Monday, May 11, 2009

Player housing in WoW – worth fighting for?

“We have a nation of 12 million homeless avatars who fall asleep in alleyways, alongside mailboxes and in pubs each night. Yet we have ample amounts of real estate within major cities that are boarded up and unused.”
This quote comes from a post last week by Wolfshead, a very interesting general gaming blogger that I found recently thanks to Tobold (thank you!).

Wolfshead argues that it’s about time that Blizzard spends some developing resources on creating player housing. Other MMO:s have proven that it’s possible. And while they’re still at it they should make guild halls available as well.

Player housing would, according to Wolfshead:
  • give players more things to do (like role-playing)
  • make professions meaningful again
  • give a broader playerbase (since women are supposed to be more interested in building homes, something I won’t even comment on, since I don’t want this post to become another “all-women-aren’t-the-same-and-I-love-to-raid-too-post”).

Above all Wolfshead thinks it will give players a feeling of ownership. They’ll have a place to call their own and be able to “leave their own mark to the world.”

Honestly I’ve never ever thought about this before. I’ve never felt like I’ve been homeless; I’ve always felt comfortable enough at the inns where I’ve put my stone. But after reading this I’ve bended my mind back and forward, trying to figure out my opinion about it.

The thing is that with my lack of gaming experience it’s kind of hard to picture what it would be like to have a player house. What would it look like? How would I use it? Would it feel some need that I actually carry, it’s just that I’m not aware of it yet?

What is player housing?
I turned to my friend Zakesh and asked him about what player housing was like in other games. Apparently there have been a bit different approaches. In Lord of the Rings online, the houses were instanced. You entered a portal and there were some 30 buildings around, of which your guild owned one. In Star Wars the houses were built in the common world. Someone built a town hall and then you were free to build houses within a certain distance of it. Player cities grew up and guilds often had a bunch of common buildings with different purposes – like a place for storing crafting materials, a shuttlehall, a house for living and so on.

The houses in Star Wars didn’t despawn the moment a guild broke up or a player quit, but they would decay over time. That could take quite a while though if the houses had been financed for repairs. This gave the effect that some houses could stand empty for years, only slowly turning into ruins. Recently they had a patch though that cleared away houses that hadn’t been used in a long time. All in all the houses were hardly footprints, equivalent to traces of dinosaurs. They weren’t forever.

What was the use of those places then? As far as I understand they served as tools for helping in some matters that are handled in other ways in WoW. In Star Wars, for instance, there wasn’t any tool for transferring items between players like the ingame mail system in WoW. By using the houses you could send things to your alt or a friend. They also served a purpose for plain storage, something that is handled in the bank system in WoW. The difference of course is that in a player house, you don’t only put your item into a bank slot, invisible to anyone else but you. You can post it like a trophy on the wall and let other players admire and envy them.

Not a collector
How does this sound to Larísa?

Well, since we have guild banks, auction houses and post boxes, there’s no need for player or guild houses for those reasons. So let’s look at the museum side of it instead. In real life I’ve never been the collector type. I don’t have 200 ceramic elephants standing on a shelf; I don’t fill my walls with souvenirs from all over the world. And it’s the same in the game. Even though admittedly I DO have a storage problem, it’s all about being lazy and negative towards sorting things. It’s not that I can’t rid my self of the things. It would never ever come to my idea to make a collection of all the tier sets for a mage. The only souvenir item I have – which I really love – is my skull from Ilidan. I would seem rather exaggerated though to build a whole house just to display one item to a non-existing audience.

What about the role playing aspect of it then? Well, I can certainly understand that people who’re mainly focusing on roleplaying would benefit a lot from it. At least if it wasn’t instanced, I guess it would mean that I could open a Pink Pigtail Inn at the EU Stormrage server, which people actually could visit. However, I would rarely be there myself, spending most of my online time raiding and such, so in reality I can’t see how it would work. The opening hours would be crappy to say the least.

