WoW Factor: World of Warcraft has no good excuses for not having housing

No, Garrisons don't count, but I'll explain why

    
146
WoW Factor: World of Warcraft has no good excuses for not having housing

We are past 15 years on now, and World of Warcraft still lacks housing. This is, frankly, really dumb. And it comes up a lot, and you always have the people working hard in the Fanboy Mines who fire back with the same set of defenses: that housing wouldn’t work in the game, that no one wants housing, that they tried that with Garrisons and it was awful, that it’s just not doable because of the engine. So on, so forth, over and over.

Gosh, why does Blizzard even have lawyers? A whole lot of people are so dedicated to defending them for free.

I’m not going to dissect every single one of these bad arguments here, but I am going to talk about housing because it’s a subject near and dear to my heart. And I think that there’s a pretty clear fact that the resources for developing at least a functional housing system exists because we already know that there were the resources to develop a lot of other systems with much less longevity.

First and foremost, let’s be clear about something: With any development project, “can’t” means something that is never actually synonymous with “this is not possible.” “We can’t do that” could mean “we don’t have the budget to do this” or “we don’t have the manpower to do this” or even “the engine we have can’t easily support this.” But in all of those cases, the real issue there is with an extended caveat that you’re making that decision based on money, time, and other projects.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not that there is no way to add a little toe-wiggling idle animation to male orcs whenever they stand idle for more than five minutes. It’s that the amount of time and resources put into that project instead of other projects either isn’t worthwhile or isn’t something project leads want.

This is really what you're going with, huh.

It’s easy to take that as a grounding and say that Blizzard obviously has the money to develop proper housing because, well… look at it. And I get that stance, but I also think it’s not the strongest possible argument because there’s a more obvious one sitting right there. Namely, has no one noticed that starting with Warlords of Draenor, the developers have had the resources to create new game-defining systems for each expansion?

Garrisons, Artifacts, the Heart of Azeroth, Covenants… all of these systems were designed for one expansion. You could certainly argue that some of these systems are not very well-designed (I’m not going to be the one trying to convince you that the Heart of Azeroth is actually good, because it’s not), but the reality is still that these systems were put into place and functioned. And there’s a lot of work involved in developing a new system and implementing it, complete with visual effects, game mechanics, interface elements, and so forth… especially when you abandon the whole thing two years later to make a totally new one.

You will also note that none of these systems is actual content. We’re not actually even talking about losing a raid tier. If you had the choice between Garrisons and housing, which would you choose?

And the thing is that all of these systems are, well, difficult to put together. This required time and effort and struggle. Yes, it would have been difficult to make housing work. Making Artifacts work was also difficult. Can you really tell me that the latter is so much harder, especially when a lot of the basic features were already in place from early beta tests? For that matter, can you really tell me that expanding Garrisons into being full housing would have been more difficult than abandoning them altogether?

Of course, all of this is academic because we should know well enough that the “can’t” here isn’t a matter of resources. It’s a matter of what the people making the decisions are interested in seeing in the game. And that is… actually kind of worse because there have been approximately nine million words written already about how much housing adds to a game, not to mention how much it would add to this game specifically.

In the comments of last week’s column, MOP reader Khrome mentioned how Shadowlands is, ultimately, another “content island” – a collection of zones wholly disconnected zones that you level through and then leave with no larger connection established or maintained. This observation is accurate. In fact, the smartest thing that Legion did was attempting to de-emphasize this fact by having a number of your quests send you all across the world. It was only in service of establishing your order hall, sure, but it did at least give the sense that these places were still there and relevant even though they’re not the main focus of this particular expansion.

In spite of the name, the development team appears to be not just unwilling to treat WoW as taking place within an actual world but actively opposed to it. Housing would be a great way to bring people together all across the game’s world. Instead, the team seems bound and determined to avoid having that happened. Why the heck is that? Why would you actively want players to not be as engaged with your game world?

So... how's things?

It’s hard to be sure, but as near as I can tell it’s a matter of forcefully mashing all of the game’s players into the same narrow corridor to make the game feel more massive than it actually is. Couple that with a steadfast refusal to plan about things in terms of multiple expansions (or, if there is a plan, to have one that seems identical to what there would be without a plan), and you wind up with a team that can’t see the value in housing because it’s a long-term investment.

This is disappointing to me not just as a roleplayer but as someone who really wants to see this game achieve its potential. The very name of “expansion” feels like a misnomer; at this point it’s more like buying the next season of an ongoing thing that has the collection of stuff to beat up for the next year, and maybe begrudgingly we’ll remember one or two areas from the base game.

