Wings Over Atreia: Over the river and through the woods

Wings Over Atreia header
To Aion's housing we go!

Oh, if only it were that simple! And quick. 'Cause I got my hiking boots on and am raring to go. Heck, I will even wade through rivers of enemy blood to get me some housing! Now you all know what kind of statement that is coming from PvP-challenged me. Sadly, there is still a long wait ahead as there is no real official word on the release of 3.0 and its accompanying features. To be honest, with my all-too-obvious love of housing, I am not entirely sure that the information that trickled out of Korea this past week was more exciting... or painful. TEASE!!

Either way, there is no ignoring the fact that the tantalizing information has come, posted front and center on the Korean Powerwiki for all to see. Thanks to some kind translating, those of us not fluent in Korean can also get a glimpse at what NCsoft has in store for us. Truly, I think that it is only fitting that last week's focus on a major frustration is followed up by something many are actually looking forward to! In all, some of the information revealed is exciting, some is pleasantly surprising, and some is even disappointing,

Excited about Aion's upcoming housing or maybe just curious? Cross the threshold past the cut and join Wings Over Atreia as we explore the impending housing opportunities in Atreia.

Housing, schmousing

So what's really the big deal? Why bother with housing in a PvP game? I know some people are rolling their eyes; they just don't see any point to adding this feature to a PvP-centric game. So before we go any further, let me just throw something out there for those particular naysayers: Housing means more PvP.

No, I am serious. See, anything that brings more people into game or helps retain those who are already here is a boon to everyone -- including the hard-core PvPers. More people means more enemy targets and more compatriots to hunt with. I know people just waiting for housing to drop so they can return to game. Sure, Daevas who are currently hanging out in their houses won't be out-and-about and attackable, but no one is going to stay in his house forever. If nothing else, he will have to venture forth into the world to get some kinah for decorating and house upkeep! And then he will be vulnerable. So smile wickedly and think of all the new victims who will be available!

The rest of us can be excited for reasons not of slaughter but of creativity and immersion. There may even be more roleplay to be found (perish the thought!). I truly see this particular feature breathing more life into the game; housing in any form is a positive addition to games, and housing done right adds immensely to the immersion of a game. So is Aion's housing done right? In some respects yes; in others... mmm not so much. Let's start with some of the "Awwwww yeaaaaaahhhh" points.

Screenshot from Korean PowerwikiReasons to cheer

Score one for getting to decorate by placing things where you want. Given the wonderful environment, I was sorely disappointed with a certain other game that restricted what I could place where in my little Hobbit hole. By all appearances, Aion has avoided this pitfall. And not only can you place stuff where you want, but you can also rotate the furniture to get it to look juuuuust right.

Another key aspect is that you can visit your friends' houses and they can visit yours. Nothing ruins showcasing your trophies and creativity like a house restricted to the player only! In fact, you can establish a bind of sorts with your friends; there is even a house item that will list all of your friends' properties and allow you to visit (if the house permissions are set accordingly).

The next point was a pleasant surprise: While many games have allowed players to choose a certain house type, Aion is going further and letting you customize the exterior of the home with windows, roofing, and even paint! This level of customization is unusual but welcome. I have never been a fan of identical cookie-cutter houses, in life or in games.

Another very impressive feature of the housing is the ability to store things in a wardrobe. I know some Daevas who will probably need to stack wall-to-wall wardrobes just to have enough room for all of their cosmetic outfits! After all our begging and pleading for more storage space, this is actually a very welcome addition. And along those same lines, it also looks like the house has a separate storage for furniture that is not in use -- meaning you don't have to clutter your warehouse with it. Unfortunately, I am not sure if the items placed in the storage count toward the item limit, but I very much hope they do not.

Screenshot from Korean PowerwikiDisappointments

Sadly, a few aspects of the housing were a bit disappointing. Foremost of these disappointments is the extremely limited number of the grandest of houses: the luxury mansion model. There will be only four per faction. I can appreciate that if the housing area isn't instanced, there is a need to limit due to space... but four? Really? I mean, couldn't more land be grafted into the game and developed? Four? If you couple this with the fact that all housing is auctioned (so the highest bidder gets the goods), I know I will never have one of these homes. In fact, I doubt that I can ever obtain anything in the higher brackets due to purchase price and maintenance costs since I am not the type of gamer who tends to be rolling in the kinah.

That brings us to maintenance costs. Now, I actually happen to agree with maintenance costs... to a point. The idea that players need to be active in order to keep possession of their house is very important when there is a limited number of houses available. Of course the active players should be the ones with the real estate. However, if the numbers are correct on the chart, then the luxury house is going to eat up over 22 million weekly. Skip paying for two weeks and your house will go back on the market. Don't expect to get it back, either; with such a dearth of the higher-end houses, there will be plenty of players just waiting to snatch one up as soon as it becomes available.

Another extremely disappointing fact is the seriously low limit on the number of items allowed in a house. Really, 50 indoor furniture slots in the largest mansion? Compare this to the hundreds allowed in games with some of the best housing systems (Vanguard, Star Wars Galaxies, and EverQuest II). And from the looks of the chart offering the statistics, there is only one room in even that huge mansion. This is going to squelch a lot of creativity.

Another possible negative was not one of my own but rather was voiced by one particular player on the official forums: All of the housing shows a distinct lack of masculinity. Perhaps that is true. Then again, what aspects of Aion aren't bent toward the beautiful if not more feminine side? You have to admit that very little screams "masculine" anywhere in this game. So it really isn't a surprise that the architecture follows along the same artistic lines seen in the rest of the game. I think the response of another player illustrates this best: Krystaline noted with a wink, "Oh, open your fairy wings and shush." It is also possible that the screenshots provided are only representative of the Elyos side, which is more sunshine and cutesy than the Asmodian, so maybe there is a slight possibility that the Asmodian houses will have a wee bit darker flavor to match.

Screenshot from Korean Powerwiki
Worth the wait?

When it comes down to it, any housing is better than none, and Atreia looks destined to have some very nice housing. Sure, there are areas I would love to improve upon, but overall I think the housing will be pretty dang spiffilicious. Not only that, but the more a person is bound to the game, the more time s/he will spend in it and the harder it is to just walk away. A personal space is specifically one of those ties that bind. I plan to enjoy this new feature with my friends the moment the devs let me get my wings on it.

Now, if I could just survive this wait!

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.