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Bladewir's Bellowing Blog

I'm back! I usually blog about MMORPGs and my experiences with them here, as well as other topics at my other blog located at http://knvpradio.blogspot.com

Author: MMOPlaya

Just How Important is In-Game Housing?

Posted by MMOPlaya Tuesday November 6 2007 at 10:12PM
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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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Please visit my website / forum which is dedicated to the MMORPG genre.  You'll find topics such as this open for discussion as well as other great ideas.  Click here to visit.  Thanks for your consideration!

Kordesh writes:

I'll be honest, I kinda skimmed it and went to the end, but I agree completely. Housing really gives you that feeling that your character is part of the overall game world. I have to say I've probably enjoyed games that have implemented housing more than most. Had Vanguard not had such trouble at release, I probably would be playing that currently. Unfortunately, it's a bit late to hop on now, as I have plans for other games now.

Wed Nov 07 2007 2:04AM Report
Ramzeppelin writes:

Housing rules! I think your very sane to look for it in an MMO. It is to me the foundation of what mmo's should be.

People rag on WoW, not because its "cool to attack whats popular" as one mental midget suggested on these boards, but rather because it made an amazing well built game but left the heart of MMo's behind. Much like pop music leaves behind soul and blues.

So if a company has housing it shows they are "right" minded to me. However if they add it on later like LoTR im not so sure. For me LoTR fails badly on other premises so perhaps im biased. I am still mad at how they screwed up what should have been my fav MMo :(

I say bring back the place it anywhere after its been built formula, except we should also be able to desing our houses!!!!!

Wed Nov 07 2007 5:22AM Report
Staatsschutz writes:

Housing is one very important aspect of a mmo. But since then only Ultima Onine was able to implement it right, and make it USEFUL and FUN at the same time.

Wed Nov 07 2007 5:33AM Report
neschria writes:

I seem to be in the minority. Although I like to roleplay and I like an immersive world, housing is completely optional. And when it is available, I tend to ignore it anyway. When I started playing MMORPGs, I started in UO and my husband sold my first house right out from under me, so that might have had a chilling effect on how I feel about housing... More likely, I am just the sort of player who is all about the adventure and not so much about the housekeeping, since I do the latter pretty much 24/7.

My husband spends an inordinate amount of time on housing-- I think our first go in EQ2, he was entirely dedicated to buying and furnishing larger and larger houses, while I just dumped house stuff in my starter apartment and hardly ever went back there. He was the same back in UO. It was all about interior decorating.

Wed Nov 07 2007 7:39AM Report
JB47394 writes:

Guys, why is housing important?  Why do you enjoy it?  What entertainment does it bring to you?  I'm asking, not challenging.  I'm curious to know, because housing has zero appeal to me.  I could imagine building houses so that NPC families could live there.  That would let me do design work, construction and then know that a virtual family is living happily ever after, putting the house to good use - but having my character live there provides me with zero entertainment.

And yes, I've played in games with housing and I even bothered to build a house.  Dark Age of Camelot.  Very pretty, but not particularly entertaining.

Wed Nov 07 2007 8:11AM Report
Tiranor writes:

Housing is an expensive (development wise) bonus feature for an MMO.  It's designed to be completely optional and has hardly any game play inpact (except adding comfort to crafting and traveling).

I really enjoyed housing where it was nice (Eq2 and CoV), but for me its never a reason to stick longer to a game, I experience it mostly as a gigantic time and money sink and in the end there isn't much to hold on to.

I really wish a bunch of development teams would have spent more time to get their basic features right, instead of investing time and money into designing and coding rooms to let players cram their trophies into. Don't get me wrong it's a nice bonus but nothing to favour on MMO over the other.

Concerning immersion:  Housing adds to it but it should be really  considered as one of the latter cherries on top in the game design process.

Wed Nov 07 2007 10:31AM Report
Xix13 writes:

Tiranor must not be a member of Packrats R Us.  Me?  I'm a charter member, so housing is one of the things that really sets games apart for me.  You can NEVER have enough storage (except in EVE, which is unlimited).

OP, you missed Horizons, which had an interesting housing system based on buying the plot then building structures on the plot.  I think SWG, UO and Horizons had the most flexible housing possibilities, but for fixed housing, I think LotRO has a great idea that doesn't clutter the landscape.

It's very telling that you mention SWG twice:  housing and mounts/vehicles.  If you add in the great pre-CU crafting, you find that the game really WAS unique and there's a LOT of us who have been looking for similar features ever since its demise.  I'm hearing that VG has actually fixed up a lot of the stuf that really killed it for a long time after launch, but it IS SOE, so no touchie.  I just don't trust them.  They may get VG just to the point where the playerbase is happy, then one day, out of the blue, change it to Iconic Vanguardiness and, poof, you'll be left with crap.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Wed Nov 07 2007 10:46AM Report
orlac writes:

I like housing as a storage container. But in UO especially, it got to he point where people were playing 'house.' Kind of like dolls and such.

Wed Nov 07 2007 12:19PM Report
synergi writes:

Nice post OP! I'm exactly the same way.. when I hear of a game, the first feature I look for is player housing. I started in UO,  I also played SWG up until CU... When I heard EQ2 would have housing I was excited over that until I learned the idiots didn't even code being able to sit in a chair. Sort of makes housing worthless if you can't interact with it.

I get a lot of joy out of housing. I Subbed to LOTR because of housing. I really hate how Dev's tend to either ignore this feature, or tact it on as a after thought. Ralph did housing right in SWG, the freedom it gave and the immersion it added to RPing was awesome.

I could go on and on.. but housing that is well down is the difference from the game feeling like a game versus feeling like a world.

Wed Nov 07 2007 3:24PM Report

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