Player Housing or GTFO
As we discussed at length in Episode 2 of the Cat Context Podcast, I have been playing Everquest II lately possibly because I hate myself. Well no, that’s not entirely true — I’ve been playing it because I’m having fun AND I hate myself. I’ll save talking about the details of EQ2 for another day, but it has caused me to have a revelation about my MMOs that I must share with you, and that revelation is: player housing is the bomb.
Everquest II is not the only MMO with housing, but it is one of the few current games to have it. LotRO, I believe, also has both player and guild homes, as does Asheron’s Call (hey, that’s still alive), Everquest classic, and of course poor now-offline Star Wars Galaxies. As you can probably tell by looking at that list, player housing seems to have been a thing of past. However, to be totally honest, I’m enjoying my house and house-related activities so much that it is literally and irrationally making me ANGRY that housing isn’t included in modern MMO design. What the hell, Blizzard/Arenanet/Bioware/Trion.
In EQ2 a player can own up to 10 houses, starting with a small room at a city inn and moving up to big stone mansions. Certain professions can craft house items, but more importantly in my opinion characters earn items from doing quests or achievements or random drops. The result is a little space of your own (that friends can visit) where almost every item on display has some personal value. Even for me, a tiny level 12, my house is quickly filling up with memories. That ceremonial dagger on the wall? I killed a patch of orcs for 90 minutes for that. The four-poster bed? That’s from finishing a quest chain in the starting area.
Back in my prime WoW days I would occasionally spend some time going through my overstuffed bank and reminiscing about outdated tchotchkes like my Eternal Quintessence and classic Will of Arlokk. Imagine if instead of a solitary, cramped bag I could hang my staff collection on the wall of my house! You want a timesink in your games? How about endlessly redecorating when you get a new item? (I haven’t played The Sims in years, but once an addict always an addict.) Gear inflation out of control? Try giving a bonsai tree as a quest reward, or a giant wall hanging for a particular raid accomplishment. I got a rug last night as a quest reward and was way more thrilled than I would have been with a piece of gear.
So what up, triple A MMOs? Blizzard has been fending off requests for player housing since the game launched, often replying with something like “we like the idea of seeing a lot of people in cities and don’t want to make main cities feel like ghost towns“, which is amusing because I’m pretty sure all people ever do in WoW now is hang out in the cities waiting for queues to pop. To be fair, over the years many WoW players have said they don’t care about player housing, often mocking those who do with accusations of being carebears or (even worse) girls. Frequently someone will ask what the purpose of player housing is, or why they should care.
Its purpose, of course, is fun. No, it doesn’t improve your combat stats. No, it won’t make you more badass in PvP or boost your item level. It’s not a feature that is ready made for Major League Gaming events like Arena.
And that’s the part that really infuriates me. I’ve dabbled in MMOs for 8 years, and it wasn’t until last week that I experienced player housing (and the associated furniture crafting and arrangement) for myself and it really hits the spot for me. I was missing this huge feature, and I didn’t even know it. Why don’t I have an option for housing in most modern MMOs? It feels like just part of the inevitable march of the genre towards single player, combat-centric design.
Anyway, I’m ruined now. I always kind of knew that games with player housing were out there, not to mention the better crafting systems that often go with it, but now it’s become a prerequisite of mine for PvE games. I suppose I’ve learned that for me an MMO can’t be a home without.. a home.