I still remember the first day I found true love, that day was Thursday the 26th of June 2003. Star Wars Galaxies launched its NA servers and my mind exploded over one feature; player cities and housing. While I know Ultima Online was already rocking a pretty killer housing system, SWG would be the first time an MMORPG would present a player housing system that appealed to me personally.
Great Player Housing: Where Art Thou?
For those of you who weren’t there for the experience, SWG hosted a lot of planets with expansive terrain that allowed for thousands of players to create cities and plot houses on the ground anywhere outside of NPC territory. Once you found a nice empty plot of land or a player city to build in you were able to decorate your house with hundreds of items and some clunky movement controls which were a pain but did a brilliant job. Buildings went further than houses though, you had different clan halls, city halls, vendors etc. You were able to craft a real city with your own layout and make it home.
I was spoilt rotten by this point and a little monster was created inside of me that demanded more, my heart sinks with every new MMO being released that doesn’t feature something related to player housing, and the ones that do so far just aren’t breaking the mould. This has left me with one question, where is the good player housing?
In real life we work to pay for our home and within this home we like to decorate them in order to express our own tastes and interests. Whether you are decorating and furnishing a bedroom or a home, you are not only making it something of your own you are also turning it into your ideal hangout spot. This all creates a sense of possession, something unique to you and I believe a lot of MMOs could retain their community for a lot longer with features such as player housing. If you give a player something they feel they own and worked hard to make unique to them, they will be more hesitant to part with it.
I know there are plenty of options available at the moment, games like Vanguard, Darkfall, Lord of the Rings Online Everquest 2 and many more offer player housing, but look at the age of these games. Beyond their age there is the fact that all of these games while having some really cool features for housing are lacking so badly in other areas that it breaks the experience. We can do better, we have the technology and we have the talent; who will step up to the plate?
A lot of games failed to include this feature due to the amount of room it requires and instanced based housing is generally a mess and breaks immersion. The size of the world can’t be a complaint anymore and is becoming irrelevant, even years ago SWG proved that you can implement player cities and expansive terrain in an efficient manner. I’ll stop right here to quickly say this, littering of houses and clutter wasn’t a problem in SWG until the devs went and ruined the game and drove away their players. Before then it was vibrant communities that were always active. We know it can be done and by now someone should be able to do it better. The size of the world isn’t a problem if it is easy to navigate. Just think about it, how much fun are you still having exploring tiny Azeroth after six years?
So where is our glimmer of hope? Who will craft a world that can truly be inhabited by its players, where communities are actual communities and houses aren’t just a template decoration with little to no customization. I have been saving the last pieces of hope I can muster for one newer project, if this game fails to deliver then this rocky relationship with the one feature that sucked me in to this world will be coming to an end. The game I speak of is ArcheAge and will allow players to build housing and cities anywhere there is free land; gods speed ArcheAge you are my only hope.