Tamriel Infinium: Four reasons Elder Scrolls Online’s Homestead tops other MMO housing

Traditionally, in this Tamriel Infinium column, I have been extremely critical of The Elder Scrolls Online, and I promise you, I’m sure I’ll lob criticism at the game in the future too. But I also like to give proper praise to video game developers when they do something extremely right, and that’s the case with Homestead.

My first MMO experience with housing was probably very similar to every other old-school MMO gamer’s experience with housing: Ultima Online. But I didn’t really play UO for a very long time, only a month or so. My first real experience was in Star Wars Galaxies. Unfortunately, that game is shut down now, so I can’t show you just how powerful and creatively flexible that housing was. Since then, I’ve experienced housing in a number of different MMOs. I’ve seen EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, WildStar, and of course, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Although some of these housing systems have elements that I really like, I don’t think any of them reach the level that ESO reaches. And to help illustrate what I mean, I’ve compiled a list of four reasons that Homestead is better than those other MMO housing systems.

Instanced, but in-world

Bree and I livestreamed some of the houses and how parts of the system worked yesterday (assuming the upload goes well, you should be able to see the whole thing a bit later today on YoutTube), and the number one thing that impressed us about the overall mechanics of the homes in Homestead was the instances themselves. It wasn’t the fact that they were instanced or that they had gorgeous aesthetics like pools or rippling streams — although it’s true that they had those things. Each of these instances felt as if it were still in the world, despite actually being in its own phase.

For example, the Gardner House, which is one of my favorites, sits in the middle of Wayrest. When you step out of the house into the yard, you are literally in Wayrest, but still in your instance that you can decorate the way you wish. Of course, there is a giant wall between you and the town, but you can see all the surrounding houses, and if a member of your group is in Wayrest, you can see her on the map, as we tested on the stream. And the reverse happens, too. In Wayrest proper, you can point to the Gardner House and show people what the house looks like.

For me, it’s a level of immersion that you don’t see in other instanced houses. Although many of the houses in EverQuest II sit in cities, most are little more than a door on some building. SWTOR and WildStar have great instanced houses, but you cannot really point to a map and say, “This is where my house is.” And non-instanced houses like in UO or SWG litter the landscape, plus there was no (legal) way you could get a house in one of the major cities.

Terrain alignment

I say that terrain alignment is a feature that ESO housing has over other games, but it’s more what terrain alignment represents, which is two-fold. First, it means that novice designers don’t have to get everything perfectly right in order to make a decently designed house. Second, it can be turned off, which means that it gives freedom to those who want to just go all out with decorating.

I saw some amazing things created in SWG. Some of the designers in that game were true artists. They would mix together items that shouldn’t belong together and create absolutely unbelievable set pieces. But if you were a novice, it was daunting. That’s why many houses in that game ended up just being bags of stuff floating in the middle of the room. However, the basic idea that you can align items with the terrain makes for quick set ups, say, if you want to have company over for dinner. And items like plates and food will align with a placed table instead of the floor if you want to go that route.

Games like WildStar have systems where you can place anything practically anywhere, so the idea of placing a chair on the ceiling isn’t really a new idea, but it does demonstrate the flexibility I mean. We have already seen people build houses inside other houses, but honestly, the creative flexibility doesn’t end there with Homestead. The design tools make the possibilities endless, and I’m excited to see what other people build.

Interactive furniture

This seems like a small thing: When I have a candle on a table, I would like to be able to light it and blow it out. Simple, right? I appreciate how difficult it is to design lights that turn on or chairs that you can sit in. But it’s these seemingly simple touches take a good housing system and make it great. During the livestream yesterday, Bree gave ESO praise for taking Homestead seriously, rather than just slapping in half-baked housing in to shut housing nuts up. It’s refreshing to see a triple-A game take a housing system seriously instead of attempting to make it into a half-assed alternate achievement system.

Movable pre-set furniture

Some housing systems have preset markers or hooks for your furniture; others have specific items that appear in very specific places when you buy them from a game system. I am all for cutting down the time and skill that it takes to make a serviceable home for your character. But some games like World of Warcraft or SWTOR, like to take nearly all control away from the player. And this house that’s supposed to be a personal hideaway for the player. But if my hideaway begins to look like every other hideaway, then it’s not very personal.

ESO gives options. There is a pre-set furniture layout for every house that you can buy with Crowns, which again is great for the novice or lazy or time-constrained player. But ESO goes to the next level by adding those housing items to your collections. This means that you can pick them up are place them however you want or even add to the pre-set furniture.

All right, that’s enough from me, it’s your turn. Have you had a chance to jump into ESO to mess around with Homestead? What do you think? Does it outshine other housing systems? It’s at the top of the list of best housing systems for me; where would you rank it?

