Tag Archives: Player Housing

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.

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On to BlizzCon 2013 and the Next WoW Expansion

BlizzCon is coming up.  In fact, it kicks off this Friday.

BlizzCon

We did not have a BlizzCon last year.  Blizzard claimed it was too busy to do the event.  And it did have a lot of stuff going on last year.

The last BlizzCon was 2011, which happened to be the third BlizzCon in a row that I watched via DirecTV.  While it had the big Mists of Pandaria announcement (and the subsequent groaning from just about everybody) I was kind of growing tired of the spectacle of BlizzCon.  I called it the BlizzCon Blues, because a lot of the aspects of BlizzCon… the tournaments, the costume contest, the dance contest, the talent show, Jay Mohr’s jokes… don’t really change from one year to the next.

And while I don’t want to be one of those people who says that Blizzard shouldn’t hold BlizzCon unless they have a big announcement… I am sure the people who attend will have a great time no matter what is said at the keynote or in various panels… those of us on the outside looking in are mostly interested in the news and insights aspect of the convention.

Fortunately, Blizzard appears to have a big announcement teed up for us.  Rumors began to fly when it was reported that Blizzard applied for a trademark on the title Warlords of Draenor.  The consensus is that this will be the title for the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Since this is coming from the same sources that have been correct on previous occasions, it seems likely to be the case.

People are already speculating about how this will fit into the jigsaw puzzle of lore that makes up World of Warcraft at this time, with blue space goats, pandas, and the Caverns of Time wildcard option.  Telwyn and Rohan both have some ideas about where this might fit. (And likely a good call by Green Armadillo for pointing at the Burning Legion.)

For me though, the lore is a second tier issue.  I will be interested in it, but this isn’t the same as Lord of the Rings Online where blue space goats would be an abomination.  Blizzard owns the lore and it is what they say it is.  If people can get past blue space goats and pandas, then I think we can get past whatever they have coming.

No, the primary concern for me is the mechanics of the expansion.  What will it actually add to the game?

History suggests that it will be five more levels, a new overland adventure area that is about 1 level per zone, so five zones.  This will be accompanied by some instances with various levels of difficulty available, raids, a battleground, and uplifts in all the various professions.  There might be a new class or a new race along with an expansion of what races can be what classes.  And all of this will be delivered next year around this time.

Actually, the progression of level cap changes suggests that this ought to be a 2.5 level increase, since the pattern so far has been to cut it in half every two expansions, though I doubt we’ll see that.

But 5 levels and all the rest, that is the safe bet.  It is almost mathematical.

And if that is what you want, you can probably rest easy.  Blizzard will probably try to add in some new game mechanic as a hook.  Maybe a new trade skill or some such.  We will probably find out Friday.

The question in my mind though is what should Blizzard add to World of Warcraft?

The game is about to hit its 9th anniversary and will be close to 10 by the time this expansion goes live.  It has been immensely successful, the industry leader for such games, and has set the standard in many areas, like system requirements, polish, and UI responsiveness.  It has been at the top of the heap for a long time, pretty much since it decisively dethroned EverQuest subscription levels in 2005.

However, being the biggest player, the company with the most market share, the 800 pound gorilla comes at a price.  Being on top often means becoming obsessed with staying on top, which generally means being very conservative so as not to screw up and alienate your customers or otherwise give a competitor an easy inroad on your position.  But that way tends to lead to stagnation and strange obsessions, which can be just as harmful.  For example, do you think anybody asked Microsoft to please make their desktop computer interface resemble that of a tablet?  No, that was all a product of Microsoft’s internal obsession about making ALL devices run on Windows, and since tablets are the latest big thing, Windows must look like a tablet!  So screw you if you don’t have a touch screen or see utility in the Start menu of old.

Unfortunately for us, Microsoft still has a stranglehold on the desktop, so you have may have to go with their awful ideas since your company probably makes you run Office and Outlook and whatnot.  Or your favorite game only runs on Windows.

