You Get to Decorate the House You Have, Not the House You Might Want

Housing is one of the great line-item features that a lot of people think every MMO should have.  There is a strong desire to have a place to call your own in what tends to be an unchanging and unalterable virtual world.  There is some need within us to leave our mark somewhere in the game.  I get that.

And companies have responded to that over the years, offering up various forms of housing.  Housing was a big part of Ultima Online back in the day.  Housing was part of the attraction of WildStar, which just launched a few weeks back.  And over the years I have explored various implementations.  If I play a game long enough, and it has housing, I am usually there to give it a try.

But how well it sticks for me… well, that is another story.

Rift offered up housing with the Storm Legion expansion, but it was so free form that I barely did anything with it.

Dimension by the Sea

Unfurnished Dimension by the Sea

People have done amazing things with dimensions in Rift… they were even doing so back during the Storm Legion beta… but, like most of Storm Legion, it just didn’t hook me.

Lord of the Rings Online, by comparison, offered some very pretty housing that was, in fact, a house.  A house on a lot even.

A house in Bree

A house in Bree

But the options for it were so limited that I ended up letting it lapse.  There wasn’t much advantage to having the house and the customizations were limited to just a few locations within the house.  You could hang up things from the world… taxidermied monsters or fishing trophies… but it still felt very generic.

And then clipping issues...

And then clipping issues…

And while I liked the idea of there being a yard, the instanced neighborhoods were somewhat awkward.

Elves and their damn monuments

Elves and their damn monuments

And it was tough to find a neighborhood where all of us could find a house we could afford.  In the end, the minor storage benefit of my house in LOTRO meant I let the lease lapse.

EverQuest actually threw down and added housing with the House of Thule expansion.  It borrowed a lot from its younger brother, EverQuest II, while using the instanced neighborhood model similar to LOTRO.  And I was reasonably impressed with SOE’s ability to overlay yet another complex interface onto the aging EverQuest client.  Plus the houses looked good.

A more complete development

A Norrathian housing development

The problem there was that I was pretty much done with EverQuest as a main game by that point.  I like to visit old Norrath, so I had to go try it out, but I had nothing really to put in the house and the upkeep, which was aimed at those who had kept up with inflation, was well beyond my means.

And there have been others.  Runes of Magic offered housing that gave you some form of storage, along with a woman in a skimpy French maid outfit.

Go Google the outfit

Go Google the outfit

Landmark seems to be all housing.  It is about as free form as you can get. no game at this point.

Behold Zuul's Sky Altar

Behold Zuul’s Sky Altar

The pity is that there is no actual game around it yet.

Meanwhile, in EVE Online, the Captain’s quarters… the start (and probably the end) of housing in New Eden… allowed you to see your full body at last, and then park that body on a couch to watch something boring on a screen.

What is on Space TV today?

What is on Space TV today?

That might be too meta for me.

And since I am on about different flavors of housing, I will mention Star Wars Galaxies before some fan comes in to remind us all that this was the greatest housing ever.  We will have to agree to disagree on that point.  Yes, it gave you your own little spot in the real world where you could open a store or whatever.  But it was a visual blight on the game,  with huge clumps of houses strewn across the open landscape, encroaching right up to the edge of any in-game landmark.  It made the game look like a Tatooine trailer park.

Looks like a Star Wars trailer park

Literally a Tatooine trailer park

But after having gone through so much in-game housing over the years, I have to say that there has only been one housing model that has really suited me.  And that is the EverQuest II model.

Yes, you do not get your own house in the midst of the world.  At best you share a door to a stately home or guild hall with everybody else who has rented the same facility, so you all live there in parallel in your own instances.  I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing.  It keeps away the blight problem, and while there is the problem of finding somebody’s house from a listing at a door, one of the bragging points I have heard about the SWG model was that finding people was difficult so that knowing where a given person lived and set up a store gave you power.  I’ll take the less blight version.