Theoretically I like the thought of having a place that I truly can call my own, a couple of comfortable armchairs where me and my friends could relax in front of the fire place, having a hot drink and sharing memories. But thinking closer about it, how long would that be fun? Wouldn’t I soon be itching for some action? If I wanted that kind of “furnish-a-home-and-speak-to-your-friends-game” I could as well go for Sims or Second life.

Nice but not necessary
I can’t speak for every single other player in Azeroth. I’m sure that there are some players out there craving for a house of their own. But if you ask me about my opinion I’d categorize player housing as “nice” but not “necessary”. If I could decide where Blizzard would allocate their development resources I’d choose new raid encounters and five man instances, every time. A player house as I picture it would only be fluff, which will start to collect dust as soon as the first sensation of novelty is gone.

When I think of how player houses would look in Azeroth, I don't see the lovely quarters around the town square in Stormwind, teaming with people on their way to do errands, or just messing around, seeing friends and watching what's going on. I see houses that will sooner or later be deserted since the players have quit or the guilds have broken down. Haunted castles, ruins, memories of lost friendships and broken dreams. It will be more depressing than fun to watch.

And it’s really not worth fighting for.


Klepsacovic said...

I'd classify it as "that might be nice but I don't care enough either way." It's not that I don't care about housing, it's that I don't think housing in WoW would work very well.

Azeroth is small. There's just not a lot of space to build houses. This means that either housing has to be instanced or we're going to have to accelerate clear-cutting Ashenvale. Instanced housing seems like less fun. It doesn't leave a mark. Phasing might help, so after you do the Housing in Durotar quest you can build a house wherever and not have to worry about burying some lowbie's scorpids.

I suppose Blizzard could add cool feature to it, such as the ability to put screenshots of kills on the walls as paintings or Onyxia's head or something, but in general there's the big problem that guilds have very few tangible items to share.

Well, now that I've spent this time explaining why it wouldn't work that well, now it sounds pretty good. Why would shooting down an idea make me like it more? said...

As much as I would like a "snowdome" storage facility, to put all those memories... the reality is I am an adventurer.

I live it rough on the streets, camp out in the forests, whereever I lay my Wizard's hat I call home.

Once you get to level cap, even Inns become meaningless... no rested XP.

If I remember to hearth at the end of the night, it is purely so I can be in a certain location with cooldown ready.

As long as I have a campfire.. any Dalaran street corner can be my home.

Kimberly said...

I'm against housing. I played Asheron's Call for a few years and was very excited about getting a house. Little developments of cottages popped up all around the land, and we were all waiting to grab ours.

They opened up housing zone by zone over the period of a few MONTHS, and to get one you had to come up with a bunch of quest items (different for each "development") and a LOT of ingame money. You also had to happen to be online when that community became available. There was no advance warning when the communities would open.

There were many more players than houses available, so more and more of the gorgeous wild areas were cleared for new cottages and villas.

The developments were out in the middle of nowhere, so the devs created portals to the developments outside of the major towns. This caused major lag.

Guilds could buy mansions, too. So the towns, once bustling with activity, started to die out as guilds met up on their own property for meetings and trading and before runs.

Because there STILL weren't enough homes, they instituted instanced apartment housing. The apartment were cheaper and dumpier than cottages. Portals to the apartments were IN the towns, causing more lag than ever.

Meanwhile I found myself grinding mobs for quest items and money to pay monthly rent.

If Blizzard can come up with a better way to do housing I guess I'd be okay with it, though I wouldn't buy one. I'm just not sure they *can* come up with a better way. AC tried everything they could and it still made people angry.

Zekta Chan said...

I vote for instanced housing rather than "world housing". Back in Ultima Online, they already have a world housing system and, which proved to be a disaster.

Land was limited, and value increased overtime, while the price of owning a house do not. Lots of "decay house" exist even when they request a upkeep fee for them.

