LOTRO Legendarium: Checking out LOTRO’s housing improvements

Like probably most of the population of Lord of the Rings Online, I was initially interested in player housing when it first came out, gave it the ol’ college try for the first year or so to work within its limitations, and mostly forgot about it after that.

It was a sore point with the community, a subpar housing experience in a game that screamed for a robust feature on par with some of the genre’s best. Year after year, a housing revamp was the top most-requested desire from players, and year after year, Turbine either ignored it, delayed it, or promised and then abandoned it.

Yet over the past year we’ve actually seen some movement on this front with two important changes: the addition of premium housing in Gondor and, most recently, Update 19.3’s expansion of housing hook functionality. With these in mind, I turned my attention back to housing for the first time in so very long — and found myself actually enraptured with creating a new home for myself. It’s not the complete overhaul that we want and the game still needs, but it’s far better than nothing and has actually revitalized the housing scene somewhat.

Are premium houses worth it?

Premium houses weren’t really on my radar until recently, mostly because I was away from the game when they were added and I had some built-in prejudices against purchasing houses with real money. But when a kinmate pointed out that the low-end houses were relatively affordable (and I had the mithril coins to spare), I figured why not? And let me tell you, no buyer’s remorse from me after this impulsive purchase!

First things first: Let’s break down the price. As with the other housing neighborhoods, the Belfalas houses come in three varieties (stately, luxurious, and deluxe kinship). Stately homes can be purchased for as low as 145 mithril coins, which is 1,450 LOTRO points or roughly $22. Luxurious homes are much more expensive, clocking in between 422 and 493 mithril coins, while deluxe kinship homes can go as high as 894 mithril coins. Obviously, the use of mithril coins to buy these is a way to add a barrier between real money and the purchase and keep players a little in the dark as to how much money they’re actually spending (which is one of the main purposes of such middleman currencies in MMOs).

Obviously, there’s a lot of factors in play with the pricing, including the deal you get on LOTRO points if you’re buying with cash, your region, and how many you earn from playing or your subscription. But I think it’s safe to say that if you want to venture into the premium housing market, you’re probably going to need to spend some real money, especially if you want the bigger and better house.

So the question becomes, is it worth it?

And the answer, as usual, is “it depends.”

With the purchase of a premium house you actually get quite a lot, even if (like me) you go for the smaller home. You get an account-wide additional home and housing port that doesn’t conflict with normal homes. The premium house comes with vastly more hooks, larger yards, and a different architecture style and layout (I have an upstairs!). You are also treated to oceanfront views and nearby services that include a vault, legendary item vendors, a housing vendor, and a flat 10% discount for all sales and purchases. You’ll still have to hoof it to a town for an auction hall, but it’s really nice to have a vault nearby on a housing port cooldown. Oh, and if you’re a VIP (subscriber or lifetime subscriber), your upkeep is free. That’s a nice little bonus.

For the record, I was pretty excited with the new home. My “small” home felt absolutely huge to me, with a foyer, an upstairs with two alcoves, a back hallway, two side rooms, and a large back kitchen. I threw every decoration I had at it and still ended up with empty hooks at the end. My only complaint is that I wish there were windows on the main floor, because it felt a little claustrophobic without them.

Moving day

Hook-based housing systems are clearly inferior to your freeform decoration platforms, but if you (and your technology) is married to such a system, there are ways to make it more tolerable. Standing Stone Games made a lot of players happy and scored some nice post-Turbine PR points for announcing and then implementing changes to the hook system with Update 19.3.

If you weren’t around for the old version, hooks in LOTRO used to only allow you to plop down a decoration or piece of furniture and then rotate it. Due to hook placement, this kept houses looking very spaced out and regimented, instead of being lived-in and homey. The Update 19.3 change allows any interior (not exterior) object to be moved on the X, Y, and Z axis in addition to being rotated, which definitely provides a lot more flexibility.

I was pleased to further discover that objects could be moved well outside of their hook “boxes” (as you see up above). You can’t take them clear across the house, for example, but you can push objects together, combine them, and overlap them if necessary. In the below picture, you can see that I’ve created a simple library with a caddy-corner fireplace and then moved a table, rug, and chair together to fashion a study alcove. Before, this wasn’t even possible, so now (as basic as it is) it feels absolutely liberating.

Of course, players have gotten a lot more creative than just pushing a chair into a table. Some have found that levitating objects in the air can be used to make platforms and bizarre in-home sights that are not nearly dignified enough for a Hobbit (but are pretty amusing even so).

It should also be noted that 19.3 had one other housing improvement, which was the addition of premium housing writs to secure your house in the case of moving servers or failing to pay upkeep. You paid for it, only seems fair that you should keep it!

Where housing can go from here

Now that we’re finally seeing movement on the housing front, I hope that Standing Stone isn’t going to consider its efforts concluded. It’s a fine start to a sadly neglected system and has a lot of players excited about the possibilities going forward.

So where can housing go from here? Probably my greatest (and most unrealistic, considering the code, effort, and resources involved) desire is to see the devs fully renovate housing to become a freeform placement system and abolish hooks forever. Never going to happen, but a Dwarf can dream.

Moving down the list to more realistic expectations, I would definitely appreciate more hooks and flexible hook-types across the board. As I said on the podcast this week, the problem with grouping up decor from hooks is that when you bunch a lot of stuff together, it creates a great amount of empty space elsewhere in the room, and that is unfortunate. Moar hooks!