Blizzard, however, does not have a similarly unassailable position.  There are a lot of competitors in the MMO space and in the gaming space in general.  Blizzard has seen its numbers slide from “over 12 million” to 7.7 million at last count, and I suspect that we will see quarterly drops until the next expansion.  And even then, I would be surprised if the game popped up to beyond 9 million again unless there was something huge to bring people back.

So what could Blizzard add to the game that might be a draw?

Well, not to cut too much on Blizzard, but they are really good at taking other people’s ideas and refining them into something better.  Note their homage to EverQuest at a past BlizzCon.  Without EverQuest there would be no World of Warcraft.  I would thus exclude anything really new and different.  So any new feature would likely have to be something a competitor already has.

What would that give us as possibilities?

Player Housing

This one has gone back and forth.  At one point Blizz said they were looking into it.  Later, they said that they did not want to pull people out of the common areas and into their own little zones.  Every company has their own cultural obsessions, and Blizz is obsessed with its servers looking populated and busy.  They like bustling home towns and crowded zones.

So housing seems like a long shot, which is sort of a shame.  I think Blizzard could do a really good job with housing, it could open up a whole new harvesting and crafting path akin to carpentry in EverQuest II.  There is the option of additional storage, trophy displays, prestige housing that would take gold out of the economy, guild housing, and so on.  Other games have really gone deep on this, and it is one of those things that will keep people tinkering after they have hit level cap.

Mentoring

Being able to go down in levels to experience content you have blown past or to be able to play with lower level friends without being the overkill king has its appeal.  Right now levels are a separator in WoW.  If your friends are at level cap and you are still on the 1-60 run, you won’t be playing with them any time soon.

Other games have attempted to solve this.  EverQuest II has had mentoring for ages.  Rift has it as well.  Guild Wars 2 forces you down levels when you go into lower level zones.  And the various implementations seem to mostly work.  Down leveled players always seem to be somewhat overpowered.

The question is, how would you want this to work in Azeroth.  In my heart of hearts, I would like to see the Guild Wars 2 method, though I think it would cause such an outcry from level cap players that it would end up hurting the game.

Mercenaries

This worked for EverQuest and EverQuest II, as well as showing up in other games like Neverwinter.  This lets you fill out your party or be able to go do multiplayer content alone.

I am not sure this would be a fit for WoW.  There just isn’t any overland multiplayer content any more, is there?  In EverQuest all of the overland content is pretty much multiplayer, so it was almost a required enabler to let people play when groups were becoming scarce.  But I don’t think this actually solves a problem for WoW, unless you think a tanking or healing mercenary will make Dungeon Finder queue times go away for DPS players.   And I do not think that it would fit in with Blizzard’s philosophy of the game.  They have Dungeon Finder and Looking For Raid to help players play with other players.

Free to Play

As much as Blizz loves crowded servers, I think they like buckets of money slightly more.  This change would give them more players, but every conversion is different and when you are already making buckets of money, even a strong likelihood that you could make more might not be enough.  A bird in the hand and all that.  Plus it would be incredibly disruptive.  We have seen with other such conversions that content updates pretty much go on hiatus while your team works on free to play.  And then there is simple pride.  Games go free to play when they cannot cut it on the subscription model.  No matter what you say, it is perceived in many quarters as a desperation move.

I could see them going on a path towards a monthly subscription getting you more.  Maybe there will be a tie-in or benefits with Hearthstone or Titan or other games.  But going the free route does not seem likely to me.

Player Designed Content

Cryptic has the Foundry.  SOE has its Dungeon Maker in EverQuest II and is pushing ahead with Landmark, its player focused building tool for EverQuest Next.  And player designed levels have a history with Blizzard in games like StarCraft and Warcraft III.  That is where DotA came from.  So there is precedent for this.