But the key for me was that EQII housing gave me exactly what I wanted, which was a simple house where I could hang trophies and other rewards from my travels.  I had the option to decorate, and at times Gaff, who had a carpenter, would send me some neat furniture to spiff up my home, but mostly I just decorated with things picked up as I played.  And the important part was that somebody at SOE foresaw that need and provided me with plenty of items to stick in my home.  In fact, whoever came up with the reward of a weapon you could mount on your wall for the Lore & Legend quests was a genius, followed by the person who decided to make heritage quest rewards displayable in your home.  I went through and looked at every character I had played past level 20 the other night, and every single one of them has a house and has at least some Lore & Legend quest rewards hung on the wall.

Weapons on the wall

Weapons on the wall

There are other aspects about it that make EQII housing good.  The interface is simple.  The house models themselves come in a variety of designs, from simple box flats to a whole island if you want a big guild hall.  And the base models are cheap.  You can have a house in any city for five silver a week, which was inexpensive back at launch when SOE was working very hard to keep a lid on inflation and no mob in the game dropped actual coin.

EverQuest II housing is really ideal for my desires. It is just a pity that it is in EQII.

It is a pity because I do not play EQII.  I don’t play it because, for all the little things it does right, I don’t enjoy the main game.  I don’t enjoy the main game, the character progression and zones and levels and what not for various reasons.  Some of the reasons are pretty concrete, such as the fact that none of my close friends play the game anymore.  It is on the official “never again” list for the instance group.  Some of the reasons are very subjective.  I really don’t like the 50-70 zones all that much.  Everything after Desert of Flames makes me yawn, and even that expansion still strikes me as “the new stuff.”

After all of the above, I am finally getting to my point.

Despite the fact that EverQuest II has pretty much the ideal housing setup for me, I do not play EverQuest II.  I don’t play EverQuest II because I don’t play MMOs for the side features, I play them because I enjoy the overall game.

So I love housing in EverQuest II and the music system in Lord of the Rings Online and the old world of EverQuest and the OCD inducing find all the points of interest apects of GuildWars 2 and… hrmm… I am sure sure there is something I could inject here about Rift if I thought about it… but I don’t play those game because the main game just doesn’t click with me.

I play World of Warcraft and EVE Online which, respectively, ten years in has no housing at all and possibly the most useless housing in the genre.  I play them because I enjoy the main game, or the part of the main game in which I indulge.

So if you are out there trolling for page views by raging about garrisons in one breath because they didn’t meet your unrealistic and unsubstantiated expectations, after making it clear you never cared about housing being brought to WoW in the previous breath, in an environment where housing was probably a slip of the tongue to describe the feature, because Blizzard has been pretty clear in the past about their views on housing in WoW… well… I guess I got the punch line at the start of this sentence, didn’t I?  Those who get paid by the page view…

Would I like garrisons to be EQII housing brought to Azeroth?  You bet!  That would be a dream come true.

But unless you have a compelling argument that garrisons are so bad that they are going to ruin the main game, there isn’t much drama to be had in my opinion.  We can talk about how better the developers might have spent their time I suppose.  But this is a pet battles sort of feature.

In the end, I am buying Warlords of Draenor for ten more levels of World of Warcraft and all the zones and stories and pop culture references and silly shenanigans that goes with it.  And I suspect that will be the story for most people.

If garrisons have any merit, people will play with them and maybe even stay subscribed a bit longer.  Or if they have any achievements… and of course they will have achievements… people will play with them for that.  And if garrisons are truly the waste of time and effort as described, then people will use them to the extent that they need to in order to get to level cap and grab the achievements, at which point they will be forgotten like many a feature in the past.

Is somebody going to try to convince me that this was a make or break feature for Warlords of Draenor?

Or, if you want, just tell me about your favorite MMO housing.  Somebody will anyway, so I might as well invite it!

The tl;dr version: If housing really is a must-have important feature for you, you probably aren’t playing WoW now and you probably won’t be playing it in the future.

Anyway, back to happy pictures.  I put a gallery of my housing collections in EQII, plus a bit of the Revelry & Honor guild hall (which is huge), after the cut, because it really is my ideal housing plan.

Scenes from various houses and halls.

