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The Tattered Notebook: Can EQ Next's housing measure up to EverQuest II's?

MJ Guthrie

With last Wednesday's release of EverQuest II's latest prestige home, the totally awesome Hua Mein Retreat, I couldn't help but be focused on one of my favorite gaming features. I toured the new home, got to check out the break-out spots, and marveled at how pro SOE is with housing. Sure, there have been some misses when it comes to the prestige options, but things just keep getting better. Before long, my thoughts turned to the idea of housing in EverQuest Next.

Obviously, I am excited to play EverQuest Next. How could I not be? This studio has cornered the market on the most fun classes I have ever played (Dancer, Disciple, Fury, and Shaman) and the best housing systems I've personally had the pleasure to delve into (Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, and EverQuest II). And now it's making another sandbox.

But will EQN pull me permanently away from EQII, a game where I've earned my seven-year vet rewards? That, my friends, will depend in large part on the housing.

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Super secret info -- not!

Now, before you start convulsing in excitement -- OMG MJ got some exclusive infoz!!1! -- please note that no, I did not in fact become privy to any top secret knowledge. (Boy, I wish!) I have not infiltrated SOE headquarters or kidnapped and forced the server hamsters to tell me all they knew. So although I don't really know that EQN will have housing, I just know it will. For proof, look at SOE's portfolio. Housing, housing, housing, housing, and what's that? Oh yeah, housing. You certainly can't go create an emergent playground and neglect one of the best features that almost every single title in your collection has. So I speak with a heaping helping of confidence when I say we will see housing in some incarnation. I just hope it is a robust one as we've come to expect.

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Living up to standards

Now comes the hard part. EQN has some pretty high standards to live up to. While I can understand if the game wants to have some kind of unique angle, I will be extremely let down if the housing system does not have the potential to be as robust and involving as EverQuest II's. From tons of housing options to countless housing decorations, EQII is a veritable playground for the creative.

As it stands, this latest housing release alone has cranked my creative juices into high gear again, and I can already see the many hours (nay, weeks) that will be lost in this next project. I leveled a carpenter just so that I could fund my decorating addiction. I run raids just to get special items. I plot and plan around these projects, investing myself deeply in EQII just through the housing system. If EQN wants me permanently, it needs to lure me with the ability to continue in this pastime.

That's not to say I want 500 different homes in EverQuest Next. After all, decorating one guild hall took me months, and I have so many unfinished homes that I will never be able to complete them all (maybe EQN will save me from having to?). But I want at least one place that I can heavily personalize and control -- a place that is mine, top to bottom. SWG allowed us to rename crafted gear to "be" anything we wanted, and EQII has lots of building blocks on top of decorations that can be manipulated however homeowners want. Even if I have only one house, let me do with that house whatever I want, and give me plenty of building tools to choose from.

I know that there is no way EQN could open and have the sheer number of housing items that are present in EQII now; obviously the latter game has a few years of head start. I can be patient. But I know that SOE already knows how to create a smorgasbord of options, so I do expect there to be an abundant variety.

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Housing with a purpose

Here is where I want to see EQN's housing shine: I want housing with a purpose! If I put my decorating urges aside, the best memories I had in EQII were running a smuggling and black market operation out of my humble Qeynos Harbor diggs. I yearn, yearn I tell you, for the chance to reignite that gameplay. And that just might be possible with the upcoming sandbox.

Our operation bought skill books cheaply from the market that couldn't use them and transported them to the other to sell at a nice profit. (Sadly, universal brokers and faction-less shared bank slots squashed that enterprise.) We used special safe houses in the opposing city as a way to move the merchandise. Oh, how I'd like to see that reborn! Perhaps I could build a local tavern with a "special" back room for negotiations. Or maybe I could have smaller storehouses scattered about to keep valuables -- and smugglers -- safe. Or maybe I could just run a tavern and inn again, one that I created to my own specifications.

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The point is, with its focus on emergent gameplay, hopefully EQN will support the use of houses as gameplay. So many players have created so many amazing things with the housing in EverQuest II. I can't even begin to tell you about all the taverns, ranches, theaters, dance halls, retreats, playgrounds (OK, I did tell you about that one!), offices, farms, getaways, inns, casinos, and other businesses that folks have created and use within EQII now. You name it, folks can build it. And these players host numerous events and build the community all from their decorated homes. EQN, if it truly is a sandbox, needs to have this as well. It can't go backwards.

But I really hope EQN goes one step farther. Instead of making us advertise which character's house is the setting for the business, let us name the abode to reflect the business. We did it in SWG, so why not here? As it is, to name a dwelling in EQII, you have to use a character slot and make a throwaway toon, and naming conventions are very restrictive. And while we're at it, bring back the entry fees from SWG! Let me charge players for renting a bungalow for a night at my fancy-shmancy resort.

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Rolling out the welcome mat

I could wax on and on about EverQuest II's housing; I could write 10 articles right now extolling its virtues and yet barely scratch the surface of what's possible, not to mention create a gallery so big you'd need a week to look through it! It truly is an exceptional feature, which is precisely why I'd like to see the spirit of it live on in EverQuest Next. A robust and deep housing system is the very definition of player-generated content, and who doesn't want to see that in the next incarnation of Norrath? Give me a reason to move in and really settle.

So come on SOE -- tell us we're getting it. And feel free to lay on the details! And in the meantime, if you readers haven't seen the splendor of this new prestige home, you are seriously missing out! Jump into EQII and tour it today.

EverQuest II is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every other Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!

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