On the flip side, player created content is very uneven.  How many Dungeon Maker modules are “level you up fast” as opposed to actual adventures?  And the Foundry, while it has lead to some truly wonderful instances, does give players ample opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot of create otherwise crap content.  I think Blizzard could only do this if they committed themselves to vetting every single piece of content, a job which I think is beyond their abilities.

Other Ideas

What else is out there that Blizzard might have latched on to in the last year?  I would love them to steal the music system from Lord of the Rings Online, but it won’t happen.  Public quests or open zone events?  Level cap heroic versions of all instances?  An alternate advancement path?  Twitter and Twitch.tv and other social media integration?

What will World of Warcraft need when it hits its 10 year anniversary?

And what else do you think will come out of BlizzCon this coming weekend?

Finding a House in EverQuest

I felt that I had to get out there and find the player housing in EverQuest before my Station Access time expired.  I have spent most of that time playing EverQuest II Extended, which is odd since I’ll still be able to play once the account lapses.

But it can be difficult to get back into EverQuest.  For all my talk of playing on day one, it has been a while since the game was my main focus… like about 8 years.  What an odd ratio, 3 years of play, 8 years of nostalgia… nostalgia for probably the first 12 months really.

Getting it installed went fine, as I noted previously.  But since it was a fresh install, I lost all of my key mapping, which meant redoing it all again or trying to play with the default.  Did we really use those keys back in 1999?  It was so long ago and everything has gone WASD since.

And then there was the whole navigation aspect.  I can make my way through the orginal world from memory still, and Kunark and Velious are no mystery, past that I am a bit hazy, and once we get to the Val Shir and The Plane of Knowledge, I am about out of cards. (Except for the areas put in with The Serpent’s Spine, where I did play into the 30s when that came out in 2006.)  The Plane of Knowledge is still that new place that emptied out the remaining players still hanging out in the old cities, though it at least gave them one central place to hang out.

So me finding housing in EverQuest unaided seemed unlikely.

Fortunately the web was there to help.  Over at Zam, as they now style it, the heir to Allahkazam, once the prime place on the web for EverQuest information, they had a nice post up on where to find housing and how to acquire a place of your own.

I was happy to see that they opted for the neighborhood style of housing akin to what Lord of the Rings Online offers.  I haven’t finished up the post I started on LOTRO housing quite a while back, but I do like many of the aspects of it and was interested to compare it to the EQ implementation.

You get to the housing through the guild area of the Plane of Knowledge, which is one of the places you can find a lot of people (and their hired hands) hanging out.

Wow, people!

As with LOTRO, you then choose your neighborhood.  The neighborhood choice panel in EQ is nice enough to give you some demographic information.  Each neighborhood has 71 plots of land and the panel tells you how many have already been claimed.

Neighborhood List

71 is a lot more than you get in a neighborhood in LOTRO.  To make moving around, each little section of housing has a little teleporter, there being 7 sections of approximately 10 plots of land each.

I had to search through a couple of neighborhoods before I found a plot near the entrance that was unclaimed.  Unlike LOTRO, a house doesn’t come with your land.  You can pick your own.  They are a bit pricey though.

10K for a 3 room hut? Is this Silicon Valley?

After dropping 420 platinum coins on the land, I found that a house was a bit dear.  3 rooms houses run around 10K plat, while a 1 room runs just over 5K plat.  I had to assemble some coins from other characters to get a one room shack, which is what had the lowest daily upkeep price.

Yes, you have to pay daily upkeep, in plat (42 in my case) for the house, which you arrange through the real estate management window.  (Who knew EQ would ever have a window with that title!)

I thought this was a community college course

I realize that coinage had gotten out of hand, but here clearly housing differs from the EQII variety in that there is none in the new player price range.  Not that there are a ton of new players in EQ, but still.  And so I had my house.

New development?

All the other plots in my area had been purchased, but nobody had built anything.  And after buying the house and paying some upkeep, about all I could afford was a bunny rabbit for the yard.

