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News & Features Discussion  » General: Gimme Shelter

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  MikeB

MMORPG.com Community Manager

Joined: 5/27/09
Posts: 5477

 
OP  2/23/10 12:24:49 PM#1

MMORPG.com columnist Justin Webb writes this article about player housing.

Player housing always comes up on the list of things that players want to see in their games, and rightfully so. The concept of owning a chunk of real estate in the world you love is extremely compelling. At face value, player housing looks like it should be a slam-dunk win for every game that implements it. However, expectations are unrealistically high for this system. Player housing comes with a host of problems, many of which are developmental and/or production based.

Player housing as a global feasible game feature is an artifact left over from the days of MUDs, where the game world was created out of text and imagination. I had my own house in the MUD I played (Terris), that other players could enter and look around. It had things to interact with, and a couple of secrets. I really liked my house, but it wasn’t unique -- flavorful player-owned houses were fairly common.

Read Gimme Shelter.

Michael "MikeB" Bitton
Community Manager
Twitter: @eMikeB

  Rhime

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/29/04
Posts: 116

2/23/10 12:42:37 PM#2

Star Wars Galaxies had the best housing features in the MMO world next to maybe UO.

Non-instancing, everyone could come and see it, TONS of space for storage(and decorating) and you could set up crafting stations and vendors for selling.

I don't see the big problem with other games doing this if they put in the effort...

  Shelby13

Novice Member

Joined: 11/30/09
Posts: 80

2/23/10 1:05:32 PM#3

As a long time Star Wars Galaxies player, I can honestly tell you that nothing makes you feel more at 'home' in a MMO than your own virtual home.   A 'home-like' location to me is the very foundation of what MMO is all about.  Homes = Community.  Homes = Social Gatherintgs.  Homes = Proof you are there when your character is not.

SWG has a very extensive housing system, including cities, shuttles, and while the biggest 'complaint' is over inactive account real-estate hogging (players that leave the game but their housing remains in prime spots)... and 'cluttering' the world... overall the solutions (housing pack-ups on inactive accounts) and selective planet housing (some planets/worlds don't allow housing)... the benefits FAR outweigh the few drawbacks.

Done properly, I would have to imagine the retention-factor of 'housing-like' features for a MMO is a significant.    Player communites build around cities... they bring more in common than just 'faction' alliances or even 'guild' alliances.  

And a 'house' does not always mean a structure on a planet... it can be a 'ship' (STO has possibilities there if they expand)... it can be an instanced 'apartment' in an NPC city... so long as there are shared-social spots (player lounges).

The decorate-your-home sub-game attracts a very diverse playerbase... rounds out the community instead of just 'hardcore' PvP players or 'gold-grinder' PvE players.    MMO's are build around the premise that its a social game as well.. or at least, they SHOULD be built around that in my humble opinion.

Is it easy?  No.
Is is hard to balance?  Perhaps.
Is is worth the effort? Absolutely.

While MUDs where 'easier' in adding housing.. they where also 'easier' in ALL aspects of development... 3D game engines are complex by nature, housing does not make that more or less complex than PvP or any other 3D based MMO system.

I would say what made your MUD your home was probably a lot more to do with you being able to 'add a part of yourself' to the world that persisted even when your character/toon was offline.

I sure hope to see more games with a housing-like feature.   City of Heroes lost me because a 'shared superhero base' was not the same as my housing complex in Galaxies.    Eve lost be because I never connected to anything besides whatever ship I had 'equipped'.   Galaxies kept me for years and years after I mastered my first few professions because I was part of a community... a city.. a guild.. a faction.. an economy.. and there was more to do than PvP fight or PvE grind. 

SWG/STO/(SWTOR)

  SnarlingWolf

Novice Member

Joined: 6/23/09
Posts: 2728

2/23/10 1:10:46 PM#4

 

This is actually the first article of his I've agreed with and think that he approached correctly.

 

Originally posted by Rhime

Star Wars Galaxies had the best housing features in the MMO world next to maybe UO.

Non-instancing, everyone could come and see it, TONS of space for storage(and decorating) and you could set up crafting stations and vendors for selling.

I don't see the big problem with other games doing this if they put in the effort...


 

SWG had huge amounts of open land with nothing in them, so yes they could allow people to build house where they wanted. Depending on the size of the player base to the size of land this can be an issue (See original UO where there were houses on every spot of land that could fit them, ruins the world).

 

It is also not nearly that easy for games that have a lot of quest areas, dungeon, points of interest, etc. All of that stuff uses up land. SWG had clicks worth of desert that you could plop houses down on and not get in the way of anything. In most fantasy games not far outside of town exist main creatures used in quests. Stick some houses in the way and it becomes annoying for the other players, it can also kill the mood of being out in the dangerous fields when you pass 12 houses on the way.

