Syl on MMO housing

Syl at MMO Gypsy has some interesting thoughts on the future of MMO housing. There are two main points to the post – 1) personalisation and 2) social tools / opportunities.

The two example MMORPGs used in the post are LOTRO and Wildstar. I’d certainly agree that LOTRO’s system is in desperate need of an overhaul, somehow I’d missed the concrete promise by Kate Paiz (producer for LOTRO) that this system was being re-done this year – I’d read it was a possibility but this seems a lot more positive! My concern for this, and for what Syl discusses, is that over-emphasis of the housing neighbourhoods will empty the main population centres of the world. Does it matter that there aren’t people idling by the bank or auction house in 21st Hall, Bree or where ever?

Well normally the answer is probably no, in most MMOs you see players concentrated in certain spots – like Stormwind in WoW or fleet in SWTOR. But in LOTRO more so than most games in the genre there are actual social tools that encourage something beyond dancing on mailboxes. The random music playing, the theatre sets that are actually used by players to put on shows, the markets that players use to host ‘meet and sell’ events. If all this is moved into neighbourhoods (and there are a *lot* of neighbourhoods per racial housing zone on a given server) then a lot of this spontaneous community activity could become invisible. That’s probably an overreaction, given that any large event on my server, Laurelin, is usually posted on the forums in advance; so even if they are decamped to a specific neighbourhood I could check in advance the address and go there. But the pleasure of spontaneously stumbling across such things as I go about crafting, banking etc will be gone.

Regarding social tools DDO’s guild ships have the option of buff NPCs to provide various standard buffs before the group jumps into a dungeon. Perhaps LOTRO’s new system could have a similar facility (since it’s the same developer)? There’s a certain, very appropriate appeal to the fellowship gathering at the Kin house for a ‘buff’ meal together before they head into danger!

Coming back to Syl’s points about housing in general I’d add a few of my own:

Simple, affordable upkeep and no escrow!
Make sure the barrier to entry is low enough that you can have a house early in your adventuring career – it shouldn’t just be an “end game” activity (Vanguard!). Also things like escrow are unnecessary petty restrictions. Don’t expect me to always remember to login to pay upkeep, EQ2 does this best. I’ll be locked out if I forget to pay but once I’ve paid the normal fee (no back charges or interest!) I’m back in business and my house is as I left it not packed up in a box. Buying a house is one of the most stressful experiences of adult life, developers should not be trying to emulate the technicalities of this process!

Not all housing enthusiasts are armchair architects!Personally the wonderfully minecraft-esque version of housing in Rift was a step to far for me (in my very humble and biased opinion). I want a nice space to place mementos of my adventuring career, and perhaps some racial or faction oriented furniture for a specific look. But I’m not interested in having to build almost the whole thing from scratch nor having to grind endlessly to get anything nice. Once again EQ2 does it pretty perfectly I feel. Whether a compromise is possible for LOTRO’s new system to suit both or all tastes I don’t know. If there were some pre-built houses, or those built and then sold by players that’d be good for me; perhaps also there’d be empty lots for the Rift style amateur architects to build from scratch on?

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5 Responses to Syl on MMO housing

  1. Dà Chéng says:

    I certainly think that it would have been nice if you could have bought a house ready-made in Rift; All the same, I like that there’s plenty of scope for artistic endeavour

    • Telwyn says:

      The building system is wonderful but assumes just a bit too much of the players in terms of time investment and artistic flair – there should be better starter house options with more ready done for you, and then have higher cost/level options which are more blank canvas IMHO.

  2. To clarify, I do personally prefer outdoor housing – I would love to see an upcoming MMO finally get this right. I understand that UO or EQ bot have great housing systems but I have no wish to return to either game.
    As for cities, I think cities are not a required feature in a game; if people can build their own small towns and neighbourhoods, then the social gathering shifts to that. it would be very intriguing to watch how main hubs establish themselves the natural way and there would likely be more variation with more reasons to travel to several places rather than just one. that really depends on other design factors. whats for certain is that premade towns or not, people will always find each other and they will always create hubs. we are social animals.

    It’s an interesting point btw about premade house structures; I didn’t think this was something players want, but you’re quite right that not everyone’s into architecture. having willing builders create and sell blueprints could be a fun way to approach this. 🙂

    • Telwyn says:

      In a sense that’s the biggest thing that is missing from the Rift system, they could have tried to encourage a player economy of pre-builds or build to order. But I guess there’s no current support for changing ownership or houses to allow that. I’d be slightly wary (in my own cynical way) of players having free reign where city-building is concerned, do the dominant guilds quickly turn such bases into their own power structures? How does this effect players outside those guilds for instance. For example I’ve never seen a vanarchy on Celestial Hills (Tera) force PVP on in their territory but they do have that as an option so depending on how player cities are managed it could have a very varied effect on the playerbase…

  3. yanniesaurus says:

    I loved the housing on FFIX. Basic but still pretty awesome. And It was a nifty place to chill with the guildies.

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