Like Mists of Pandaria's Pokemon before it, the new Garrison feature in World of Warcraft's Warlords of Draenor expansion doesn't have much to do with traditional MMO gameplay, which is probably why I find it so intriguing. That, and the collecting people thing.
Garrisons, explained today during the "What's Next" panel today at BlizzCon 2013, are World of Warcraft's unique answer to player housing. Rather than getting a shack in the middle of dozens of similar shacks, players venturing into the new-old world of Draenor can pick a lovely spot in one of the new zones and build their own fortress.
They'll start with something simple.
Just some walls and a couple of buildings, barely enough to keep the wolves at bay. Eventually that modest plot of land can be upgraded through two additional tiers, until it looks like a right proper stronghold.
It's like having your their little first-year World of Warcraft town to play with.
And play they will. Players will be able to pick and choose which buildings they add to their strongholds, and those choices determine which sorts of benefits they'll get and which missions their followers will be able to go on (more on that shortly). A player who places an infirmary on their land might get access to a set of rescue missions. Building a mine might give them some personal ore veins to pick at on a regular basis.
Further benefits will be earned by gathering Followers. These are non-player characters which populate a player's town, each with their own stats abilities, and experience levels from 90-100. Players can send these NPCs on timed missions — sort of like a Facebook game. Once the timer is up they will return with their spoils, experience points and what have you. Since these missions require no input from the player once started, they act as a new form of offline progression, letting folks play the game even when they can't.
Followers are collectible items, each with their own rarity rating, much like the game's item system. Green Followers are mildly enhanced. Blue rares confer powerful skills and abilities. Purple Followers are phat loot.
When they aren't out on missions, Followers are almost like Sims, virtual people roaming players' Garrisons, performing tasks, maybe loaning players any tradeskills they might possess. They can even be given custom names, like pets.
This is what excites me about Warlords of Draenor. Not an enhanced level cap. Not fresh loot or new-old lands. Not enhanced character models. I just want to subjugate some virtual people, name them all Dave, and make them do whatever I tell them to until they keel over from virtual exhaustion. Seems a reasonable request to me. Obviously Blizzard thinks so too.
Ah, home sweet home.