Garrisions – could they be feeping creatures?

There hasn’t been a lot of news on the development of Warlords, outside of data mined from the alpha client Blizzard have placed on Battle.Net to allow for friends & family testing. Whilst this has led to some data coming out, it’s not the same as actually playing the game itself.

An interesting data point is that if the Warlords development tracks Cata – the only other expansion I could get solid alpha start / end dates for – then we should be getting the beta in the next couple of days. The alpha for Cata was released on 3rd May 2010 and its beta started 58 days later on 30th June. With the start of the Warlords’ alpha on 4th April, that would end up being 31st May for the release. But I don’t think we’ll see that.

The title is a pointer to why I think we’ll not see the public test of WoD soon – its a reference to feeping creaturism, a deliberate spoonerism of something dreaded in software development. Feature Creep [Wikipedia]. The following quote from Wikipedia fits nicely:

The most common cause of feature creep is the desire to provide the consumer with a more useful or desirable product, in order to increase sales or distribution.

Let’s look back over Mists to what could be called the pre-cursor of the Garrsion – the farm at Halfhill. Apparently the farm was originally knocked up by a single developer to see what was possible and people at Blizzard liked it so much they ran with it.

To me, the farm was one of the unexpected successes of Mists. Not only was it a great way to get materials for tradeskills – something I’m still using them for today – but the story around the farm where you get rep with individual Tillars to the point they’d wander the farm with you, spruce up your farm, add a mailbox, give you sheep, pigs, yak, chickens and a cat – this added so much more flavor. There was also dog – who apparently may follow us to our Garrisons.

So looking at what to develop for Warlords, Blizzard had the success of the farm and an off-stated desire from players to have their own or guild level housing – I found references to player housing being mentioned by Blizzard going back to 2004 on wowwiki!

The garrisons were obviously thought about early in the development of Warlords given how they were shown at BlizzCon when Warlords was announced – however I think over time they played with the idea as development continued on.

This has meant they’ve gone from having a garrison location per-zone to having just a single location of a garrison – this was probably done to make life easier as they didn’t need to do the per-zone work to support the full garrison.

They did say in part one of the garrisons blog that our garrisons will end up having outposts in every zone – I guess this is in leau of being able to place our Garrisons in any zone.

However I did pick up on something else – which points to the creeping featurism mentioned above. Unlike most towns and cities, the NPCs of the garrisons are not fixed – depending on the quests you do and the followers you choose will vary the layout of the garrison and which NPCs are available.

This is an issue as for most places the locations of buildings and the NPCs who populate them are static – which means that you can easily script a standard path for them to follow, emotes to do, etc. This isn’t something you can really do with the dynamic nature of the garrisons.

So Blizzard made a new NPC AI so they can easily drop in the buildings anywhere and have any number of different NPCs within the Garrison. This does make sense, but I’m betting this was dev time they didn’t factor in when thinking of garrisons at the start. Plus they then went from the essential feature of making the NPCs fit into the garrisons to adding things like new emotes the NPCs will act to – they gave the example of a conga line being formed.

And then there is the way Garrisons have gone from being this sort-of stand alone thing at BlizzCon to being fully integrated into the entire questing experience.

This was hinted as being thought about – at BlizzCon they gave the idea of followers appear from the end of quest lines. This does fit nicely – do so well in a quest change that the people you quest for decide to follow your led in Draenor.

Its a nice idea, but I’m betting that the full integration of Garrisons into questing wasn’t planned either – its gone from having some integration to full “You can avoid garrisons by leveling by dungeons” which has been strongly hinted at.

The direct result of tying garrisons to questing is shown with Zarhym’s tweet below – basically saying that if they hadn’t done this we’d have had a public beta. Its a bit like when they closed down the Jade Forest on the Mists beta to redo a load of quests – makes sense if its under a lot of flux. Just in this case its the entire expansion.

zarhym-tweet-garrisons-zone-int

Linking garrisons into the quests this much will make the Garrisons quite interesting, you just have to wonder if they’ve bitten off more than they’ve intended to. Its too easy to end up looking at existing quests and have “… wouldn’t it be nice to link into garrisons… ” thoughts. Which in turn means you may need to rebuild the quest from the ground up. The best demonstration of that line of thinking is best summed up with the XKCD cartoon Success!.

I’m sure the end result of the Garrisons will be nice & I’m looking forward to questing in Draenor – finding followers and plans for my Garrison.

But I also really hope that Garrisons don’t turn into the feeping creature which causes massive delays to Warlords!

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