Grumpy Gamer: Housing Shmousing
When I bought my first house in the
Lord of the Rings Online, I thought it was the most awesome
2 Anvilsong Road, Home of Gordur
I had just hit level 15 with my Minstrel, Gordur Gunkenheimer, and my
friends gave me the 7 gold to buy the deluxe house at 2 Anvilsong Road so
we could build up a storage chest network in one neighborhood. I didn't
really mind that my chests were communal property. My favorite part was,
it was a thing in the otherwise-static game that I could actually make
semi-permanent changes to.
When you are finished saving all the people of Ost Guruth from certain
doom, the place still looks like Ost Guruth, and the orcs and wargs and
spiders and trolls are still wandering around the Lone Lands. But when you
hang a painting on your wall and install blue Elf-style floor tiles,
you've made your mark on the world.
Nice appointments with some Canadian wall-art
A number of people have complained about LotRO's housing system, because
it is fairly simplistic and hasn't changed much in the 7 years since the
game launched. But it's still my favorite, because it does exactly what it
needs to do without tying up a lot of developer resources and without
wasting a lot of player time and money.
In LotRO, a player's house serves four basic functions:
1) A place to store shared stuff. The housing chests can be accessed by
anyone given permission by the owner, so they work well as group storage,
whereas private storage is better handled by the vault system.
2) A place to display trophies. Stuffed bears, giant salmon fished out of
a stream, boss mob accessories mounted on plaques, seasonal souvenirs and
other small stuff can all be shown off at your private house. Giant raid
loot can be displayed in the front yards of kinship houses. Bringing home
the Draigoch statue and triumphantly plunking the enormous bastard in my
kinship's front yard is one of my proudest moments in gaming.
This is how you do lawn ornaments.
3) A roleplaying environment, offering privacy and immersion. You can
drop in a fireplace to /relax in front of, or wander around /dusting. Most
of the furniture is non-functional, but can be selected and targeted for
4) Vendor services. Neighborhood vendors offer a small but significant
discount on crafting materials and certain other services. A few coppers
off might not seem like much when you're making one item, but when you
need to cook a few hundred top-tier food items to get your gold anvil, and
each crafted item requires two or three vendor mats to complete, it adds
It's all good stuff. It would be nice if we had a little more control
over the decoration hooks, could expand our homes or had the ability to
add crafting stations, but, after 6 or so years of doing without, I can
still appreciate the bare-bones system as it is. These additions would be
nice, but it seems a stretch to say the game needs them.
Not long ago, I started playing DC
Universe Online, which added player housing in January 2013
as well - each hero or villain gets a free hideout at level 10, a place
where they can pull back the cowl and hang out as their secret identities.
The secret lair is a central trope of the superhero setting - Batman's
Bat-cave, Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Professor Xavier's School for
Gifted Youngsters, etc. - so it was a natural addition to a superhero MMO.
Even if it did take two years to be added in.
Wanna decorate more? Break out the Visa.
DCUO's lairs are much more advanced than LotRO's player housing, with a
myriad of different themes and styles and locations, and a slew of
upgrades offering basically every amenity in the game... but all the
upgrades and fancy frills cost money, and the player will need to buy the
Home Turf DLC to get the most out of it. Free players like me get a dank
hole in the ground with some mismatched thrift store furniture (plus the
odd chair or coffee table found in enemy loot drops), a generator and
mainframe that shows me all the cool stuff I can't afford to buy, and one
armory that can store one character loadout. Luckily, the furniture is all
destructible, so when TehDarkGunk gets frustrated that every villainous
thing he want to do with the place costs money or requires the purchase of
a DLC, he can throw a super-powered tantrum and smash it all.
Even more recently, Star Wars: The
Old Republic announced that it, too, would be adding player
housing in a
new expansion this summer. Players with an active subscription as of
May will get a groovy free pad on Nar Shaddaa supposedly worth 1.5 million
credits... which is cool and all, but it seems kind of extraneous at this
point. SWTOR doesn't really need player housing.