 

I'm all for actual on landscape housing but it needs to be designated in areas so as to not detract from specifically designed areas in the world. There also needs to be a point of the houses, like the shops in SWG/vendors in UO. Get rid of the trend of auction houses in every game and make vendors. Make player run towns able to setup NPC vendors(basic goods) along with their own personal vendors. Allow them to place quest NPCs there so that there will be a reason for other players to visit. Now you have the traditional NPC town feel, but players choose the layout and the buildings. But to be clear that is an extremely difficult feat for a company to both implement and have it smoothly work.

  Chealar

Novice Member

Joined: 9/11/09
Posts: 228

We are star-stuff, the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.
Delenn, Babylon 5

2/23/10 1:42:39 PM#5

A game like GalaXseeds, from what I understand has instanced houses/pods/ships. But they are all group in an "apartment complex" and you can actually visit the others "pods" anchored on this particular planet. Plus the pod is also your vehicle in-between planets (Like someone above mentioned about STO).

I think Wakfu also had something like that planned at the begining ( iI don't know if it's still out there), with a "bottomless" bag tha you could use to buil din your house in plots of lands, add crafting spots, storage, planting slots, and so on.

In both cases, you mostly take your house with you, to no expanse to the outside world and with the possibility of having it visited/shown to others.

  jwardlaw

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/16/10
Posts: 1

2/23/10 2:08:58 PM#6

I thought Mythic did a fair job on Dark Age of Camelot housing. They added new zones near capitol cities, bidding for lot locations, multiple housing sizes, lots of decorative options,  vaults, consignment and normal merchants, a consignment search board near zone entrance, and a rental system to reclaim inactive housing. One could also assign permission to house entry, vaults, and merchants for friends or everyone. Guild housing was also supported.

  SUMB44

Novice Member

Joined: 12/27/05
Posts: 182

Those who would give up a little Liberty to gain a little security will gain neither and lose both.

2/23/10 2:16:27 PM#7

 In my experience SWG had the best implementation of player housing, guild halls, player-built towns, resource gathering, and crafting.  Open world PvP was fun too.  I should note that my experience with SWG ended when JTL was released.

  wildchyld

Novice Member

Joined: 5/28/07
Posts: 35

2/23/10 2:19:16 PM#8

You'll see a TON of older games getting this feature within the next year.

Will they do it right? Who knows. We can always hope.

  onetruth

Novice Member

Joined: 2/02/10
Posts: 103

...

2/23/10 2:22:00 PM#9

This article is exhibit A of why this genre is so stale.  To paraphrase, devs/producers will never do justice to player housing because it's too hard.

Never mind that SWG laid the blueprint seven years ago, and Ultima did it before that (albeit in 2D).  Yes, it's too hard, too expensive, no one cares, all they want is more 'content' (which in dev-speak means fedex quests and kill quests).

All of you that want to know why so many mmo's are carbon copies of one another and filled with repetitive/boring gameplay, re-read this article and substitute any innovative feature for 'player housing.'

Really sad.

 

...

  nekollx

Novice Member

Joined: 11/17/08
Posts: 573

2/23/10 2:27:36 PM#10

 Raise your hand if you own, completly, your own house.

*crickets chirp as a few hands go up*

 

Raise your hand if you rent or co own a house or apartment?

*knocked over by the wind gust*

 

Really it's that simple. Everyone doesn't own a 3 bedroom house IRL, and nore did they in the middle ages.

 

Create a explorable complex with each room being another player house, if you need to add more housing add another floor.

Bam everyone has a house, and the uber rich can sink their money into private housing. 

  Chealar

Novice Member

Joined: 9/11/09
Posts: 228

We are star-stuff, the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.
Delenn, Babylon 5

2/23/10 2:28:02 PM#11

Good point onetruth... But the reality is, developers do not make these decisions, marketing guys and/or /stock holders do.

On the other hand, if housing is parce enough, it is a bragging point in itself, isn't it?

  Ozmodan

Elite Member

Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 6880

2/23/10 2:36:56 PM#12

The problem the way most of the current MMO's implement housing, if they even do so, is the instanced version.  The lazy way to do it.  Now granted many of the these MMO's don't have the land area to support a non instanced version, but that is another problem with the way games are designed these days.

UO's problem was that it introduced too much clutter in the landscape for it's design, yet even with the clutter it was far better than any of the instanced offerings I have seen.  SWG's version was by far the best I have seen, because they actually encouraged city design.  They also had enough real estate in game to do it.

To do it right it is a huge project, no matter what the design.  Not something for a small shop to undertake. 

I doubt we will see another game do even close to what SWG offered for some time to come.