But let’s be honest here. Ultimately, WoW’s lack of housing hurts it for much the same reason that I pointed out its unerring focus on elite progression hurts it. The more the game tries to mash everything into one very narrow path, the more people who break off from that path are going to feel like they have nothing left to do. And then they’re going to leave. For example, they might go play in one of the many, many other MMOs which do have housing and have for quite some time.

And ultimately, that’s the closest thing the developers have to an excuse. Based on the evidence, they want to keep pumping up a playerbase that long since plateaued and has been dwindling for ages, the social dependency crew that wishes we could roll back the clock to 2004 when WoW was babytown frolics instead of really hardcore raiding games like EverQuest.

You know, a game that did add housing. A long time ago. Because it turns out that players really like it.

It might not be easy to add it, but it’s an investment in the long-term health of the game and a diversity of playerbase. And every time you stamp out voices calling for it, the more you mark yourself as blindly sycophantic to a design philosophy that has led to the slow atrophy of a title a lot of people still want to love again. Frankly, I’d rather demand something difficult than be sycophantic in my devotion or lack the fortitude to stand by that.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.

No posts to display

146
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Sarabande_Mage

Totally agreed. This should be a system that has no connection to player power progression, therefore, would not feel mandatory to anyone trying to get better at raiding, PvP or whatever.

This would be the gift that would keep giving, like transmogs and pet collecting. This would allow us to indulge our creative side, have a space that we can share with friends, etc.

Right now, in Shadowlands, we are STILL PROGRESSING our stupid cloak. We won’t even have much time to enjoy “being done.” I would rather they not cram the game full of grinding and busywork, and just give us time and space to do things like transmog runs. And with housing, we’d have a WHOLE NEW set of things to collect from EVERY SOURCE.

Add recipes to every profession, from every expansion (making old expansions relevant again). Put items on old rep vendors. Even gathering – herbing (exotic shrubs that could grow into trees), mining (large stones or precious stones), and even fishing (aquariums or ponds to stock, large fish to mount on the wall). As content is added, just like they add pets, mounts and mogs, they can add housing items. We could have sets.

Some of the elements of the garrison could be used, such as jukeboxes to have customized music, or sets of holiday decor. But I’d take it further and have even MORE holiday. Every holiday in the game, and even just seasonal or generic celebratory decor. Imagine having guildies over to celebrate an achievement or a birthday of one of our own?

I would so much rather do this than do the same old assaults every week, trying to struggle through visions on my alts, etc.

Along with this, I wouldn’t mind a guild hall. NOT in place of, but along with, player housing. This would be more about expressing the attitude, personality and interest of the guild.

Reader
Rodney Spears

I agree with this. I know its not for everyone, but I have loved Housing in MMO’s, especially the housing in EQ2. I have spent hours and hours decorating them.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

I have many houses in ESO, LOTRO, SWTOR, etc. Getting items to decorate my house is major occupation. Festivals, crafting, achievements, all that stuff.

If WoW had housing, it would definitely be a greater attraction than it is now and probably cause older areas, where one presumes housing goodies would drop, to become more populated with scroungers.

Also, nailed it with the “elite progression” being a major problem for WoW. I’m reminded of Lawrence’s words to Allenby in Lawrence of Arabia:

I don’t want to be part of the big push!

(Thank you, Robert Bolt, for such a terrific screenplay.)

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dobablo

Garrisons, Artifacts, the Heart of Azeroth, Covenants… all of these systems were designed for one expansion.

They were heavily recycled and the framework reskinned for subsequent expansions. These features have been iterated on, not thrown away.

Farm -> Garrisons -> Order halls -> Covenants <- Heart <- Artifacts

The only feature that Blizzard has truly abandoned is archeology.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Recycling a feature doesn’t mean the former one isn’t abandoned. Garrisons are still in the game. They don’t use it.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dobablo

That old content is always abandoned whenever the latest WoW patch comes out is not in contention. My point is that Blizzard’s , “Meet the new feature, almost the same as the old feature” method of content generation is not as wasteful as the article makes out.

Reader
Dan Inselmann

I don’t understand this obsession with player housing. What does it really add to the game? Just more meaningless crap to do to decorate a fake house that you won’t even spend time in? There’s a reason garrisons failed. In order to make the housing useful, you have to isolate and spend all your time there, which diminishes the feel of an MMO. And if it’s just there for pure aesthetics, then what’s the point? I’d rather the devs spend the time and resources available to them to build an engaging world with fun content and systems. Granted, they haven’t been doing that successfully in my opinion, but my point remains.

Reader
Bruno Brito

I don’t understand this obsession with player housing.

Then, you won’t understand.

What does it really add to the game? Just more meaningless crap to do to decorate a fake house that you won’t even spend time in?