Presuming that the premium housing experiment was a successful and lucrative one for the studio, it would be terrific if we saw additional housing neighborhoods and types crop up. Rohan housing is pretty much everyone’s number one request, and I know that I’d be moving on over if that ever came into being. Also, don’t we already OWN a Rohan house in Edoras thanks to the epic quest line? A house we can’t actually use? What’s up with that, Standing Stone?

Apart from additional decor and interactive objects, I think my final wishlist item would be to make it far easier to invite players over to your house. It’s positively ancient to have to tell a friend your neighborhood address and expect him or her to make the journey to physically find your house in order to check out your digs. So many other MMOs make it painless to invite friends and guildies over for tea, and LOTRO should most definitely figure out a better way to do this.

What do you think about all of these housing changes? What would you like to see added or improved? Sound off in the comments!

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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13 Comments on "LOTRO Legendarium: Checking out LOTRO’s housing improvements"

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Michael18

My main in LOTRO is a hunter and she prefers to rest next to a cozy fire somewhere out in the wilderness. Below an ancient tree, with a view across the surrounding hills. So, no housing for me, thanks.

But: I’m sure many LOTRO players would enjoy further housing improvements a great deal and it somehow seems to make sense in a lore heavy game such as LOTRO. This is a feature that can really strengthen the game and its community, so I hope SSG will continue to work on it.

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teppic

There’s a big market for people who hugely enjoy housing (even if nobody else sees it) as well as other cosmetic items and so-called horizontal progression. I’m glad SSG is taking notice — a lot of recent changes are purely based on player requests and it’s something I hope continues.

outbound_flight
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outbound_flight

Love these ideas. Making housing more social should be a priority for SSG going forward. Would love the ability to invite folks to my house, since presently it’s a bit of a chore to get people there. Even after the update, there were people linking their addresses in chat, but it’s tough to follow through.

Way to improve that: make it so that all players have access to all neighborhoods from anywhere. That little menu that pops up when you’re about to enter neighborhoods on foot, I’m wondering if that should be available from the skill menu or something. You could also add a button on everyone’s character sheet. So all you’d have to do is inspect someone in chat, then port directly to their house.

Less ideal, but also an option: Allow kinships to purchase travel routes that lead directly from hub towns to their houses. Similar to the way mounts appear in hub worlds for holiday events. It would allow an extra revenue stream in that case, and let kins organize social events better.

I’d also be interested to see if SSG could possibly just make all of the hooks universal. Instead of having a hook for thin furniture, large furniture, etc., why not make them universal (or an option to make them universal), since the update makes placement of certain types of items in certain places inside a house unnecessary.

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MesaSage

They’d have to pay ME to have one of those tombs in Gondor. Hobbit hole for life.

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Sleepy

There’s a reason all the films practically have a love affair with Bag End. It’s cosy, warm and comfy. The new houses look like art galleries. I’ve got a lifetime sub so I sleep on a bed of mithril coins, but I still don’t want a premium house.

outbound_flight
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outbound_flight

Same! I bought the small Hobbit hole near the waterfall, and I don’t think I’ve ever been tempted to move. Though I recently took a ride through Belfalas for the first time, and it was just a gorgeous zone. Might nab one of the houses soon, since I wouldn’t have to give up my house in the Shire.

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Viktor Budusov

Meh wildlings! You can’t see the light of civilization!

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Hirku

Darn tootin’! I never even bothered looking at the other housing.

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2Ton Gamer

SWTOR had the invite option so you could invite people to your house. That is definitely something I would like to see here. Also Creep housing of some sort would be cool or perhaps a creep hut. Would also love to be able to purchase a vault/shared storage/cosmetic terminal for our kin house.

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BalsBigBrother

I very nearly purchased a house this past week not a fancy premium one just a regular one just so I could go take a look at the new system. However I am still stuck on the question of why do I need one.

You dress it up and then what? Doesn’t matter how many hooks or not is has if the house itself has no purpose beyond the dressing up stage. To me these houses still have no purpose other than to look nice, which isn’t a bad thing I guess but I want a reason beyond that to own one.

Also to be fair to Lotro this isn’t an exclusive issue with the game most other mmo housing has the same issue. If you are not really interested in the decorating then what is the point of owning one and as far as I can see there isn’t one.

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Hirku

Practical benefit: Additional storage w/ quick travel to it for all of my characters. Also, right near my house is a neighborhood center with a mailbox, vault/shared storage access, and other goodies.

Impractical benefit: When I become invested in a MMO world I like to have a little part of it for myself. I also find it relaxing to return there after questing in unpleasant locations, enjoy the view from my hill, go inside and listen to the guitar loop and the crackle of the fireplace. YMMV, of course, but for me it’s worth every copper.

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zoward

Additional practical benefits: the neighborhood vendors all give a 10% discount, in all housing zones. It pays to buy local! You can also get a 10% discount in the neighborood your guild’s house is in … and you can get 20% if you own a house in the same neighborhood as your guild! If you’re not above spending mithril coins on it, you can get crafting stations for your house (large hooks only), so you can craft there as well. And again, there’s a provisioner with all your crafting ingredient needs in the center of your homestead, and I’m pretty sure you get the percentage discount on that as well.

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2Ton Gamer

It’s just a way to show off your conquests, help with storage and in the case of our kinship house, we use it as a place to craft. Granted there are plenty of places around Middle Earth to craft, but sometimes they can be crowded, out of the way or just annoying with players using them as concert halls. It’s nice to go to our kinship home and see someone out in the garden or cooking at the oven.

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