Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
A look at LotRO housing

So I had the opportunity to play around with the new player housing feature of Lord of the Rings Online, and wanted to share my observations.

On the positive side the houses in LotRO sure are beautiful. Being in instanced neighborhoods enabled Turbine to give us houses with a garden around them. They really *feel* like houses, not like appartments as in EQ2. And they come with two useful features: One is the ability to teleport to your house from whereever you are, and the other is the ability to store items in your house. Additional minor features are a mailbox on your doorstep, which sounds very logical, but is unique to the MMORPG world; in all other games the mailboxes are communal. And there is a banker and an NPC furniture vendor in the neighborhood.

On the negative side there is no feature to turn your house into a shop and sell crafted goods from it, which was always my favorite housing feature in UO or SWG. And the house decorating feature is primitive: You can't freely place stuff, there are fixed spots. For example my bed stands in the middle of a room, because there was no possibility to put it against the wall. And while the other room has a table in the middle, the chair stands in a corner, because there wasn't a spot foreseen to put the chair next to the table. I couldn't even find how to rotate things. House decoration is much more elaborate in any other MMORPG offering housing that I know.

Ethic from Kill Ten Rats has a problem on his server that all the cheap houses sold out, but the deluxe and kinship houses remain unsold, and no new neighborhoods are opening until they are. Putting a fixed number of houses of each type per neighborhood was probably a bad idea. I would have put small houses on every plot, with the ability to upgrade the houses to something bigger if need be. Ethic also thinks that putting farmland and a village center into every neighborhood is a bad idea, because while it livens up the neighborhoods, it risks deserting the non-instanced towns.

I'm pretty much neutral on the new LotRO housing. I like some things, but housing is still far from perfect. I would have made the neighborhoods smaller, thus having the houses closer together with more possibilities to meet the neighbors. And I would have made the system far more flexible. I also was disappointed that while I could set my alt to have full access to my house, including the storage, he would need to buy his own house to get the teleport home feature. But maybe Turbine will still improve housing a bit, and for a first try it isn't half bad. Beats WoW housing by lengths. :)
One of the things you may have missed about this patch is that there are a load of crafting recipes for house furniture. Fair enough.

So I picked up some rug recipes on my tailor, only to find that those recipes had been disabled.

Why was that? Because the recipes needed only materials that you can buy from a merchant and Turbine, in their wisdom, had allowed them to give the same amount of crafting skill points as other recipes on the same tier. So people had been powering their way to GM tailor at a fraction of the cost that would normally be required.

Nice one, Turbine.
I'm pretty happy with this first go at housing in LOTRO. Agreed on the flexibility issues - let's hope there will be some improvements along the way. In general Turbine's done a really good job at filling each of there frequent patches with a ton of improvements. They are listening and chucking it out as they go.

As for Ethic's post, be advised it was made on the day of the patch. His assumptions on how new neighborhoods open up (everything else needs to sell first) are unconfirmed by Turbine and probably incorrect. Having to wait a few hours before new neighborhoods open up as Turbine applies their rules to it isn't such a big deal I'd say. To avoid another misunderstanding: Ethic assumed what looks like farmland and a village center may become future crafting hubs. This is pure conjecture as far as I'm aware at this stage. He's free to think it's a bad idea, but that's not to say Turbine actually is thinking of it. Reading Tobold's post quickly gave the impression it's actually a feature, hence a clarification.

The "housing" patch also brought major upgrades to the Minstrel and Loremaster class, tons of fixes/improvements/add-ons, three new land expansions (small to moderate size, but stil, nice), an extension of the epic quest line with book 11 and let's not forget a whole new 12-man raid instance in which tons of guilds on my server (Snowbourne) have been having a great time in so far. Again it looks like Turbine hit it right... raiding in LOTRO is a more casual experience, rather than the marginal head against the wall banging in WoW. Tastes obviously differ, but after hardcore raiding in WoW burned me down, this is a very pleasant alternative.
Throg my dwarf Champion tries to go home to his own bed every night. Sad I know but I like having a little house of my own. An island of my own actually - check out 3 Frothing Road, dwarf area.

I think Kill ten rats may be a bit hasty. Turbine don't seem to be applying the "every house must be sold rule" too strictly. He should check again a little while later. My own pet niggle is the inflexibility of the furniture placement. It seems to be impossible to put a chair beside a table for example. Nevertheless on the whole I am delighted and I am sure many of the niggles will be sorted out later.
I wonder why they didn't go with the SWG route of freely placing objects. That alone has spawned a meta-game there and some very creative aspects.
Interesting article. Just a little note.

"in all other games the mailboxes are communal"
As far as I know in EQ2 mailboxes are craftable and can be put inside houses.
I also was disappointed that while I could set my alt to have full access to my house, including the storage, he would need to buy his own house to get the teleport home feature.

Only one house per account, not per Alt. In other words, only one of your characters can have a house of his own (with all the features). The rest can only share . . .
Just to update a few things. I did manage to get the house I wanted, just needed to wait for new neighborhoods. The devs have stated a few things: They are considering putting crafting/farming into the neighborhoods but they want to be sure it is a good thing to do. Also, furniture will likely be able to be rotated in the next big patch. Finally, they are working out the details on allowing alts to either buy their own house or share yours (house recall).
I would be happy to share my house between alts, as long as they all get the teleport to house ability.
The features you mentioned appear to exactly mimic the features of Asheron's Call housing -- with some minor lapses that they probably just haven't implemented yet like giving alts house recall abilities.

I know the AC housing system very well -- I spent some of the best years of my life grinding on it! (I'm not responsible for the original code, but I was responsible for trying to make the system usable -- and to make it stop eating items.)

This method of housing has some nice benefits, but I am somewhat surprised that they didn't move away from the statically-placed furniture hooks. ... *thinking* ... No, belay that. Knowing Turbine's normal process for these things, I am not all that surprised. But it is a pity. The hook system isn't very flexible at all.
Hey Sandra...

You took the words right out of my mouth.

It's AC's housing right down to the hooks. And I can't believe they're still poorly placed!

If nothing else, you'd think they'd have hand-placed the hooks...gah.
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