Some MMOs have it, some don’t, some have no plans to introduce it, but the subject of player housing has come up with reference to Star Wars: the Old Republic, and I’d like to offer thoughts on the subject to our faithful readers. My experiences with MMO-based player housing mostly revolve around the methodology of Lord of the Rings Online, so I’ll be curious to hear from folks from other games with other experiences. As always, your mileage may vary.
The biggest-name MMO World of Warcraft has survived eight years now with no player housing. LotRO introduced player housing five years ago and is only now announcing their first major revamp of the system. Currently their model involves set-aside areas near the four races’ starting areas, each with instanced ‘neighborhoods’ to allow the same relatively small map of twenty to thirty homes to be reused repeatedly. There’s no race requirement to purchasing, so your dwarf can buy a house in the elven area and vice versa, and each race’s general aesthetic is used to create the homes in that specific area. There is a weekly rent you have to pay and it lets you pay up to six weeks in advance, so it creates a bit of a cash-sink for the economy. If you forget to pay or stop playing, your house gets locked and your stuff put into escrow and you have to pay a relatively small fee to get it back. The houses can be decorated with various items found in-game or crafted, and the number of ‘hooks’ that you can use for decorating depends on the size of the house.
The houses also offer one, two, or three shared ‘housing containers’ of thirty slots that any authorized characters can pop in, drop stuff off or take it out. By default, your own characters have automatic access, but you can give your entire kinship access to your personal house if you want or just a set list of trusted friends… which you might want to be careful about doing, since one option also grants them access to redecorate. Just trust me on this one. For a kinship house, the leader can authorize or revoke the privilege for people based on name or kinship rank. Also, unlike SWTOR, LotRO‘s kinship houses and their containers are their only method for a guild bank of sorts, so a maximum of ninety slots seems quite tiny, even for a small kinship like mine. Admittedly, they’ve announced that they’re completely overhauling the system here shortly, so hopefully they’ll be kinder in terms of granting a guild bank option.
That being said, is player housing something that we should ask BioWare to keep working on? We know they were at one point namedropping the phrase ‘guild capital ship’, which might be analogous to a kinship house in LotRO. Are there significant numbers of players interested in housing? I can certainly see a major benefit to roleplayers and storytellers wanting to play off the ‘family’ aspect of a Legacy and having housing that all members of a Legacy can access. It certainly would help immersion to say ‘I’m a Corellian’ and be able to have a home there, and it would be nice to roleplay somewhere other than in a cantina, fleet, or randomly out in the galaxy. However, I’m not entirely sure that there are enough role-players (even on the RP servers) to justify the sort of time and effort that it would take to implement. Some might immediately wonder why player housing would even really be necessary, considering every player has a ship with access to the same cargo hold you can check out on fleet or any planet, and you can purchase unlocks to put things such as the mailbox and a repair droid on board. The only huge benefit to having a player home in terms of game mechanics is having some sort of additional shared storage so you don’t have to always be mailing stuff to your alts, but this could be tied into the usual banking system the way EverQuest and LotRO do it.
The fact that you can mail stuff cross-faction now, and with how the new reputation system is tied into a Legacy, it seems as if any solution for player housing will require either a completely separate new area that anyone with a ship could get to or it would by default have to be located somewhere that allows both major factions to show up without getting nuked from orbit, even on PVP servers. This automatically rules out either faction’s starter or capital planets, as well as Taris and Balmorra. What is left is Alderaan, Belsavis, Corellia, Hoth, Ilum, Nar Shaddaa, Quesh, Voss, and Tatooine, with Makeb getting tossed into the ring after Rise of the Hutt Cartel goes live. Of those, let’s rule out Prison Planet Belsavis, PVP Planet Ilum, and Toxic Atmosphere Planet Quesh as places no reasonably-sane person is actually going to want to buy a home.
So, the others have varying possibilities (hot tubs on Hoth, woohoo!), but due to the fact you can’t just go wandering on a high-level planet as a lowbie, perhaps the best choice would be Nar Shaddaa if it has to be somewhere currently extant or soon-to-be extant on the game, which will restrict the possibilities for the ‘look’ of these personal homes. Although, any of the contested planets could work if they rigged up a special travel route from either faction’s spaceport so a lowbie Corellian could ‘visit home’ without getting his butt handed to him by a high-level enemy, for example. Otherwise, it would have to be somewhere all-new that anyone past their starter planet could get to.
Reasonably, it should allow for open-air estates like one would normally expect on a planet, apartments or flats, and just regular-joe sorts of houses. Ideally, there should be variations to allow each race’s planetary aesthetic to shine, just like LotRO has their dwarves’ homes be underground and built primarily of stone, while the hobbits get hobbit-holes just like Tolkien described in his books. I sense BioWare’s art department would either have a field day with this challenge or swear mightily at whichever higher-up mandated they begin work on it. Maybe an easier implementation is the notion of decorating one’s personal ship beyond putting a somewhat silly customization on the ship droids. Would be nice if I could nuke the mildly sexist pin-up in my female Trooper’s ship (she doesn’t swing that way).
Perhaps the biggest reason why BioWare would offer up player housing, despite the number of reasons why it would possibly be a logistical nightmare to implement, is the simple fact that home decorations are an obvious thing to include in the cartel market as well, either in the ‘pray you don’t get lounge-wear or a flag again’ cartel packs or selling individual items for limited periods of time. A secondary consideration is that you can give crafters something new to create. Considering the current crew skills on tap, not too many skills are related to interior decorating, but perhaps their scope could be broadened, or maybe they could even create a whole new craft to cover it. Both options have worked very well for Lord of the Rings Online, so it might work here too.
So, what do you think, TORWarriors? Do you want to have a personal home in the game other than your ship? If so, how would you like to see them implement it? Do you think they actually will give us something like this? Let’s hear what you have to say on the matter!