Monday, 28 July 2014

Build 18594: Garrison Hearthstone, Invasions EXIST, Details of Battle Pets Dailies.


Significant.

The most obvious change in the latest Build of the Warlords Beta is the addition of a dedicated secondary Hearthstone to your Garrison, which means for the first time in Warcraft history every player has a guaranteed second spot in which to set a base of operations, should they choose to use the feature. As the Garrison is, to all intent and purpose, instanced content without the loading screens, it makes a lot of sense to have this arrangement in place, especially if Instance servers go down and players are locked inside their Garrisons because of their 'normal' Hearthstones being bound there.

Because of the Beta Character reset I've been forced to 'start' again with my progression, but the most obvious change early on is the addition of a breadcrumb quest to Ashran as soon as your Garrison is established. As this is your Faction Hub for the Expansion (like it or not) it would make sound sense to set your 'normal' Hearthstone here for access to professions trainers etc. There is also a quest that provides you with a Garrison Follower to boot, so it is well worth taking the trip there early before you begin your journey elsewhere.

It is now becoming apparent of the amounts of Resources that will be required for individual buildings, and that choices between Outpost Buildings will have major impact on the early directions that a player's Garrison will take. I have seen graphics of the four sets of Armour available from the Dwarven Bunker in Talador as part of the Transmog 'perk' at Level Two, and this alone will have a very strong personal influence on my choice of Building for that zone initially. Similarly, taking the Lumber Mill for Resources in Gorgrond will give you a large boost to Resource generation, but with a 1000 Resource limit choices will need to be made on where and when you deploy its use. I will attempt to post some more details on this in the next week.

Thanks to Twitter, I am now aware that the Invasion portion of the Garrison 'package' is also live.



PROPER HARD!



However, without the right set of circumstances to test it and with a currently bugged Garrison, I cannot offer any further insight than the fact it appears to be quite hard to play ^^ However it is good news that the feature is finally live, and I hope to have some insight into how it works at a later date.






Finally, before the wipe I was able to access a complete L3 Structure and discovered the Pet Menagerie feature for the first time. My good Twitter friend Liopleurodon has give this a once over, and I would suggest you take a look at her overview for more details of what this part of the Game will entail.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Build 18566 :: Garrison Outposts LIVE, Significant changes to 'Interface', Monument Intentions

A new Build was deployed on the 18th, but due to persistent connection issues with the Server (sucks to be UK) and some quite annoying phasing bugs that still appear not to have been addressed, it has been hard for me to pick up a lot of changes OUTSIDE the Garrison. However, I can tell you a fair bit about what has changed inside :D Let's give you some bullet point changes to begin with:


Percentage Chance ftw.

  • You no longer drag your Followers by the neck to the Missions screen (reassuringly) Instead you place their mini portraits into spaces as seen above.

  • Also, as seen above, success on a Mission is now visually indicated with a percentage. Please Note: this percentage appears to be based on the combination of countering abilities on a per-Follower basis. However, failing a mission does not (as yet) appear to affect Experience gain, which is rewarded regardless of you completing the Mission or not.

  • Many of the bugs in the Mission menu have been addressed, though Rewards are hardly anything at this stage to write home about, and being awarded a contract for a Follower you already have is less than optimal. Also, there's only so much Flatbread one person needs ^^ However, this 'system' now looks quite robust, or just more like a badly-constructed Facebook game, depending on whose blog you happen to be reading at the time.

  • Resources now passively accrue over time as they did back in Alpha. The Resource timer seems to be completely absent in the Alliance version though it does still exist in the Horde version, so it is unclear as yet whether it is expected for the 'final' version of gameplay.

  • It is possible to buy small buildings froman NPC isider the Town Hall to fill your remaining 'small' plot in L2 (I picked a Storenouse for Bank access) and now Gorgrond is open you will have the opportunity to choose between the Lumber Mill and the Sparring Arena (if I can get there I'll be taking the Mill.) Talador is also available and gives a choice between the Mage Tower and the Dwarven Bunker. When I get there, I'll let you know what I choose.



  • In the Plots Menu, clicking on an empty plot will now bring up a selection of options as to what you might like to place in said space.