  Kyleran

Bitter Vet™

Joined: 9/13/06
Posts: 19622

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

2/23/10 2:37:26 PM#13
Originally posted by jwardlaw

I thought Mythic did a fair job on Dark Age of Camelot housing. They added new zones near capitol cities, bidding for lot locations, multiple housing sizes, lots of decorative options,  vaults, consignment and normal merchants, a consignment search board near zone entrance, and a rental system to reclaim inactive housing. One could also assign permission to house entry, vaults, and merchants for friends or everyone. Guild housing was also supported.

I have to agree, I rather enjoyed walking around seeing the inside of other people's houses and some guild halls were truly impressive.

I was in a role playing guild called Shadowclan and we had our guild hall right near a large lake, with guild members owning  all the houses around the lake.

It was a great thing to gather up in front of the guild hall before heading out on the evenings killings sprees and reassmbling back there afterwards.

Since all housing had a limited number of "points" you could not anchor everything necessary in one structure, so many of the player houses held the res stones, teleporter npcs, crafting chests etc that overflowed trom the guild hall.

All in all it was a pretty good system so I call shenanigans on the OP saying its too hard or not worth it.  Players really loved it, even if it has to be added post launch.

 

Arrogant, Condescending, Dismissive, Elitist, "Meany", you speak as if these are bad things?
Still currently playing EVE, and only EVE!!!
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  onetruth

Novice Member

Joined: 2/02/10
Posts: 103

...

2/23/10 2:41:41 PM#14
Originally posted by Ozmodan

I doubt we will see another game do even close to what SWG offered for some time to come.

 

Vanguard's system is the only one that's even close to SWG, and it is limited by the fact that you can only place certain items.  In SWG, you could drop anything in your house and make a decoration out of it: weapons, armor, crafting subcomponents, anything.  It did take them awhile to add 360 degree positioning and position above floor level, but when they did it really added a ton of player-generated content to that game.

...

  Shelby13

Novice Member

Joined: 11/30/09
Posts: 80

2/23/10 2:45:40 PM#15

Housing is definately a social feature... and perhaps the 'stakeholders' overlook or undervalue it.. but its certainly a big part of creating a tight, loyal community if you do it properly.

I would think that players like the idea of 'owning' their homes even if not their current 'reality'. Games are fantasy right, not reality.

Where SWG suceeded was that they made planets housing-friendly.. the sandbox-style anticipated this in design... and they created no-build zones, city structures (shuttles/city halls/voting terminals)... and they created vast maps to allow for thousands upon thousands of players to add structures.

SWG didn't cop-out and take a shortcut.. they made housing part of the economy.  NPC vendors in player housing for sales... crafters built homes for sale on the market.   There was never, ever, a time that the planet was 'filled up' and no room to move.   Yes some nice spots are 'taken' but you can still find some really nice locations in the game on even the largest population server.

Its not perfect.. but show me ANY perfect MMO system.

For immersion / feel perspective.. housing is NOT as big a distraction as out-of-theme items like Fairy wings and halo's (don't get me started...).   Housing near certain spawn points might be 'bending' the total immersion feel... but thats an acceptable (for me) trade off for a MMO-based games.    A little give & take is allowed.. and necessary.. and housing gives way more to the playerbase than it takes away in my experience.

'Setting up shop'... its not just about showing off decorations.. it can be about displaying your 'wares' in a player economy.  Showing clothing options.. weapon options.. inspiring other players.

If SWG did not have housing.. the game would have been be a shell... a husk.. with no depth.   Characters (or ship pods) alone is not an MMO for me.   Characters (full) + Ships is closer, but still not quite there.

Characters + Vehicles + Housing... with interaction (combat/crafting/social)... thats the full meal deal MMO.

SWG/STO/(SWTOR)

  astoria

Novice Member

Joined: 11/26/08
Posts: 1685

2/23/10 2:47:31 PM#16
Originally posted by nekollx

 Raise your hand if you own, completly, your own house.

*crickets chirp as a few hands go up*

 

Raise your hand if you rent or co own a house or apartment?

*knocked over by the wind gust*

 

Really it's that simple. Everyone doesn't own a 3 bedroom house IRL, and nore did they in the middle ages.

 

Create a explorable complex with each room being another player house, if you need to add more housing add another floor.

Bam everyone has a house, and the uber rich can sink their money into private housing. 


 

Agree. I would add that for ease of development:

Apartment/condo-type housing could be instanced. Everyone could enter the same 'complex' lobby entrance and it would zone them into their apartment. Although I mainly enjoy lightly instanced worlds, I don't think this use would hurt my immersion. Not as if you would often have a clown-car effect since people 1. may not come and go at the same times and 2. If they did loiter outside you wouldn't necessarily know they lived there.

 I would want it to have the ability for the owner/renter to hand out keys for either single family/clan housing or apartments. Could be individually designated friends, clan mates, party members, etc. Could be time limited.