Instanced housing is much better, but the main focus is not on storage. (Since as Larisa put it, We already have a good storage system)

A common place for player to hangout what the house is for, especially in a guild. How many times you'll meet a guild-mate(face to face in game) if you can't join the raid for some reason? Any other place you'll meet them other than instance/raid/questing? For a new joiner to a guild (or low lvl char-player) The only thing they'll see are green text on the screen. This is a problem the housing system can fix.

Back to Larisa's Question "Is it necessary"?

Well, we lived without it so long, but same goes for the dual spec system. But I bet we'll have a much warmer guild atmosphere in guild, rather than a raid-focused environment.

spinksville said...

I remember we loved our housing in DaoC but aside from the problem of houses being abandoned as players leave, it also kind of split the community. Instead of gathering in capital cities and crafting fortresses, people were scattered around the housing.

But it was very very fun and I loved decorating my house and garden, so I'm conflicted on this one. It's not one of my 'must haves' for WoW though.

I'm agreeing about the 'girls like to decorate' thing. My experience is that guys like to decorate their houses and show off trophies just as much. I have fond memories of the day my husband spent a few hours helping his virtual neighbour (a scout called Legolasninja -- I swear I did not make that up!!!) arrange his garden. Both of them were having fun.

Now if I could just persuade him to take the same interest in our RL garden ...

Shy said...

Maybe a portable inn in the form of a tent would be handier. Brilliant while questing (put up your tent and voila you have resting xp), and somehow it feels more like the adventuring type thing to do. (A house as an adventurer? be in one place all the time?)

Long cooldown, 24 hours or so.

Scotty said...

THe issue leaves me a bit "meh" to be honest

I have a house in lotro (I should say that in past tense as I havent played in ages) and it was simply a gold sink for me, nothing more, nothing less

If they introduce it in WoW, it will just be another gold sink, and another set of achivements for me to chase....
For me to get enthusiastic about new features, it needs to give me something tangible

Kel said...

I like the idea of having my own place to decorate with throphies and to role play in, but I don't think Blizzard can make it detailed enough and give me enough options to make me feel at home.

I've found the guild website and my blog to function better as a "home". We post screenshots of fun moments and share our stories with everyone willing to listen. We can make it as detailed as we want, and we can go there while we're out on adventures in WoW.

In WoW we're all traveling heroes. not only would we not be in the personal homes when we get visitors, Blizzard would change the main storyline if they implemented this.

Kromus said...

This post kind of balances the aspect of guild housing perfectly-- i never looked at it in that light.

I would prefer single user ghousing > guild housing, as like you've perfectly said, it could leave haunted memories echoing throughout the guild house. However, individiual housing could be a rally point for silly events (of which me and ostey get up to regularily).

I think they should introduce a more roleplaying system that doesnt make you better then other players but if your a more collective or cosmetic player then you'd like it.

Id love a house. but i wouldnt want it instanced- so we are kinda screwed.

Kromus said...
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larísa said...

: Well, there are some areas that honestly are pretty much deserted in the age of Northrend. Exploiting Desolace may not be such a bad idea. I liked the idea of screenshots in game! Much better than just posting items imo. Yeah the way you describe it it becomes more attractive. But still there's a dilemma. Instanced houses seem a bit pointless to me and non-instanced are always in the risk of getting deserted. Deserted houses in Desolace, that's such a depressing thought.

: Oh yes! We're restless wanderers and adventurers... not people who want to sit idle in our comfy homes... Agree!

@Zekta Chan: but wouldn't we become pretty bored just "hanging around" in the guild house? Or maybe that's when we have to play one of those popular ingame-mini-games?

: decorating the garden? Seriously? Not my game!
I think your point about scattering the players is very much valid. We see it happen in the cities all the time. The shops in the center have to close when anonymous supermarkets open up far away from the city. It drains the traditional citylife where people mix up... So let's be carful and preserve Stormwind and Ironforge the way they are, not draining them on people to some new building areas!

@Shy: not a bad idea. Actually a tent can provide very much of a "home feeling" if you use it for a long time. I lived in tent for a couple of months in New Zeeland, many years ago, and it certainly felt like my home then. I knew every inch of it!