  • The Fishing Shack has vanished from the L2 'Upgrade' path (and finally has some water) plus the Mine and the Herb Garden have been provided with empty 'containers' for shipment purposes:



  • Finally, You can assign Followers to Professions Buildings via a button on the Plots menu. I'm going to see if I can find an Alchemy specialist to do this with on my next trip into Beta.



There are now a more complete set of Monuments in this Build, which give an indicator of what we can expect the 'achievement' portion of this feature to cover:



Self explanatory.


From an exploratory point of view, I've been able to late many followers, but have as yet only recruited half a dozen. Certain followers are currently bugged in quests out of my reach, or I have simply not located them yet. I will attempt to begin building a comprehensive list of these in the next week or so based on what we have in beta as a guide.I suspect however we can expect a big beta Build push at some point in the future, based on this Tweet from Jeremy Feasel:




My children are now on Summer Vacation but I will continue to update as often as possible using my own beta knowledge and datamining sources as evidence.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Builds 18522 and 18537: Achievements IN, Graphics IMPROVED, 3 Person Rare Mission!

It's been quite hard to keep up with Builds of late when you have a life to maintain as well as everything else. That can be fixed now, at least for builds 18522 and 18537.


Things to do!

Achievements have arrived in a BIG way, and if you had any doubt how important Garrison Invasions will be in the general scheme of things, then this should give you an idea. At some stage in proceedings pretty much everyone EXCEPT the Horde will be attacking you, and you'll need to be prepared. The 'breadcrumb' quest for this has already appeared in game, too:


Generic Quest text can mean only
one thing...

Watch out for Valdez in a Build near you shortly. He's not a follower per se either, he's part of your Support Staff. We now have a clear indication of a maximum (currently) of 20 Followers, which we know can be found via completing Follower Missions, rescuing them from the World or being offered them (effectively) as quest rewards.


It isn't what your NPC looks like, don't judge...

We have a selection of Follower qualities too, including Epic. Build 18537 introduced weapon slots for those you have recruited, though sadly there is not as yet that much variety. Regardless of spec and class, everyone gets a Shield and Axe:


Priest's new Holy Spec was a lot more hands on than previously ^^

We have no indicator as yet whether you'll need 'special' weapons for followers or whether you'll be able to use normal drops from the World (I tried, nothing was replaceable.) Needless to say, things appear to be moving on apace in the Missions department, with rewards being of increasing value the more followers you gain. Missions are also clearly marked with 'type' with obvious rewards if you can effectively use Followers to mitigate the threats presented by 'Mission' mobs:



'Rare' Mission, gives Rare reward :D

This three person mission has specific abilities that you need to counter: fortunately for me I have followers who can do just that. We'll have to see how successful I am, considering this is a L96 mission and everyone is still 90. It could end up as a bit of a massacre... ^^


Beautiful.

By far the biggest single change over this two builds have been the graphical improvements to the Garrison't internal spaces. I've put together a comprehensive album of the Level 2 Garrison as a result, which is well worth a look. It appears a new build was stealth-applied at the weekend (if I am to believe the Launcher) so there could well be more new stuff to report on very soon. For now I'll be trying to update the Site with all the changes I am aware of.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Build 18505 :: Significant Changes to Plot Perks.

It was mentioned in our previous build that the plot specialisations for Buildings had vanished. With the benefit of time this morning and the fact that capturing screenshots on the Beta is considerably easier, I've been able to make a visual 'list' of everything that has changed:




The Portal changes to your Mage Tower are now clearly set out (no getting away from Ashran, folks) and I'm suddenly VERY interested in the Level 2 Armoury ability. Level 3 is the much-advertised bonus Dungeon Roll and could make this a popular choice of building as a result (and who said there was no advantage for Raiders? ^^) Stables perks are also interesting but I suspect the Workshop may get most people excited. PERSONAL SIEGE VEHICLE FTW.





This bunch are also not too shabby, though looking at the choice between Sparring Arena and Lumber Mill in Gorgrond (which we know happens from Part One of the Garrisons Blog) I can't see many people going for the Lumber unless that gets some kind of update. For the Reputation Lovers amongst you there appears to be two factions inherently tied to the Trading Post (gonna guess Shattari Defence for Ally and Laughing Skull for Horde) which you (presumably) cannot access otherwise. Already there are some interesting choices being presented to us in terms of decision making, and we may not know until the game goes live which options are indeed the most productive.




