The Lord of the Rings Online is one of the most highly acclaimed MMORPGs on the market right now, and it's mainly due to their consistent updates to the game. The folks over at Turbine Studios, the developers of LotRO, are some of the most attentive in the industry and are always listening to their loyal player-base for ideas. LotRO is also a game that lends itself to various role-playing applications, and one of those is having players own their own property in the game.
Housing was something that many of the fans of LOTRO wanted right off the bat, but Turbine was steadfast in making sure they had a stable game at launch, and housing was just not ready. Soon after the game launched in April 2007 though, housing was introduced as a part of one of their free "epic book" updates. Of course, like many MMORPGs, housing in LotRO is instanced. But unlike some other games, the neighborhoods actually exist as part of the landscape, meaning you don't have to own a house to see the houses. It's a great touch, and really adds to the lore.
The neighborhoods are set up in relatively safe areas of the game for each of the four races. In Bree, just head down the road towards the North Downs beside the Midgewater Marshes and you will see the Housing Broker. Just beyond this NPC is the entrance to the housing area. The area for the dwarves is near Thorin's Gate in Ered Luin. The area for the Elves is near Duillond, also in Ered Luin. And of course, the hobbits make their homes in the Shire, in the Southfarthing near Waymeet.
If you don't have a home, or even if you do, once you approach the housing gate of each community you will need to select the specific "neighborhood" within the housing community. Each neighborhood is named something appropriate to the lore of the area, and each neighborhood contains a certain number of houses. New neighborhoods are created as others are filled up completely, to make sure that no one is without the opportunity to own a house.
Once you select the neighborhood you want to enter, the instance is created and you appear in the correct area. From there, you can explore the neighborhood as much as you want. The neighborhoods are totally safe areas. Also located inside each neighborhood is a Town Crier NPC who gives you storyline updates of what's happening in certain areas of Eriador. This is a nice touch done by the developers which enhances the role-playing I mentioned earlier.
As for the houses themselves, there are a few different levels of houses you can purchase. This makes it easy for those who want to own a house, because the smaller ones aren't that expensive. If you want to drop some major gold on a house, you certainly can do that as well! There are three levels of houses: a standard house (with a living room and a bedroom), a deluxe house (with a larger living room, and two smaller rooms, either or both could be bedrooms) and a kinship house (2 stories with several rooms, including a large hall). The first two options are available to anyone above Level 15 with the appropriate amount of cash. The last option is set up for kinships only and is much more expensive. Each house comes with a plot of land which you can decorate with literally dozens of different objects.
The houses themselves are also designed specifically for the races that inhabit the lands. The houses near Bree for the Race of Men resemble buildings found in Bree. The same applies to the hobbits, dwarves and the elves. Each house provides you with areas inside in which to place certain types of furniture and decorations. You can even customize the walls and floor and add specific ambient music to your house that plays for whoever is inside. Also (and I think that this is a very cool thing), whenever you purchase a home for yourself, you receive the skill "Travel to Personal House" which allows you to, with one traveling ration, to transport yourself directly to your home! It's a nice travel skill which helps to eliminate long horse rides to and from town.
Decorating Your House
You can get decorations in many parts of LOTRO, but the most popular is by far the Auction House where you can search for player-crafted items such as bookcases, beds, breakfast tables, and trophies. If the Auction House isn't your thing, you can always come across items in-game which can be turned into trophies and placed in your own house! With each of the new epic book releases, the developers have given us many more options for decorating our houses, including items exclusive to the new area of Forochel in the north. You can customize your own yard to resemble that of a Lossoth home in no time.
To decorate your house, simply click on the "Toggle Decoration Mode" button on the mini-map while either inside your house or outside your house on your property. This will make all of the decoration points light up on your screen, allowing you to right-click them and place decorations there. The proper decoration must be in your pack in order for you to place it inside or outside your house (in other words, they can't be inside your housing chest). Specific housing options like changing the wall color, floor, and ambient music are located near the front door. Once you've decorated your house to your liking, simply click the "Toggle Decoration Mode" button again and the lights will go off and your house is decorated! Simply repeat this process anytime you want to change something up.
Each house comes with at least one chest which can only be accessed by the owner and people that have been authorized. The chests cost money to unlock, but once unlocked you don't have to continue to pay for the chest. There are also maintenance costs associated with the houses. If you older MMORPG players will remember, this is sort of like how you had to "refresh" your house in Ultima Online. If you fail to pay the maintenance cost (you can pay up to 6 weeks in advance), then you lose the ownership of the house (although it doesn't disappear like in UO), and your items (including your indoor and outdoor decorations) go into "escrow" with the bank agent of your particular neighborhood. Situated in the center of each neighborhood is a house that contains a banker (someone who can give you access to the same bank vault you have in-town), a housing decorator (where you can purchase a few different housing decorations), and a provisioner. With the banker, if your house goes into "escrow", that is where you'd go to find your belongings. This is convenient for each player who owns a house because you can access all your storage from one central location (your house and the bank vault) without having to jump back and forth to town.
If for any reason you want to change houses or don't want to own your home anymore, it's very simple to do. Just access your Character panel and go to the "House" tab. You can "abandon" your house there and all of your decorations and anything in your housing chest(s) goes into escrow. Your items will stay in escrow for 14 days, so don't forget them or they will disappear forever!
The kinship houses in LOTRO are fantastic as well. These are large manors which can hold many people inside. They are great for kinship meetings, sparring sessions, strategy, etc. Our kinship, The Chasers, uses our kinship hall as a meeting point for raids and fellowships, as well as monthly meetings. The kinship houses really provide a place for the players to go to fellowship together as a group. And every member in the kinship gets a travel skill called "Travel to Kinship House" once the house is purchased by the kinship leader. For just a few traveling rations (the element you need for swift travel in LOTRO, purchased from any provisioner in the game), you can instantly travel to your kinship house. Also, Turbine made a change in their recent Book 12 update that allowed all your characters to access your house without having to actually have "permission" to do so. This is convenient to the player base as each account is limited to one personal house and one kinship house (if the person is the kinship leader). Again, Turbine is tuned into the needs of its player base.
Each home is really styled after the race it belongs to. You really get a sense of being in a "hobbit hole" while you're in a hobbit home. The houses for the race of Men really reflect that style as well. The elves' homes are fantastic, and well, the dwarves...who builds things better than dwarves? The architecture is fantastic, and really captures the lore of Middle-earth while not disturbing the landscape that Turbine masterfully created.
The decorations within the houses are fantastic because you can customize them. How can you customize things that are already created?!? Simple! All these decorations can be rotated wherever they are placed. Do you want your bed facing south instead of west? Simply use the customization tool and turn the bed until it's facing a direction you like! Want to hang that picture of Weathertop upside down? Go right ahead!
The housing options are varied in LOTRO, and really allow you to customize a house to your liking. They've even added the ability to have your name attached to the house itself, so when a player enters your property, it tells you the address and "Home of" on your screen so you can see whose house it is. For those players who enjoy the non-combat part of MMO games, the housing in LOTRO really provides you an opportunity to explore your creative side. Turbine has done another fantastic job of adding to the experience that is LOTRO.