"Never met a pack of humans that were any different. Look at the idiots that get elected every couple of years. You really consider those guys more mature than us? The only difference between us and them is, when they gank some noobs and take their stuff, the noobs actually die." - Madimorga

  Kenaoshi

Novice Member

Joined: 1/21/09
Posts: 1018

2/23/10 2:51:23 PM#17

Im one that dont never owned a player house and dont miss it, just need a storage/vault so i can put my weapons collection and im done, however for those who like it i can think any solution for this dilema.

maybe instanced house can be the only coherent solution for a MMO, unless you allow fewer ppl per server, so all in can have an open world house.

sorry, i tried =p

mazel tov housing aficionados =p

 

now: GW2 (11 80s).
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  TJKazmark

Novice Member

Joined: 11/30/09
Posts: 116

2/23/10 3:12:13 PM#18

Player and guild housing has always been a catching point for me. I enjoy having a place to call my own. I's not really torn between whether housing is open-world or instanced. Both can be very fun, I think, if done well for the system its crafted for.

Personally, I would prefer instanced housing, but done in a way to help negate immersion-breaking factors.

Public/City Housing

As mentioned before, having some sort of instanced apartment arrangement with basic accomodations could do well to support the needs of most players. Being able to decorate a place with anough room to move around would give a single player something to treasure, show off to friends, and give their experience a personal flair.

The real power in housing, though, is in guild housing.

Guild Lands/Housing

Though also instanced, a guild has the advantage of multiple sources of player funds. With enough people banding together, they could purchase a plot of land customizeable to their personal tastes. In the center would be the guild's HQ. This HQ could be anything from the basic motte and bailey to a stone keep, all the way up to a stronghold depending on how much funding the guild wants to put into their lands. These pre-made models can be customized with stronger doors, a moat, etc.

Around the central HQ, guild members may purchase their own house (again, from a pre-made list of models) and customize them with personal banners, trophies, etc. This "guild town" can have purchaseable structures that provide places for players to work their crafting skills or farm goods.

Now, with these structures in place, it provides an opportune setting to have GvG or RvR combat. A rival guild can challenge another to an instanced battle, similar to a BG, for honor, treasure, and whatnot. The challenged guild can either accept or decline, after which, if accepted, the battle will be scheduled for a certain time (similar to a Wintergrasp battle in WoW). If declined, the rival guild can "invade" anyway, but spoils will be less to encourage more civil engagements. The lands of the challenged guild will be the land with the houses/structures in place.

Now these options are crude and subject to debate, but I wanted to get the premise across. I think both player- and guild-type housing can be a great asset to a game for the added features it can provide. I apologize for getting a bit off topic during the course of my typing.

"You think the place is trapped?"
"I don't know...send the rogue in first."

  User Deleted
2/23/10 3:16:29 PM#19

I heard that TOR was leaning towards housing?? Is this just a rumor??

  reddroxx

Novice Member

Joined: 1/21/09
Posts: 1

2/23/10 3:20:45 PM#20

Over the years I've played a lot of mmorpgs and have to say I have yet to see housing done entirely right but imho 2 games came closest to getting it right...

Ultima Online allowed players to build anything they could in any spot it would fit. It was both a good and bad thing. On the positive side it gave a real old world settler feel and allowed players to create thier own backwoods towns and communities. The housing was non-instanced giving it a real world feel....which unfortunately added to the negatives as well. With a large world and housing everywhere it can cause endless foot travel as well as obstruction of hunting areas. Also limited room can cause lots of players to go homeless in the world unhappily.

Imho, the game that got it closest to right was Horizons. Despite all the games flaws housing was on the right track (not sure if it ever reached the right point though). At first players were left unhappy due to housing filling up fast. They had spots specifically set up in neighborhoods around towns themselves as well as deep within the wilderness, desert, mountains, etc. They promised a point would be reached where every player could own their own house but weren't keeping that promise in the players eyes. Then it happened. The announcement of housing islands where all players could gather in their own neighborhoods building not only houses but shared decorations for their whole neighborhood. Trellises, fountains, statues, wells, etc were built. Players built paved roads for their neighborhoods. All was well and good in principle. The problem was houses had no decorations available, no functionality, and pretty much were nothing more than added storage space.  In time, workshops were introduced that gave bonus' to crafting skills, holiday decorations were introduced, I'm not sure if standard housing furniture ever became available. I've heard the game is still around as Istaria but haven't checked to see where housing went from there.

Friends and I left WoW after following years of hearing designers promise that "Housing won't be this patch but may be the next or the one after that" only to hear the corporate line changed after the release of Burning Crusade to "there won't ever be housing in WoW". We're still looking for the game with the best balance between casual play, crafting, housing and even soloing/non-forced grouping but still have yet to find it.

 

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