SOE Live 2012: A deeper look at DCUO's housing lairs

Some Assembly Required at SOE Live 2012 A deeper look at DCUO's housingSOE Live 2012
Thursday's announcement of the addition of player lairs to DC Universe Online set this little housing-lover's heart all aflutter! While there were more bits of news about the new Home Turf DLC coming next year, my focus was understandably on the lairs. And I was very happy to sit down at SOE Live and talk shop with Jens Andersen. As creative director for DCUO, Jens shared many juicy tidbits about the new system for this special edition of Some Assembly Required.

So what's in store for denizens of Gotham and Metropolis? Let's start with personal instances that are accessed from realistic points within the cities, functions that stretch to accommodate different levels of creativity and decorating savvy, and a unique dueling system that will be unlike anything players (or their furniture!) have seen before. Players can even get rewards and achievements for collecting items and decorating their homes. Sounds intriguing, no?

DCUO housing
Lairs revealed
Let's start with what the housing is. Yes, it is instanced; lairs can't be constructed willy-nilly throughout the world. However, the housing is accessed from realistic points within the world, not some artificial housing hub. For instance, if you have the sewer lair, you select a manhole cover somewhere in the streets of Gotham or Metropolis. If you prefer a penthouse, you choose from select rooftops.

Now, not every single manhole cover or rooftop will have access to a lair, but there will be a good variety of choices in different parts of each town, so players can actually place their lair entrances close to locales of their favorite gameplay. Once your entrance is selected, that remains your entrance. Exits, on the other hand, are randomly generated in a general area to prevent people from camping it.

Sounds so good, you want to get your hands on one, right? The good news is that any and every player can have access to a form of the player housing in DCUO, although not every player can have a lair. Players without the Home Turf DLC and free players will have access only to a hideout, which will be a much more restricted form of housing. Hideouts are also ineligible to participate in the in-house dueling. They can, however, be decorated.

Home sweet home
Deciding you want a lair really is half the battle! Once you decide to go ahead on the path of home ownership, housing is acquired by getting your super-hero hands on a deed. Undecided on a floor plan? It doesn't matter: You can't get the wrong deed for the style of home you want because each deed is generic. It is only after you open the deed that you select from your available styles and floor plans. Additional floor plans can be purchased. When you pick your home, you also pick the style theme, which will affect the infrastructure as well as the look of the amenities.

DCUO housing
Jens pointed out another interesting feature with the deeds. Not only will players be able to choose which lair floor plan they want, but they can also change their floor plan at will! Tired of your penthouse retreat? You can open up the deed, select the sewer floor plan, and your personal space will move from the rooftops to under the streets. And moving is easy! Currently, the layout of all floor plans is the same to help facilitate moving between lair types. When you move from the sewer to penthouse or vice versa, your items are packed up and then redistributed exactly as they were in the original home. This way, folks do not need to worry about redecorating when moving.

Want a penthouse but don't want to leave your lair? That's OK too! According to Jens, players will be able to own and decorate multiple lairs, so you can have a place to kick back and prop your feet up all over both cities. But remember, you do have to maintain and upkeep each lair.

The nuts and bolts of chairs and rugs
Considering my love of all that is creative, I knew one of the first questions I had to ask were how free-form the decorating will be and what kind of items would be available.

When first decorating a lair, players will be restricted on not only how many items (a decent number I am assured, and "way more than five!"), but on where things are placed. Wall items will go on certain spots on the wall and floor items on the floor, reminiscent of Lord of the Rings Online housing's "hooks." The difference is that you will have a little bit of wiggle room as to where the item can be placed. At first I was disappointed; I personally hate the restrictions and love to see the expression of player creativity. But as Jens explained the reasoning behind this move, it made sense to me in relation to this game. He also explained how this feature can open up into more free-form decorating.

