Sometimes when I feel that I’m getting unduly frustrated or cranky with an MMO, I’ll levy a self-imposed “time out” and just walk away from the game for a while. That’s often necessary to keep emotions and bitterness from spiraling out of control, not to mention combating one of the core issues of burnout. So after my rant about Guild Wars 2′s story, I decided it was time for a little break.
That ended up being a good thing. I got a lot more TSW time in, and my crankiness faded. I still stand by what I said, but I know I also have to be open to what the team might have in the future.
I felt okay skipping most of the Tower of Nightmare update after doing the opening instance, but after coming back last Saturday, I decided to do a gaming blitz and see how much I could get done toward the meta-achievement. It turns out “a lot,” although I’m still only at 9 out of 14 or something with the new content patch dropping this week. There’s still so much I do enjoy about GW2, in particular its combat and ease of access, so I don’t want to go stomping off just because I’m in a snit over story.
The meta-achievement for Tower of Nightmare is an obelisk that you can put in your home instance for a free skill point a day. This is the third (or so) reward from living story updates that have done this, and to date has been the only hint of customization with home instances.
The reward got me thinking about housing in GW2, as well as WildStar, WoW, EverQuest Next Landmark, and other titles that have put a recent premium on housing. I think if Guild Wars 2 decided to do proper housing, it would most likely be just great. Just great. But what we have is this weird vestigial tail of a feature that was only lightly discussed before launch and greatly ignored since then.
So let’s put aside criticism and consider what Guild Wars 2 could actually do with a home instance. A couple of the building blocks are already there: the ability to invite friends into your instance, the integration into your capital city, and (as mentioned) very small changes that offer limited functionality.
What I always, always want to see with player housing are two things: (1) a great deal of personal customization and (2) a great deal of functionality. I don’t want it to look like everyone else’s, and I don’t want it to just be eye candy with no other use. We need a feature set that is fun to use, tempting to use, and can give players social options and spaces.
It’s a little tricky when you consider that there’s this entire home instance, because that’s almost too big to modify unless, say, only one structure in the instance would be your “home” to do with as you please. The team could take the WoW route with garrisons, which is certainly captivating a lot of imaginations at the moment.
I’d love to see a lot of loot in the world be elements that we could bring back to the home instance to use: paint for houses, new structure types, furniture, special vendors, mini-games, music (such as LOTRO’s music options for its housing), NPCs and the like. I’d really like it if the game took a cue from EverQuest II and allowed you to let your mini-pets roam around as well. Or how about a garden that I could cultivate and grow cooking mats?
But going beyond this, what if home instances could be made to allow players to create their own kind of interactive content for others? What if I could make a scavenger hunt for people to play, or toggle a freeze tag setting, or scripted a marching parade? What if crafters could get together for competitions or actors use a functional stage and props to put on a show? What if I could even make a gladiator pit, fill it with monsters I capture in the world, and then challenge players to compete for a prize?
I know that it’s so much easier to brainstorm this sort of thing than it would be to put it into practice, so I’m not demanding that it all be done. I’m just pointing out that there’s an opportunity here, a mostly blank canvas that ArenaNet could fill with player tools and see what happens.