Monday, June 29, 2015

WoW Analysis: The Garrison Nerfs of 6.2

Back when I had an existent amount of passion, I wrote what were more or less full reviews of each major patch for World of Warcraft. Ultimately, I concluded that the coverage of the patch notes was too broad and too time-consuming for the scope of a single article. In addition, I found a lot of the patch notes contained fluff or something I couldn't analyze in detail. Since then, I occasionally analyze groups of changes at a time, usually focusing on whatever happens to catch my eyes. In the case of this particular analysis article, however, this group of changes is one I've been following closely since the announcement of the shipyard, with the Q&A session with Watcher further drawing my focus. Since this article is heavily related to the experiment I did, which largely involved Garrison activities and the amount of gold they made, I thought it appropriate to address this before publishing other articles such as comparisons between my suggestion compilation and 6.2's content, among other topics.

The Q&A

Firstly, let us consider these three questions from the Q&A with Watcher, with my thoughts on his answers:
Q: I feel WOD has been geared to 1 character play, and people are Alt suffering burnout. Is this design?
A: No, burning you out is not design. Alts are way more popular now than they ever have been. We generally do think that's awesome, but it's concerning where people think multiple alts should serve my main character instead of being self-serving. We are looking into this, particularly on the mission front, so they might be looking at diminishing returns in terms of gold returns from Garrisons. This should reduce some pressure about maintaining Alt garrisons.
I find this answer comes off as uninformed and the design intent punishing. On the front of being uninformed, Watcher strongly supports the idea that missions are a significant part of Garrison management when that's probably far from the truth, especially thanks to addons like Master Plan.
The idea of diminishing returns on the amount of gold earned from alt Garrisons, which are reflected in the 6.2 patch notes, betrays an issue of punishing players for having multiple characters and further forcing the notion of 1 character play by making high gold-yielding missions incur a hidden cooldown that prevents it from showing up on other characters once it shows up on one. Furthermore, while missions are excellent in terms of gold/time, harvesting resources and managing work orders can yield a high amount of gold and take more time to do, thus likely being a greater contributor to said burnout, which makes the aforementioned change even more shortsighted.
Q: Have you learned about what didn't work with Garrisons and why no one leaves their Garrison?
A: See last answer. Most of this has to do with rewards. Garrison offers so many rewards. We like that Garrisons introduced a new segment of time play - 5 mins to play? Awesome, log in for your Garrison. It's less good if you have 2 hours to spend in game and can't think of anything to do other than spend a few minutes in your Garrison and log off. We are actively trying to shift rewards back our into the world (gearing, professions, etc.) Felblight, for example, you'll need to get out in the world. Raid missions are popular and totally skewed the risk/reward because it was giving you loot beyond what you were able to do. TLDR: Garrisons over rewarded you.
Given how much money I was able to make in the amount of time I took, I strongly agree with the TL;DR. I also agree with the idea of shifting rewards into Tanaan Jungle, which I think they've succeeded on somewhat at the very least. However, this answer implies a solution already existed, which makes me inquire why there couldn't have just been some testing to see how effective the current solution was before adding more changes that seem quite impulsive. That doesn't mean I disagree with all the last-second changes though; I'll say more on that later.
Q: There has been pretty extensive criticism of the "Point, Click, Wait" system of Garrisons. How does this differ in the Shipyard?
A: We wanted to create a new system, not just add followers. Fewer ships to send for more impactful rewards. We don't reject that type of gameplay fully. There is something about some sense of offline progression - not inherently wrong. Having to check every 30 mins on your followers DOES negatively affect it.
I feel Watcher grossly overestimates how often followers can go on missions. As it is, there seems to be a system in place for follower missions that prevents one from constantly spamming missions for the lucrative rewards. While doing the experiment, I found myself running out of missions on characters if I tried to do them more than three or four times a day, with mission checks being made throughout the day as opposed to the aforementioned half hour interval. With that said, I have some criticism to make on the shipyard (probably worth looking into in the future), but Blizzard's attempts to make longer, fewer, more rewarding missions is not one of them.
An example of me running out of missions for the day.
Patch 6.2's Changes

