Moving day: Settling in to your WildStar house

WildStar
Player housing is more than fluff, as detractors claim; it is settlement, personal expression, and ownership in a way that we don't always get in an MMO. I've been in MMOs without housing and been distressed to be an eternal nomad. I've been in MMOs that have had sub-standard housing and felt the pain of "what could have been." And I've seen MMOs that have incredibly robust housing that becomes one of the most talked-about features in those titles. I'm sincerely hoping that WildStar will prove itself to be the latter, especially given how much Carbine has been talking up the system.

WildStar's focus on customization options for players is readily apparent when you finally arrive at your personal floating island in the sky early on in your adventures. Once you hit level 14, you'll get a quest to go to your capital city and travel by transporter to claim your land. Why we need floating houses instead of a carved-out chunk of the massive untamed wilderness on Nexus was never explained to me, but I didn't mind. I was a homeowner!

The lay of the land

So what will you find when you arrive at your island, other than a nasty bout of fear if you're scared of heights? (Don't worry, there's a protective force field to keep you from falling off of the edge.)

Your island is divided into seven sections. There are two 1x2 plots that are dedicated to showcasing various biomes from Nexus -- little slices of the landscape brought up for your enjoyment. Then there are four 1x1 plots on which you can install smaller "plugs" or interactive enhancements. All of these plots can vary from merely cosmetic to fully functional, including workbenches, zen ponds, hobo trains, crashed ships, low-grav pads, pocket dungeons, and in my case, a spooky graveyard with a timed challenge for rewards.

It looks as though there are several ways to get the enhancements for your plots. I found most of mine simply by adventuring; FAB kits occasionally dropped from mobs, and these can be used to construct a specific enhancement on your land. Others can be purchased with currency, although I did spot a few that had prerequisites (like the character must be level 35 or higher).

All islands also include a teleporter pad, a gravestone in case you die from one of your more dangerous plots, and a housing buff board that can give you a bonus to group activities, PvP, or solo play. You can claim that buff once a day, so choose wisely!

You can't take the sky from me, but you can change it!

One of my favorite exterior options is the modification of the sky. Above, you can see the same view from a plot with two different sky effects: outer space and cold. Other options include (but aren't limited to) fireworks, happy, thundercloud, war, tornado, and something called "world destroyer." I think I'll be going with starry night when the game goes live, myself.

And let me not forget to mention how you customize your land and house. When you beam up to your island, a new interface appears in your lower-right-hand corner to allow you to modify the landscape, buy a bigger or different type of house, choose options for the structure of the house, manage your stored housing items, and purchase new ones from the vendor.

Two small but interesting discoveries awaited me in these menus. The first is that the spaceship house has a note attached to it as "pre-order bonus." The second is that many housing items, such as lamps, add to your cumulative rested XP bonus.

A 30-year mortgage with balloon payments? Not in this game!

The seventh section is, of course, your house itself, and this functions very differently than the plots. Once you've picked the type of roof, entryway, walls, and door you'd like to have, you can go inside and really go nuts with interior decoration. Inside there's a whole new interface for room options (ceiling, trim, wallpaper, floor, lighting). For kicks, I put my lighting as "underwater" to give the place an eerie atmosphere. Noir, bringing out a black-and-white effect, is pretty awesome as well.

That's all the prelude to the meat of really customizing your house by placing the hundreds of objects this game has. You'll see housing items as drops and (I presume) mission rewards, but the housing vendor has plenty of additional options if you've got the means with which to pay.

Objects can be placed, resized, rotated, and even linked to each other (as parent/children). Really, it's just insane how deep the rabbit hole goes in terms of creating the housing environment of your dreams. One guildie who was showing me around his house (complete with a cozy library, fancy bar, and secret treasure dungeon) said that he had spent hours and hours doing nothing but putting it all together -- and he looked forward to recreating it upon launch.

The money pit

While you get your floating island and initial house for free, be aware that subsequent options will often cost you. WildStar's housing will be a money-sink, starting with repair bills that need to be paid on each plot to keep them in working order for the next week. How does a graveyard break down again?

Getting a bigger house, purchasing plot enhancements, and selecting options for your home will require a good amount of money. Some things you have to buy with regular in-game currency and some with renown, which is "earned through social activities such as grouping and mentoring," according to Carbine.

As a player who often ends up with far more money than he'll ever need, I'm glad that I can spend it on this type of personal customization.

Visit thy neighbor

Housing is far more than a solitary function in the game; in fact, it can be quite the social scene. It's remarkably easy to visit other players' homes to see what they've done, enjoy their amenities, or even help them out with various activities. Adding a player as a neighbor just requires you to right-click his name in chat or on a friends list and choose that you'd like to make him your next-door pal. If he accepts, then you're in! You can then pull up your neighbor list and hop around to other islands to see what's what.

Players in the beta have already organized "house tours" in the forums to show off some of the most beautiful and crazy abodes that have been made. I think this speaks to the communal excitement among players with a large toolset with which to express themselves creatively.

I'm sure that this is merely scratching the surface of everything that WildStar's housing has to offer, but hopefully it's enough to make you as excited as I am to finally move in and make a home in this game.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.