23 thoughts on “You Get to Decorate the House You Have, Not the House You Might Want

  1. tsuhelm

    Only ever had 2 houses in 2 MMO’s, both times I really enjoyed the extra storage and ability to transit to and from quite quickly. And there it ends… really what is the point!

    Reminds me must pay ‘rent’ on 4 LOTRO servers soon, I cannot remember the last time I did this…


  2. Jenks

    The instanced style housing that I believe AO introduced (that EQ2, Wildstar use) seems incredibly pointless to me. I’d rather have the trailer park, or a hybrid (FFXIV). I’m very interested in Shroud of the Avatar’s housing although the RMT to obtain land is a huge turnoff.


  3. Syl (@Gypsy_Syl)

    Right now there’s a really interesting discrepancy in Wildstar between the players who are glad there’s a house already so they don’t need to build one on their own and those who are all about custom houses, bemoaning the prominent spot currently occupied by the generic home on their plot. I’ve seen great examples for both but personally, I’d like to see Carbine give us the option to remove the standard house plug.

    And I still love my little house in Skyrim the most….it was probably because of the book shelves (and heaps of armor). ;)


  4. pkudude99

    /agree on the “blight” of the SWG housing being in the world. OTOH, I had a large house and hired a friend to decorate it for me and she made the interior look absolutely awesome — so much so that my PA started hanging out in my house rather than in the PA hall (which I thought was also nicely decorated by the PA leader’s wife, actually).

    From SWG went to EQ2 and never cared one whit about the housing in it. Had a friend decorate my 1-room inn at one point, and my daughter decorated a 3-room place I had years later, but generally it as just the place I haphazardly dumped and furniture rewards I got from questing.

    In no other game have I spent more than 5 minutes in a player house that I owned. Just not a feature that has ever mattered to me.


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – “The instanced style housing that I believe AO introduced (that EQ2, Wildstar use) seems incredibly pointless to me.”

    I suppose, for a very specific definition of “pointless,” given that I enumerate a couple of “points” such as storage and display of trophies.

    For me, existing as a discreet place in the world that everybody can see is fairly low priority based on player behavior alone. Land tends to be a finite resource in MMOs (and “good” locations all the more so), so people grab up space just to be sure they have it if they ever want it, even if they never use it.

    The punch line to all those houses, cut from a very few models so that they pretty much represented endless repetition, on Tatooine is that almost none of them were used for anything at all. And that was after the big SOE clean up of unused housing.

    That said, Shroud of the Avatar does look interesting when it comes to housing. There is considerable customization and they seem to be working on a method to avoid blight. That method just happens to be charging real world money for it though, the old RMT, which gets a lot of people freaked out but which might be the only way to control things like blight. You really have to want a house or a town to lay down the amounts they are asking for.


  6. Jenks

    ” I enumerate a couple of “points” such as storage and display of trophies.”
    I place no value on either of those things. I’m fine with a bank and an achievements window for those. It has a point for you, but not for me. I wasn’t trying to shit on your point of view, that’s why I specifically said “pointless to me” and not “pointless.” I understand why people like it but I don’t use these types of housing for more than 5 minutes, ever.

    “Land tends to be a finite resource in MMOs (and “good” locations all the more so), so people grab up space just to be sure they have it if they ever want it, even if they never use it.”
    Easy answers to both these points
    1 – FFXIV hybrid model
    2 – Property tax.

    “The punch line to all those houses, cut from a very few models so that they pretty much represented endless repetition”
    Something tells me 11 years later they could improve the number of housing models. Again, FFXIV, or even shoestring budget SoTA.

    ” That method just happens to be charging real world money for it though, the old RMT, which gets a lot of people freaked out but which might be the only way to control things like blight.”
    Indeed, I did mention the RMT when I brought it up :D

    FYI, I’m interested in WoD garrisons. Even if it’s just an instanced Facebook game as Massively suggests, that’s much more interesting to me than AO/EQ2 housing.


  7. Liore

    “Or, if you want, just tell me about your favorite MMO housing. Somebody will anyway, so I might as well invite it!”

    As the kids say, I lolled.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – Actually, you wrote “incredibly pointless to me,” that extra word emphasized pointlessness (and sounded a bit hostile) over it being your personal view to me.