@Scotty: another gold sink and achievement to chase... not for fun, but more out of compulsion, as it sounds the way you write it?
No, I'm not that keen on it either. This isn't the first time I see the suggestion, I just thought I'd think it through a bit for once.

@Kel: yeah, you're actually right! A proper guild website and forum serves very well as a home of the guild - and you can hang around there even when you're not online in the game....

@Kromus: well, I must admit that I'm not much into roleplaying myself. So I don't say that the idea is useless, I guess it's the dream of many RP people. However, how big part of the WoW population is that much into RP?
And yeah, I prefer open housing as well I think, as instanced seems pointless. On the other hand you'll face the deserted houses, which isn't a pretty idea either.

Larísa said...

: interesting reading about another way of housing. It sounds really broken though! yeah, there seems to be many issues and challenges Blizzard has to overcome in case they'd want to do this one day. (They ARE talking about it, but my impression is that it's currently mostly... talking.)

Davarnus said...

Any housing would definitely have to be instanced. There just isn't enough space in towns to let everyone have a home, and the other comments above reinforce my view that letting people build in any other zones would just spoil the game.

If all we have is an instance portal, I wouldn't be bothered about "player housing" as I wouldn't be able to make a mark.

I would however (as a GM of a successful casual raiding guild myself) be greatly in favour of an instanced guild hall, which could become a meeting place and a trophy room and contain the guild vault. This could perhaps be coupled with guild-achievements which Blizzard have talked about in the past.

You'd default to entering your own Guild Hall if you went in the portal, or you could group with someone else and they could take you as a guest into their guild hall to have a look round and ogle the heads of dead bosses hung up on the walls.

Perhaps there could be an innkeeper and a bar with free drinks for guild members or something.

Carra said...

It's an idea that has been going around for a while, mostly in the form of guild halls.

It could be a place where all the guilds trophies are gathered, ranging from Onyxia's head to C'thuns tentacles. Put the guild bank there too of course. Add a bar with some drinks and food. And I think adding a few minigames in there would be a lot of fun. Think mini pool game or multiplayer peggle. Could be a nice place to relax with your guild mates, chat a bit and do a few silly mini games.

Blizzard does want to add it someday. But then again, they wanted to put it in five years ago and we still don't have it:
posted 2004-12-14

Caydiem: "Housing is a huge feature with a lot of dedicated time needed. While we definitely want to do housing, and it is something 'on the list', it's not a 'soon after release' feature. It's more of an 'on the horizon' feature. :)"

posted 2008-9-01

Drysc: "Heh, well skimming through it seems not everyone wants player housing at the moment. Not that we use the forums as a barometer for popular opinion, but anyway...Player housing is still something that intrigues us. If the place and time are right, and we can add player housing and make it a meaningful addition to the game, make it cool, we'll do so."

Bri said...

Housing in SWG is very well done, with a lot of people spending many many decorating, or being the mayor of their town. People have created some beautiful museums complete with rare artifacts no longer available in the game. Some of the very talented have created an in-game business of decorating other players' houses or guild halls.

But here's the huge difference, and in my mind the biggest hurdle to player housing in WoW: Many items in WoW do not have an associated, addressable, 3D object. In SWG, every object is 3D. Look in your backpack, and the view is of rotating 3D objects. In WoW, most items are icons, nothing more. Most armour is just a texture. It would take a tremendous amount of art time to turn all of this into placeable objects.

And Blizzard will never, ever do anything by halfs -- if they don't have the time to devote to making it perfect, it won't make it into the live game.

Barrista said...

I have started playing LOTRO and joined a "kinship", but have yet to visit their house. Even though they are "instanced" the price varies depending the major city it is near. The price, in wow terms, can be anywhere from 7 to 30g.

I couldn't see using older tier armor nobody wants to throw out as wall decoration. My Arcanite Ripper? Maybe. haha
In LOTRO, you can bring bears, fish, etc to a taxidermist for preservation and then display.

