Player Owned Housing

So I don’t know about you, but I personally have always been a fan of the Player Owned Housing systems typically found in MMOs and RPGs. The idea of having your own personal space which can be decorated with your heroic endeavours (or plain old furniture) has always been charming to me, and with the release of ESO’s Homestead update which adds (surprise surprise) Player Owned Housing, I thought I’d look back on some of my favourite versions of this feature in gaming.

To begin with, though, I’ll add that I’ve barely scratched the surface of ESO’s Homestead update. As a poor, lowly level 30ish character, I don’t feel the pull to immediately go home hunting, knowing in my heart that I won’t be able to afford much more than the free inn room that the opening quest awards you. I have a clip of my reaction upon entering my “House” for the first time, though:

Cosy.

Before moving on from the topic of ESO, I will add that what I have seen of the furnishing system looks very well done and fleshed out. It’s not grid or tile based; nor is it a simple options menu that allows you to select what you put in your house, but not where, as was the case in Skyrim (and Runescape, incidentally, discussed below). ESO’s furnishing system allows full free to place your furniture and collections anywhere. And, er, I mean anywhere.

20170209193805_1
It has idle animations, too. The breathing wallhorse is a sight to behold.

So anyway, my first real housing system was in Runescape, and it comes in the form of one of its many skills, Construction. Any Runescape player that isn’t a billionaire will happily tell you how much of a bitch Construction is to train, as it’s one of the most expensive skills in the game. Obviously you have to buy your plot of land, and then each room costs money too – a pittance, really, but to a low-levelled player with little money, it’s a fair gold sink. You also have to pay to upgrade the size of your land, to allow for expansion. The real money sink, however, comes in the form of planks, which you need to build the majority of your furniture. Planks cannot be made by the player. The player must take logs to the sawmill and pay 500gp each to have them made into planks, a cost which adds up alarmingly quickly given how many planks you’ll be needing.

Besides this, however, the housing system is great… though on second thoughts, I may be looking at it through rose-tinted glasses, seeing as room furnishing layouts are unchangeable, you can simply construct different tiers of furniture within the highlighted spaces. Regardless, it’s still a satisfying feeling to upgrade your wonky, uncomfortable parlour chairs into cushioned seats, and to add more functionality to your kitchen as you go along. My favourite part about Runescape’s housing system was always the player-run house parties you could attend back in the day. I don’t know if anyone still bothers with them, but last time I checked, the house party world was devoid of, erm, parties. That being said, they may have all moved to Prifdinnas, a high level area I’m yet to unlock.

runescape-house-1
Here’s my attempt at capturing the entire downstairs of my house. Yes, it’s wonky shaped. Can’t be helped!
runescape-house-2
And here’s the upstairs. Bit less filled out, working on it!

Another one of my favourite housing systems belongs in Skyrim, though there are two types of houses in that game. The first one that shipped with the vanilla game consists of you unlocking the ability to buy a house, buying the house, and then buying each room from the steward to become fully furnished. Quite basic, but functional, and homely enough to enjoy living in. Plus, the cost was well-tailored to make it obtainable, whilst maintaining the satisfaction of making a hefty purchase to secure your own home.

The second version launched with the Hearthfire DLC, and allows you to build a house from scratch, adding from a choice of different wings as your house expanded. Much like Runescape though, you didn’t choose your furniture so much as unlock it. This is perhaps a little more forgiveable given that it’s a single player RPG, and players are therefore unlikely to think of making their home unique a priority. It’s a good place to store the wife and kids, anyway. And speaking of storage, houses in Skyrim acted as a sort of bank, in that they contained safe chests for you to store all your dragon bones and cheesewheels in.

skyrimhouse
I always liked this screenshot of my house.