    “FFXIV hybrid model”

    You have mentioned that twice now, but I do not play FFXIV, so I have no idea what that means, so I cannot assess if this is actually “easy” or not.

    “Property tax”

    Except that the answer there is not easy. How big of a financial burden do you put on owning a house or land in a game? How quickly do you evict people? How far in advance do you let people pay? And it still doesn’t stop well off players from just squatting on prime real estate. (Plus, did SWG players have to pay rent on their plot/house? Some sort of upkeep is already very common for housing.)

    If you want houses to be rare, I suppose it is an easy answer. If you want everybody to be able to have a house in your game, not so much.


  9. Vatec

    EQ2 and Rift had the best models IMO. Even then, I barely did anything with them.

    I had one of the mid-size houses in EQ2: I set up the main hall (because players might come there to interact with my sales storage to save brokerage fees) and the bedroom. All the other rooms just had huge untidy piles of furniture that reduced the cost of upkeep.

    I did even less with the dimensions in Rift. Storm Legion really turned me off the game, for reasons I can’t quite define (though I suspect my main issue was the Ember Isle-style turret defense game; defending a hole in the ground simply is NOT HEROIC).

    I hated the housing model in LOTRO. The customization worked exactly the same as the system in Asheron’s Call; i.e., it was incredibly limited. The instanced neighborhoods just never really served their intended purpose as a community-building exercise. In all my years in LOTRO, I may have seen neighbors … four times? And in each case one or the other of us scurried off to avoid interaction.

    The UO/SWG model sounds great on paper, but I see enough urban blight in the real world, thanks. And the Internet being what it is, there will always be a few people who will place their houses specifically for the purpose of annoying other players (blocking access to something, blocking the view of something, etc.). No, thanks.


  10. Jenks

    Fair enough, I shouldn’t have said incredibly. Internet nuance, you have failed me yet again. With no edit button, it will remain there until the end of time :(

    FFXIV has instanced housing developments. The “trailerparks” (although much prettier in this case) are instanced. It’s a happy medium, where you still feel like your house is part of a community, but not as you say, right next to game landmarks. I believe EQ1’s housing also works like this, but they added it many years after I stopped playing so I’m not sure. I don’t think FFXIV invented this, just using it as an example. For all I know EQ2 has this at this point too. I haven’t played it in so many years, but when I did housing was the AO style apartment. Sometimes I forget games move on without me, so when I say EQ2, I mean pre ~2008. So if new EQ2 is an instanced trailerpark, then cool – I like new EQ2 housing and I didn’t even know it. :D

    I disagree about property tax not being easy. If there are too many seemingly abandoned houses in the ‘trailerpark,’ then the tax is too low. Just like real life, set higher taxes on higher valued property. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    I don’t want everyone in the game to own a house, and I also don’t want them to be rare. I want anyone who logs into the game somewhat regularly to be able to afford one – think UO.

    What it boils down to is if the housing is a community feature (UO, SWG, to a lesser extend FFXIV) I like it. If it’s a gameplay meta feature (place where you can visually look at your own shit/accomplishments, no one else can see it unless they’re already on your friends list, etc) then I have no use for it.


  11. Jenks

    Oh, also on Eve
    Captains quarters, yeah, boring – but POS’s are neat when you think of them as a sort of guild housing. Then again if I’m making that stretch, I’d add Shadowbane as having some of the best MMO “housing” ever.


  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jenks – Well, it is part of the narrative now and it doesn’t distract terribly from the actual discussion relevant to the post topic.

    Okay, I think I get it on FFXIV and the hybrid model.

    I am mixed on the instanced subdivision, as it does end up, in the cases of LOTRO and EQ at least, having a best/worst of both worlds result. It is nice to have a neighborhood and neighbors and a yard outside of your home. I like the pets bouncing around the yards in EQ. And you can see who is doing what and can wander in and visit.

    But like my real-life subdivision, if somebody doesn’t keep up their yard or doesn’t care or if a spot is empty in the rather small neighborhoods (again, at least in LOTRO and EQ there aren’t that many houses in these zones) it can be annoying. And you still end up with the signpost/doorway/whatever where your friends have to remember which version of the instance YOUR house is in so they can visit and see what you have done.