However it is with the Small Plot Perks that the most interesting point (potentially) is revealed, and I'll need to make a new alt with a fresh set of Professions to confirm this is in fact the case. It is explained probably best with a simple graphic:





This is the basic assumption made by looking at the list of Small Plot Perks above. It certainly appears at this early stage as this would mean specialisation for the most devout crafters on the Professions they already know in terms of output, but that will entirely depend on what you are offered in terms of production and what the use for this is in the long term. Then there is the issue of factoring in the speed of the Building production (presumably using the Lumber Mill to generate Garrison Resources faster) and the use of the Storehouse to keep larger batches of produced materials 'in stock'.)

Of course, it is entirely likely many of these abilities may well be subject to change (I'd expect at least to see the Flavour Text change on the Lumber Mill) but this is our clearest indication thus far that Building choice will have a significant impact on how you 'play' this game.

[EDIT: Thanks to finding out I could upgrade my Garrison once all three buildings were complete, I have uncovered the L2 Garrison and, as a result, three Quest Buildings that are unlocked with progression. The details for these are as follows:




Expect more details on the L2 Garrison soon :D]

Friday, 27 June 2014

Build 18471 :: Game moves to Beta, MAJOR Changes to Garrisons Size, Building Types, Monuments Added


The sacrifices we have to make.

After playing through the Alpha again last night it became apparent that my observation that the Alliance Garrison is smaller than its Horde counterpart from the last Build may not be entirely accidental. My Good Dear Friend Crow, @unlimitedBLACK on the Twitters, is writing about Garrisons over at BlizzPro and his latest post on the Build indicates that the reduction in size is in fact deliberate. The Level One Garrison will now, for both Factions, only contain space for your Town Hall, Barracks (which is built via questing) and one Professions building (which currently means Alchemy as premade 90's are front-loaded with Alchemy and Herbalism at max) Crow assures me that the Horde version has been scaled back to match this layout on both sides, and in retrospect this makes a whole lot of sense. The original Horde layout was large, and there was a lot going on for a 'starter' experience, so scaling it back is logical.

Then there was the revelation as I came down for breakfast this morning that Building Specialisations have been removed entirely from the Garrisons concept:

There you go.

If you wanted any further proof that this feature is being developed on a daily basis, then here it is. The specialisations (which allowed you to choose a particular path for your professions buildings) has now been removed, and the particular abilities of other buildings will simply be rolled into the building construction as you level them. The concept was complicated, and clearly Blizzard have decided to simplify processes as much as possible. In the Alliance version of the game, therefore, there is no Farm to be seen at all in the early stages, and you are given a quest to send workers out into Shadowmoon for food which integrates into the normal run of Shadowmoon questing. There is however a Mine, which has a questgiver attached, and as Crow assures me the quest is buggy but functional I'll be trying that later today.


Miners will need to be accompanied.

The scope of alteration in this build is considerable, and it is probably easier at this point to simply list what we are aware has changed:

  • As stated above, you have no access to your Farm in the L1 Alliance Garrison. One assumes questing will be introduced to place the building manually at later levels.
  • Fishing Shack has been removed, but according to this tweet it will be back, and we should see some major action on this front in the next Build:

  • There is now a specific category on your Quest Log that states if a Quest is relevant to building your Garrison :D


As you can see, you now have a category entitled 'Garrison Support.' This quest is the one that rewards you with your Alchemy Plans, and involves a couple of quests to help some Draenei with their fishing exploits. However, traditional questing will also provide you with breadcrumbs to send you to followers. 
  • ALL of your possible followers are listed in your Missions/Followers menu, not simply the ones you have currently discovered:



This menu remains fairly buggy, and rewards as yet are not clear. However Crow has kindly provided me with a full list of followers and abilities, which I can add to the site in due course.

