Part2Warlords of Draenor offers a pleasant enough levelling experience, I can vouch for the high quality of the Highmaul raid instance. Blackrock Foundry continued this trend I hear, so raiders have been reasonably well catered for, as far as raiding goes anyway. So why is Warlords of Draenor sounding the death knell for Warcraft rather than peals of celebration?

Part of the problem is the dearth of end game content and undelivered ‘promise’ of all the pre-release hype discussed in part one. The second half of the problem is one of the core features of WoD: garrisons. They were described at Blizzcon as “…the farm times a hundred”, which is exactly the problem. The farm, like cooking and fishing, had been a option, take it or leave it. I enjoyed the process of slowly increasing my reputation with the Tillers to expand the number of working plots and grown more crops. However the farm wasn’t central, wasn’t compulsory, was in no sense required and many people didn’t bother at all.

One of the reasons Blizzard gave for not needing to put faction capital cities into WoD was that all of the functions of capital cities were part of what made Garrisons compelling. Repairs, vendors, banking, daily quest givers, profession trainers and vendors and auction houses. All this has made professions and character housekeeping much easier and more convenient. Sadly, as the title of this post suggests, that is the problem. Flying mounts are a perfect example of this: while convenient they trivialise content and don’t make for engaging gameplay.

When there were no flying mounts it was necessary for you to travel to a quest location, the world had an imposing scale, and travelling in Warcraft proved the old cliché that it’s as much about the journey as the destination. Something Blizzard should bear in mind with their Character Boost feature. Not only was travel to the zone a thing, but fighting your way down to the quest mobs and into the buildings was part of the experience. Picking up a quest, flying out, swooping in, killing the mob, mounting, flying out, handing in is more convenient. Sadly, this convenience has taken away some of the fun and engagement.

Garrisons have brought enormous convenience. Professions and mat grinding now takes place not all over the map but in confines of your player housing. Fishing can do in the pool inside your garrison, just dropping you line will yield fish and special bait that will allow you to catch any of the Draenor fish. All you herbalism needs a met in the tiny garden next to the fishing pool. Your garrison features a mine that yields multiple nodes take take minutes to harvest everyday. Once you’ve reached max level there’s little or no reason to leave your garrison, not even to grind mats.

Then there’s the Follower Missions. Essentially this is a mobile/Facebook game: you send followers with attributes to counteract they enemy attributes. After a period the followers return having gained some experience and if they ‘won’ you get a reward. This is content at it cheapest. Invisible content. 6.2 offers a new shipyard extension to the garrison which gives you another command table to send minions off on imaginary naval missions. None content.

Mike “Preacher” at Preach Gaming has done a superb video, with more ideas frankly than I could be bothered to come up with, discussing what Blizzard could do to make garrisons compelling and interesting content. Fundamentally the garrison needs to be fun and it shouldn’t be compulsory. Customisation is key for this, not just in being able to place the garrison in different places in multiple zones, but in terms of architecture. How much more fun for a lover of Forsaken lore to have architecture straight out of Brill or Hillsbrad! Trophies were an interesting (but scrapped) idea, I love the idea of putting up the head of raid bosses I have killed. Not only is that a personal celebration, but put a date on plaque under Onyxia‘s head and friends and guildies visiting your gaff can see you slew her when that content was contemporary. There would be a draw to visit other’s garrison for fun, social reasons. It would also revitalise achievements, with the promise of new trophies and statues.

Blizzard have long talked about getting people out into the world, but then they put things like garrisons in the game, which make capital cities look social. Toss in flexible raid sizes and the ease with which you can cobble together a raid for anything other than top level Mythic raiding and why even join a guild? For crafting? For questing? Everything is available from you garrison and questing has become derisively easy – a race to max level and the lack of end game content. Warcraft has become the smallest and most anti-social Massively Mutliplayer game. End game content has become a choice between joyless and variation free Apexis Crystal grinding and sending followers out to quest for you.

World of Warcraft has become much more convenient and simple to play. Unfortunately for the franchise the complexity and difficult were part of what made the game interesting and engaging. Warlords of Draenor is sounding the death knell for Warcraft as Blizzard become dismissive and contemptuous of their player base. With no new battlegrounds or arenas for PvPers for over a year and scrapped and undelivered levelling and end game content Blizz has had two opportunities to provide more content. After two patches the company has effectively yawned, put it’s feet up on the desk and put it’s best content into the new store.

I cancelled my subscription a fortnight ago and I haven’t logged in despite having paid until 4th June. I miss the game I used to play, but I’ve been missing it more and more since Cataclysm. I won’t miss the game Blizzard gave me in November.