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Housing Speculation – Too Many Questions to Jump on the Hype Train

Jean Prior Posted:
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Moving on to the next section, we're told about getting free stuff if you subscribe by a certain date!  I like getting free stuff in a game, who doesn't?  Here, we can infer some of the flexibility of the system in the form of being able to unlock rooms, but this offer mentions getting a Sky Palace and three rooms unlocked, citing an in-game credit cost to them of 1.5M credits.  Already this is more flexible than Lord of the Rings Online's system, where you get to pick from two kinds of personal house and/or a kinship house that are a specific size and you can't add to them.

Next, the nitty-gritty, actual details!  Customizing a house is pretty much the only reason to have such things in games anyway, unless having one grants some kind of rested XP boost (assuming you're a subscriber and get rested XP).  The Features section mentions displaying trophies earned in-game crafting furniture, and unlocking rewards.  So, what sort of trophies and how are they obtained?  Beating a boss nets you a statue or mounted head of that boss?  Getting a certain number of kills in PVP gets you a trophy to display in a case?  What crew skills will get the ability to make furniture or will there be an all-new crafting skill created exclusively for furniture and its components?  There are a few basic questions about decorations answered in section 6 of the FAQ toward the bottom of the page, and on the face of it, it seems hopeful for crafters bored with making armor and weapons that no one uses because they're not moddable.  Of course, we wouldn't be reading an article about buying things in SWTOR without a mention of the Cartel Market, so it's no surprise that there will be stuff that will be direct-sale, and I'll bet you a few credits that we'll see furniture-specific packs in the next shipment or two, much like the current set of packs are Galactic Starfighter-flavored. 

The item about living on multiple planets is interesting, but also makes logical sense considering most people have alts on both sides of factional lines within their Legacies, many because they needed an off-faction alt for the HK-51 quests.  We don't, however, have details on upkeep and whether having multiple Strongholds has a commensurate credit fee, or how far in advance you can pay for your upkeep.  Then we are reminded about guild ships, and the graphic implies that those ships will be parked at Fleet.  Anyone hoping for guild ship PVP are already disappointed, and recent answers in official SWTOR livestreams lead me to believe that if something like that were to happen, it wouldn't or couldn't arrive until next year anyway. 

The next bullet points outline a few less tangible features with the new system.  Inviting friends?  That's such a given for housing, I'm not even sure why it was mentioned as a bullet pointed feature.  Gaining Prestige every time you add a decoration and increasing your score against others?  How does that work?  What sort of decorations qualify to bump the score?  Is there a limit to how many decorations you can plop down or are we going to see the SWTOR equivalent of Hoarders?  If this system includes only limited hooks or plugs for decorations, do the decorations themselves carry different point values depending on how hard they were to obtain?  If there are different point values based on content, will this be more fuel on the PVE vs. PVP fire?

Finally, they talk about the one clear detail out of all of this that appealed to me the most: Legacy Stronghold Storage.  So, I want to know how many slots it encompasses and whether players will be able to craft-from-storage the way we do now with a single character dipping into their own cargo bay. Does that feature only work if you're in one of your Strongholds, or can you be out in the game world and have your spare companions run off to craft and pull mats out of your Legacy storage?  How do you unlock it?  Will it be as reasonably-priced as the account-level unlocks for the extra cargo bays for subscribers, or will it be cartel coin based?  Will it be a universal bay that you can access from any similar terminal like hitting a cargo bay terminal anywhere in-game, or is it strictly limited to your apartment the way that LotRO's in-house storage containers are limited?

The article on swtor.com does answer some FAQs, where they mention the expansion's release dates based on your account type.  They also made a point to note that Legacy Stronghold Storage and guild ships won't be available until the full launch in August.  The other question that wasn't already answered in the rest of the article was how one actually purchases a Stronghold, and that's with credits or cartel coins.  The keen-eyed will have noticed the 1.5M credit figure tossed out there a couple of times for the Sky Palace including 3 unlocked rooms, but in one of the infographics, they also cited the Sky Palace alone was valued at 250K credits.  Unfortunately for the plethora of free-to-play players, this is above their 200K credit limit per the comparison chart on swtor.com (http://www.swtor.com/free/features), so I'm curious to find out how that will be working out.  Will it allow a F2P player to dip into their escrow to override the in-inventory limit to make the purchase?  Will there be cheaper houses to buy?  What about housing somewhere other than Nar Shaddaa, Coruscant, or Dromund Kaas?  Just like how Galactic Starfighter began with just two maps and is now getting another one, will we see housing available on other planets as well?

My biggest concerns with this entire system, what makes me most cautious about it, is how much of it will be monetized and how open the actual system is.  I really want this to be a successful system for the game, I want it to bring some of the roleplayers back, to be a brag-space for the PVPers and the raiders to show off their successes, to be something that this game can do better than other games with housing.  Until we know more, specifically until we get details that prove it's not going to be as limited as other games' failing housing systems that have been out for years, I still can't really justify getting on the hype train and rocketing off to Nar Shaddaa yet.

As with any brief overview press release, this one is very sparse with the details, leaving far more questions than can be answered without a frank and open discussion between the studio and their fanbase.  Community Manager Eric Musco announced on last week's livestream that himself, Community Specialist Courtney Woods, Producer Jack Wood, and Development Director Matt Hemby would be the team headed to Boston next week for their Cantina Tour stop.  Despite Wood being mentioned as a producer on the Strongholds team, I'd be surprised if attendees get any of these questions answered in any great depth, because while the production release schedule on the game has slipped over the years, press releases and revelations seem to be Imperial-strict in terms of timing.  Budging wasn't in the budget in that regard. 

That won't stop me from asking them next week at the Cantina Tour.  I'll be back with whatever I can glean from talking to the team then!

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Jean Prior