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Player Housing - It's More Than Story

Elder Scrolls Online Columns - By Ryan Getchell on December 15, 2015

Player Housing - It's More Than Story

The Elder Scrolls Online has been given the MMORPG award for Best MMORPG of 2015 and rightfully so. ESO strives where other games are beginning to fall behind, keeping the game alive and feeling new. Its content release schedule is probably one of the best I’ve seen from any company.  Its primary focus is building the game the people want, which isn’t very common. So many companies say they want to build the perfect game for its community yet never live up to the potential, whereas ESO is constantly changing based solely on community feedback. This is probably one of the biggest reasons ESO is the best MMORPG of 2015.  But there is one aspect of ESO where Merida’s light doesn’t shine brightly.

It has never been officially announced but Zenimax has commented many times that player housing is on their radar and it is something they want to do. We already know that Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood are DLC that are being released in 2016 so housing might not be too far off. I think now is the prime opportunity to voice our opinions on what would make the best housing implementation for ESO.

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While player housing would offer nothing to the grand arch of the game storyline progression its implementation would offer so much more than story. As important as story is to an Elder Scrolls game, the most important part is making the world feel real.  Players immerse themselves in this fictional, pixelated world of imagination and to do that they need to implement features from our real world.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; immersion is about connecting our real lives nuances, bridges if you will, to the game world. These bridges aren’t combat or story related, they are the items that we tend to take for granted, the little things we do that we don’t truly expect to see in a game world. Imagine a game where when night begins to fall we start noticing NPCs going to their homes for the night, stores and shops closing down, bars / taverns beginning to get busier, nocturnal creatures beginning to scurry about. This incredibly simplistic concept provides very realistic immersion. These bridges offer the player a much grander experience than just adding in an additional area for players to go kill things.

This is an area where I think Zenimax has fallen short. ESO is a great game.  Like I said, best MMORPG of 2015 without a doubt, but it could be better. ESO lacks a lot of the bridges that could make Tamriel feel like a far off world. Right now, if you were to go into ESO the only thing for you to really do is gather crafting materials, or kill things. There is nothing that lets the citizens of Tamriel “escape” from the incredibly harsh world that they live in. These people have an incredibly horrible life.  If you’re not already being attacked by some sort of daedra, you’re under that threat of attack every moment of every day. Not really the best of lives if you ask me, but they have nothing to take their minds off these worries. Where is the horse racing, the gambling, the gardening, the mini games, features that would give Tamrielic citizens a glimpse of hope, a brief moment of normality.

I’ve been playing ESO since it was released on April 4 2014, a total of 619 real world days (at the time of typing this column). In game that would have accounted for approximately 4,952 days or just over 13 years and all I’ve witnessed are horror, crime, depression, bloodshed, sacrifice, and uncountable amounts of death. I was put in a position where I had to choose from my friends who was going to die to save Tamriel.  While that’s heroic, it’s incredibly stressful.  I will forever miss you Sai Sahan. Darien Gautier, a man whose prowess knows no end is either dead or stuck in Oblivion, I don’t know and it’s beginning to take its toll.

I need something that’ll show me all this emotional turmoil I’m being placed through is for something good.  Rays of sun shine on this incredibly dark day that has been my life thus far.

So, what does all this have to do with player housing? This will be the first DLC that’ll offer us exactly what I was speaking about. It could provide us our own little area to create an oasis for ourselves. An area for us to say “screw the world I want to do my own thing”.

Of course it has to be done correctly.  If they implement it similar to Garrisons in World of Warcraft, we’re going to have a major issue. Instancing isn’t the answer, instancing kills everything a MMO is supposed to be about, the players. That said, player housing should be built in a way that it offers a “neighborhood” type of feel to it. You have other players next to your house, building and progressing their own paradise right next to yours. You can share ideas with each other or start a feud with them and consider them an enemy.  It’s all about the freedom.

With the way games have developed over the past few years, Zenimax could go as far as letting us fully build our own houses. We venture out in the housing zone, find a lot that suits us and we stake claim to it. Begin building a foundation, then the outside walls, a floor, interior walls, all of which would be modular. What a better way to forget the outside world than to build something completely unique with your own two hands?

We’re talking player housing but it could add so much more to the already existing game. For example, crafting skills could get amended. Woodworkers could build tables, chairs, desks, closets, armor stands, virtually anything made out of wood. The different types of wood available would allow for a different visual appearance for similar items. Tailors could sew tapestries, drapes, and carpets. Again any decoration made of cloth is an option. My personal favorite, add in a new craft, Taxidermy. Who doesn’t want to be able to take their kills and get them mounted and place them anywhere you want. There are so many incredibly creatures in Tamriel that would make for great decorations within any home. Add in another craft skill called Masonry, which would create walls, floors, foundations. The game is littered with different types of stones that we forge into metals, why not keep them raw stones and build structures with them. Each type of stone would offer a unique visual difference between them.

These additions serve no purpose but pure enjoyment, customization, personalization, a way for you to make something truly yours, your escape, your happy place. But as you can see it could offer so much more to the game than a new zone with more baddies to kill and people to save.

Voice your opinion, what do you think would make for the perfect player housing implementation? Are you even for housing or would you rather more combat related DLCs?

Ryan Getchell / Ryan is our resident Elder Scrolls nerd, and columnist for Zenimax's MMO. When he's not out killing things in Tamriel, he's working in IT professionally.