I’m glad that Wolfshead continues to take Blizzard (and to a lesser extent, Tom Chilton) to task for dismissing player housing. Yes, it’s an old drum that we continue to beat, but it’s just one of those things that absolutely boggles my mind — not just that WoW doesn’t have housing, but that Blizzard seems so dead set against it for vague reasons that are unbeknownst to us lesser mortals. And that irks me, because I see a lot of other companies looking to Blizzard as the pace-setter, and when they pish-posh housing, why should the upstarts even bother?
I’ll admit that player housing isn’t for everyone. It’s not. But not all aspects of MMOs are. My stance is that the more you strip out so-called “fluff” from MMOs to streamline them into questing/combat/PvP machines, the more you’re killing the soul of the games. You’re creating a chess board with no frills — just strategy, combat and conquest. To me, MMORPGs are the sum of their parts, which is one reason why I continue to advocate Fallen Earth. Its individual parts are, more or less, substandard than what you can find elsewhere, but together they form a Voltron-like monolith of awesomeness.
I’m also more than a little bit confused, because when you think about it, player housing really is within Blizzard’s current modus operandi for World of Warcraft. It’s casual-appealing. It’s fluffy. It could add tons of replay value for gamers to go on a world-wide hunt for furnishings and trophies. As Blizzard’s spent so much time throwing in stuff like the achievement system, non-combat pets and holidays — and as they see how much people like and crave those features — is it so hard for them to take a step further and see that player housing is ideal for their game and that demographic? Seeing as how there’s even signs that they fiddled with this in the past, it really shouldn’t be.
I know LOTRO’s housing is looked down upon by other titles, but when I was in the game this past year, it really meant a lot to me to have that little hobbit hole for my goodies and visual achievements when I wanted to visit. More than anything else the game did, it made me feel at “home”. It was the game showing me visually that I had a place in the world, that I wasn’t just a drifter, that my character had an origin, a home, and I could return there whenever I pleased. It was sublime.
And it’s not even as though player housing is this far off, pie in the sky concept — it’s actually far more the norm than not in most of the major MMOs. Ultima Online, EQ2, Wizard101, Guild Wars, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Runes of Magic, Dark Age of Camelot, Free Realms, Darkfall, Age of Conan all offer some sort of player or guild housing to enjoy.
So yeah, WoW will probably never have player housing, until they do, at which point they’ll pretend as if they invented housing first and will ignore the fact that they flip-flopped on their stance. And as several other MMORPGs offer housing — I’m crossing my fingers for TOR, I really am — it’s not as if we don’t have alternatives, as long as we’re willing to go elsewhere for gaming. I’ll just echo Wolfshead’s seniments by saying that Blizzard should be a lot more open as to why they’re not even considering housing at this point, or they should take a long, hard look at this stance. There’s confidence in where you’re going with your game, and stupid overconfidence that you can do no wrong. That line gets crossed all the time by all sorts of developers. And it’s a shame.