Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Guild housing in WoW

Player housing for World of Warcraft is one of those features where the developers said they would be interested in introducing it, but haven't gotten around to doing it. It is not a trivial problem to get player housing right. But by looking at how housing has been done in other games, I had an idea how housing could be great in World of Warcraft. So lets look at the history of MMORPG player housing.

My first experience of player housing was a bad one, in Ultima Online, when I could afford a deed to place a house, but in two weeks of searching high and low couldn't find a spot where to put it, because UO didn't have enough housing spots for all players on a server. The other big disadvantage of the UO system was that houses could be placed anywhere where the ground was flat, so that areas which were meant to be adventuring wilderness suddenly turned into huge cities, with the monsters still running around between the houses. It is clear that World of Warcraft cannot go that way, just imagine the Barrens getting filled with houses as far as the eye can see! Wouldn't look good, wouldn't feel right.

So games like Anarchy Online or Final Fantasy XI or Everquest 2 went with instanced housing instead. You go through a door somewhere in a city, and you are directly inside your appartment. As appartments thus take no space at all, you can have one for every player, even in various sizes. But houses also lose a lot of their purpose that way: Nobody walks past your house and sees what a nice castle you got, or sees the NPC vendor you placed on your porch for selling your crafted goods like in UO.

Open world housing did work for Star Wars Galaxies, for the simple reason that this game had far more square miles per player. And one of the really great features in SWG was that guilds could choose some empty spot somewhere, all build their houses there, and start a player-run city. They could vote for a major, and get utility buildings like star ports (flight point) for their city.

When Lord of the Rings Online introduced player housing last year, they tried to get the best of both worlds, by making housing both instanced and visible to your neighbors. The LotRO housing instances are not just one appartment, but a complete neighborhood with several housing spots, for everything from small houses to large guild halls. Up to 30 houses can be built in one neighborhood, and new neighborhoods open up when the old ones are full. But the system still has a couple of issues: Every neighborhood had exactly 4 kinship (guild) houses, 10 deluxe houses, and 16 standard houses. But the standard houses sold a lot faster than the others. It would have been better if there had been "slots" for sale, on which any sort of house could be build, not already pre-built houses of a fixed size. I also found the instances a bit too large, so you didn't meet your neighbors often enough.

So for World of Warcraft I was thinking that a system similar to that of LotRO would be best. If you explore cities like Stormwind, you'll find places that look suspiciously as if there is a portal to instanced housing already planned there. You walk through that portal, and get a selection of neighborhoods, with initially empty housing spots, on which various sorts of houses in various sizes can be built, depending on your financial means. And now comes the kicker: Guilds can reserve for themselves special neighborhoods, with a guild hall in the middle, and the housing spot around it, with enough place for every guild member to build a house. Voila, instanced player-built guild cities! The guild hall would have the guild bank in it, and have a trophy room where for every raid boss kill the head of the boss could be mounted on the wall. Player houses would have some functionality too, for example for storing armor sets on mannequins, and like in LotRO with an added possibility to teleport back to your house from anywhere. So with players having some reasons to visit their house and their guild hall, guild members would constantly meet each other in the guild city. It is a lot nicer to meet guild mates in virtual person than just see them as a name in guild chat. Guild halls could also serve as portals into raid dungeons, so meeting up for raids would happen in the guild hall instead of in front of the dungeon. Guild cities would become a veritable hub of guild activity, and thus foster guild cohesion.

What do you think? Would you like to see such guild housing in World of Warcraft?
The Housing in Horizons was an interesting approach as well. Altho it was ruined by the lack of game design and content.

They had an open world type of "house slots" where you could plant the house you wanted to build, too bad the houses were useless except as the only type of high level achievement the game had at the time I tested it.
Absolutely not.

The geography of Azeroth is set, our status as travelers who base ourselves at inns is clear, the game is great how it is, and guild housing has had too many unexpected lousy side effects in too many games. World of Warcraft is awesome how it is. I hope they have the sense to leave it alone.

I'd like to see a few fortresses pop up someday in isolated areas of which the best guilds (preferably by a number of possible standards) or even individuals can gain ownership, and it would be nice to have an FFA server where guilds can take de facto control of cities and outposts like they did on Darktide in Asheron's Call. But otherwise, no thank you. WoW has thus far managed mostly to dodge the problems of a player base fragmentation and abandoned leveling areas; why force it? I'm even a little worried about Dalaran, but Blizzard was smart with Shattrath and will probably be smart again.

One thing they're not often smart with is refusing the wishes of a player base that often doesn't know what it's got till it's gone. That so many WoW players don't know anything about MMOs in general makes that even more dangerous. We'll probably see player housing in some form eventually. I have a little faith that Blizzard will be the ones to find the happy medium, but nevertheless the issue worries me.
I'm a huge supporter of player and guild housing. It has a few kinks, but the instanced neighborhoods in LotRO have been my favorite implimentation of housing so far, so when it does happen in WoW, I would hope it would be similar to that.

