Frequently in MMO gaming we see trends that developers exploit, sometimes leading to innovations that make for some pretty amazing gaming. For example, when the first RPG’s experimented with the holy trinity party system of tank/healer/dps, there was a realization that putting pressure on co-operative questing was a way to encourage communication. Without this grouping staple, the MMO world would certainly not have become what it is today.
As we watch the next generation of MMORPGs evolve, only time will tell which innovations will stand the test of time. One such recent innovation is player housing, and with the upcoming release of WildStar, it’s a good time to analyze just how important this interesting MMO feature is to us and which five games are doing it best.
[ Lord of the Rings Online ]
Playing as a Hobbit was by far one of the greatest things I have done since I nerded out during the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I started the game when it launched as free-to-play, and it was a great decision. I was immediately enveloped in the universe it created, but what was most unique about the game was its housing system, which was still a relatively new concept at the time.
Each race has its own “Homestead” which acts as a neighborhood. Naturally I went into my neighborhood of small homes and bought my own plot. I was able to fully customize it and even interact with it. I was able to cook food, farm in my own personal garden and craft items that I may need on my upcoming journey. One key piece that we see in the growing trend of housing is the incorporation the crafting system. LOTRO does a great job of making me feel so cozy in my Hobbit home, but being able to create within it was a massive bonus.
[ Vanguard Saga of Heroes ]
Vanguard is one of those games that launched under the radar and has continued to stay there. This is slightly due to its overly-generic gameplay, but to many, it’s a home away from home.
For those who choose to live here in the world of Vanguard, you are given an option to make yourself a home. By choosing a plot, a type of building and gathering the materials yourself, you can create a house exactly to your own liking. What better way to end a day of dungeoning than to retire to an abode humbly crafting with your own findings?
When the house is finally constructed, you can furnish it however you see fit. You can create a chest and set certain permissions on it so players of your choice can access it. You can also allow certain players to enter your house with freedom, or you can just set up some furniture and kick your feet up. However you choose to do in Vanguard, the home is a place to go and be proud of your own style.
[ RIFT ]
RIFT has a different take on this “home” concept, turning it into a whole new style without defeating the purpose. In RIFT the player can create his or her own Dimension. In this you can design and edit literally any type of object you find throughout your travels. You can set up tables and place them anywhere you like.
This isn’t just a house; it’s a home to fill your needs. You can design a nice outdoorsy feel with a campfire, or maybe you’d rather live in a nice tree. You can create whatever you want with what you find, and with the ability to place objects freely, some dimensions turn out to be rather unique.
There are players who choose to make such unique dimensions that they host them for the public. Some dimensions are turned into platforming extravaganzas, while some are just a cool bar to hangout and role-play at. Whichever you choose for your dimension, do it with flair.
[ Everquest 2 ]
Everquest 2 has really blown me away with its current set of housing capabilities. Each player is encouraged to buy and sell real-estate. With the ability to own up to twenty houses, there isn’t exactly a feeling of “home” for some players, but for others there is. While other games choose to give their players a cozy break from adventuring with a personal home, EQ2 has offered its players the opportunity to break into the housing market and do some flipping.
In order to buy a home in a specific city, one has to first become a citizen. Some housing is tax-free and prestigious while others are standard. In order to then furnish the homes, you must either become a carpenter yourself or seek out a player who has explored the world of carpentry and buy furniture.
By customizing one of your many homes, you can fully explore the embodiment of this concept. Everquest 2 is a world full of fantasy and roleplaying and by questing and crafting you can help create a very interesting home. The only problem with this method is that it lacks the homey belonging like you may find in the housing systems of LOTRO or RIFT.
[ WildStar ]
I know the game has yet to launch, but I cannnot simply sit idly by and watch all these housing details be released and not count it here in my list. As we’ve watched this game’s progress, we’ve seen the developers create a dynamic PvP system, combat system and PvE system. Now it’s time to talk about WildStar‘s unique and creative housing system.
The player gets to choose a plot of land on which to plop their house. Inside the space, the player gets to fully customize their home, but decorating the outside is the real joy. There are various “sockets” that you can put “plugs” into that help make the home more enjoyable. These plugs may be a garden or an armory, to mention a few. When you purchase the plugs they fit into one of the various sockets, adding more to the actual house itself.
These extensions are a direct response from the developers at WildStar to player pleas for a truly innovative housing system. Other games try to implement a housing system because they know it’s a trend, but they don’t try to innovate. WildStar is innovating beyond what LOTRO or EQ2 has done, and by making this home a place to actually live rather than just sit inside on the loom crafting new armor. With this system, you can constantly renovate and create.
[ Analyzing the Trend ]
Why is MMO housing important? Every time I log into my games I just want to head out and dungeon. I want to level up and quest through the story-line, so why do I need a place to call “home”? Well after some analysis I have come up with some reasons why this is incredibly popular and why I am also hooked on customizing my own pad.
A sense of belonging is something that players have naturally towards their characters. As you slowly crept towards reaching max level with your hero, you were proud of what you had done and it was easy to feel attached. Personalizing your own home is something that capitalizes on that experience. Just like your character is uniquely yours, so is your virtual home. Whether you choose to invite your friends or not, it’s a place you belong.
Houses allow for you to organize and create things. Whether you choose to add on a forge or maybe just a loom, you can always craft items in your own personal space, often times better items than you can even find in the in-game stores. Also, you can usually store things and organize them for yourself or even your fellow guild mates in a shared guild hall.
There is an overall sense of stability that comes with owning a home without all the dusting and vacuuming. Even though it’s not as cool as your home in real life, you don’t have to dust or vacuum. You don’t have to clean up after you cook a dish and you definitely aren’t going to sweep the floors. You get to walk around your home after questing and just look at what you’ve done. By offering this stability, developers are keeping their players coming back because they’ve created something all their own.