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Yavin_Prime's Blog

A blog about MMORPGing, the game community, stories and the entertainment we as gamers love so much. Why do we do the things we do and why do we like the things we like? This and more inside.

Author: Yavin_Prime

Player housing in MMOs, what makes it so important?

Posted by Yavin_Prime Tuesday April 12 2011 at 10:23PM
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Excitement, achievement, ownership, and belonging, these are a few feelings that I get when I think of player housing in MMORPGs. For me player housing has always been an important factor in whether or not I commit to an MMORPG long term. In many instances player housing is an important factor for many other players beyond myself. So why is it so important to us, why do people cling to virtual homes that have little meaning to the overall game?
The first thing that comes to mind with player housing is ownership. When games allow players to own a piece of the game world it makes us connect in a way that we never did before. In Everquest 2 when you buy an apartment in Northern Freeport you can say to anyone "I'm a citizen of Freeport, that’s my city," and the truth is it is your city. It’s the same thing that happens in the real world. When you buy or rent an apartment in the real world your home city instantly becomes the one you're living in. I recently moved from my home town of over sixteen years and within six months my new home had begun to feel familiar and my old home had become less familiar.
The truth is player housing gives players the ability to feel like the own part of the world, in some cases like Ultima Online players would log back on even if they were burnt out of the game just to check in on their house. Back in 1999-2000 I remember waiting outside of a "decaying" house (the player had neglected to pay their rent on the house and it was pending deletion) desperate to build my own house for at the time Ultima Online had limited space for housing. It was such a big deal in UO that websites and third party companies built on land in the hopes of selling it for real money. Back in those days if you wanted a castle (the largest house type) you often had to buy up more than one "plots" of land next to each other so that you could build such a large building. At the time castle plots were so rare that the average cost was around $500!
Player housing gives players the feel that their characters are "real" in that world and not just random avatars that pop in/out of the world. These characters have homes in the world which often inspires non-rpers to RP in some small way. The truth is I've always found the strongest RPing communities to be found in games with player owned housing.
On another note for purpose it can be said that loyalty can be created. In Star Wars Galaxies (which had a housing system similar to UO) many players opened shops in their stores. Often I found myself going back to the same players over and over again to buy the things I needed. No longer were sales "random" auction bids but true transactions. Often players would spend hours just going from player shop to player shop looking for the best prices on an object. Which then created a whole new time-sink in those MMOs, and the truth was it was fun. I always felt overjoyed when I found a good deal and then I would advertise to all my friends that "Wookiee-Nook's House of Bargains" was the best place for composite armor.
Aside from the obvious bonuses to players, player housing influences the longevity of games. Most of the games I've seen get shut down in the recent past lacked housing of any kind. Tobula Rasa, Earth and Beyond, APB, and many others lacked any true mechanic to draw players back into their worlds other than raw gameplay. Obviously raw gameplay isn't enough to keep games running (unless you're Blizzard). Ultima Online, Everquest 2, Ashron's Call, and even the infamous Star Wars Galaxies are all still alive while some of the above games that lacked true player housing died out. The fact that SWG is still alive even after 95+% of MMOers have hate for that game is amazing. I'm not saying that housing is keeping SWG alive but it’s fair to assume it could be a factor.
An interesting example of housing having some sort of influence is the Ashron's Call story. Ashron's Call 1 added housing to their game. Ashron's Call 2 was launched and died within one or two years of launch. It’s sad to say it but AC1 was one of those rare instances where its "child" game died before it did, AC1 is still alive even though it looks like it’s from the gaming stone age. Now as mentioned above player housing can't be attributed to have saved AC1 but the truth is it really could be a factor.
The Bottom Line
Player housing is obviously good for both players but developers as well. So why is it that more modern MMOs are keeping this feature out of the game even though technology has obviously progressed? If you lay out the lists of dead games and living games you'll find the vast majority of dead games are non-housing games. Overall the ability to "own" a bit of the gaming world seems to be an important factor to MMOers, even if we don't consciously consider it.

Griefing in Sandbox games, why we do it and why we allow it.