So while there are some things I have felt are better in LOTRO (the gambit system for example), this is one that hasn't caught on with me yet.

Fuubaar said...

Final Fantacy XI made instance housing pretty interesting. You were given this place for your storage. The instance was on the edge of your starter city but you could link it to otehr cities like a portal (go into (insert city) leave (insert city)). There was also a profession called Woodworking and you could make tables, chairs, armoirs, etc. Each of these items gave you more storage and it made your house a home. This allowed for people to be in cities but have the ability to travel where they pleased.

Some problems with this was that no one else could enter your home and most people would just stick a TON of stuff in it that didnt really look like a home but has gobs of storage. Also, you were greeted by a moogle and he would sit in your living room eating your food...I was upset that I couldn't evict him :-/

Cassini said...

I don't really like the idea of player housing. As has been said before me, I'm fairly sure it would have to be instanced and so where would all the players be in the cities? If they're all in their own guild halls or whatever, then Stormwind et al are going to be mighty quiet. I quite like the fact I can interact readily with people when I head back to a capital city. Take them away and you'll likely find that they all turn into yet another Silvermoon - all nice graphics but no life.

Copernicus said...

When I was playing Anarchy Online, our Org members would hang out in deserted zone areas called Back Yards. They were convenient because they were inside the main cities, but did not suffer the horrible lag of the town itself. There was also a bank in each, so it was very convenient.

We asked and asked for Org headquarters and they finally put them in. They were huge and awesome, able to be filled with funiture and other fluff items. There were multiple rooms, including a meeting room, laboratory, bar, etc. People rejoiced when they were implemented!

However, there was a fatal flaw. There was no bank. There was no vendor. None of the amenities that people need to do actual day to day business. The buildings ended up standing empty and under-utilized.

Personally, I hang out in Ironforge because I have nowhere better to go. Our guild crafters have set up shops all across the world, with a gem crafter in the Dalaran bank, blacksmith in Ironforge, etc.

I would love it if my guild had a place we could all gather when we're not doing anything particular. It would invite impromptu activities like duels, parties, dancing, games of tag, dress up and so on.

While the city is busy and has lots of things going on, I'm just not that much of a social person. I'd much rather being in a more cozy setting with those that I know.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

Player housing I view as pointless resource waste in WoW. But ... guildhalls, a 2nd place you could bind to that led to the major Azerothian cities, had the guildbank, and a trophy hall, to show new recruits as a way to say, look at what we can do.

But the biggest thing for me, would be if they could make Guildhalls, function the way a guild website does now.

If I could make it so that it reflects the guild and it's purpose, and post "blogs", guild forums, and kill screenshots. Etc, etc.

Fitz said...

Thanks for clarifying just exactly what player housing entails. I'm new to the MMORPG world and had played Animal Crossing before this, so I was envisioning a SIMS-like situation. The only real benefits outside of RP appear to be showing off. I don't think I want blizzard wasting time on this for the same reason I don't want them wasting time on flight in EK and Kamimdor...too much time for too little benefit. And yes, I am on an RP server and enjoy RP.

It just sounds like a way to waste more time in game. I'd rather chat with guildies on vent while we all do our own thing or log off.

LegolasNinja said...

I like player housing. I remember having it in DAOC, and my neighbor helped me with the garden one time. We should have it in WoW too.

Sprink said...

I'm gonna have to pass on player housing. As neat as it sounds, my home is in Dalaran. Mage city, baby! ~_^

But seriously, it's a neat idea in theory, but will probably end up bad in practice.

Kestrel said...

Beyond the description of housing in Asheron's Call as (accurately) described by Kimberly, in my judgment, it destroyed the game. And that's not a solitary opinion; it's one held by many, many players of the game.

In-game housing basically destroyed the social element of Asheron's Call (which was a MUCH more social game than WoW is). So, while it may not be quite so disruptive in WoW, I still don't see it as a good thing for the game.

On the other hand, WoW has considerably more in the way of in-game communication and other means of socializing than AC had, so who knows? But housing is not something I'll ever advocate.

amagesguidetolife said...

