AA: Housing the way it should be done

If you ask any well-informed MMO player what two games have/had the best housing in the genre, the answer will be UO and SWG. It’s those two titles by a landslide, with basically everyone else in a distant, forgettable pile. The common thread between those two classics? Open world, non-instanced housing. Instanced housing by comparison is just a sad, cheap Sims knockoff mini-game the devs tossed in to +1 their MMO bullet list of features.

Moving past the obviously predictable, ArcheAge also has open-world housing, which already puts it ahead of most. Layer on top of that real functionality (farming that is critical to crafting, which itself is critical for everything else), and you have the basis for something pretty special.

If we go back to UO (and perhaps SWG, although my experience with that game is limited because, well, it was SW), the two biggest issues people had were the ‘urban sprawl’ of too many houses, and the fact that once a house was placed, that was basically it for that spot. AA has systems that fix both problems.

For the urban sprawl issue, housing is limited to certain spots, although said spots are often varied and in interesting spots rather than generic “housing corner” areas. When you come across housing locations they still feel organic, while at the same time you won’t find a house plopped in the middle of your quest location. It’s a solid compromise, though it perhaps leans a little too much towards themepark; I would have preferred more ‘prime location’ housing areas, though perhaps that’s something that happens in the later zones (still just level 26).

The second and IMO bigger issue of houses never going away is fixed with the tax system. If you don’t pay your taxes, you eventually lose ownership, the land is cleared, and someone else is able to come along and claim it. This system will ensure that inactive accounts can’t clutter a server, and will also make hunting for a housing spot a constant activity, rather than the one-and-done scan that it was in early UO (UO would later add a taxing system as well, I believe).

The big non-issue with open-world housing is availability, and especially with prime location availability. A location is a prime location because it’s limited. In the real world a large portion of a house’s value is based on location, meaning not everyone can have a mansion in the most ideal spot. This creates structure, demand, and a pecking order. Those with more can afford better, and almost everyone works to move on up the ladder.

An MMO retaining the gameplay of moving on up isn’t a negative, unless of course you are an entitled little brat who just stands around crying ‘gimmie gimmie gimmie’ and doesn’t actually want to work towards something. For everyone else, the added value of location is fantastic, as it gives everyone something to work towards. Players can make a solid income by snatching up locations and reselling them, and just about anyone can get something if they pay enough. That isn’t a problem, it’s an amazing feature. Tossing all of that in the trash by instancing your housing is a crime, not an improvement, and it’s nice to see at least one game build on a great feature from previously great MMOs.

On our server (Ollo) we currently have a large chunk of land claimed in one of the level 50 zones, as one of us was able to get in early and make a deal, basically buying out a guild that had put down a few houses in that area. Currently we have this section claimed by placing one small house and multiple farms around it (preventing others from interrupting our ‘chain of land’), but this area will be redone with a bigger house and more structured farming as soon as we have the resource to do so. It’s an exciting, long-term plan that will not only provide a good looking, but also highly functional space for us to use for our future housing and crafting needs. Unless of course we flip it for something better, which is always an option. Again, more on the personal side in a future post.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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16 Responses to AA: Housing the way it should be done

  1. “If you ask any well-informed MMO player…”

    For the very specific SynCaine definition of “well-informed” I guess.

    • SynCaine says:

      Is there another contender?

      • bhagpusss says:

        In terms of the way the houses are placed in the world, their accessibility, the effort required to build them and all aspects other than the gardening/farming minigame and the PvP related destructibilty, ArcheAge housing is identical to Vanguard’s.

        As several bloggers I read (notably Ardwulf) have observed, ArcheAge is similar to Vanguard in quite a number of ways.

        • SynCaine says:

          “other than the gardening/farming minigame and the PvP related destructibility, ArcheAge housing is identical to Vanguard’s.”

          Those two things (harvesting is more of a core economic activity rather than a minigame) make them not equal at all IMO.

          Plus the setting matters too, AA isn’t Vanguard in a number of very important ways when it comes to long-term goals, which further adds value to AA housing over Vanguard.

  2. Rohan says:

    Heh, quite a turnaround from your Snap Judgement back in August.

  3. GamerDroid says:

    From what I’ve read of your past posts regarding F2P I’m surprised that you support such a system and business model. Land is only limited is to entice paying customers while handy-capping F2P player. By buying into this game you are normalising subscription and cash-shop business models. This seriously undermines game quality.

