Some weeks ago now I’d read an article over at Massively OP about World of Warcraft being the stark exception among older MMORPGs in its lack of a player housing system. Playing the game since then it has struck me time and again just how jarring this is.
WoW has so much lavish detail in its interiors and so many different architectural styles across all these years; art assets that are already in game and that could be leveraged to fill up the housing system. Of course, housing systems need more than just a lot of furniture. For it to be content for players there needs to be systems created to detail how a house or dwelling is acquired and maintained. There needs to be then ways to find or obtain furniture, possessions and curios to personalise the dwelling. That’s part and parcel of housing gameplay – collecting and decorating.
Sadly WoW has rather neglected (or at least rushed development of) its crafting professions of late, so a full on expansion of crafting to enable the creation of housing items is even less likely than player housing ever being introduced. I look at the other MMOs that I’ve played, especially Everquest 2 or Rift, and feel that a variety of ways to obtain housing items in-game is the best approach: some items should be crafteable, others found as known or random finds. The basics such as standard furniture to fit the core racial aesthetics of both faction should be predictably obtainable and having them as crafting recipes would be the obvious choice. There are even existings systems in game for logging and gathering stone and other materials.
I’ve written before that I most value housing as a place to display momentoes of my characters adventures. So being able to find items as random treasure or out in the world, maybe using the purple chest discovery system from Draenor and onwards, would be an existing system for finding new housing items.
Regardless of how a player would retrieve such items, just playing World of Warcraft it’s plain to see that the assets for a good housing system, the items and furniture, are all there already.
I once had a crazy idea of being able to craft a guild blimp. It would require an guild effort, all crafting professions used, collecting raw materials, inscription to apply runes to make it fly, enchanting to power the runes, herbs to make fuel, tailoring, leatherworking, blacksmithing. You would be able to set your hearthstone in it, the GM could have it travel to different zones, my idea even included a way on a one week cool down to have it teleport to hover over an opposing faction capital where players could drop rotten fruit and vegetables, or use paint cannons to paint the town red, or blue. I seemed like a really cool idea. But the suggestion never happened. I had sent it through the suggestion form along with many other ideas I’ve had.
I always see Warlords of Draenor as some faction at Blizzard trying to prove that housing was bad. They gave us our own space, with utility and some very limited levels of customization, and when people didn’t love it, declared that they were right all along, housing just pulls people out of the common areas and makes the game feel dead.
WoW with EQII style housing options is a dream. Imagine dressmaker’s dummies like in EQII in your house to display all your armor sets, trophies from various expansions… like maybe that vendor crap we get from archaeology… and a furniture making crafting profession. I can picture it. I just feel it will never happen.
An interesting viewpoint, and one I can imagine being true given how Blizz devs have very publically told its audience what they should be wanting or not wanting…
At this point I think major-league MMORPGs that refuse to add proper housing (the other obvious example is GW2) are self-evidently making a stubborn statement of opinion. For a long time they could at least claim that the games that did make a big deal of housing were relatively minor players and of course they always stand on the argument that housing takes players out of the open world, but both those defences have been rendered invalid by the example of FFXIV.
Even Blizzard can’t dismiss FFXIV as an also-ran. It’s undoubtedly their primary competitor in the genre and it’s doing extremely well. I don’t like the way Square handle housing but its undeniably a very successful and important part of their offer and it demonstrably hasn’t harmed retention, involvement or profitablity.
Someone at the top of both Blizzard and ANet just doesn’t like the concept of player housing. Who knows why? At least with all of ANet’s major personnel changes it’s feasible we might see a change of attitude there, maybe even with the next expansion. For WoW, though, I think there’s no chance.