Player Owned Housing is a system that has been requested in World of Warcraft for many years now. In fact, one gate at the end of the Stormwind Canals had an inaccessible instance portal which the devs later admitted was going to lead into player housing. However, they said they’d only ever add it to the game if it had a function other than the novelty of owning a house. Player owned housing is still an often requested feature, but what many players don’t realise is that the Garrisons of Warlords of Draenor was a take on that concept. Players were given their own garrison which only they could enter, and it provided many in-game purposes regarding quest lines, professions, and conveniences such as accessing your bank and various vendors. Garrisons are retrospectively viewed as one of the worst ideas in the WoW, as they removed the multiplayer aspect by giving players too much accessibility in their private garrisons, and the mobile type gameplay of the mission tables one used to govern their garrison followers ensured that the player didn’t even have to complete dungeon or raiding content to get the best gear.

What players don’t realise – or seem to have forgotten – was the initial success of the Garrisons system, before it became apparent that they were going to lead into the death of gameplay. For the first time in Warcraft history, players had their own space in-game that they could customise (albeit to a very limited degree) and make their own. I remember reddit flooding with positive feedback about the system for a good month, and I myself was delighted with having my own base of operations. This, of course, didn’t last, and I soon despise my garrison as much as everyone else. Now we’re in Legion, however, I’ll admit that it’s not so bad when revisiting Warlords of Draenor’s content, although the lack of any cosmetic customisability is disappointing.

wowscrnshot_080416_200857
Disregard the fact that my spellbook is open. This is totally not a salvaged screenshot of the only picture I have of my garrison on my hard drive. LOOK I’M NOT SUBSCRIBED RIGHT NOW OKAY

There were, of course, plenty of other games that allowed you the ownership and customisation of your own house. An old web game I used to play called Gaia Online is still around:

gaia-house
I’m surprised this is still around.

I remember trying out Everquest 2 specifically for the player housing:

eq2-housing
Picture taken on my old, dying laptop, hence the horrible graphics quality.

And of course, the most cutting edge player housing of them all:

club-penguin-igloo
Club Penguin, home of accidental intimidation.

All in all, there are plenty of games which give you your own house to dick around in, and I’m always drawn to the objective of owning my own place. Maybe it’s what drew me to Minecraft and Animal Crossing. Well, in the meantime, here’s another goofy EQ2 screenshot:

eq2-housing-2
Welcome to Jackass.

The Death of Club Penguin

Bloody hell, remember Club Penguin? I decided to revisit it with a friend just last week after being thoroughly surprised to find it still going. To my surprise, the game was very recognisable and largely unchanged since I’d last logged in sometime around 2008…ish. Well, anyway, apparently the servers are shutting down at the end of March so that Disney can focus on pushing their new mobile version for the iPhone kiddies of today, which is sure to be riddled with more microtransactions than you can shake a flipper at. So I’ve decided to reboot this gaming blog after it’s unplanned month’s hiatus (sorry about that) to take a trip down memory… berg?

Ugh. That was terrible.

My original penguin was called KrazyK3000, and as that name is currently available for registration and I couldn’t log into it, I’m willing to bet it’s been deleted. I’ll never know for sure, seeing as the password recovery email was sent to my Dad’s old AOL email account… god knows that’s lost to the ages. I did, however, use my own email account to write in ideas for the game, and I still have access to that one. Here’s one of the two ideas I sent:

Hi. This isn’t exactly a BIG enquiry – if anything, a suggestion – but there’s no other place to ask.

I was a member for a month, and I can’t be one anymore. It’s really frustrating not being able to uby any clothes so I was wondering – maybe make the clearence sales available to all players? Or make a section for all players?

Think of it this way – the players of club penguin would wear these clothes, and think – hang on, I want the modern clothes/normal clothes. I’m becoming a member!

I’m not going to ask for furniture in igloo’s – that’s too much to ask.

