World of Warcraft and minigame micromanagement
I’m on record, when we saw the introduction of pet battles, as saying well, this isn’t content I care about, but it’s good for people who like it. Pet battles are utterly optional. The various rewards you get for pet battles only affect the pet battle minigame itself: stones and other rewards that affect the pets and how they level. There’s never a reason to play pet battles if you don’t enjoy the gameplay. You’re never forced to do it, nor do you even feel forced to. I can say this having utterly ignored pet battles since their introduction.
Mists of Pandaria introduced this kind of minigame to a broad application — we’d seen previous iterations like Peacebloom vs. Ghouls and Gnomebliteration, but pet battles was the first time this kind of gameplay wasn’t limited to a single quest off in a zone somewhere, but became something widespread that could and would take you all over the World of Warcraft. In a way, pet battles were perfectly designed; they caused those who enjoyed them to travel the globe, interacting with NPCs and otherwise being in Azeroth, much as one might expect given their obvious inspiration.
I mention all of this to indicate that yes, I am aware that this kind of gameplay has a long history in World of Warcraft, and also yes, I have in the past supported its design. But now I find myself wondering if there’s simply too much minigame in WoW, or if it has become the game, overthrowing or supplanting to some extent the elements of the MMO I’ve always enjoyed. It’s one thing for a completely optional minigame to become very popular, but it’s quite another when a completely compulsory minigame dominates the day to day gameplay of players who have no real desire to play it.
For me, I’ve started really hating this aspect of the Garrison. I like having a home base, I enjoy the campaign quests therein, the daily quests that send me out in the world to ruin the Iron Horde’s day (or the Sargerai, or who have you) and I think the potential invasions are a neat concept, showing that there’s a response to my actions. But while I initially thought the followers and their missions was a neat concept, I’ve come to dislike them — the fact that useful gear and drops for the legendary questline can come from them makes them gameplay you can’t really skip or avoid, and they take up so much time and effort and keep me logging in at weird hours, using specific addons to maximize them, and otherwise feeling like I’ve gotten sucked into something far removed from the kind of gameplay I originally signed up to play World of Warcraft for.
I have a lot of friends who seem to love the follower missions, so I’ve tried to get into them, but I also have a lot of friends who love pet battles and I loathe those. The difference is, I can avoid those. If you don’t do follower missions, you’re costing yourself a chance at extra loot and other useful (if not outright necessary) rewards. There’s nothing optional about the follower missions, despite the fact that on the surface that’s absolutely what they are. You don’t have to do them. But you are penalizing yourself if you don’t, and I don’t like that — and yet I can’t think of a way to incentivize them that wouldn’t be completely lacking in terms of interest. The missions and the followers (and their acquisition), it’s all so worked into the leveling and gameplay of Warlords of Draenor that I can’t see a clean way to pull the one out from the other. And with the coming of the shipyards in patch 6.2, we’re about to see a lot more of this kind of gameplay.
I can’t really hate on the idea of sending ships on missions, mind you. But I am concerned that it’s not content that I actually go and do. As much fun as minigames can be, I’m hoping the questing at the Iron Docks and in Tanaan itself actually gets me personally out into the world to do stuff and not just sitting at a table somewhere assigning my boats to do stuff that I find out about hours later. This is what really bothers me about follower missions — aside from recruiting new followers, they keep me tethered to my garrison mentally if not physically. Timing out the missions, always being ready to swoop back and send my legion of minions out on a new mission, it just doesn’t feel very much like WoW to me. Maybe if I could do it without having to go back, or if follower missions opened up scenarios I could go and kill stuff in, I’d like it better.
I doubt we’ve seen the end of minigames in WoW. The garrison has been a runaway success thus far. I just wonder if in the future we can see a return to the feeling of it being optional.
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