    Done right it can work, but the options cut both ways. LOTRO neighborhoods look good even when a house is unoccupied, but that is largely a function of how limited the customization is. EQ properties can look like crap because they have more flexibility.

    And, in a minor defense EQ2 housing, it is also the place where you set up your auction house store. You can see the bulletin board (why a bulletin board?) that opens up the auction house interface in a lot of my screen shots. Once you have set up to sell (if you did it right, which used to be non-obvious) your house is open for people to come visit and browse your wares. Nobody comes to your house for 1 copper commodities, but for expensive items going to another player’s house lets you bypass the broker’s fee for the transaction.

    So, over the years, because I am a cheapskate and will avoid that 20% tariff when I can, I have actually been in a lot of houses in EQ2. I always stop for at least a moment to see what they have done with their space.

    Back in the early days, when you had to be online for your store to operate, it used to be a bit creepy to enter and have somebody sitting there, because in EQ2 characters always turn to look at people in the room. It can also be “WTF?!?” surprising to be in your house tooling around with the decor and have somebody pop in.


  13. bhagpuss

    Short on time this evening you’ll be pleased to here so you’re saved the 5,000 word essay. Very nice overview of MMO housing there. Couple of observations and expansions, quickly…

    Leaving aside players who only like specific types of housing for what you might call ideological reasons (often comes up when SWG or UO are cited as benchmarks) there’s still an absolutely vast gulf between players who like housing for practical, character-based reasons (roughly your position, I think, and mine as well) and Decorators. Decorators may also play MMORPGs for reasons such as character development but really that’s a kind of sideline. For Decorators, EQ2 and Rift are Decorating Sims with a fantasy RPG mini-game attached. And let’s not even think about the Builders, who look down on Decorators as dilettantes.

    Best housing in MMOs? Vanguard, hands down. It has non-instanced, open world housing that uses fixed lots, thereby avoiding urban blight and which look very natural and convincing. You get the complete freedom to place items of EQ2 (and you can place and display *any* weapon or item. If the game doesn’t have a specific model it’ll just use a wooden goblet but mostly if you put a sword on a table you’ll see a sword). What’s more, you get to build your own house, which is immensely satisfying. EQ2 would be my runner-up.

    I only dabbled in SWG. I’d heard a lot about the wonderful housing there but what I found was exactly what you describe – a chaotic eyesore. I spent a couple of hours going into people’s houses there and they were every bit as disappointing inside as out. Not really sure where the rep that game has for housing comes from.

    FFXIV’s housing might be halfway decent if anyone could actually afford it. MMOS most desperately in need of adding housing? TSW and GW2. Both would be mindblowing.

    Oh, and on the Massively piece you linked, to be fair, Eliot LeFebvre didn’t just hate Garrisons. He hates EVERYTHING about the WoD beta. I can’t recall I have ever seen such a harsh, unmitigated, comprehensive negative review about any MMO at Massively. It can’t be*that* bad, can it?


  14. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Glad to save you the time. This was actually going to be yesterday’s post, but then I felt the need to find a picture of housing in Runes of Magic, which I knew was buried somewhere in a folder on one of my hard drives. That screen shot was certainly worth waiting for! *cough*

    Along with the questions, “EVE has sound?” and “LOTRO has raids?” I will have to add “Vanguard has housing?” to the list of questions where, intellectually, I know the answer is “yes,” but my emotional, gut response is “no.”

    Or “Vanguard had housing?” in another eight days. I just could never get into Vanguard. But that is a topic for another day… probably the Friday after next.

    I have to think I missed the heyday of SWG housing… or that there is a lot of rose colored viewing lenses in play… or both. A Massively Speaking podcast a while back about housing pretty much degenerated into a SWG housing love fest despite the expectation it would focus on MMOs still operating.

    As for the post linked, perhaps Mr. L is doing us a favor by lowering our expectations? I have found, in general, that things built up as great tend to be at least a bit disappointing while things run down as awful are rarely as bad as billed. I certainly didn’t know what to make of today’s post on the WoD beta.