Posted by Yavin_Prime Wednesday April 6 2011 at 5:07PM
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Greetings everyone. Since this is my first blog on I wanted to give a short list of my happenings in the world (heck its always nice to know why you should read someones rants). Well I'm an MMO gamer since way back when in 1999. My first MMORPG was Dark Ages (not of Camelot) shortly followed by both Ultima Online and Everquest. I spent a year trying to become a game developer at the Art Institute of L.A. but then came to the conclusion that I liked playing games more than making them. These days I'm a published author, my under construction at: Writing is my passion, even if I need an editor constantly and these days I do my best to mix my writing with my gaming. As such I've run a few roleplaying guilds in the past and 'am currently building up a Star Wars the Old Republic guild called the Council of the Kissai.
So with that said lets get to the topic at hand. Griefing and Sandbox MMORPGs. In the past I've been one of the many people who have screamed out for new sandbox MMORPGs and lately a new one came out called Xsyon (a few of you may have heard of it). Well as a good supporter of sandbox games I decided to look into the game. For me I had two options, play Rift (an obvious Theam Park style MMORPG) or Xyson (the Sandbox contender). After reading the latest Survivor Guy column on Xsyon I had to step back and say "gee I don't know if I want to play that game." So why is it that I, an avid sandbox playing mmoer, didn't want anything to do with the latest sandbox mmo? Its simple: Griefing.
So what makes Griefing so bad? Well I for one tend to get upset when some random person wearing underwear and a deer hat kills me outside of town (true story that happened to me in UO) with nothing more than a basic quarter staff. I asked him why he did it and his only response was "I had nothing to do and you were an easy kill." Now I'm not a griefer, nor 'am I a psycologist but its obvious that something is wrong with this picture. How is it that someone can harm someone without remorse and gain little to nothing for it. I suppose it would have been different if I was carrying the worlds larges ruby or if I were transporting Lord British's goold to the castle, but I wasn't. I had a pack full of worthless newbie junck. He litteraly took my gold and left the rest (which ammounted to little more than ten gold coins, enough to buy some booze at the local bar).
Now I've thought over this question for years now, why did he do it and why do hundreds of people continue to greif every day? I've heard many explinations on this topic over the years. Some say its because we as people are anyonomus and that being over the computer makes us seem "less human". I've heard that people who greif are broken mentaly and that they've endured some form of emotional trauma. These explinations are all fine and such but to me they lack something "real" to them.
Rather than trying to explain greifing in game worlds I decided to find instances of it in the real world. Now I live north of L.A. and recently (just yesterday) I heard about a local gang who was setting people up. They had a child standing out on the street crying for help. When someone pulled over and help them the child gave them an adress and asked if they would take them home. Once the victim pulled up to the house a bunch of gang members rushed out and dragged the person into the house... after which very nasty things were done to the victim. So why did this happen? Were the gangster's just out of ways to kill time?
I don't have the answer to why that instance of violence occurred but I can point out that many gangsters and other malicious people have reasons for killing or hurting people. In gangs it can be a form of initiation, in the military it is usually war. Often people are killed mainly because they have something that someone wants or because someone is attempting to control territory.
When I put it in those lights griefing makes more sense. It doesn’t make it right but it makes more sense. So the guy killing me outside of Britain in UO in some carnal and subconscious level was establishing that that was his territory. Others would see my rotting corpse and know that the area was dangerous. In the survivor guy article about Xsyon he is killed while trying to join a guild/group of people. In a way perhaps that player was establishing dominance over the author and showing other players that that was his land.
Getting back to the gaming aspect of this topic it’s obvious that griefing has a lot to do with control. Now are griefers in the real world bad people? No not necessarily but the fact that they are thousands of miles away and not face to face with their victims makes them feel empowered, they tap into the animalistic instinct to dominate through violence and to denote territory through displays of barbarism. The truth is griefing is a normal part of the human condition just amplified by the feeling of safety that the internet gives us. So being human means griefing is normal? No I'm not saying that, what I'm trying to point out is that when people run on their impulses and raw desires griefing is a normal aspect of being human. What makes us less barbaric and more civilized (the opposite of barbaric) is honor (or the perception of it).
The truth is many people live their lives day to day in our civilized system of honor but in truth they have very strong thoughts and sensations towards barbaric behavior. So in truth griefers are just barbaric people who are forced to push down those emotions and desires in their day to day lives by civilization and society. In truth perhaps if they didn't have gaming they might be those gang members or murderous militia that we so often hear in the news.
So with that said does all this make griefing alright? I'll leave you the readers to judge that. Just know that when we scream out for open pvp worlds and truly "life like" sandbox games that we're also screaming out for barbarians, bandits, brigands, and murderers.