After Watcher's Q&A, patch 6.2 came with additional changes, which I linked above. These changes, as I mention above, were tacked on at the last second. While some of them make sense, I thought it would be worth going over a few of them:
Reduced the frequency of high-value gold missions appearing across multiple characters.
While I've mentioned this above and in other places, it bears repeating that this change is without question a punishing one. I disagree with this change for a few reasons;
  • Firstly, while these missions did yield a significant amount of gold all at once, treasure missions could easily yield roughly the same amount over time, if not more, before such missions reappear again. Also, if one's willing to spend a little extra time, they can overshadow the amount of money high-value gold missions yield, as mentioned above.
  • Secondly, this change greatly punishes players who have alts over those who do not. Considering Watcher straight-up says Garrisons are too rewarding and given my experimentation, I can prove even a single Garrison is too rewarding (even with this nerf), why the change targets a specific group of players is beyond me (further confirmed that this change targets players with alts in the Wowhead interview with Watcher).
    • This also comes in the face of a lot of alt-friendly changes that happened over the years, with some even coming in 6.2 with BoA Baleful gear tokens and Draenor Pathfinder being an account-bound achievement.
    • It is worth mentioning that alts are still characters and have costs associated with them that multiply with each character made. Since most of these costs (e.g. upgrading Garrisons, riding training) almost certainly won't diminish, why should their yield be diminished through game mechanics? As it is, there's already limiting factors such as how efficiently players can manage multiple characters.
    • Since these missions can yield a high amount of gold that will almost certainly contribute to gold inflation (a point in the linked interview I agree with), making them show up less frequently in general is a more logical approach. While this might result in players with alts having such missions on each character, the (greatly) reduced frequency should curb how much gold one can make by having a massive number of characters.
    • A more extreme solution would be to potentially consider removing some of the missions.
  • Thirdly, there's a perfectly reasonable change a few lines up in the patch notes that reduces how rewarding Garrisons are, which I'll be reviewing next.
  • Gray items obtained from salvage recovered from Follower missions may now sometimes drop a stackable gray item instead of a range of various gray items taking up lots of inventory space. The average gold value should remain roughly the same.
  • Big Crates of Salvage are no longer guaranteed from successfully completing level 100 Follower Missions.
While there are some items I would like to get from Big Crates of Salvage, such as follower equipment upgrades, this is partially compensated by the addition of this vendor. Otherwise I agree with this change since I found Salvage Crates effectively made many missions profitable and the vendored items sold for quite a bit of gold. Also, unlike the previous change, this change affects each character equally, meaning while players with more characters such as myself are affected more, the nerf doesn't seem unfair or deliberately skewed towards some illogical philosophy of focusing on punishing players for having alts. Therefore, I consider this change to be a reasonable one that contributes to reducing how rewarding Garrisons are in general.


In conclusion, I hope for a few things to happen, such as an amendment of the nerf to high-value gold missions to better reflect towards fighting inflation instead of just coming off as an attempt to uphold punishing design philosophy that is irrational at multiple levels. The premise, which claims players feel more pressure about managing alt Garrisons, was incorrectly attributed to missions that are trivial to manage with an addon and frustrating to do without and almost certainly incomparable to other Garrison activities. A solution was then built on said premise alongside another solution that would've also accomplished similar goals yet was more reasonable on account of understanding that having alts equates to having multiple characters, thus making a change that affects all characters more effective on players with multiple characters. I know I've probably sounded like a broken record long before this, but I hope those at Blizzard responsible for changes like these put a bit more thought into some of their changes in the future.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. "I have to say your article inspires me to the most, it is so instructive to tell others how to understand that in such a special view. I will share your articles with my friends, i think they will like them just like me. What's more, can you update them more frequently?"

      At the moment, I've detracted towards something more akin to an article on roughly a weekly basis. Speaking of updates, I have an article that should be up soon. It's just a video talking about a certain recent interview along with a moderately long transcript.

      Also, I've had to delete your comment on account of it having a link to a gold selling site. I'm retaining everything besides that above.