Broonmark guards the vaults in our flying house.
If you really drop the hammer and buckle down, your character can get a
starship on your first day of playing the game. The starship - with a few
upgrades bought with Cartel Coins or cold hard credits through the Legacy
panel - has practically everything LotRO housing has, and more.
1) You get a vault on your ship for free, providing personal storage. For
a fee, you can add a mailbox - not quite shared storage, but you can
organize your inventory and move stuff to your alts through it without
ever leaving the ship.
2) Currently, SWTOR doesn't really have any "trophies" to display, unless
you count the hideously-ugly shells of raid gear that takes a lot of work
and time to earn. And those can be equipped on your companions, who hang
out on the ship at all times. They can act as "living mannequins" to
display your hard-earned ugly-ass raid gear.
3) The ships feature lots of little rooms and deco, almost none of which
is used for anything other than roleplaying purposes. My Sith Juggernaut,
Ogregunk, has what looks like a little game table in his lounge/comm area
- he strikes me as the type of guy who would be an incredibly sore loser
if he ever bothered to play. The Sith ship also has a big master bedroom
with sexy mood lighting.
Bom chikka bow bow...
4) Players can unlock two important shipboard vendor services: a repair
droid that buys trash loot and sells droid and dummy upgrades, and a
Galactic Trade Network terminal that allows the player to auction quality
You can also unlock training dummies for PvP and PvE - stationary targets
with millions of hit points that you can attack without mercy to develop
new skill rotations and calculate damage output. There's even a "crafting
station" of sorts - when you send your off-screen companions on their
autonomous crafting missions, they stand at a bench in your ship's cargo
hold and pretend to look busy.
Other players can visit your starship, too, provided they are in the same
group. And each starship has its own zone chat channel - when you use
General chat onboard your starship, you're talking to a bunch of other
players using the same class.
"Sweet home Interceptor.. where the walls are steely gray..."
So... what do we need player housing for, exactly? Starships fill all the
roles a player house would fill, plus they can fly.
To be fair, the expansion features more than just player housing. Guild
flagships - something discussed since the game launched - will finally be
added, and shared vaults for all characters on a legacy will be making
their debut. Players will also be able to own "multiple" houses - they use
that word a lot, but they only mention the capital worlds and Nar Shaddaa,
so in this case, "multiple" means "two." Your wealthy Jedi can have a
sideline as a Donald Trump-style real estate tycoon making champagne
wishes in a party mansion on Nar Shaddaa and dreaming caviar dreams in a
sweet condo on Coruscant. Or, if you're playing a Sith Lord, the
sideline could be as a Slum Lord, with a den of iniquity on the Hutt
homeworld and a creepy torture dungeon on Dromund Kaas.
These are exciting features, but the main focus of the teaser trailer
seems to be on individual player housing. BioWare seems to be dumping an
awful lot of development resources into this feature, which is essentially
redundant since we already have starships. Really, I would much rather see
the resources go into the continuation of the main storyline, or adding a
new planet and bumping up the level cap like they did with Makeb last
year. Or implementing Galactic Starfighter-style PvE space combat. Or,
basically, anything other than housing.
Worse yet, I have a strong suspicion that nearly every interactable
object in a player's house will provide a "convenient" link to the Cartel
Market. It will likely follow the same cash-milking model as DCUO's lairs,
except that it won't require the player to buy the expansion first because
the expansion is "free." They will offer a slew of amazing features, and
each one will cost Cartel Coins. Obviously I can't begrudge the developers
for wanting to turn a profit with their new product, but I have that
sneaking feeling that these apartments are going to be fairly aggressive
in terms of marketing.
Don't get me wrong - I'm always glad when they announce any kind of
development for SWTOR because I still enjoy the game. But with competition
like the Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar just over
the horizon, and EverQuest Next: Landmark building essentially
an entire game around the construction of amazing voxel-based player
houses, it seems incredibly misdirected to focus the marketing on
something like player housing this late into the game.
What's your take on SWTOR's housing project, or on player housing in
general? Let us know in our comments!
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