resources. For example, if you have extra building resources, you’ll be able to bring them to a friend’s Garrison and exchange them for materials that you need.
When specializing your Garrison’s buildings, you’ll choose a variant on the bonuses and abilities the building provides. For example, one Mine specialization might make your miners gather ore faster by the hour, while another will increase the chance that your workers strike a rare mining node. Several buildings can provide you with access to professions that your character hasn’t mastered—though you won’t have enough plots to put one down for every profession.
As you begin building up your Garrison, we expect that you’ll interact with it quite a bit. However, over time, it’s expected that your interaction will become more casual. At lower levels, your missions are on shorter time cycles (minutes, hours or days); once your followers have reached high levels, it’s likely that you’ll send some of them off on longer raid missions for a week at a time. We want garrisons to be important, but our goal is a system that’s easy to enjoy without being extremely intensive.
Take command on Draenor!
Your Garrison will be woven deeply into the storyline of Warlords of Draenor, beginning when your faction leader commissions you to establish a beachhead on this alien world—but the ultimate fate of your personal fortress on Draenor is entirely up to you.
Pretty insanely awesome, right?
Here are more details from BlizzCon about Garrisons, and also my take on things.
A Garrison is your own personal phased place in the old world of Draenor. You decide what zone you want your Garrison to be in, and if later on you decide you’d prefer the whole Garrison to be somewhere else, you will be able to move your Garrison to a different zone. So it’s not a permanent decision, you can make a mistake and change it later.
Your Garrison is exactly like the farm in one respect; progress/development is tied to one character. Each of your characters will have a different Garrison. Blizzard has said that there will be ways to accelerate other Garrison growth once one character has it maxed.
I do not know if your Followers will be leveled and shared across your account, just like pets and mounts are now, or if they will be character specific. I’d love some clarification on that. Since you have to level them and there are different quality levels, I would have assumed Followers would be account wide.
However, some of the comments from Blizzard concerning limits on numbers of Followers sent out on missions and bringing back loot for a specific character, and the fact they say your Followers will be present on your Garrison performing the tasks you assigned them when you visit makes me feel that right now Followers will also be specific to a particular character. I have no hard facts, but that is my feeling as things stand now.
I find it interesting that they have mentioned there will be Follower-specific gear. That means you don’t give your Followers your own cast-off loot drops as you would in Diablo III. They get their own special items. I guess that way there won’t be complaints that the Rogue is rolling Need on Plate drops so “My tank Followers can get geared up.”
Your friends can visit your Garrison. Yes! The Garrisons are phased like existing farms, but if you form a party with your friends, the other members of the party will be able to visit (be in phase with) the Garrison of the party leader, up to a whole 40 person raid!
So, the Garrison is like the original Warcraft real time strategy (RTS) towns on crack. The buildings you plop down are real buildings in World of Warcraft. You can enter them, explore them, they are furnished with stuffs. The barracks is a real barracks, not just a building with a glowing door that troops sometimes come running from. I always wanted to go in those damn things! Also, Blizzard has announced they are working on updating the code on the original Warcraft games so they will run on modern versions of Windows. Please release soon, I want to play them all over again!
You will be able to decorate and customize your Garrison buildings. It was specifically mentioned that if you kill a creature out in Draenor and take it’s head as a trophy, you will be able to display it somewhere in your Garrison. More details were not provided, but customization is very cool. Technically, the farm ALSO had this kind of customization. If you improved your relationship with the Friends on the Farm, they would upgrade/decorate your personal farm and sometimes give you pets, join you there, etc. So it might be that these customizations for the Garrison will follow the same lines. We might not be talking color changes or banners, or new furniture is what I’m saying.
Your Garrison will be populated by minions, um, I mean Followers. Your minions. Minions that you will mostly recruit from the town hall of your city, and that have quality ratings just like current pets do. You will be able to assign minions to work in the buildings you erect, and when you go into those buildings or the mine or whatever, there they will be for you to see, hard at work.
I took all of the screenshots you see here directly from the archived BlizzCon streams, so these are fresh as of this weekend.
All buildings can be upgraded through three tiers, and if you look at the screenshots, some are greyed out. You will be able to buy and find Blueprints in the game for upgrading buildings, and possibly also to unlock a specific new building type.
There are more types of buildings than there are spaces to put them, even at max size, so you will have to decide what buildings you want.
I would like to point out that one of the screenshots shows the Dance Studio as a building, grayed out but there as a choice. Clearly, not all building types will be available when you first set up your Garrison, you will have to unlock more somehow later on.
So for buildings, there is an element of collecting going on here. Collecting buildings, collecting upgrade Blueprints.
Then we have the minions. Yes, they are minions, and just thinking about it gives me a gleeful evil cackle from the cockles of my heart.
From the screenshots, you can see they have quality levels, just like our pets do. We can name them, we can assign them quests, send them out to level them up.