Think of it this way-
perhaps your Inn would be on a separate instance server itself.
People from all servers can go through a portal and connect to it as they can connect to Steam vaults or anything else.

Imagine saying this:
welcome to the Pink Pigtail Inn!
To the left is the lounging area,
and to the right is the bar.

Oh! How lovely, it seems we have the honor of seating Phaelia and BRK at this hour!
I must go say hello at once!"

HP said...

I think player housing just wouldn't work in WoW for the same reasons you brought up. I mean it doesn't really fit into the game since the whole point of the game is to explore and do stuff. I always imagined us as a ragtag of adventurers if I really wanted to role play. If our characters wanted to bed down in a fort or permanent settlement of some kind, why do we ever wander all over the world like we do in game?

I don't see anything wrong with people staying in Dalaran all day to conduct their business. I mean there's only 1 room in every inn or none at all!

Player housing would just be a pretty or not-so-pretty sight to give you the feeling of occupation and would stress the capacity of most user's computers if they came across a particularly crowded area.

If there is no justification for guild halls, I don't find there any justification for player housing.

Larísa said...

Hm… visiting a hall of another guild sounds a bit cool. Free drinks too… preferably with a buff, something that makes you want to go there. Must admit that. How about interviewing applicants there? Have a seat and a talk face to face… Still.. I think it’s nice to have rather than necessary. Not the highest priority on where to put dev resources.

@Carra: what I said to Davarnus. It sounds cool the way you describe it; still I don’t want it to take resources away from making raid instances.

@Bri: that’s definitely an aspect that I never thought of. Must be a HUGE thing to do to make all those things viewable. My only trophy for instance only exists in the form of an icon in the slot…

: hm… my pet collection perhaps? Imagine having them all sneaking around in the house, not just one displayed, but all of them? Or wait… what will happen when the worg sees the white kitten…. *Shivers*

@Fuubar: Nice to hear about another game. I’m afraid that my house would become rather untidy quickly.

@cassini: Oh yeah Silvermoon… The little I’ve seen of it was very uninspiring. Wouldn’t want to see that. But the question is if it would happen. How fun would it be to be in the guld hall, provided that you’re in a small-medieum sized guild with 40 players or so?

: Ah, another example, thanks! Again: I think it may work for a huge guild. But for a small? How much life and meetings in the guild house would there be in the end?

Fallstar: Blogs in game…? Hm… I’m not sure it’s necessary. On the contrary I WANT the blogs and such stuff to be out of game. Can’t access WoW and a guild hall ingame from work… 

@Sprink: I love underbelly most of all. It’s my home. Though I’ve currently put my stone at the tournament spot, it’s sooo remote that I just had to do it.

@Kestrel: Yeah, contrary to what Wolfshead says, I agree that a player housing and guild housing may have a not-to-be-neglected impact on the game, on guild dynamics and patterns in player behaviour. It isn’t something you can implement without having thought it over quite thoroughly. And I guess that’s one of the reasons why we haven’t seen it yet.

@A mages guilde to life: Haha, yeah… A portal to the Pink Pigtail Inn right from the game… If we could only arrange so that I could meet blogger’s characters from other servers, cross-ocean as well, I’d say yes any day!

@HP: Actually interesting enough most parts of the capitals, even like Stormwind and IF, aren’t all that frequented. If you want to have an inn of your own you could easily pick one in the old town or dwarf quarters, where hardly any “intruder” ever would come to see you. All are crowding in front of the AH/bank. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

I could get into a guild house where guildies could show off some trophies they're proud of. I still have a handful of my favorite armor pieces and weapons in one of my bags in my bank. Nothing like a wolfslayer sniper rifle over the old fire place. If they put them in the towns they would have to instance them and lag could definitely be an issue. I think the biggest thing though is you know Blizz will just turn it into yet another gold sink. I think the tent idea would be a good idea especially for grinding in some of those larger zones like the Barrens or Stranglethorn or that don't have an Inn at all.

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