You do realize that the Housing community of most games spend a LOT of time in the game, and are extremely active, right? This argument can also be used for PvP and Raiding, since you can just raidlog for both aspects. Yet, we keep seeing the addition of raids as endgame.

There’s a reason garrisons failed.

Garrisons aren’t Housing. They won’t ever be Housing. Doesn’t matter how much you think they are. They aren’t. This argument is flawed.

. In order to make the housing useful, you have to isolate and spend all your time there, which diminishes the feel of an MMO.

1- Bullshit. You can implement Housing without instances. And even instanced Housing doesn’t stop the world from feeling populated. Just don’t let AHs and Queeing from inside housing. Problem solved.

2- If this was true, instanced content in it’s entirety wouldn’t exist. Except WoW’s ENTIRE ENDGAME is instanced. Seeing people teleport to raids at the press of a button and then log off after raiding for the week also diminishes the feel of a MMO. Get better arguments.

I’d rather the devs spend the time and resources available to them to build an engaging world with fun content and systems.

Like Titanforging? Island Expeditions? Solo-Queueless Arenas? Raiding, which less than 10% of the population actively considers an activity worthy the time?

Granted, they haven’t been doing that successfully in my opinion, but my point remains.

It remains flawed, you got that right.

Reader
Alt+F4

Bruno Bito already answered most points adequately, but the very integral misconception in your personal point of view remains to be elaborated.

the fake house for a fake person in a fake environment.

virtual spaces tend to be recognized as artificial, unreal and fake. as not natural, but established via machine code.
but the difference of virtual spaces to physical spaces is close to an illusion – maya as some would define it.
in neuro-science nature is not only a human-made discourse, but a perceptual conception via our sensoric filter mechanism. the world we see, hear, feel, taste and experience is not the real physical world, but an (multilayered, cuz also social) interpretation of it.
in physics there is no temperature and pressure, but only velocity vectors and mass – these r all sensory concepts to interprete physical phenomena.

even in a clear artificial virtual environment like a flight simulator the neurological processes in human brain r the same as in a physical plane, the same for Cyber Sex (in theory, no personal empirical evidence though, but if u ever saw an intimate scene in a movie…).
so the same principle applies to virtual homes, which have grown into a standard since LOTRO, FFXIVRR, TESO etc. UO was the first 1998 to establish (virtual) housing for: RPG immersion.

WoW toons r hobos, champions without a home, with the exception of an alternate timeline (WoD garrison). the Deaths Demise, the Slayer of Titans etc. has no other place to stay but anywhere in the inns, streets or AHs of Azeroth:
whom must i defeat to be deemed worthy to get my own personal place to live in Azeroth? (Ion i think :D)

so for some housing means RPG or simply another facette of their ingame characters identity.
collectibles became an integral part of WoW (from Pets to Achievement to Mogs etc), y not respect a communitywide demand for another standard MMO feature, which would expand player engagement and create massive opportunities for social interaction, professions, collections etc.?

the obv argument: it would cost us a raid tier is obsolete, cuz it would require its own development department, cuz Ion and Holinka cant do furniture. furthermore it would allow for a lot more and better raid tiers due to expanded player engagement (which means more subtime).

housing may not be attractive for everyone, but many. and housing already is a MMO standard, WoW still neglects.

Reader
Alt+F4

cant edit anymore, so p.s.:
i later remembered an offer to Cyber Sex in Neocron2:Beyond The Dome Of York at the bar in TechHaven. (like RL) i declined, cuz it felt like cheating my GF – i simply did not want to “mentally”(or virtually) cheat on my GF, as sexual exclusivity is a personal preference.
point is: these interactions feel real, like (quality) intimate movie scenes usually tend to provoke a neurophysical reaction.

Reader
Armsman

I’ll be honest and state I’ve never understood the ‘draw’ player housing has for some folks – but as a player of FFXIV; I can tell you players that LOVE to decorate, and use said ‘virtual’ space exist and are often passionate. I can speak to two FFXIV Guildmates who are great on Raids, and enjoy the combat content; but they’ll also EASILY enjoy spending time gathering/crafting items and redesigning the interior of our Guild House as well as their in game houses.
^^^^
It’s an aspect of the game they enjoy just as much as hunting, dungeon running and raiding and they’ve told me it breaks up the monotony of constantly grinding to increase gear and weapon stats; or trying to get the next top tier weapon or armor. So yeah, for some it ADDS another level and type of enjoyment in the game.

They both wish WoW had something similar as they might have still stuck around in it longer. people play MMOs for a variety of reasons, and the more variety an MMO offers to a player, the more players it retains.