Minions will be able to be assigned to buildings in your garrison to gather materials or craft things. When you do that, and then go visit that building, there they will be. Just, too cool.
Minions can be teamed up with other minions, formed into groups and sent on dungeon runs, and even formed up into large groups and sent on raids to bring you back loot.
None of us have ever had minions (or followers) in the game before. These will be brand new, and it makes perfect sense that we’ll be able to recruit them in our Garrison Town Hall.
It doesn’t end there, though. Blizzard made it clear in their blog post I quoted above that we will be able to run across potential Followers in Inns / Taverns elsewhere in the world.
Isn’t that wonderful? Entering a Tavern to recruit a Follower to send on quests, just like in the conventional AD&D games. After all, how many dungeon adventures start with the heroes all in the bar, drinking? “It was a dark and stormy night, the heroes are at the table before the fire in the crowded inn, and the door bangs open. An old man makes his way in, tired and worn, chilled from the storm. He comes to your table, struggling with a heavy burden. When he reaches your table, he unwraps the bundle he carries, and there revealed is a shield, worn but fine, chased with gold, emblazoned with the symbol of a hero long vanished. He has a mission, will you choose to listen to his tale?”
All adventures should start in a bar.
On a side note, have you ever heard of Tun Tavern, the birthplace of the US Marine Corps? No idea why I just thought of that.
Think how incredibly rewarding it will be when, after following a quest chain where we help avenge the death of someone’s family, they decide to join us and follow us, because we gave of ourselves to help them.
Such a simple thing. Gaining a new follower for completing a long quest chain where you spent the last several hours (or game days) helping them. You got to know them, spent lots of time with them, gave of yourself to help them, and now they’re going to join YOU on your continuing adventures.
What about gaining Followers in some of the new spontaneous world events that were announced?
You find that broken down caravan wagon in the snow, surrounded by Iron Horde orcs racing around on their war wolves and throwing spears as the people huddle inside and try to hold them off. You pitch in, chase off the orcs and help the people get to safety, and one of them decides to join you, inspired by your selflessness in saving their lives at great risk of your own. A new Follower to inspire and mentor.
That is such an amazing, rewarding idea. If Blizzard moves forward with this as they have announced, especially if we can name them afterwards, just think of the level of immersion, the depth of roleplay opportunities this provides, especially when up to 40 of your friends can come to join you in a special phased town of your own creation, populated with people YOU named?
And sure, we will likely (just guessing here) be able to get new minions as drops in raids, just like everywhere we currently find pets in the game.
Maybe we could even get new Followers from our professions. Engineers have already learned how to craft the Rascal-bot and Pierre, we have made the Blingtron and Jeeves, is it such a stretch to imagine us making the Minomatic 9001? A mechanical marvel we can set in our mine to harvest ore, and you know it’s going to get bonus ore from it’s mining, because it’s OVER NINE THOUSAND.
Followers, minions, whatever you’d like to call them, this will be amazing.
We will be recruiing minions, assigning them tasks, building instance groups and sending them off to adventure for us, building entire raid teams and ordering them to get in that dangerous place and bring me back some gear.
We can obsess over minion quality, leveling them up, what cute names to choose for them and the many tasks and quests they can do.
My son watched the whole thing with me, and when he saw you could name your minions, he announced “I’m going to name mine Bob, Bob, Bobtwo, Bob and Bob.”
Me, I’ll probably name mine after friends just like I have my pets.
Except for that one minion that fails at everything, and dies on every raid. You know there will be THAT ONE MINION, and I will find a special name for him. Oh, yes I will.
The developers have said that you will be able to use the Follower interface anywhere in the world to send them on tasks, but to collect the actual rewards they gather or bring back, you will need to visit your Garrison.
This mission system for your Followers looks like it would be perfect for using offline to assign your Followers tasks from your phone, and get the results later in game, but the developers have said they are not working on a mobile version of it at the moment. Too bad, I’d love to be able to manage my growing army of minions while I’m at work, and kiss the last smidgeon of productivity goodbye.
This Garrison and Follower addition is truly the most amazing thing I have seen in the game in all the years I have played. I thought pet battles were as good as it could ever get, but I was wrong. Oh, so freaking wrong.
The ramifications of all of this go so far beyond my expectations, I don’t even care what else they said was coming.
New raids and instances? That’s nice. A new world? Thank you, I’ll enjoy discovering it. No new major changes to pets? That’s okay, I don’t need them.
Oh wait, we might be breeding pets at the pet stables in our Garrison? Um, ew? I don’t have to, like, insert anything anywhere, do I? I like pets, but not that much. If they want to get it on, I don’t ask, they don’t tell.
No, really. Don’t tell. And if my Creepy Crate and Soul of the Aspects get together and present me with a Creepy Aspect, I really, REALLY don’t want to be told how. NOPE.
My own city and minions to command, marshaling my forces and sending them on raids, matching skills and abilities to take on more complex missions?
Expectations exceeded, mind blown, just take my damn money right now. Please?