02/07/2014

Hooked on Housing?

With the delay of Galactic Strongholds, many SWTOR players feel that the game is suffering from a bit of a content draught right now. I'm inclined to agree that it kind of feels that way when you consider the size of previous patches, but I can't really blame the devs when it's obvious that they are pouring all their resources into the next two large releases right now (housing and the as of yet unnamed story expansion). Not to mention that SWTOR is still pretty good about its content patch cycle compared to a lot of the competition.

Either way it was interesting to read today's developer update by Jesse Sky, giving us a sneak peek of Galactic Strongholds and hopefully rekindling some player interest in the process. There is some stuff in there about how you'll get your stronghold and how other people will be able to access it, but the biggest bit of news was that the system will be hook-based.

Unsurprisingly that immediately sent some people howling on the forums, especially after Eric Musco emphasised at the Vancouver Community Cantina that SWTOR's housing system would be "different and new". To be fair, it does seem different and new to me in so far as it tries to strike a balance between limiting players to what seems sensible (e.g. furniture going on the floor, wall decorations going on the walls) but still giving them as much freedom as possible at the same time. Anyway, haven't all the recent housing additions to MMOs been more or less freeform anyway? RIFT? Wildstar? Why should all games have to follow the same rules?

There are definitely advantages to having some limitations. I reckon that for every wannabe artist that feels let down by being unable to make things float in the air and hates being blocked from manually building a piano out of a hundred teacups, a system like this will win over at least one player who would've otherwise just dumped all their decorations on the floor and gone: "Screw this, I can't be bothered with meticulously placing all this crap in three dimensions." Honestly, I suspect that I'm more likely to fall into that latter category myself. Admittedly I've never played an MMO that had housing before, but I know that building in The Sims was always a bit of a chore for me when all I really wanted was a serviceable house to be able to actually play with my Sims.

So I'm on board with what they previewed so far. The only thing that worries me are the repeated comments about how the UI is just a placeholder as the system is still in alpha. Isn't this whole thing supposed to launch in a little over a month? I would've thought that a major new system like that would have to be in beta by now.

4 comments:

  1. Given the complaints I've seen from some folks about housing in Wildstar --Njessi's quip about not being able to use a L42 toilet, for example-- I don't think it's that big a deal.

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  2. Personally it won't bother me. Rift's super-flexible housing system was inapproachable for me, EQ2's system I do love but I never produced a good looking house as I don't have the patience to lay stuff out in fine detail. The key for me to SWTOR's planned system is what items there will be and how you get them. If there's a wide variety of options, with continued support for more going forward then it'll be a great addition to the game. A good mix of lore-appropriate cultural/planet-themed stuff with the usual mission or instance momentoes would be a great start!

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  3. Having a more freeform building tool can be good -- there were some incredible supergroup bases created in City of Heroes, for example, but the item placement system meant that you had to be particularly finicky when placing items other than on a surface (i.e, placing elevated items to make walkways and floating objects). Having items placeable only in predefined locations will limit the ability to create free-form layouts, but it will be more generally accessible, in that it will automatically prevent players from creating jumbled-together designs you can't walk through. I do wish that the devs would have made more 'themes' available -- every stronghold on a planet will have the same basic style to the housing, which you're unable to alter. Being able to alter the basic color scheme, lighting color, and stock style (i.e., the things _between_ the hooks you can't change), even if just picking from a list of three or four choices. Take the Nar Shaddaa stronghold, with its gold-and-brown color scheme; being able to pick that, or two shades of brushed steel, or cream and tan, make the lighting white instead of yellow, and have the fixed wall lights be a continuous glowing cylinder between the upper and lower fixtures instead of the two little arcs would give people a greater feeling of making it _theirs_, rather than being someplace they're renting where the lease won't let them paint or change the wall sconces.

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    1. I think your suggestion of "themes" would indeed be a nice one - but I could see them implement something like that later on if there's demand for it, as it's just a matter of reskinning some things. I understand that working out the basic kinks of the item placement system has to be the priority now.

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