Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 needs real housing

    
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There is no shortage of things to do in Guild Wars 2. Wandering around the world and exploring is a joy, and players are rewarded for doing so. Fractals and raids are generally well received by groups. PvP and WvW could use some love, but both still have a fairly healthy playerbase. We get a nice steady stream of new story content, with each Living World chapter accompanied by a decent sized zone with new achievements to earn, new items to find, and new dailies to chase.

But I feel that there is a big hole in Guild Wars 2’s content: housing. Housing isn’t as much of a staple MMO feature as it used to be, but Guild Wars 2’s world just begs for it, and it would be a huge boon to the game’s large RP community. Last year, Massively OP’s Justin put it at the top of his list of MMOs that desperately need housing, and I agree so strongly that I want to talk about it in more detail.

I know what many people are going to say. “But the home instance is GW2’s housing!” True, in the early personal stories it functions as the player’s “home,” and there are certain things you can add to it: chests, vendors, and gathering nodes galore. You can even adopt a variety of cats that show up around your home instance.

But beyond that, there isn’t much that you can do to make it your own. You get what the designers put there – and nothing else. If it weren’t instanced, it wouldn’t feel any different from any other corner of the city map.

I want a real house in Tyria that I can call my own and do what I want with. With the home instance, you can’t paint the walls, move the furniture, or even turn the lights off and on. I want a place where I can express my creativity, not just a place that is shared by all players of a given race that I should remember to log into every day to click all the things (and usually forget about). I want to turn my Sylvari house into a finely manicured garden. I want my Asura Engineer to have an underground workshop where she builds spy gadgets for the Order of Whispers. I want a volcano-side forge where my Norn can craft and display the finest weapons and armor. I want to build an observatory for my Human to study the gorgeous Elonan skies.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the foundations of this system are already in the game. The guild hall system, introduced in the Heart of Thorns expansion, includes decoration crafting and placement. That’s great for members of a guild who have been granted this ability, but it’s not something that just anyone can do. And there are a ton of guild hall features that are in fixed positions. I know it’s easier said than done, but it seems like this would be the perfect beginnings of a player housing system.

Not only would it be a fun addition to the game, but it could also add a lot of value to the crafting system. Let’s be honest, aside from making legendaries, the crafting in Guild Wars 2 isn’t the most engaging or useful. Pretty much anyone who bothers to stop at gathering nodes occasionally or breaks down gear using salvage kits has copious amounts of materials in his or her bank, and consequently they are all super cheap on the auction house (except for leather, which is an entirely different problem). It would be perfectly acceptable to add a new crafting skill exclusively for crafting housing decorations, but even better would be to add various furnishing recipes to existing crafts, giving them usefulness beyond simply making gear and making them appealing to a wider variety of players.

Ornate furniture and houses in exotic locales also make great additions to cash shops that housing fans will line up for. Just look up some of the amazing houses players have created in games like Elder Scrolls Online or Final Fantasy XIV and see if you can count the microtransactions. In both of those games you can furnish a perfectly good-looking house without paying another dime, but there are certain items with more appealing aesthetics or extra utility that are cash shop only. Not to mention the fact that you could throw the home instance cash shop unlocks into the new housing system to make those more tempting. For a game that seems to be eternally on the lookout for new ways to increase incomes, this could be a big new revenue stream that makes players get excited instead of rolling their eyes.

To some, housing may sound like pointless fluff that distracts developers from the real meat of the game. But for others, housing is the meat of the game. Most of the players that I knew that stuck around WildStar until the bitter end weren’t the hardcore raid and PvP types the game marketed itself towards – they were the people who loved collecting furnishings and spending hours placing them just so. Owning and decorating a house in a game gives players a sense of belonging to the world. It anchors them to the game. A player who has invested a lot of time and gold into a house is, in my experience, a much more loyal player than one who has invested the same amount of time and gold into raid gear.

Will Guild Wars 2 ever add player housing? I would love to see it, but I’m sure it would be a lot of work. The furnishing system present in guild halls is fairly rudimentary and unintuitive, and I’m sure there would be performance issues if every player in the game got to use it in his or her own private instance at the same time. Additionally, making a bunch of new assets for players to put in a house and testing them in a wide variety of scenarios would no doubt be a massive undertaking. As such, I’m not sure we’ll be seeing true housing in Guild Wars 2 any time soon.

But it would be a great addition to a game that’s already a pretty complete package, and I think that the possibility for cash shop sales and the added value for players would make it well worth ArenaNet’s time.

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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