- I've been waiting for someone to give me an excuse to write about this subject, and finally someone has stepped up to the plate. Ravious from Kill Ten Rats has a post up about player housing and the lack thereof in World of Warcraft. His question is why has Blizzard failed to implement player housing when other MMOs, before and since, found it important to do so? To answer the question, you only have to look as far as WoW's big competitors, Everquest 2 and Lord of the Rings Online.
- On one side of the equation, you have EQ2's guild halls. From all accounts, they can be filled with several amenities that make them the most convenient option for many of your non-adventuring needs. So convenient in fact that many people complain that the main cities are ghost towns.
- On the opposite side, LotRO tried to avoid some of the pitfalls of player housing with neighborhood instances. Unfortunately, those instances are almost entirely devoid of other players. So the houses end up as personal trophy rooms that very few, if any, other people will see. Neighborhoods seem like an interesting idea, but they have not ended up fostering a micro-community.
- Of course, none of this takes into account non-instanced housing like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. In both cases you end up with vast wastelands of empty buildings that no one cares about anymore. It is urban blight at its worst.
- In the face of all of that, what should World of Warcraft do? Blizzard have made it clear that they want people to congregate in their major cities. To this day, there are still large populations in Orgrimmar, Stormwind, and Ironforge, as well as Shattrath and Dalaran during their expansion cycles. And they don't need a personal trophy space because your character is the main trophy. And what is the point of having a museum if no one will see it. Your character is a walking record of your achievements and you need people around you so you can show off.
- Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic offer player housing because they don't have the same design goals as WoW. In both cases, they involve heavily instanced personal storylines. Instanced housing will fit well with how they want you to play. Because the housing will be intertwined with the game systems, I'm sure they will be well received. In both games, there is multiplayer gaming involved, but only as one component of a large game.
- Not every game requires player housing. Housing must fill a need in the game design. Otherwise, at best, it becomes a minor diversion or, at worst, it destroys your community. Unless Blizzard finds the right reason to add it to the game, it would be like hammering a square peg into the round hole that is World of Warcraft.
© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.