The reasons for this are two-fold. One, as we talked Jens emphasized -- and I wholeheartedly agreed -- how important it is for people to not be yanked unwillingly out of the immersion of the game world. He noted how this was especially important with an established license, like DC. Think about it: Especially if you are a newer player or one very passionate about the license, coming across something completely foreign to the universe leaves a very lasting negative impression. People who want to be in the DC Universe want to be in it, not looking at some psychedelic clown in a 20-color neon costume walking down the streets of Gotham. That same consideration was put into the housing.

DCUO screenshotYes, lairs are personal spaces and can be decorated by the player, but thanks to the unique in-house dueling system (more on that in a bit), other players can be brought right into your home. What the dev team did not want was for folks to be brought into an environment ready for the experience only to find junk haphazardly piled in a corner. Instead of a fun experience, players would have their immersion forcibly broken.

The second reason to start with limited decorating freedom was to give players who are new to housing or simply uninterested in spending oodles of time decorating the opportunity to have a nice looking place.

But that is all when you start out! The idea is to have the game your way, and having housing decorating on rails would be a huge turn off to a number of fans. So Jens explained that after a player has decorated to a certain point and experienced the housing system, s/he will unlock the ability to free-form decorate. The idea is to show people what is possible, to know what the potential is. "We want people to see it once before they decide they don't care about it," said Jens. "Players have to cross the threshold to show that they understand how that system works."

What about placing along the various axes, changing pitch and roll, or altering the size of an item? Currently those actions are not possible; you can only place, move, and rotate. Of course, players need to keep in mind that the decorating system had to be used on a console as well as a PC, so controls needed to be possible on a controller. But scaling and such is definitely a future consideration.

Props for you
Wonder what you can decorate with? There will be plenty of items to put in your house, over 1,000 at launch in fact. Instead of using the term furniture, DCUO refers to items in your home as props (in part, I surmise, because of the role they play in telling your story and your duels). Jens stated, "As far as customization goes, what players have to play with are 18 different styles of props." What are some of these available styles? Jens categorized for of them as mansion, palace, museum, or the penthouse.

Housing props will drop in the game through content. Some items are rare; some are not. If you don't find that perfect piece you are looking for, don't despair! There's a chance someone else did and you can buy it. Jens stated:
"We decided to make all of the items tradeable, so there is a secondary market. If you've already got your woolly mammoth and you don't want two of them flanking your front door, you only want the one, you can go ahead and sell one the auction house or trade it to a player directly."
You can use funds you earn from selling your extra stuff to buy what you want yourself! Really lucky folks who get the rarest drops could potentially earn quite a fortune.

DCUO housing
Duking it out on the couch
The final aspect of lairs we will cover today is the most unique one: lair duels! The basic premise is that players can queue up for a PvP duel, and that duel will occur in one of the participant's homes, who becomes the defender. It's a way to bring people into the lairs, to see other people's homes.

But that's not even the most interesting part! While players are fighting, their moves and actions will physically affect the contents of the house. Say if you throw your opponent into a fishtank, you can shatter and destroy it. Now before you hyperventilate at the thought of losing some valuable rare decoration, know that after the battle concludes all items will repopulate in pristine condition right where you placed them.

Additionally, during the duels players will be treated to short vignettes showing that epic moment of victory for successful attacks. For instance, you can see that powerful move that threw your opponent through the fishtank and watch him pick himself up.

For now, this feature is only available for a 1v1 duel. However, plans for the future include allowing friends to fight alongside you as well as PvE fights right within the walls of your own home.

Some Assembly Required at SOE Live 2012  A deeper look at DCUO's housing lairs
There are many more things to discuss about lairs, including what abilities lair mainframes will provide (like orbital satellites that can call down strikes), followers, how many amenities a lair can hold, and what those amenities are... the list goes on. But all of that will have to wait for another time.

Expected to launch early next year, Home Turf will be a very exciting addition to DC Universe Online. We will keep you informed on information as it becomes available. And you can rest assured that Some Assembly Required will provide you with a hands-on impressions as soon as they let me in to poke around!

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!

This article was originally published on Massively.