Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The cost of housing

I didn't blog much about player housing in EQ2 because I don't use my characters' houses for much. Mostly, I just deposit any quest reward house items I acquire in the starter Inn room so I don't have to store them anywhere else, and use it to house the all important portal that leads from the city that the character actually lives in to my guild's hall.

All that said, I'm happy the feature exists. It has been fun to visit other players' home storefronts, and occasionally give a moment's thought to how I'm organizing my own home before leaving it cluttered as always. This is possible because housing is cheap - the starter room at the Inn costs a mere 5 silver per week to maintain, and you can get several gold (=100 silver) just by selling random stuff you find in the newbie areas on the broker.

By contrast, I haven't even tried LOTRO's player housing. Though it sounds like a great feature - see Victor's post at MMEOW on the topic - I'm very nervous about the costs. My character is sitting on 4.5 gold (=1000 silver in this game, just to screw with you), but his cash flow has been trending slightly negative. Moria does offer a variety of repeatable quests for things like health potions that I would otherwise need to purchase at a markup from other players, but I haven't really been bringing in large sums of money because I'm actually crafting with my crafting harvests.

In context, I get around 7 silver per mob kill. A ride on the invincible goat taxi averages around 40 silver. My repair bill when I'm defeated runs around 100G. I also spend a fair amount of coin on cooking ingredients for the food I consume (which I can cook, it's probable that it would have been somewhat cheaper to buy someone else's food, but I hate to do that sort of thing). The weekly rental fee on entry level housing, is fine.

However, Turbine apparently decided that they didn't want players to game the system by opting to pay their rent when they feel like visiting their homes and abandoning the places when they did not without penalty. Fair enough, one could argue that EQ2 is a bit forgiving in that camp, especially given the relatively affordable rates. However, their solution to this was to implement a steep penalty curve - if you're gone too long, the price of reacquiring your house will jump to 75% of its original purchase price.

In the end, I should probably bite the bullet, buy a house, and make sure not to use it to store anything that I would be horribly sad to be without if I physically end up without the cash to pay the rent. That said, it seems odd to me that they chose this particular place to stick this particular time and money sink. Perhaps I'm overly conservative with my digital finances, but the whole arrangement makes me nervous, and that unease is deterring me from trying a feature that might otherwise be a selling point that keeps me in the game. You'd think that would be the opposite of Turbine's interest in this case.


Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Housing is probably one of my biggest disappointments in LotRO. I bought a house, but I'm not sure it was a wise investment. I instantly went for the "Deluxe" house for about 7.5 gold. Upkeep is 150 silver per week.

The problems as I see them are:

1. Houses are so far away from anywhere you want to be (like towns). Without a horse, you're looking at a several minute run from housing to a main town.

2. Houses have no real gameplay purpose. The only real gameplay function is to buy storage. With a deluxe house you get 2 more storage chests for 600 silver (on top of the house costs and rent).

3. There's no purpose to visit other houses. In EQ2, you could go to a house to save a bit on the cost of an item, so you had a reason to go visit someone's house, especially for more expensive items.

4. Housing decoration is really limited. You can only put items on hooks, and the hooks are in set locations. As compared to EQ2, where you could put anything just about anywhere and had a lot of room for creativity. My house is almost full, but it looks pretty much empty.

The end result is that the neighborhoods feel empty and unused, and you rarely run into other people. They're just not very convenient or interesting.

The one thing I do like about LotRO housing is that it is shared between all the characters on your account on that server. In theory, this would make a nice way to transfer items between your alts. In practice, it's just easier to mail things around.

My thoughts.

unwize said...

I get the impression some of the LotRO devs want to do a lot more with housing, but their limited development resources are focussed on endgame and new content. As far as the bigwigs are concerned, they can tick the housing box on the feature list and leave it at that.

The housing instances are nice areas, but yes, ghost towns. In hindsight, it would probably have been better to have a single outdoor instance for each neighbourhood (with shared buildings) increasing the likelihood that players would bump into each other.

Longasc said...

I bought a small house in the Shire next to the entrance/exit of the housing instance.

It seems you unlock some extra furniture when you level up, so far my house looks a bit like an odd collection of things.

I am not sure that you lose stuff when your "upkeep" expires. You can pay up front for several weeks, mine is running till October 10th IIRC.

Does your stuff not get placed in the "escrow" storage dude if you fail to pay the upkeep? And when can other players buy it, or will you keep it unusable for a grace period of time, to give you an opportunity to buy it back?

And if I wait too long and do not pay the upkeep, I will have to pay up to 75% of the original purchase price to get it back???`

I have to ask, as both LOTRO's Lorebook and the unofficial Wiki do not go into detail in this regard.

mbp said...

I agree that Lotro housing is underused - I would love if Turbine added some more functionality to encourage folk to return to their houses.

For me purchasing a small house was worth it though. AT 1G instead of 7G it is much much cheaper than a big house but you still get most of the benefits: a spot to hang your favourite trophies, a new bind point and quick access to a bank and merchant that doesn't suffer from the awful lag of the 21st hall. You also get a discount on repairs and pots from that merchant.

Personally I think Thorin's hall is the best spot because it is nearest to a major settlement. Some folk don't like the look of the dwarf housing but I have my own island - how cool is that?

For the record after a 6 month absence it cost me about 450 silver to get my small house out of hock. Not cheap but not outrageous. On the other hand seven times that for a large house just wouldn't be worth it.

Ysharros said...

Housing in LOTRO is based on the system Turbine used for Asheron's Call -- the item hooks for instance are drawn quite directly from that system. In AC though (this may have changed since I last played in, oh, 2004?), if you missed your rent something like twice, you'd lose the house. That was because the amount of housing was limited. Not my favourite feature, that's for sure.

I'm never quite sure why some games put in a system that's ENTIRELY fluff and then make it either inaccessible (level req) or unaffordable (money sink). If you're going to do that, you need to provide commensurate perks, which it seems LOTRO doesn't do.

EQ2's housing system is incredibly forgiving, but it means that if you leave the game and come back months or years later, you still have your house and you only have one week (instead of 3 years) of rent to pay. As far as I'm concerned this is no-brainer good.

Yeebo said...

The housing in LoTRO is fun, but it's totally a side game. Having some reason to get all those rare hunting and boss trophies adds some value. Most of the point of the seasonal events is also getting items for your house (rare wallpaper and such). Fishing is also almost utterly pointless unless you have a house. Having a house does add value to the game, but it's in areas totally perpendicular to the main game.

If none of those side games appeal to you, it's hard to argue it's worth paying 50-150 silver upkeep every week just for extra storage. Getting a third teleport point for all of your toons near Hobbiton or Thorin's hall can also be quite handy, but again it's borderline when you look at the total cost.