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.

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65 Comments on "Tamriel Infinium: Four reasons Elder Scrolls Online’s Homestead tops other MMO housing"

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Jeff

Housing rocks in this game, still the (some would say Compensated ) ESO forum hate machine is acting like it is the biggest failure of the century. I was able to buy my manor at half price because of the Crowns I received as a subscriber. I can see with a few tweaks this being the best housing in any MMO.

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navystylz .

Honestly, don’t feel like there is compelling enough reason to get a house. While it’s better than many MMOs, I can’t help but reminisce of Ultima Online. The amount of decorative items that actually did something. Having to set up your crafting there. Bonuses. And GOD, the runebook libraries that allowed you to teleport around not to mention the extensive storage space added made having even a simple house almost a necessity.

You get some intractable items and you can put crafting stations there. But I could just log my crafter at Riften and accomplish the same thing.

hurbster
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hurbster

All the recipes are a little silly in their complexity but I have found the ingredients from normal gathering nodes.

Also, just how long has EQ2 had to get housing right ?

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Denice J. Cook

“Also, just how long has EQ2 had to get housing right ?”

That wasn’t what Larry said, though. He stated that ESO’s housing is better *right now.* He kind of swept everything else away with the wave of a hand, and I have the feeling he hasn’t been in EQ2 in many years, if ever.

He was riding the ESO hype train, and we’re all excited for ESO: Morrowind and impressed with how much Zenimax has turned ESO around since launch, trust me there. Just not to the point where we can no longer compare it accurately to other games’ housing systems, lol.

hurbster
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hurbster

Because I remember renting a room in an inn (renting mind you) in EQ2 and having to craft boxes just to use the AH.

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Dread Quixadhal

I don’t remember having to craft boxes, but I do remember that once you got off the boat from the starter island, you were granted a lovely one-room apartment, and a nice little cork board to hang on your wall. That board was your auction interface, and at launch you had to stay in your room, idle, with the board open, for any of your goods to remain on the market for sale.

Of course, they finally changed that so you could go play the game instead, but amusingly one holdover is that EQ2 has no idle or AFK logout. It couldn’t have one because of that “feature”, and still doesn’t because having AFK people in instances wasn’t a problem.

If ESO’s housing comes close to EQ2’s housing, in terms of what you can build with it… I’m sold. I still remember collecting dozens of candles to make my little Freeport hovel bright enough to not feel like a dungeon. :)

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Denice J. Cook

General merchants have sold basic bags since launch day, even on the newbie islands, lol. Just sayin’. Maybe you could craft bigger ones than you could buy back then, but still.

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Cindy M

I’ll be curious to see how this measures up to FFXIV. Which has vibrant neighborhoods, IF you can get yourself a spot that is, though now we do have appartments. Can you lie down in beds, sit in the chairs? <<< About the only thing missing from EQ2. Everything else EQ2 has nailed down pat.

That said, ESO is a great game for housing and I'm sure it will be refined as time goes on.

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Denice J. Cook

I still can’t believe it’s better than Everquest 2’s housing. I don’t care about a door on a building. I care about the homes, the accessories, and everything I can do inside of it, outside of it and around it. There have got to be hundreds of thousands of house items (and many of those are craftable) in EQ2 already, not to mention hundreds if not over one thousand different styles and sizes of homes, guild halls, etc. There are tons of items with motion, layers of textures and opaque/see through windows and wall treatments, and running water. There are also tons of actual portals to zones, other homes and guild halls, as well as crafting tables, hundreds of unique holiday and event items and music boxes. Everyone can visit your home if you leave it open for visitors, and you can sell your craftables and loot drops from it to save other players the broker fees.

Color me skeptical. I’ll be checking out ESO’s housing tomorrow, on my day off (and I’ll be pinned down in a Nor’Easter so I’ll have plenty of time and little else to do to boot). Nice is one thing: brushing off Everquest 2’s housing as inferior to basically anyone elses’ is quite another.

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Denice J. Cook

Oh yeah! I just remembered that you can also get actual buffs for your characters off many various Everquest 2 house items. Also, many of EQ2’s house items are definitely interactible. Even its house pets often have huge lists of things you can have them do as you play with them, and some will even chase each other around or do things on their own as you’re working in the house.

Moreover, insofar as having a view of town goes, yes, you can look out over EQ2’s balconies (or wander their islands or outlands) and see EQ2’s towns and zones from some of them, too. So people can’t see a whole building from town– um, big deal? It’s not like they can wave to you and you to them while you’re in your home, nor can they stroll up to your door and come in.