    Put it this way: any new updates won’t be aimed at improving quality of gaming experience; it will be aimed at getting as much cash as possible from it’s players.

    This posts feels very much like a sell-out of principles for the next shiny shiny.

    • SynCaine says:

      Housing as it relates to subs/not subs is pretty simple: People who sub can own houses, people who don’t can’t. How is that any different from a trial account that can’t own a house vs someone who subs being able to?

      I’ve stated in the past and will continue to state that I wish AA was a sub-only game; it would be better. I’d pay $25 a month for a sub-only option if only Trion would let me. It’s worse due to the F2P model, as basically all MMOs are worse when they go F2P.

      • GamerDroid says:

        Yet this is not marketed as a subscription game; it is marketed as a F2P game. Not to mention that it already failed as a full subscription game in Asia, although I’ve no idea why, given that many appear to like it. However, the genre will not shift unless people refuse to participate. I dunno; maybe it’s too late.

        I’m completely done with the genre atm. Everything feels like a massive cash grab and the absolute worst kind of capitalism.

    • zaphod6502 says:

      I think it is only fair that people who pay for the game receive the best benefits both with respect to housing access, priority queue access, and bonus labor generation. ArcheAge is at its core is a subscription based game.

      As for land being limited this is a conflict driver. For a guild to become successful you need a strong real estate base for farms. This requires money. Money is gained by doing trade runs and playing the market. The best trade runs are done by travelling over the ocean to the opposing factions continent. Then you must contend with pirates and other sundries to survive the journey.

      Everything in the game exists to generate conflict and PvP. It’s a great game design.

  4. Whorhay says:

    I had an idea that strikes me as working towards solving some of the blight issues.

    1. Make a big enough wold. Too often the world seems big until you start considering if there is enough housing for everyone, then you realize the world is actually improbably small.

    2. Have cities and villages with more realistic sizing, and don’t have unuseable buildings wasting space. SWG was a huge offender here. It had hundreds if not thousands of buildings in cities everywhere that went unused and could have been rented as housing.

    3. Allow placement of houses and other buildings selectively. Around existing cities and such institute zoning rules that prevent or encourage placement structures where a city would reasonably want them. Have leases for properties payed to the cities and areas in which they are located. Limit a cities ability to payout bounties and such based on it’s income from transactions in it’s jurisdiction as well as lease payments. Periodically put very popular sites up for auction, so that one lessee can’t hold and continue a lease indefinitely.

    4. Structures placed out of existing jurisdictions still require upkeep expenses, which are used to pay out bounties for other players possibly accomplishing those fixes, or maybe clearing out nearby monsters. Not paying results in the structure being demolished. Houses near prime areas, such as desirable monster spawns or natural resources cost more to maintain. And like SWG allow players to establish their own cities.

  5. silvertemplar says:

    I’m also admittedly having some entertainment out of this game. I started off completely F2P to see how far i can get. I was stuck in queues, rerolled on the new servers and at about lvl 15 decided it is simply better to sub, not having labor points when i log in was really limiting my play options.

    Switching servers also amplifies the effect of non-instanced housing and i really like it, really brings back SWG memories. Original server i was on, the starting zones on the East continent was packed with housing and i didn’t actually realize how much of it was player owned until i switched to the new server to suddenly see all these empty spaces.

    I think you can get pretty far as F2P if you really need to though, i successfully farmed on “public lands” and harvested from it without anyone finding my cleverly hidden-between-static-content stuff.

    So yea, i’m not really playing this for the PvP, i’d probably do it, but i really like the idea of “trade routing” and non-instanced type of building combined with a relatively decent (albeit stuck in 2011) combat system. I am a sucker for flying and sailing too.

  6. GamerDroid says:

    I feel that one of the major issues regarding players’ sense of entitlement is that progression, for most, is still very solo based. We have other MMOs to blame for furnishing this type of solo play in multiplayer games. To resolve this issue, owning property should be at a group level and should be fought over, like in Darkfall for example. This still allows for competition and removes the plight of the angry, entitled gamer. Although to be fair, TRION does state that if you pay you can own land.

    • SynCaine says:

      I guess AA has guild-level holdings on the third (still locked on NA) continent, which if I understand correctly, is all open PvP, and guilds that own castles can set tax rates on the housing plots.

  7. Polynices says:

    Are there any especially good resources for the game that you’re using? Google obviously works but I thought I’d ask. Having gotten me hooked on CoC, it’s possible the same could happen with AA.

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