  • The first signs on genuine Garrison Customisation have appeared in game. Behold, the Monument plinth:




This currently lives outside your Barracks. Clicking on the plinth opens a scroll through menu, where you can click on a number of different 'monuments' to display. The implication at present is that this may directly relate to Achievements in game:




However, it is also possible that these Monuments may be awarded for killing certain bosses, or that you can 'discover' them in game, or maybe eventually you can purchase them with spare Garrison Resources. This is Alpha Beta after all, anything is possible.

I hope to get an opportunity to play through some more gameplay over the weekend, and hopefully there should be some new updates as the first waves of Beta invites come through. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Build 18471 :: Alpha Server comes back up, ALLIANCE GARRISON LIVE.


COMPLETE LIST OF FOLLOWERS GO!

The Alpha Server is back up, and with it comes the Alliance Garrison. This is a *completely* different beast to its Horde counterpart, and even after only a couple of hours it is apparent that there's been a lot more thought put into this side of the equation than exists in Frostfire. There also appears to have been a number of key changes to mechanics inside the Garrison. An initial sweep of details shows the following:


  • Buildings cost significantly more resources to produce, and quests as a result reward more resources for players.
  • However, drop rates from rares remain as they were, meaning that the benefit from killing them has effectively reduced.
  • The resources 'counter has been shifted from the bottom of the screen to the top.
  • Abilities that are 'rewarded' from Garrisons buildings now appear as action buttons, not permanently affixed to the top of your screen.


Alliance Barracks, Level One.


I'll be attempting to play this build over the next few days and will report back on all the changes that I find. Having now played both sides of the experience, we can start to make some progress on Guides and looking at the similarities and differences between the two versions of the 'game.'

In the meantime, I produced this Podcast yesterday to explain to players what we know about Garrisons so far. It is only 20 minutes long, and (although I'm biased) it is worth a listen.



Thursday, 19 June 2014

Blizzard Publishes SMV Blog, Alpha Server Goes Down


Coming Soon?

We've spent a fair bit of time in the last few days glued to our various Garrisons on Alpha pulling out screenshots in anticipation of a new Build. The fact that Blizzard have published as blog on the updated 'retro' Shadowmoon Valley may well be an indicator we won't have long to wait, and as the Alpha server is currently down there's already speculation that a change of scenery may not be far away. In anticipation of this it is probably a good idea to bring a summary together of what we know thus far, and what has changed in the time since we've had access to the Horde starting experience.




We began building our fortifications with 'Materials', but clearly Blizzard have decided this isn't a clear enough name for the 'currency'. Therefore, we now have 'Garrison Resources' which should be clear for everyone in terms of use. They even have a new icon, having changed from piles of wood to crates, which allows them to have 'use' not simply for constructing buildings.




There's also been considerable improvements to the basic interfaces for the Garrisons main mechanics: Plots, Missions and Followers have all been tweaked and poked, with informational dialogues added in the style you'll be used to seeing on your Pet Battle window:


Instructions please!

It has also become apparent that you can mix and match how you approach the business of gathering followers for your Garrison: without being able to complete an important quest-line due to server issues I was still able to advance my progress quite considerably. This has answered one of the main questions concerning whether there is a 'right' or 'best' way in which to begin your journey, and as the test period continues it is likely that an 'optimum' configuration for completion will emerge. Certainly, being able to complete this opening quest 'chain' on the Horde side allowed me access to Alchemy items that were clearly integral to my professions experience and would give me a distinct benefit during my questing adventures. This will be the kind of 'advantage' players will want to exploit in levelling on their first toon, but may not be as interested in for subsequent levelling experiences.




There is a great deal in the Garrison that is yet not working 'as intended': Followers have appeared and vanished, a permanent Thunderlord attack is in progress, and many items have been locked after being available at earlier stages of testing. We have gathered a lot of screenshots for various sections of the Guide but will be deferring from major updates to the sections until we have a better idea of the differences between the Horde and Alliance setups. Needless to say, as soon as we're confident that a process is confirmed on both sides, we'll be going ahead and giving you more details.

There is also a very clear indicator that pretty much everything you do while in Draenor will, in one form or another, reward you Garrison Resources. Rares drop them, they're given in quests, and (presumably) you'll be able to use these not simply to build your basic structures over time. There's an awful lot we don't know, that much is obvious, and hopefully we won't have to wait too long for answers...