Monday, October 29, 2007

A look at LotRO housing

So I had the opportunity to play around with the new player housing feature of Lord of the Rings Online, and wanted to share my observations.

On the positive side the houses in LotRO sure are beautiful. Being in instanced neighborhoods enabled Turbine to give us houses with a garden around them. They really *feel* like houses, not like appartments as in EQ2. And they come with two useful features: One is the ability to teleport to your house from whereever you are, and the other is the ability to store items in your house. Additional minor features are a mailbox on your doorstep, which sounds very logical, but is unique to the MMORPG world; in all other games the mailboxes are communal. And there is a banker and an NPC furniture vendor in the neighborhood.

On the negative side there is no feature to turn your house into a shop and sell crafted goods from it, which was always my favorite housing feature in UO or SWG. And the house decorating feature is primitive: You can't freely place stuff, there are fixed spots. For example my bed stands in the middle of a room, because there was no possibility to put it against the wall. And while the other room has a table in the middle, the chair stands in a corner, because there wasn't a spot foreseen to put the chair next to the table. I couldn't even find how to rotate things. House decoration is much more elaborate in any other MMORPG offering housing that I know.

Ethic from Kill Ten Rats has a problem on his server that all the cheap houses sold out, but the deluxe and kinship houses remain unsold, and no new neighborhoods are opening until they are. Putting a fixed number of houses of each type per neighborhood was probably a bad idea. I would have put small houses on every plot, with the ability to upgrade the houses to something bigger if need be. Ethic also thinks that putting farmland and a village center into every neighborhood is a bad idea, because while it livens up the neighborhoods, it risks deserting the non-instanced towns.

I'm pretty much neutral on the new LotRO housing. I like some things, but housing is still far from perfect. I would have made the neighborhoods smaller, thus having the houses closer together with more possibilities to meet the neighbors. And I would have made the system far more flexible. I also was disappointed that while I could set my alt to have full access to my house, including the storage, he would need to buy his own house to get the teleport home feature. But maybe Turbine will still improve housing a bit, and for a first try it isn't half bad. Beats WoW housing by lengths. :)

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