Sorry, Larry, but I am calling you out on this one. ESO may be all right, and I love Elder Scrolls, believe me, but Everquest 2 reigns supreme in the housing department. I’m surprised its database has survived without spontaneously combusting every server after over 12 years of operation.

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Castagere Shaikura

Larry fanboys out way to much. Saying ESO housing is better than EQ2 is just crazy to me.

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xpsync

I got the three starter closets with alts and bought the Cyrodilic Jungle House and must say I’m quite happy with it, perfect location, and like you say you feel like you are in that area when you go outside i like the tranquil feel and sounds there.
I had the crowns so was “free” and for me it’s just a place to hang my hat, i bought it furnished and someday i might get more into housing but for now they are great for instant free travel options for all my characters.
I forgot about my SWG house until i read “stuff floating in the middle of the room” and it made me laugh as that was my place in a nutshell. lol It was such a mess and something i always said i’ll go make it cool one day, but kept on dumping rewards/trophies there.
I’m not huge on decorating houses but huge on mmo’s having them, makes them feel more complete, more like a world.

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Castagere Shaikura

Sorry Larry but EQ2 housing is so much better than what you get in ESO. ESO’s is just a gold sink for veteran players with to much gold and nothing to spend it on.Or of course you can buy one in the crown store. The Inn room that’s the free for everyone is laughable. You can maybe fit a table and a couple of chairs in it if your lucky. The free ones you get in EQ2 feels like a real house some of them have a second floor.

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Phubarrh

And there are plenty of EQ2 homes with balconies overlooking their environs…with simple placement of a teleport pad on the ground thereof, you’ve got your own personal instance of Qeynos or Maj’dul or Neriak to populate and decorate as you like!

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Scott

I’d like a reason/incentive for having a house(s). e.g. in BDO you get buffs with having certain furniture or decorations placed. Otherwise, given my precious limited amount of gaming time each day I probably won’t devote much of it to “decorating”. I probably will use crowns to setup crafting, banking as such since I have crowns being subbed.

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Lethality

I really like what I see about ESO Housing, I’ve been thinking of playing the game just to check it out.

All of the stuff you hit on is what made me love Black Desert housing, as the best MMO housing ever. Everything is literally in-world, but instanced… but on top of that, no loading screens. You can literally walk into your house instantly, or into anyone elses copy of it – instantly. No loading. It’s amazing.

Add to that every house in BDO is 100% unique… the city has rooms and apartments, the countryside has cottages and farms. There are hilltop manors, desert villas and more. It’s truly amazing.

And I love that the decor is rooted in “real” items that represent (besides the cash shop ;) The far away lands you travel to. And the rarity of such things in certain parts of the world. A hand-crafted Valencian cabinet might be a rare sight in a home in Calpehon!

It’s just a brilliant system.

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Mewmew

I’m not super thrilled with ESO’s housing, though I guess it’s because I’m used to *much* bigger sprawling huge areas with many buildings, secrets, lairs, etc that you buy for 1 10th the price of ESO’s “biggest” houses in Pirate 101. There are huge amounts of interactive items you can place anywhere in that game too but the big houses there are just sooooo much bigger and better designed than ESO’s houses with so many extra touches and cost $10-$13 instead of $110-$120.

Also it would have been nice to have been able to get a big plot of empty land that we could set up a bunch of stuff how we wanted on it with no buildings already there to get in the way. For some reason I thought that was going to be it when I heard something about our private homesteads in personal rifts.

I’ve been spoiled on much better housing in Pirate 101 for as I mentioned 1 10th the price. How can I be excited about ESO’s overblown and small feeling (yes even the biggest feel small to me after being used to Pirate 101 housing) houses for such crazy amounts of money? Maybe if I hadn’t played Pirate 101 and experienced what some companies will give you for much less I would be more happy with ESO’s housing.

And while the feeling of being there in the landscape is good, the feeling of it being your house is quickly quashed when there are 20 people standing around all saying “That’s my house there.” It doesn’t feel like it’s your piece of the landscape to me.

Is ESO’s housing better than nothing? Yeah. Is it all it could be? Not by far. Not to sound like a broken record but check out Pirate 101’s housing system and then justify the prices of the houses in ESO to me. Maybe you’re better off not doing that as it’s hard to be as excited about ESO’s housing once you’ve seen a system that gives you so much more for so much less.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’ve checked out a few of the houses in ESO, but nothing’s grabbed me as yet. While I never got to housing in P101, I did have a house in Wizard 101 and if Pirates is done in a similar fashion, I’d have to agree that that housing is excellent.

I would never be able to afford a house in ESO if I had to pay gold for it. The prices are pretty astronomical.