  15. Mabrick

    I don’t know which was more blight in SWG, the houses or all the extractors! *LOL* I got lucky and was one of the first houses down in SWG. I put it on a ridge overlooking my extractor field in the direction of Mos Eisley. All I could see looking out my front door were the extractors and desert. All the other houses were behind mine. A buddy of mine set up right next door. His extractors were out there too. When he moved on, I took over his account. It was probably against the EULA, but it kept my immersion intact. I miss those houses. The “house” I have in Landmark is much better and totally awesome BTW. But you’re right, there’s not much game there yet. Lately I unlocked Great Iguana (my name for it haha, it’s really Inagua) cove in AC4. That’s a house and then some – but I can’t share it with anyone else. Still, I’d love to see something like that as an instance in an MMO. Thanks for the post – and the memories!


  16. whorhay

    I’m a big fan of the UO/SWG housing. The fault that most bothered me at the time in SWG was that the amount of stuff a house could contain was laughably low, I think 250 items or such. Anything placed either directly in the house, or in a container in the house counted against that. My second complaint was the limited number of designs. Blight was a distant third concern and it’s really more an issue of having a world that is too small combined with housing being limited by unimportant landscape features like little rocks and trees. Originally the blight was a problem because player cities weren’t functional and such everyone had to build close existing cities with working shuttle and space ports.

    What I found kind of funny about SWG was that it could have avoided the blight problem entirely by simply using the huge amounts of useless buildings in the existing npc cities.


  17. A concerned Minmatar

    The equivalent of housing in EVE should be considered a POS, not the captain’s quarters. It’s my home, then again I’m a wormholer.


  18. SynCaine

    Was going to say, EVE certainly has housing, and POS mechanics are both awesome and beyond frustrating (setup really). What’s cool is you go can ‘easy mode’ with the housing (high-sec), all the way up to super-hardcore (C5-6 WH Space). And how you set things up is both a ‘make it look nice’ feature and has actual gameplay (deathstar setup, tank, etc).

    I think urban blight is something that more modern MMOs could handle without having to default to instancing; it was left so open in UO because back then no one knew what was going to happen overall.


  19. flosch

    You asked for our favorite housing. I agree with you, EQII had the best system to me. Best in that it was flexible enough that it allowed me to do what I want, without being so overwhelming that I never bothered to start. My house grew exactly as yours: Lore&Legend and Heritage items. Then a lucky free prestige home from the monthly LoN booster (do they still do that?), and a carpenter alt to fill the house. Never ended up filling the house completely, but it was a fun project.

    And, of course, the auction house display boxes. That is a stroke of pure genius. To save money, I traveled around so much and saw other people’s houses in the process, got ideas of what to do with mine, and so on. I think this is one of the reasons why EQII’s housing works so well and doesn’t suffer from the “it’s instanced, so nobody will ever have a look at your house” problem.


  20. flosch

    Oh, also, because I’m in the mood for sharing opinions of little importance, and because my short-term memory is too bad to remember to put everything into one post before hitting “post comment”: Interestingly, for me, I have an almost opposite preference in EQII zones. I like most zones between 45–50 and 80 (Desert of Flames, Rise of Kunark, and even Kingdom of Sky more or less), but I always fall into this huge hole around level 20 and don’t get out of it until level 40. Some of the original zones haven’t aged very well. If only because many still have large tracts of land that are group-tuned, and you can’t find a group these days.


  21. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @flosch – I am sure that my fondness for the lower levels in the game is entirely nostalgia based, driven by a desire to revisit a time when the game was new and I was fully engaged in playing. And with the way characters level up so quickly, along with the whole mercenary thing, any remaining group content is usually manageable.


  22. flosch

    That is a good point about the mercs (and about the nostalgia; never underestimate nostalgia. I just inadvertantly got all nostalgic when I went through my old WoW screenshots to find a specific one.). Last time I played EQII, I still was strongly in the “I hate mercs” camp. If there ever is a next time around, I would probably get one to do some group content sightseeing.


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