Monday, December 8, 2014

[WoW] Mission Improbable: Garrison Missions and Strange Design Decisions

An interesting facet of WoW's new Garrisons feature is that they basically created a Facebook/Mobile style game within the WoW framework itself. You have followers--fellow NPC heroes--that you send on missions and they bring you back rewards. Followers have traits, and missions have threats. Match traits with the right threats, and your chances of success go way up.

Qiana counters two of the three threats listed, and by herself would give me a 58% chance of getting the prize.
The idea overall is pretty fun in practice, but it's clear in the implementation and in developer comments that this is Blizzard's first rodeo into this style of gameplay.

Credit where credit is due, the basis they've built is quite solid. The idea of followers having their own levels, and getting experience for finishing missions is good. On top of that, similar to WoW itself, once your follower hits level 100, the game changes. Experience now goes to upgrading the quality of your follower, and they get more powerful by upgrading their gear so their ilvls go up. By mimicking WoW itself, they've used a language that players are already familiar with, not to mention giving context to the mini-game to justify its presence.

However, the devil is in the details. First of all, mission selection is wonky at best. Blizzard has missions appearing in basically seven tiers: 90 - 94; 95 - 99; 100; 100 (615 ilvl); 100 (630 ilvl); and 100 (645 ilvl). When some followers reach a high enough level, new missions start appearing in the tier that they're eligible for. Originally, this meant lower level missions would disappear, and if a follower is too low-level for a mission, they gain nearly no experience, meaning they get left behind. Now, Blizzard hot-fixed this such that you get a few missions in each tier you have followers eligible for, but this has uncovered a plethora of other issues.

Missions available and their rewards.
The first issue that Blizzard has begun to address is that of the interaction with the Salvage Yard. The Salvage Yard is a building where when you complete missions, you have a change to get a crate of loot. The better your salvage yard, the better the crates. Now, the crates can hold anything from low-level greens to epic world drops, to follower gear to complete vendor junk (but usually goes for a few gold). By giving players a bunch of lower level missions to help level their lower level followers, people quickly realized that the fastest way to generate follower gear and the like was to spam low level missions.

Which unto itself shows us a completely different issue. Lower level missions are often completeable by one follower, and often within 30 minutes to 2 hours at most. Fast forward to level 100 quests, and they're almost all 3-follower missions that take 4, 8, or 12+ hours. This, of course, mimics WoW again. Most end-game content is group content that takes more time than just solo-questing at lower level does, so it makes sense in the context of WoW that this would be the case. However, it goes against everything the devs had taught players earlier on in how Garrison missions work.

59%, will he or won't he succeed?
One of the nice things about lower-level Garrison missions was logging in, sending followers on missions, running some quests or a dungeon yourself, and when you were done, seeing your followers finish their own tasks and sending them out on one more set before logging off. You could see actual progress in a single game-play session, even if it was minor.

But once you hit 100, unless you're running the Epic Mount trait, chances are you're not going to see results until the next day. Now, I don't have a problem with that by itself, but in the context of the shorter missions from lower levels, it's frustrating to see gameplay slowed down like that for no discernible reason besides flavour. Of course, you don't want to be handing out high-level loot every two hours, so there's still gameplay reasons for slowing it, but the switch between frequent, quick missions to slow, infrequent missions feels really bad to me as a player.

There's also the case that lower level missions are just plain better for any numeric rewards. Whether it's gold, experience, or garrison resources, you're far better keeping a lower level follower around to get 95 - 99 missions to send your 100s out on. When a 96 mission gives 700 experience and 50 garrison resources for 1 - 2 hours of time, and a 100 mission gives 1500 experience and 120 garrison resources for 8 hours of time, we have a bit of an imbalance. I shouldn't feel like getting all my followers to 100 hamstrings my capability to develop my followers further.

What I would like:

  • A lot more missions in a tier than I have the capability to complete. Make me choose my priorities, be it gold, follower XP, gear, garrison resources, miscellaneous items, or whatever. Maybe nerf the amount each mission gives currently to take in account missions stacking.
  • Give me more variety in a given tier of missions for time taken. If I'm about to sit down for a 2 hour gaming session, having a bunch of 30 minute - 2 hour missions is ideal. If I'm about to log off for the night, I can send out the 10 hour missions. Even if things like gear are relegated only to 8+ hour missions, being able to send out for smaller batches of XP or gold is nice to feel progress.
  • Make the 8+ hour missions numeric rewards feel more in line with the amount of time my followers are spending. Doesn't need to be completely linear, but a little closer would feel better. Don't punish me for having all of my followers at level 100. It would also curb behaviour where players feel like they MUST log in every two hours to be the best. Some folks are going to do that regardless, but for the majority of players this should be sufficient I would think (especially now that Salvage Yard has been nerfed to an extent).
There's other things to be said about the Salvage Yard being the best way to get follower gear versus the Bunker (hooray, 1 Iron Horde Scrap again for 20 GRs!), but in terms of missions themselves, I think there's a fair number of tweaks to be made to make them feel a lot better than they do today.

Overall, I really do love the feature. It just has a few rough edges which need smoothing out.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Garrisons, #GameDesign

3 comments:

  1. I'd really like Missions with multiple parts. It could even be a solution to the longer Mission timers. Instead of a 10 hour timer, a Mission might be broken into smaller sections where you get some additional choice (maybe have these chain quests start with one follower and work their way toward three, for example) to make.

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    1. That's a neat idea. I rather like that.

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  2. "I shouldn't feel like getting all my followers to 100 hamstrings my capability to develop my followers further."

    Amen. Which I originally did, then discovered I should have kept lowbies active, so I had to deactivate two and reactivate a 91 and 97.

    "A lot more missions in a tier than I have the capability to complete. Make me choose my priorities, be it gold, follower XP, gear, garrison resources, miscellaneous items, or whatever."

    Agreed. Also makes the Barracks feel less worthwhile at the moment since the extra five followers doesn't really matter (especially since followers don't need to working 100% of the time for building...yet). Would be nice, like you said, if I was making distinct choices for whether I wanted gold, XP, gear, resources...rather than just getting everything.

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