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.

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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.

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Here’s my attempt at capturing the entire downstairs of my house. Yes, it’s wonky shaped. Can’t be helped!
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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.

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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.

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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:

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I’m surprised this is still around.

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

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

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

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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:

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Welcome to Jackass.
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A Sensible, Concentrated Post on One Game

I have been playing way too many games simultaneously to really focus on one this week, and given that it’s my birthday and I’m going to be busy for most of the day, I think I’ll just list off what I’ve been playing and why!

World of Warcraft – The Early Levelling Update

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Me mighty cow man. Mighty cow man goes ‘moo’.

In a recent hotfix to the game, Blizzard went back and fine-tuned the 1 – 40 levelling experience. After many years of focusing almost entirely on the balance of the endgame experience, Blizzard admitted that they had woefully neglected that actual first time player’s levelling experience, and have finally begun tweaking damage, mob health and xp gains so that the creatures of the world actually put up a fight, rather than dying in one or two hits – even without heirlooms. (Heirlooms are levelling gear that can be bought for large sums of gold and are account-wide; they scale with your level and provide hefty bonuses to xp gained.)

With this update in mind, I decided to create a new character and try the early levelling experience out for myself. In order to keep the experience as fresh as possible, I chose the alternate faction to my typical choice, and chose a specialisation I was not familiar with (for I’ve played every class a decent amount at this point). Thus, Golgore the Arms Warrior was born.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. Up until now, I’d never realised just how much having heirloom gear takes away from the game, in that most of the gear you receive is useless to you. It’s wonderful to actually have rewarding quests that you look forward to handing in, and quest bosses which take a bit of concentration to get through. Things are still far from challenging, but as this is the early levelling experience, I’m sure that’s no mistake.

Runescape

There’s not actually too much to be said about this one which hasn’t already been said in my recent blog post on Runescape. I’ve still been playing a whole bunch of the game, and my current target is to get every level to at least 60 (I managed a minimum of 50 a few weeks ago).

AdVenture Capitalist

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Much as it may look like it, I’ve not spent a penny on microtransactions!

Oh no. Why did I open this game up again.

AdVenture Capitalist will ruin your life. It’ll turn you into a gaunt shell of a human being who checks the time wherever you are, wondering if your investments have made enough cash for you to buy 57 more Car Washes to hit your next milestone target and triple your Car Wash income. You’ll be biting your nails, anxiously waiting for the moment when you earn enough money for your angel investors to peak, hopefully to a point where your next playthrough will be even more lucrative. And have you earned enough money to exchange for a mega-buck yet? Because 10 of those babies will give you a golden ticket, and applying THAT to a business leads to more profits than you can shake an unsexagintillionth dollar at!

Well, anyway, when I first saw this free game, I looked at the achievements and thought, that sounds like an easy 100%. And, woe be to me, I was dreadfully wrong – especially when they added an extra planet and with it, more achievements to the game. Actually, that’s around the time I stopped playing, out of anger. But since I opened it back up the other day, I’ve been churning out more profits than ever before. Today, they’ve released an event, which is essentially a new planet that’s only available for a short amount of time, and awards you mega bucks, cosmetic badges and even gold (the buyable currency for impatient people) depending on how far through you get. Which reminds me, I should really check in on my businesses and make sure they’re running at optimal efficiency…

LEGO: Marvel Superheroes

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It’s okay, Hulk. We know you can’t help it 😦

LEGO games are great. I’ve already discussed my childhood love for LEGO Star Wars, and I’ve also already written a blog post about this game. Well, since that blog post I’ve finished the story mode, taken a quick break to finish university and have since delved back in to work towards 100% completion. Having criticised the lack of variety in gold brick missions before, I now feel somewhat guilty in realising that I’d simply been doing the same type of mission over and over again… woops.

I’m 25 hours into the game and I’m only on around 55% overall completion, according to the game’s calculations. There’s still plenty of characters to unlock, gold bricks to collect and an almost futile amount of studs to collect – my x3000 multiplier has made any stud sink irrelevant – and I’m sure I’ll be sad when it’s over.

Spore

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I found a planet called Bobermus. BOBERMUS.

