Some days I wonder whether Turbine truly regrets creating housing for Lord of the Rings Online. It’s one of those game systems that you really can’t do halfway; it’s all or nothing, and once you begin, players are going to want more and better things for it.
Except for the admittedly steady stream of housing items that enter the game and the occasional promise that a housing revamp (or whatever you call it) is on the team’s radar, housing in the game has more or less been the same since it first came into being. It’s not a system that all players use possibly because there isn’t much use to it, which makes for a strange catch-22, and Turbine has to be constantly evaluating how to spend its limited resources to impact the greatest number of people.
Still, a Hobbit can dream, can’t he? After hearing the wonderful news this week that WildStar will ship with a robust housing system, I couldn’t help but think back on LotRO’s current setup. Ideas formed in my head, ideas to make housing in Middle-earth not only relevant but downright engaging. What could get us to go “home” a little more often? Just hear me out.
Idea #1: City apartments
One of the things I’ve never been personally keen on is how inconvenient it is to travel to LotRO’s housing. Oh sure, you do get a port skill once you buy a house or join a kinship, but you don’t for the other neighborhoods, and you still are removed from the rest of society in an eerie ghost town.
So without ditching what we do have, why not also allow players to rent an apartment in Bree or Rivendell proper? Just have an instanced door to a few different types of buildings and spawn as many rooms as needed. Sure, you’d have a trade-off with houses, since you wouldn’t be able to use yard decorations, but that’s how it is in real life as well.
I’d love this. I’m in cities far, far more often than I am in the housing neighborhoods, and I know I’d be more inclined to visit my house while I’m there if it were available. Plus, LotRO could take a cue from EverQuest II and give new players a very basic flat for free at the start.
Idea #2: NPC visitors
Many of these ideas stem from other games I’m looking at or playing, so I’m not claiming 100% original thought here. I really like how some of the more recent games are placing an emphasis on reconnecting you with NPCs beyond one or two quick quests. So wouldn’t it be cool if characters you’ve met in your LotRO journeys would stop by your house from time to time to chat or catch you up on their lives?
I like my house, but it always feels very lonely to me, even if I buy a Dwarf to stand guard outside. Heck, I’d even settle for housepets to romp around the place.
Idea #3: Crafting workstations
When I read through the WildStar housing FAQ, I was pleasantly struck by the emphasis the developers put on giving your home purpose. We definitely need more of that in LotRO, and allowing crafters to buy, make, or quest for crafting workstations in their homes is a logical first step.
Is there really such a compelling case to keep crafters going to the cities instead of letting them work from home? I can bake in my house and whip up full suits of armor, so why not in-game?
Beyond that, the hobby system is ripe for exploitation by housing. Not only could we fish in our own backyard ponds, but maybe if there were gardening, painting, or other new systems added (just to be used in your house, mind you), we’d find a purpose to be there.
Idea #4: Special quests
I always liked coming back to my starship in Star Wars: The Old Republic. No, I couldn’t decorate or modify it to any degree, but sometimes quests and scripted events played out there that kept it from feeling like a lifeless husk. So why not create a few quests or events for homes that happen on occasion?
Maybe that well-preserved Orc’s head over your mantle attracted his twin brother Rolph, who shows up looking for a little revenge. Maybe your fireplace becomes haunted by a ghost who needs to be placated somehow. Maybe a holiday rolls around and you can complete a special deed by decorating a room for the season. Really, the sky’s the limit on these.
Idea #5: Player-created content
This is perhaps the most nebulous of my ideas, but I feel it’s worth mentioning. It’s a shame how many homes simply are never visited by anyone, ever, so what could Turbine do to change that? Give players the tools to turn their homes into interactive, engaging content that others can experience, that’s how.
What if you could create a scavenger hunt or a riddle for others to solve if they dropped by, one that would reward them with an item out of your housing chest? What if you could make your own haunted mansion for Halloween? What if you could plan out a small scripted play that would activate if someone dropped by?
Idea #6: Rohan housing
I don’t know about you, but I’m head-over-heels in love with Rohirric architecture at this point. Have you been to Stangard? Or seen the videos from the expansion? Rohan’s houses and buildings look 350% cooler than the housing of Eriador, and if I were offered the chance to move to one of these, I’d do so in a heartbeat.
Obviously, the developers have had a lot of fun creating these indoor spaces because each one in Stangard looks different. They feel like cozy log cabins with a less-generic fantasy bent than what the Men in Eriador came up with. We’re obviously not getting this for the expansion, but there’s no reason not to start working on this for the next one.