Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Player housing

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.
"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."

That's very similar to what Dark Age of Camelot did with their housing expansion:

Yeah I really enjoyed both the economic and housing/inventory game in SWG. I had one account that was an AS/WS that ran a small up&coming weapon shop. I really enjoyed the hunting for resources and their cataloguing. The biggest crafters all formed malls in the sprawl outside starports, so part of the uniqueness of hunting down someone's unique shop and wares in the wilderness was lessened. But that's what people wanted, quick access to goods. Later by the CURB they added indexing of all vendor goods so you didn't need to check on a player's stock by visiting them, which was good and bad. The only other player housing I remember was my first in DAoC that was pretty rigid. It was instanced and Mythic designed it so there was a limited number of lots. Each lot was statically mapped, so the towns were already layed out (literally). Was pretty boring, and typically, over-expensive. SWG's crazy town building was a little more with it.

I think you're right that there should be some balance between free-form and pre-fab instanced housing. Right now the instancing in EQ2 is not interesting to me (and Raph said somewhere he didn't prefer it either I remember). But I appreciate all the technical constraints free-play housing requires. Your idea is pretty good. I imagine for WoW we'll get instances.
Alcaras beat me to it. DAoC has that kind of balance for housing. With player-owned NPC vendors as well as a nice directory/search system for finding the item you want.

Yes, DAoC's suburban layout is rather rigid. But it's a far cry better than EQ2 where you just have doors that can go to any number of interior homes.

Horizons has housing (w/player vendors) in the regular world, but restricted to pre-planned community plots. They tried to mix it up with small and large communities, large and small plots, and various terrains. Multiple buildings can be built within a plot, assuming there's room. So with a huge plot you might have two or three cottages or one big manor, plus outbuildings for crafting machines.

IMO, Horizons got housing the closest to being "right". Too bad the rest of the game isn't special (to be kind). I hope some future MMORPG picks up where Horizons left off.
P.S. - For those unfamiliar with Horizons, housing doesn't involve just plopping down a deed and "poof!" you have a house. You buy the plot, then start building: go out to a quarry, mine stone, finish the stone to blocks, haul it back to the building and add it; or go chop the right kind of tree, take the logs to a lumbermill facility and turn it into boards, haul the boards to your building, add it ... each step a different skill. You can, instead of doing the labor yourself, add money to your plot and specify how much will be paid for each log, stone, etc., so others can do the building for you.

Really neat system that I had a lot of fun playing with in beta. Again, I hope some future MMORPG takes the idea and runs with it. *So* much more can be done, like adding many many more intermediate visuals to the buildings as they're built (Horizons just goes from empty plot to framework to completed building). But I won't hold my breath.
Blizzard has a brilliant game design team but their IT team is far from competent. Until they can resolve their server and network issues, they would push the idea of housing using Chinese Taiji.

However, I agree that MMOG isnt complete without players owned property. In my opinion, the only feasible form of housing in WoW is instance-based. Or special instances specially made for players houses would be awesome. Imagine the opposite faction attacking players towns, how fun would that be!

Perenolde Server
There's actually an instance portal in Stormwind, left over from beta, which was told to be the player housing portal. It's in the canals to the north east of the trade district.
I think the player housing in UO was genius and that is the only way to do it right.

It promoted in game relationships whether good or bad between neighbors. It added many whole new elements to the game such as bad neighborhoods.

So far these so called MMORPGs have not been able to come close to creating a game that was is as good as UO was in the beginning. Player housing in all of them would be a good start.
Despite it's many shortcomings Ultima Online is the only mmorpg in existance that got player housing right, I doubt you will see it done the same way ever again, instancing is a cheap copout, I'd rather not have the option of housing at all than have a virtual house that only I can see. I'm also a fan of 2d, I can only wish that the gaming industry would stop cranking out hideous 3d mmorpgs and go back to what worked in the beginning very high quality detail oriented 2d. If Diablo 3 came out and it were 2d I would love it.
SWG was an amazing game for these reasons... it was full of problems and bugs and the worst part bad designers that wouldn't just leave it alone and fix the already great content...

Player housing is a must to make your "sim life" feel complete. I keep looking at all these new mmo's and there isn't one that has it going on...

I think that having houses in nature is actually the best bet too. Player cities were awesome and they added such a cool feel to the game to see what the games evolution would lead to. It was almost like a science experiment or an ant farm. I am really hoping that the rumors are true and that bio-ware really is working on a new Star Wars based MMO.
Yeah, SWG outrules them all with the housing system, also since you can use objects to decorate it.
Player Housing is a solution in search of problem. I don't play a MMO to sit in my virtual house. My real house (or room) is real enough for that.
Player housing is disappearing from the new MMOs because it is totally peripheral to the experience.
the ab ove comment "Player Housing is a solution in search of problem. I don't play a MMO to sit in my virtual house. My real house (or room) is real enough for that.
Player housing is disappearing from the new MMOs because it is totally peripheral to the experience."

thats nonsense and childish and from a gamer who is clueless

playing housing is not in new mmorpgs because those running them are cheap,as server costs and maintence goes up

I think housing would be great idea in future mmo's. If you've ever played There (a rather boring social type game), for a fee players can submit custom houses they've made in a 3d program, or practically anything. What I would suggest is a game where players are allowed to do that, but instead of costing real money, it costs you in-game money. Then, depending on how big your house was (square foot or something) you had to get supplies to build it. Wood, stone, etc etc.

Maybe I should further my programming skills and start...
Some solution can be see on Wonderland Online. similar to the "door" in Horizon, u get to place a tent. Once u click the tent u are transported into that person's home, which can also be served as a shop. This is a better better solution since u can upgrade n change the look of ur tent into a tree house, or a ranch or anything fancy.
This Concept is mostly like Lotro is currently doing, Where you have a Street address and you select an instance when you walk-in to the zone. the only thing is that while you can style you're outside, and inside, the house floor plans are rather limited... But you cna pick the land plot around your house... And when all the plots on 1 fill up the game adds in another server with more spaces open. insuring that everyone can have a house.
Would be kewl if you could combine a few of these ideas...

housing zone, custom builds (I like on the site building better than program though), Land control, Different types of cites etc...
Sorry for bumping an old discussion but I thought some would like to know that ArcheAge will have player housing as well as land control :)

They say that you will be able to build a house/cottage/crop land etc wherever you want.

Sounds interesting :)
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