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Postcards from WildStar: I'm a level 50 interior designer

S. Prell, @SamPrell

Welcome to Postcards from WildStar, a look at Carbine's new MMO. Catch up on our previous postcards, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

Welcome again space adventurers, to another installment of Postcards from WildStar, where I dissect Carbine Studios' new MMO and discuss all the gooey bits I find inside. In our first postcard, you met Shas, the purple-haired bunnygirl and telekinetic warrior I chose to represent me on the colorful planet Nexus. In our second postcard, I talked about how she fights off the land's dangerous flora, fauna and Dominion faction foes. Today, you'll see where she lives and find out how she's earning a living out on the frontier fringes of space.

Wipe your feet on the welcome mat and make yourselves at home, because in today's postcard, we're talking housing.

Gallery: Wildstar (2/6/13) | 35 Photos

Feeling like I live inside an MMO's world has always been a strong selling point for me. It's one of the main reasons I liked Star Wars Galaxies so much; sometimes it's nice to step off the roller coaster of adventurous questing and daring heroics and relax while you tend to your garden or decorate your bedroom. Not everyone needs – or wants – to be the galaxy's savior.

Thus, it was with keen interest that I eyed WildStar's player housing system. There's no stronger way of saying "you live here, you belong here" than by the game dedicating a piece of the world to you. WildStar is a structured experience and not a sandbox however, so you can't just settle onto the planet's surface and dive straight into being a virtual landlord; you need to earn your degree in property management first. The downside to this design is that those more interested in unleashing their inner interior designer than their inner barbarian have to slog through a fair amount of content before they can get to business. On the upside, making players wait increases the anticipation.

When I hit level 14 and unlocked the quest that allowed me to put my name on a plot of land, I felt a rush of joy. I hurried through the housing tour from Protostar Corporation, the in-game company in charge of giving you a homestead, and launched into the stratosphere. Since Nexus isn't designed as a sandbox world, player housing is instanced; separated from the main overworld. Your plot of land floats high in the sky, giving it a cool and distinct visual aesthetic. Sort of like Little House on the Prairie meets James Cameron's Avatar. I know, I know. I peed myself a little, too.

Things start out bare, but it's incredibly easy to get started on building your dream house. A new hotbar appears when you enter your plot, with buttons dedicated to helping you create, manage and customize the environment. Landscapes are broken into seven nodes: one dedicated to housing, and six more which can have just about anything placed onto them. Just click on a node and the game's UI will list what you can build there, referred to as "FABkits."

Some of these kits have to be earned by completing quests and challenges down on the planet's surface, while others are available for various sums of money from vendors. Some are also dropped as loot from monsters, so where other players might repeatedly slaughter the same enemy trying to obtain rare armor or weaponry, I foresee myself grinding for some bitchin' hay bales.

Not everything placed onto a plot of land is there purely for aesthetics, mind you. Some have their own challenges attached to them, allowing you to earn even more rewards. During my adventures on Nexus, I earned a FABkit called "Shardspire Canyon." This towering monolith of floating rock and crystal is impressive visually, but the real fun comes from trying to race to the top. Do so within a given time limit, and you can earn even more decor for your home.

Other FABkits offer buffs or items; gardens allow you to plant and grow seeds, BBQ pits let you roast meat, and crafting stations allow you to ... well, craft. The amount of customization available is staggering, and super fun to mess around with.

Unfortunately, FABkits are treated as items that get used up once they've been placed, so if you're finnicky about what you want decorating your lawn, be prepared for some frustration and a critical hit against your character's wallet; you'll have to re-earn and/or re-purchase FABkits if you decide you liked how things looked before you replaced one. Worse, I couldn't find an in-game way of tracking which quest, challenge or monster was tied to which FABkit, so even if I wanted to spend the time re-earning an item, I wouldn't know how without seeking out community wikis and guides.

Once I was done tinkering with everything I wanted to have outside of my home, it was time to build the actual house itself. I chose the Aurin-style house, but I could have chosen houses built in the style of any other race, so long as that race was part of my faction. In other words, if I were a Chua – the small, mogwai-like critters from the Dominion faction – and I wanted to live in a house styled after the tribal Draken, I could do that. Interestingly, neither the Jamaican space-zombie Mordesh nor the crystal-powered robot Mechari have houses in their style.

As customizable as my landscape was, my house offered far more opportunities for renovations. Objects can be scaled, rotated and placed anywhere in 3D space, so it's completely within your power to place a 30-foot long bed in the branches of a tree that you're growing out of the ceiling. This is to say nothing of the texture changes you can apply to your house's ceiling, floor, walls and trim details, of which there are a multitude. I myself went for bright orange floors with tree-themed wallpaper for the living room, and a fancy red wallpaper and rug for the bedroom.

However, my favorite customization option for housing has to be the lighting options. Instead of placing lamps and bulbs, you'll pick a theme that will fill up a room. Want a spooky blue mist and darkness for your gothic fortress of doom? Go for it. Want to turn your crib into a sparkling '80s-themed getaway full of blindingly-bright neon? Sure thing. Though I wouldn't suggest it.

Had I been able to afford it, I think I would have gone for the black-and-white noir theme, or possibly the tinted sepia lens. For now, I'll settle for "dream state," which gives my house's colors a little extra oomph and applies a slightly foggy filter.

Okay, so all of this sounds fun to tinker around with, but housing can actually be a very important part of the game, if you want it to be. The more swag you have stashed around your house, the more rest XP you generate, meaning the faster and easier you can level up. Need materials for your crafting profession? Plop down an ore mine. You can also invite friends or guildmates to help till the soil, and in return they earn a small amount of the profit. It's ... Wait.

Have I been playing Animal Crossing X FarmVille: MMO Edition? I think I have, and I'm so totally okay with that. If you'll excuse me, I've gotta harvest my crops. With my mind-swords.
P.S. Wondering where my thoughts on PvP are? (I did tease them last postcard, after all.) Due to the travel I did for the Fourth of July holiday, I was confined to a laptop with a relatively slow internet connection for several days. You'll see thoughts on PvP in a future postcard, when I can test under more optimal conditions.
[Images: Carbine]

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