I don't quite understand those who strongly disagree with housing, although of course I respect that its their opinion. If they don't want housing, just don't use it, its as simple as that. Although I have a feeling if it was introduced and done well, many of those who don't support it now would use some of the features that would come along with it. ;)
How about a compromise? Have guild houses as separate instances in a neighbourhood located in an area like downtown Orgrimmar with a couple of the buildings allocated as possible guild halls; however the streets would be back in the realm. That way all the travel routes are already there, when moving between guild houses you are in the populated areas we all love to see crowds. Then that would not change the landscape of the game too much, at the same time making places feel like normal cities, inciting people to main hubs of the realms.

They need to learn from LOTRO as the housing there felt like ghost towns on the edge of nowhere making it a real pain to get there and back to the questing zone you have been grinding in.
Shattrath would be the ideal place for Guild Halls.
The place does not feel like a city at all, unlike Stormwind or Orgrimmar.
Of course, once Wrath is released, will Shattrath become yet another ghost town?
Actually LotRO took their idea of player housing from DAoC. DAoC had instanced zones with plotted land. At each plot was a stone that when clicked on allowed you to purchase that land and then place what ever house type you could afford on it.

Several of the cool things about it was all plots basically started out at like 10,000 gold in WoW terms. Then every hour the plot price went down by an 100g till it stopped finally at 500g. This way it was all about what the land was worth to you and not a bunch of 3 am cyber campers buying up all the land. The big guilds who gathered their money together went in and bought the plots next to water falls and lakes and just like in RL the commoners got the houses on the outskirts when they could afford the land. The way they kept the housing area fresh was that all the various house types had a weekly upkeep. While it was low especially for the small houses if someone left the game it did not permanently tie up a housing spot forever.

Also various named mobs in the game had "trophies" where you could collect everything from the local named coyote to the big bad dragon head to hang on your wall. You could also buy merchants and crafting locations at you house alongside the normal furinture and stuff. Our guild house was a totally self sufficient location with its own bind and teleport locations in it. The only problem is it made it kind of pointless to go to a city anymore since everything you did you could do at your guild house and then port anywhere. because of this the main cities became ghost towns except for the lower level new players.
The only way housing would work in WoW is placing the houses inside Alterac Valley, so people could enjoy the feature while farming for honor points.
My first experience of player/gild housing has been in LotRO and I have found it quite underwhelming (as I find much in LotRO!). I kept finding myself thinking "Blizzard would have done this so much better". I play on an RP server so housing would fit in well there. I think LotRO went wrong in not puting their housing instances in cities or much closer to them than they are; the hook system is also horrible. In some ways I'm surprised that WoW doesn't have it already, if only because it would be a huge money/time sink. Everytime yet another new Raid instance is released that only a small proportion of the players will see I can't help wishing that the developers' time had been spent in implementing player housing instead *sigh*
I would love to see housing in WoW. It's the one feature I've clamored for since the first day in Azeroth.

I've owned houses in UO and in FFonline.

There is a great many reasons on why housing is a good idea and/or guild halls.

For player housing I can think of
much like Tobold said mannequins to put old armor/resist armor on. I spent countless days running instances for t1,t2,t3,t4,t5 gear only to vender it. How nice would it be to show that off? Sounds silly, but it would be great.

What about all the extra junk I keep in my bank because it has sentimental value. Like the many trinkets and varios weird items from quest comletes or rare drops (think Links photograph/Boomarang).
It could create other professions in the game for players to partake in. You could set up something like in UO where you could put NPC's outside the door to sell your wares, potions, BoE crafting, etc...

With guild halls a guild could keep
Onxyia's head and other 25 man boss kills. They could be a spot for guild members to hang out in and organize. Could have special officers quarters with whiteboards for strategy sessions. Could have an in-game bulletin board and raid organizing center. Could keep guild Photo up on the wall. add things to the outside to show guild accomplishments.

There are a lot of reasons on why guild/player housing is a good thing. The detractors in my opinion don't have legs to stand on. I'd mainly like a house to store all the junk I collect and to free up room in my bank. I hate deleting/vendoring things I spent months/years getting. That's real time spent, even if they are virtual goods.
My only concern with the "hub of guild activity" as you've described it, is that you'd see a marked drop in population in the actual cities. If you give players the ability to head out to raids from their guild hall, things to do in their houses, and various other amenities, they'll rarely need to leave their neighborhood (separately instanced from Stormwind, for example) which means all large guilds that used to populate the city would now be tucked away in a neighborhood somewhere, even with the ability to hearth back to said instance.

Aside from folks running in to use the auctionhouse, how would you keep the bustling city life afloat if it's more convenient to just sit inside your house? :)
If it was up to me I'd wish the Developers spent their time on something other than player housing. I wouldn't ever use it.

Instead I'd like to see more character options/looks, faster travel between cities, and more new quests.
player housing is just one of those things i never cared about.

people get all worked up about on the LoLRP realms, because they want a private place to cyber, but seriously? why not meet up in front of the dungeon for a raid? that's where the raid is, and that lends itself to world PvP conflict. by having portals directly to raid dungeons located in some instanced housing, it completely eliminates the need for anyone to ever enter "the outside world" again.
As you describe it, it sounds like it will empty out the actual game world, but luring everyone into their own guild community instances.

Part of the charm of WoW is that everyone shares the same game world, and only dungeons and raids are instanced. Cities like Stormwind are a real meeting place for people of all levels, and if player housing means that will be lost, then I'm not too excited about it.
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