Thank you, beta housing contests, for all the larfs.
A while back, I got a wonderful letter from a reader whom I'll simply call L for these purposes. L was curious why, exactly, I cared about housing in WildStar, not out of a desire to belittle but out of a genuine curiosity. From his standpoint, housing adds nothing to the game and takes development time away from features that do add to the overall experience. His question was an attempt to see if he was missing some crucial point, something that made housing more important than, say, another raid at launch.

Partway through typing a response, I realized that this was a response that deserved more than just a letter; it deserved center stage because L is both right and wrong.

In the strictest sense, housing does take away from development time that could go toward other features. For some players it's just not that interesting or relevant. But at the same time it also opens up avenues of design and play that just don't exist without housing in place, which winds up making the game as a whole better even if you don't want to play housekeeper.

It's all about me, I guess.One of the things that L mentioned is that he understands the idea of having a place to show off your virtual trophies and having a place to store extra items, but he can't see himself inviting others over to show off his immaculate virtual living space. This is fine. One of the points of housing is that you can use it however you see fit. You can spend time and effort customizing it, or you can just use it for pure function and not worry about looks or invitations or anything like that. It's totally valid either way.

Part of this is because one of the core functions of having a house in-game is in giving you options. I'm a roleplayer; obviously my character homes mean something to me and will doubtlessly be filled with other people. If you aren't, though, there's nothing in the game forcing you to spend more time with housing. Using it for the bare minimum is perfectly acceptable.

But I think there's a bigger aspect to housing, one that makes it even more valuable: A game with housing is asking you to put down roots in a way that you can't without a house.

We can all agree that housing is its own animal in the larger game. You could argue that it's a progression track all its own; you acquire new decorations and get more and more options for decorating the house, which ideally leads to a much prettier house. There's an entire series of items used just for housing, things that otherwise have lessened or nonexistent value. Housing creates another thing for players to use as a mark of progress.

The thing is that it ties into other things you're doing. You can't just decorate until you unlock new decorating loot. (Wait, why can't you? I'm starting a new project after this column is done.) If you're accomplishing big things in PvP or PvE endgame content, you want something to show for it. Likewise, you want to be able to have all your hard work decorating translate into some benefits for your character. Everything ties back together.

Interconnections make the game as a whole better. They give developers new avenues to add more things, and they also ensure that there's more to do on a whole. It's this interconnection that often masquerades as complexity and makes it look like complexity is a good thing instead of just a thing, but that's a different discussion as a whole.


Sure, that rocket-ship hovel doesn't look like much, but it's got a rug that really ties the room together.
Building a house means asking you to invest in the game over the longer term. It means that the developers are encouraging you to take the time to show off your accomplishments, display what you have to offer, and really make a point of putting down roots. You can argue that in some cases this investment is lessened for whatever reason -- in WildStar, you don't get the storefronts of Star Wars Galaxies, for example -- but you're still taking a piece of the virtual space and claiming it for your own.

We all do it, in small doses. Writing your name on something makes it yours. It's another step of character creation, something that's important even for people who don't roleplay. Even if you aren't interested in portraying your character, you don't want the name "HUMAN_WARRIOR_80725" with no distinguishing features.

Housing gives you a space to write whatever you want on a section of the virtual world. You can argue that it has only a minor effect on the game world as a whole, but it's still a part of the world that is distinctly yours. No one else gets to walk into your space if you don't want guests. It's a segment of investment you don't get without housing, and for some people that investment matters a whole lot in the long term.

Maybe that completely doesn't matter to you, and that's all right. Not every part of a game is going to appeal equally to all players. I can totally understand people who look at housing and don't see the benefit to it, but it's important to understand that for the people who do enjoy it, there's no real substitute.

I would not and will not argue that games without housing are somehow inferior to games that have it. The prospect of housing isn't what originally attracted me to WildStar, and I would still have my eye on the game even if it got cut. But it does make me a lot more interested in the game because I like being able to carve out my own little segment and mark it as my own. Even if it's not your cup of tea, it adds more depth to the game as a whole, and you should be glad that the game will be coming out a little more well-rounded in the long run.

Feedback and shouts of denial are welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massively.com, as always. Next week, since people seem to like them, I'm hitting another lore column to talk about a race that follows quite naturally: Draken.

Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.

This article was originally published on Massively.