Please take my idea into thought 🙂

Club Penguin had – and as far as I’m aware still has – a membership feature, allowing players to buy clothes and igloo (player owned housing) decorations with in-game coins. Free to play penguins had to suffer a life of nudity and empty igloos no matter how many coins they made, and as such membership was highly coveted by those without it. They sent me back a very polite no:

Hello,

You certainly sent your suggestion to the right place!  We will consider your idea but I cannot promise that free penguins will be able to purchase clearance items.  If you can think of any other ways that we can improve Club Penguin be sure to let us know.

Don\’t forget to collect the pin because the next one will be hidden on January 30th!

Have a great day,

Club Penguin Support

That was fine though, because the real fun to be had in Club Penguin was in the minigames. My favourite memory of the game is playing the Gone Fishing minigame until 1am as my father had fallen asleep on the sofa and failed to order me to bed. I was also a big fan of the pizza making game, and knew a secret that let you change the game so that you made chocolate pizzas instead of normal ones. I also vaguely remember the launch of an in-game dojo, and some sort of card minigame that went with it. You could beat other players and earn different coloured belts to show your prestige.

My favourite place to hang out in-game was the Coffee Shop, despite the fact that there really wasn’t much to do there. I remember particularly enjoying the soundtrack:

It reminds me oddly of Spyro the Dragon, retrospectively. At the time I thought the music was peaceful, though now I’d say it’s oddly funky. And the mere usage of that word makes me sound too old to be reminiscing about Club Penguin.

After what I somehow interpreted as a positive response to my first suggestion, I went on to send a much more enthusiastic email to the Club Penguin Support Team regarding one of my wilder and more original ideas:

Here’s another idea for you =] (Amn’t I great?)

Rockhopper Back – With ORANGE puffles!
“Yeah, yeah, another puffle, so what?”
-Available to all players (even if they already have 2) hwile they’re on sale on the migrator.
-Only available to members in the pet shop afterwards.
-Special trick – Burns an orange doorway in the air, and emerges through another orange doorway on the other side of the igloo.
-Special trick on full stomach – burns an orange doorway in the air just above the ground, and appears out of one higher up, falling repeatidly.
-Eating food: Opens mouth wide open, eats the bowl whole with the food, an orange doorway appears, the bowl slides out.
-Taking a bath: I dunno, sorry.

Or you can think up your own cool tricks, at least go with the orange puffle?

Idea colours for future puffles:

– Light green
– Dark Blue (not purple)
– Rainbow/Colour shifter
– White (Maybe turns invisible?)

Please take my ideas into consideration 😛

If anyone is lost, a “puffle” is a kind of furball which can be bought as a pet in Club Penguin. Free players could buy a red and a blue one, whereas members had a few extra options to choose from. The odd thing is, I was never a huge fan of them, and I’m pretty sure that I submitted this idea more as an attempt to influence the shape of the game than being legitimately excited for them.

Anyway, here’s the pacifying response:

Hi there,

Thank you for your fantastic idea.  It\’s so great to see how creative penguins can be.

It is always so exciting when Captain Rockhopper returns with surprises for all his penguin friends and orange Puffles would be quite a find out at sea! You have clearly put a great deal of thought into what orange Puffles would be like, and I especially like the part where they could burn orange doorways in mid air and then use them to transport around. Your truly an inspiring penguin and although I can not promise we will be able to use your suggestions, I will definitely share them with the rest of the team at our next meeting!

Keep sending in your terrific thoughts and have a great day!

Waddle and imagine on,

Club Penguin Support

Very professional and complimentary, and I can only guess as to whether this was actually brought up in any meeting, but as yellow puffles were introduced a short time later I think it’s only fair to say that I belong in the credits as a Lead Designer with the Most Original Idea Ever in the History of Anything.

All joking aside, it’s a shame to hear that they’re shutting the game down, and I’m sure I’ll log on during the Great Penguin Doomsday soon to come. As childish and memefied as the game is, it provided legitimate hours of fun for young Kristian, and I’ll miss being able to revisit it during bouts of nostalgia.