Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Random Shots: Player Housing Is A Square Peg

  • 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.


  1. Good points...I agree, WoW does not need player housing. To be honest though, neither does any MMO. Player housing to me is "fluff", albeit good fluff, those little extra things that make me enjoy a game all the more. It won't matter if no one will ever see it, having a personal space makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. :D

    That's why I think player housing appeals to so many people, actually. As social as we are, human beings inherently require a degree of privacy to remain happy and healthy :D

  2. Player housing works in some games as it gives you some additional ownership of the world. This works better for me in LotRO than it does in EQ2 because of how the instancing is done, mostly because the neighborhoods are named rather than numbered, I think.

    I don't think housing would work in WoW though, but that's because I think it's moved away from it's original RPG/PvE focus and become more of a Raiding e-Sport game.

  3. I suspect Blue Kae has the right of it. The current community of WoW by and large likely wouldn't care abut housing.

    That said, I personally love housing systems in MMOs. Decorating a house is a fun side game for when you don't feel like questing. And even if you are the only one that ever goes there, there's something satisfying about having all your trophies on display.

  4. Y'know, if your character is meant to be a walking trophy hall, you'd think there would be room for more stuff on display... and appearance tabs (show what you want to the world but keep the utilitarian "stat gear" on underneath). Maybe even multiple appearance tabs for different occasions...

    Even with mounts and minipets, your character still can't function as a museum, either. All those old awesome widgets and gear have historical significance that might be apparent in a setting other than wearing it around. It's hard to dual wield two favorite two old two handed weapons for most characters, for example, but there are stories to tell if they are still sitting in the bank gathering dust.

  5. @ MMOGamerChick - Fluff is the perfect word for this. Fluff is great in a virtual world. But in a really gamey game like WoW, they don't need it.

    @ Blue Kae - Absolutely. Decorating houses is its own little minigame in those cases. I like the idea of neighborhoods since having multiple houses together looks better. But I never caught anyone else in an instance with me.

    @ Yeebo - Hear, hear. I enjoyed the Hall of Monuments in GW even though I didn't get much in it.

    @ Tesh - Sure, you can't show it all off, but WoW is an achievement based game. People are going to show off the newest and best item. No one cares anymore that you have Sulfuras or Thunderfury. If you didn't get it off the Lich King, it's old hat.

  6. To some, sure. To those who *want* housing, the museum aspect is a significant draw. ;) It's like those crazy people who want the world and lore to be interesting, and to whom the latest, greatest purples aren't the reason to play.

    Yes, the raiding crowd addicted to purples might not be the target audience for housing, and there's nothing wrong with that. They aren't the only customers, though.