Thursday, June 08, 2006
For somebody who has played Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, selling goods in World of Warcraft is unsatisfying. In both UO and SWG players had houses, and they could install vendors in there which sold their crafted goods to other players visiting the shop. So if you put some effort into always being well-stocked and selling things at reasonable prices, you would get regular customers and a reputation. In WoW you can't do that, you can only put your goods on the auction house, where they stay for a maximum of 24 hours. If you don't sell in this time, you lose money, thus selling for example some of the rarer potions is very risky. So of course I'd wish that World of Warcraft had player housing, and I could build a potion shop. But how could that be done?
Both UO and SWG had their houses placed right in the wilderness. In SWG that worked reasonably well, because the wilderness was so huge and boring, and player-built cities actually added some variety. But in Ultima Online, where the zones where small and hand-crafted, housing destroyed many wilderness areas. I remember being on a server when housing was introduced, and the day before I had been hunting seal and walrus on an icy island. The day after the island suddenly was a big city, because it had so much flat ground, and the seal and walrus were running around in the streets. And when I some time later wanted to build a house, I searched for two weeks all over the world and couldn't find a flat spot left to place my house deed. Not a good system.
Placing houses in the wilderness in World of Warcraft would be a similar disaster. A relatively flat place like the Barrens would be totally destroyed in character if people could place houses there. A server can handle 3,000 people online simultaneously, but that corresponds to many more accounts and characters, I'd guess up to 20,000 characters per server. Azeroth simply isn't big enough to have 10,000 to 20,000 houses built on it.
Other games have housing instanced, for example in Anarchy Online, Final Fantasy XI, or Everquest 2. You just place a door somewhere in the city, and when you click on it, you are transported to your instanced house, or you get a menu to visit somebody elses instanced house. That is a solution which could work in WoW as well, the cities in WoW have some unused buildings that could be used for that. The disadvantage is that your "house" only exists as the inside of a house, or a menu point on the door. Your house can't look different from other people's houses, is has neither exterior form nor location, and your customers can only find your shop if they remember your name.
I wonder if an intermediate solution would be possible: You click on a door, and you are transported to a flat "city" zone, where people can build houses on pre-designed plots. Thus the player house city would have streets, houses of different forms and colors, signs over the door to indicate shops with different wares, and so on. There would have to be several points of entry, otherwise the last house built would be disadvantaged by being furthest away from the entry point. But that solution could give us the best of both worlds, houses with an individual feel, player cities, but no destruction of existing zones by housing development. Well, one can always dream. I don't think player housing is in the cards for WoW anytime soon, if ever.