The Think Tank: Housing or bust! Right?

With Star Wars: The Old Republic's new player apartment system apparently on the way and several other major MMOs set to launch with or receive housing this year, what better time than now to debate whether housing belongs in MMOs? Sandbox fans are probably choking on the idea that it might not, raised as they were on the idea that housing is such an obvious hub for social interaction and creativity, but a lot of gamers can take it or leave it, figuring that they don't really need another resource-intensive place to stash loot in between raids or PvP matches.

I polled the Massively team members to see whether they consider player housing a vital component of MMORPGs. Feel free to chime in!

Anatoli Ingram, Columnist
@ceruleangrey: Not having housing isn't a dealbreaker, but I always feel its absence pretty keenly. I'm most comfortable in games where the developers show interest in building downtime activities for players and aren't focused on action or structured gameplay 100% of the time, and while the presence of housing doesn't always indicate that mindset, it's a good place to start.

That said, I'd almost rather have no housing than badly implemented housing. I think making it inaccessible for most players or slapping a bunch of time restrictions on it or having most of the ability to decorate based in cash shop purchases defeats the point.

Beau Hindman, Columnist
@Beau_Hindman: In the games that should have housing (anything with an avatar, I guess), it is very important. The truth is that I do not use housing much, but that's mainly because it doesn't do that much and can often be a hassle to obtain. I think the best way to go about it is to give people a reason to use their houses. I like farming plots and other "useful" items to be included. While I prefer non-instanced, it's not a game-breaker.

Bree Royce, Editor-in-Chief
@nbrianna: I think every MMO and certainly every MMORPG needs some sort of housing, some private space or social space, preferably open world. Player housing and cities in particular have provided me with the foundation for my very best moments in multiplayer gaming. That said, a game without housing isn't dead to me; I just find myself less compelled to "live" there long-term. Housing anchors me to games.

Jef Reahard, Managing Editor
@jefreahard: It's a game-changer for me, at least in terms of my personal playtime. Obviously I have to cover a lot of crappy games that lack it, but when an MMO leaves out housing, that says to me that its developers are largely concerned with building a lobby instead of a virtual world, which is fine -- their game, their rules. But don't call it an MMORPG if it leaves out 20-year-old features that differentiate MMORPGs from pedestrian video games.

Justin Olivetti, Senior Contributing Editor
@Sypster: It's pretty important to me. On a spectrum of features, it's definitely on the side of "gets me very excited to hear it's in/it's coming" than the apathetic assumption of the status quo. Housing not only speaks to the domestic nester part of me who loves to make my space "just so" but also broadcasts a welcome from the developers saying to us that we are welcome here, that we have a home away from home in this game. I don't like feeling like I'm a guest in someone else's world; I like knowing that I belong and that there's proof of that.

Larry Everett, Columnist
@Shaddoe: Player housing doesn't exactly make or break a game for me, but it does change the things I do in the game. For instance, if a game doesn't have some sort of decorative housing, then I'm not likely to set up a base of operations for my guild or my character. I'm also likely to do more less-meaningful "cantina" RP if the game doesn't have housing. I will also tend to focus more on the game itself rather than the community if there is no housing.

I really enjoy games with housing, but I enjoy them less as a game and more of a world-builder. The game becomes more community and socially focused for me, and frankly, I'm likely to stick with a game longer if the housing system allows my friends and me to be creative.

MJ Guthrie, Contributing Editor
@MJ_Guthrie: Housing is very important to me! When I look for a game to play, I am actually looking for a world to settle in, and that's just not possible if you don't have a personal place to call your own. My style of play is less about combat (though I do that as well) and more about economy and community, so I want to be able to run a business like a tavern where players congregate and goods are exchanged. Of course, housing also satisfies two other gaming needs for me: exploration and creativity. I can not only use housing as a canvas to express myself and create something personalized in my own area but seek out and admire the amazing display of creativity from the hands of others.

Without housing, a game is just a game to me -- something to jump in, beat, and move on. With housing, I am much more invested and likely to be a permanent resident. Pun intended.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the most caring of the carebears, so expect more than a little disagreement! Join Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and the team for a new edition right here every Thursday.
This article was originally published on Massively.