Reader
Joseph Mackie

There’s a reason more and more people have been flocking to other MMOs like FF14, and it’s not just housing. It’s that Warcraft’s development has been stagnant for a long time. They aren’t taking risks anymore they aren’t innovating anymore.

It’s just the same old tripe, and we’re tired.

Reader
Dan Inselmann

I’m not into retail wow but this is an objectively false statement. They have been taking risks and innovating, it’s just that the systems they’ve been implementing aren’t that good or exciting

Reader
Bruno Brito

They have been taking risks and innovating,

Tell me 3 systems they innovated lately that weren’t present in another game.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dobablo

By that definition Blizzard have never been innovative.

Reader
Bruno Brito

They haven’t? Blizzard’s entire shtick is polishing stuff that has already been settled. The term “Blizzard’s Polish” exists for a reason.

Hell, WoW’s entire existence is on the back of older games they polished.

But that’s not my question. What i asked was: Tell me 3 systesm they innovated lately that they didn’t rip off another game. Because that’s what innovation is.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dobablo

There are none. Not recently and not ever.
Blizzard have never come up with an original idea. As you said, they take systems from other places and polish them. If innovation is inventing systems that are not used in other games, Blizzard have never been innovative.

Reader
Armsman

Sorry, but Blizzard has ALWAYS been seen as taking what exists and doing a better iteration – WoW when it first launched was often referred to as :”EQ done right.” – but no Blizzard has rarely been truly innovative and tried something not tried before.

Reader
Alt+F4

as many pro-arguments there may be, esp. the economic aspects (eg more player engagement via extra grinds/playtime), there r exclusively 2 counterarguments (imaginable to me):

1. server tech – although layers, i dont think WoWs server tech could handle this amount of individualisation (would multiply char data exponentially, so 100millionen chars equate to 1billion extra storage amount)

2. simple lack of distinct design (and execution) concepts. (imagine Ion trying to design furniture)

i would kill Enzo(th or Ion himself) over and over again for my personal Chateau on a Nagrand floating isle, but thats not on the table (original quote Ion), at least not with current tech and staff.

Reader
Bruno Brito

2. simple lack of distinct design (and execution) concepts. (imagine Ion trying to design furniture)

You’re not wrong. Which is why these threads tend to derail into criticism of the design team. And they deserve every single one of that.

Reader
Khrome

Instanced housing would be the best solution, to answer your first concern. It’s extremely easy to scale: The house interior would not exist at all unless someone is actually in it. They can work almost identically to dungeons, except they are far, far smaller, have no NPC’s or combat in them and may hold less players to boot. It’s completely trivial, on a technical level, to do this, for Blizzard.

The data is also pretty much negligible. The data for a transmog can be counted in a few dozen bytes – Not megabytes, not kilobytes, but bytes. A transmog set is less than roughly 100 bytes to store. A transmog set isn’t stored in full-text: That chest piece isn’t stored as “Chest piece: Shroud of the Immortal Avatar of Infinite Eternity” but as “677394” for example (slot 6, item id 77394).

The same can work for housing. You have a standard house template, an empty structure you can use. That template has a few options for floors, ceilings and walls (textures), and it has a few dozen ‘anchor points’ where you can choose which kind of furniture is shown at that point. You can even add orientation and everything.

When it’s coded properly, the data for a house can be less than 1000 bytes, using the same method as before. Slot ID, item ID, and you’re done. This is roughly how garrisons already work in WoD, but housing would be simpler than that since there’s no phasing necessary: Just an instance.

1000 bytes times (VERY generously) 100 million characters – IF all of those even had a house to begin with – is 100 gigabytes of storage. On the level Blizzard operates, that is literally nothing. You likely have more than 10 times that on your own PC.

On a technical level, housing *is* trivial. This is also one of the big reasons why people are so confused why housing hasn’t been added yet. Literally everything Blizzard needs is already implemented on a technical level, they basically just need to create the assets.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Neurotic

They’ll do it, but with LOTRO-style ‘coat hooks’, just to spite us. :D

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
mysecretid

If WoW actually implemented housing, I might actual play it again — provided that the next expansion is somewhat better than the last one.

My opinion, anyway,

Reader
Bruno Brito

They’ll delete Housing come the next xpac :^)

Reader
Zaynara

at this point we should have a castle/lands somewhere, a specific area for each race with the option to have your home in another racial location dependant on your faction, AND we should have boats, and maybe not just boats but also sky ships, all customizeable with new things being added each expansion, maybe not for each, because i don’t see flying my ship into the shadowlands, but thered be so much potential for extra collections and customizations and stuff to build into the game with just one of the systems. Its really a huge missed opportunity, i can understand some of the reasons, but i think its vastly missed chance. I LOVED the garrisons when they were out, a little base that was MINE all mine with things to do!