As a long term MMO player I thoroughly enjoy the sense of immersion I get when I play MMO's that offer in-game housing. Because I also like to roleplay, housing is an important element I look for. Mainly it's used as a place to store my stuff...but it's also just a place I can go to "get away" from the hubbub.
There are many things you can do with your house. Use it as a guild headquarters, crafting workshop, meeting place, a shop, warehouse, or a million other things. Did I mention you can store your stuff in one?
So to me, in-game housing is fairly important. My first exposure to housing was in SWG, which had the grandest housing scheme of all - a complete sandbox solution - you could place your house almost anywhere you wanted, in any direction you wanted. Just plop it down and start to use it. Genius. I really latched on to the idea of owning real-estate in a virtual world that your virtual self lived in. Very cool.
As my interest waned from SWG over the years, I started looking at other MMO's that were available and noticed that housing / apartments were not significantly available. They were just not in the plans. It quickly appeared that I was a niche player who found themselves looking for a new MMO that had housing. A pretty difficult proposition. Then I found it difficult to find a game that had vehicles and mounts, also like SWG. Pretty soon, I began looking for a SWG clone it seemed. Ouch.
In my MMO sample platter as I call it, I discovered the following MMO's had some type of housing: Anarchy Online, Ultima Online, Neocron 2, Everquest 2, and Face of Mankind. I found myself willing to try the game regardless of style as long as it had housing. Kind of a strange critirea I know. But that's how I ended up trying them. While I wont touch on those games in this blog posting, suffice it to say that I wasn't really impressed with any of them.
Then along came Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. I followed this game through mid beta (beta 3) and was just enamored with what it was going to offer. One of the biggies was player owned real-estate and housing - a house that you had to find a plot of land for, purchase it, then actually build a house on it. Wow, now that's immersion! Mechanically this seemed like a tough feat to overcome, since the entire game world is non-instanced and open. But they figured it out. And it works. And it's cool. Now all I need is some gold!
Later on (in fact just last month) another game released a housing option: Lord of the Rings Online. I too was very impressed with the way the devs decided to handle such a daunting task, and the fact that they decided to implement it at all, made me decide to resub. With the number of subscribers in game, and the fact that the mechanics of the game relied heavily on instancing, why not use instancing to your advantage? So the solution the devs came up with is pretty cool - create instanced neighborhoods instead of instanced houses or apartments. Each neigborhood contains 20 houses of various costs and sizes, and they are quite literally set up in a suburban setting, each house has a front yard which you can decorate, a mailbox and a front door. In addition each neigborhood instance (which is fairly big by the way) has a community center, with parks and meeting areas and a few vendors and a banking NPC. Very cool. And when all 20 houses are bought, POOF! Another instance opens up ready to be consumed. Genius.
So to wrap things up, in-game housing is very important to this immersive/roleplayer. It's just another tool one can use to help you feel like your avatar is part of the game. They are functional and look cool. How important is housing to your character?
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