Albert the Bunny

So went to some other neighborhoods until I found one with houses and did what we’ve all learned to do playing RPGs and MMOs… I started walking into other people’s homes uninvited.

A more complete development

This looked pretty affluent from the outside, and on the inside there were many things to see.  EQ doesn’t have the rather disappointing limitations on “stuff” that LOTRO does in its housing.   A painting in one of the houses looked oddly familiar.

Why don't EQII paintings look this nice?

There was also quite a display of weaponry.

Lots of sharp objects

I let my daughter wander though houses for a bit.  Now she is on Wolfshead’s side and wants to know why WoW doesn’t have housing.

And that was about it for me and EverQuest housing.  Low on plat, I couldn’t experiment much.  Some gnome will probably be along to reposess my house soon.

But it was nice to see how they implemented player housing in EQ.

On the plus side, I like the housing suburb idea, akin to what LOTRO has, relative to the EQII one door, many occupants.  And I like that object placement has that wide-open “put it anywhere” aspect that EQII has, and that LOTRO would be well served to copy.

On the other hand, housing seems a bit pricey.  No new player is going to have a house for a long, long time.  I like the EQII 5 silver a week apartment option.  And the empty plots that people have bought but not bothered to decorate, those are something of a downer.  Some areas look like what you see flying in over Las Vegas.  LOTRO’s neighborhoods never look so empty, since the house comes with the lot.

And, of course, the game is starting to really feel its age, even in a new area like this.  You can get around, but convention has replaced a lot of quirks in this game from 1999.

Lost in Norrath

Not the post-cataclysm Norrath of EverQuest II, but the original Norrath.

We are talking EverQuest.

I opted for 30 days of Station Access so I could visit both games and because if I didn’t get Station Access I would be way over my character limit in EQII.

And while it is easy to find all your characters in EverQuest II, in EverQuest it can be a bit of a challenge if you’ve forgotten the name of the server.  And was recently merged.  Again.  So the name no longer appears in the merged name.

Ah well.

I learned from my trial downloading EQII to avoid the soon-to-be-defunct Station Launcher and downloaded the new launch pad for EverQuest.

The new launch pad is every bit as slick as the EQII version when it comes to style and patching.

The Latest EQ Launcher

The starry part of the picture is my desktop pattern in the background.

I ran that and went to bed while it downloaded and patched away.

The next day I went past the launcher to find that the old server interface for EverQuest is still there in its muddled glory.

Good enough for 1999

And I was able to find Luclin right away, where a while back I was in Nostalgia the Guild.

Tistann in Surefall Glade

Ironically, Nostalgia the Guild is now something of a subject for nostalgia.  I had forgotten how far back that was, back during the Living Legacy promotion.  Nobody in the guild has been on for quite a while it seems.

Nostalgia for Nostalgia

I am probably in violation of some rule of the guild charter for posting a screen shot of part of the guild roster, but who is going to call me on it?  Somebody would have to re-subscribe to do so.

Anyway, once I remastered… or at least remembered… some of the controls for EverQuest, I got to look around a bit.  Surefall Glade is where my first character, a half elf ranger, started out.

I should have rolled a druid.

After some poking around there, I went to see what my other characters were up to.  I have characters on three servers.

Luclin was, as I said, easy enough to find.

The remains of E’ci was less so.  I found it eventually, and probably could again.  Tunare.  That was the server it got folded into a merger or two ago.

But the last server? I cannot for the life of me remember, and I wasn’t inclined to log on to each and every server to check, even if there are characters.  So somewhere there are a couple of characters lost in Norrath.  But they are probably in good company.  I wonder how many characters are in the EQ database here past the 11 and a half year mark.

I will probably spend some time looking around this weekend.  I should probably go to Halas, just to see how it compares to New Halas.  And I should see if I can find the new in-game player housing and how that stacks up.

I’ll probably have to go watch Sayonara Norrath to get a few more ideas.