Spore? Why Spore? Well, I had a hankering for a good space exploration game, and Spore has always fit the bill for me there. So long as you cheat yourself money in so you don’t have to bother with endlessly flying between colonies for spice, and you’re not afraid to genocide some arrogant race into next week’s moral crisis, you’re all good. I’ve been expanding outwards from the center of the galaxy rather than inwards for two reasons. One, I’m interested in what it’s like towards the end of one of those spirals (probably not that different, I just think it’d be cool). And two, I can’t be bothered to deal with the Grox yet. (They’re basically Spore’s Daleks.)

I’ve also been messing around with the creature creator for a bit, in an effort to populate my galaxy with races that aren’t generic or have lowercase names. (It is INFURIATING!) I’ve created one sensible creature and two monstrosities. If you have Spore, you can search for ‘krazyk095’ (an old username) to see my beautiful creations, including my earliest ones from 2008. For now, though, I’ll leave you with this adorable little fellow.

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I think he likes you!

Why Runescape?

Let’s go back to the summer of 2007. My friend had been getting on at me about trying out this game called Runescape, which I assumed was like any other flash game on the web, and subsequently didn’t bother with. I vaguely remember being confused by the world select screen. In fact, I also remember having to get my friend to log on to my account and complete tutorial island for me because I couldn’t figure out how to play the game. I was apparently not the brightest tool in the shed.

Okay, okay, I’ve discussed Runescape before, but I’ve been playing it again recently and I don’t feel like that blog post did it justice. I want to give an idea as to what my journey through Runescape was like. I have many fond memories, old and new.

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Taken in Oldschool Runescape. This is the kind of Lumbridge I’d have seen! It’s usually slightly busier but screenshot was taken in early morning.

I clearly remember my first impressions of the game when I started back in August, 2007. I thought Lumbridge was huge, and at the time, it was bustling with people wearing different coloured armour. As a fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed level 3 adventurer, my friend suggested I follow him, and so we went to Al Kahird. I’m not entirely sure why we went there, but I remember being attacked by level 2 Man NPC’s, and confusing them for players, and trying to convince my friend that I’d been attacked by players in a non PvP area. That was some confusion.

From there, I started to carve my own path through the game, and as I slowly got to grips with things I realised with awe how perfect this game was. Perhaps it’s something lost to either childhood or game quality (I’d wager the former), but the feeling of discovery and awe from finding a game you love doesn’t seem to happen anymore. I can still remember with vivid clarity how excited I was when I started playing Runescape and how huge the game felt to me. I remember the 2007 Halloween and Christmas events with ease, and even recorded so game footage through Unregistered Hypercam 2 which I’ve got archived away somewhere for instant nostalgia.

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The area of my assault in 07. Also, the progress on my main OSRS account. More on that later.

I convinced my dad to buy me membership sometime in 2008, and I had to migrate to a new account because for some reason it wasn’t letting me use membership on my first one. (I recently tried to log in to that account – it was hacked and subsequently banned for macroing. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t change your password for nine years.) This spawned what would be my main account for years to come, until we couldn’t justify the membership fees anymore sometime around 2009 or 2010 and I became demotivated by the severely handicapped free-to-play portion of the game (for instance, I had exceeded the possible bank limit for f2p players by hundreds and couldn’t store anything anymore). I’d log in every now and then over the course of the next few years, but I’d never really do much.

So let’s forward-wind to late 2013.

In late 2013 I began my university course, and alongside it, got a student loan. So of course, young and naive and reckless as I was all those 3 years ago, I was spending money on whatever the hell I wanted – notably a laptop that could handle Minecraft (as was my biggest wish at the time), Minecraft, a whole bunch of Steam games (Worms was so cheap!) and eventually a subscription to WoW. And wouldn’t you know it, my attention just happened to fall on Runescape. I could afford it now, couldn’t I?

(Disclaimer: I learned a lot from burning through my first student loan payment and am nowhere near that reckless with money anymore. Not that you care, but, you know… thought I’d clear that up.)

Foolishly, I made a completely new account. Why foolishly? Well, I made a new account with the intention of being called Kritigri instead of the somewhat outgrown username I’d had previously. I somehow overlooked the fact that members can change their in-game names once a month, and so the old account’s mementos from old holiday events and its ability to buy a veteran’s cape have fallen by the wayside as I immediately levelled Kritigri far past the old account’s progress of 3 years. This was partially because the game was easier, but also because I didn’t spend as much time ‘wasting xp’. I did log in to that old account recently to see if I could reset him as an Ironman account (no trading with players / using the auction house system, status symbol + fun modifier to the game), but you can only do that to newly created characters.

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My original (well, 2nd) account and my original skill progression. Also, veteran cape emote.

 

Fun fact – I paid for membership entirely so that I could play Old School Runescape, which had been out for around 6 months at that time and didn’t have a free-to-play section yet. My first impressions of Runescape 3 were that I couldn’t get my head around the new UI, and that it had changed too wildly for me to bother playing. Needless to say I’m glad I gave it another go, as the nostalgia of Old School soon ran out and the quality-of-life updates to RS3 became sorely missed after a while. It’s nice to be able to run for more than 30 seconds without having to walk everywhere for an hour waiting for your run to recharge. I inevitably transitioned from OSRS to RS3 and didn’t look back.

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My account today, and my progress. How times change.

Well anyway, with the release of NXT – Runescape’s new client and engine, ported over from Java and making the game far more smooth and optimised – I decided to buy a month’s RS3 membership and start levelling my character again, this time alongside a friend who has also been playing recently. I’ve almost gotten all of my skills to at least level 50, as well as pushing my highest skill to level 80. I’m just generally having a good time. I mentioned in my previous blog post on the game that it was a bad game due to most skills needing a click and waiting for resources to be gained, but there’s really more to it than that. The feeling of achievement and accomplishment is unmatched in any other game I’ve tried, and I’m sure I’ll continue to play and return to Runescape for as long as it exists.

Nostalgia vs Reality (Runescape)

Who here remembers Runescape? Raise your hand, come on, don’t be shy. Back in secondary school it sort of fell into an embarrassing guilty pleasure for whatever reason, but it’s just a video game and we’re all friends here. Come on, you know that Lumbridge soundtrack, sing it with me. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-DOO-doo-doo.

Well, anyway, I still play it sometimes. I was crazy about it in January and bought a year’s membership that, ah, hasn’t been used for its value. But whatever, I still hop on from time to time, and if you’re not in the know, the game is still being updated and is likely far different to how you remember it.

And before we go any further, I’d like to say that I like Runescape. I do. It’s fun. I enjoy it.

But is it a good game? Hell no!

There’s nothing wrong with the development or anything. It’s an MMO that they’ve created well, and put plenty of time into. It still gets regular updates after 14 years and if that’s not impressive I don’t know what is. The quests are superbly unique, the lore nowadays is surprisingly rich and the combat’s been revisited beyond the click and wait that it once was. (That being said, I prefer to use Legacy Combat.) The game is large, it has substance, it’s been designed well.

It’s the base that the game is built on that’s the problem. You have a number of skills to train and many of them include clicking and watching your character chop a tree or harvest memories or create a bow, and then clicking again. The xp curve required to reach higher levels is insane, with 92 out of a possible 99 levels being the technical halfway mark in terms of xp required. The game is quite literally a grindfest.

The other problem I have with the game is more a gripe of personal preference than anything. Should you die, you drop all but your 3 most valuable items, and whilst you have the opportunity to run back to your corpse, this makes me edge to the “stupid boring” side of the risk vs reward spectrum.

I’m not trying to insult the developers of the game here, for they’ve done a fantastic job. You can tell how much love and care has gone into the development of the game, despite what the somewhat toxic community might shout at you. This isn’t really meant to be a negative review, per se, for I enjoy the game and do recommend people to try it and see if it suits them. It’s just more of a Cookie Clicker than an RPG.

I maintain a faint aspiration of owning a skillcape someday, though with my highest level being 78 woodcutting I think it’s fair to say I’m a ways off. Due to the age of the game and it’s efficiency-crazy fanbase, you’ll often see world messages of players reaching level 99 in a skill, 99 in all skills, or even further milestones. Many people continue gaining xp for a skill past level 99 and use third party programs to estimate what level they would be, with 120 being the new 99 in most cases. There’s world messages for that, too. Makes me feel terribly inadequete.

Well, regardless, I’ll probably keep on playing this game casually until all of my skills are at a level where I’d have to grind for weeks to advance one level. Then I’ll probably give up and forget about the game for another five years until I make a new account. Such is the Runescape life.

faintly hums the Lumbridge Song