Tag Archives: games

MMOs, Housing, and Hope (Part 2)

There's No Place Like Home

You CAN go home again...

Since the first article in this series, MMOs, Housing, and Hope, I’ve rediscovered an older gem in a new setting: EverQuest II Extended, usually called EQ2X by those in the know (that is, geeky gamer types like me). The X, or Extended, refers to the Free-to-Play option, a remarkably robust system with more than enough quests and regions to get you to the level cap (maximum level) with plenty of quests to finish when you get there. However, rather than extolling the virtues of running a free-to-play model this way, I’ll get you straight to what you’re here for — the housing.

EQ2X housing offers a wide variety of options in each capital city. Starting with the standard “apartment”, a two-level structure with windows, a storage area, and in some cases, a fireplace, you pay just a few silver for weekly upkeep on an open-ended, deeply customizable housing system. Place furniture, trophies and doodads wherever you like, setting up a table and chairs in the center of a rug, then adding candlesticks and place settings, until the full RPG look is ready for your visitors — invite them over for lunch! Home access permissions are similar to LotRO, with different degrees of visitor access and control — if you want someone else to pay your upkeep, treat them like family, with full access to move and re-size your furnishings.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

Note the statue with her arms upraised; my character is half the height of that figure.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

That statue is a four-inch tall figurine in my son's house, and she guards the message center.

How do I move my furniture?

Your mouse scroll wheel controls everything from rotating to raising and lowering furnishings, as well as changing their size:

  • Rotate item: Scroll mouse wheel up and down
  • Adjust height: Control (ctrl) plus mouse wheel to lift items off the floor and place them (against a wall, for example) in mid-air
  • Re-size item: Shift plus mouse wheel to miniaturize or giant-size your furniture and decor

One of the first things I noticed when I placed a bed I’d earned from a quest, was that the bed looked ridiculously small next to my character’s frame. This quest took place in a pixie-like realm, so of course the bed was tiny. I ran through a number of crafting quests to make my own bed (not quite right, but certainly larger) before realizing that I could re-size the original bed. Nevertheless, the EQ2X crafting options for furnishings include several different styles, letting you create and decorate to your tastes. And if two rooms aren’t enough, turn your woodworking talents to room dividers, or just pack up and move your stuff into a bigger home.

EverQuest II Extended Housing

Look out the window and see your reflection in the mirror. Place books as you like -- on tables, in shelves, stacked on a box... you get the idea. It's YOUR home!

While I do prefer the graphics in LotRO, you’d expect far less visual competition from an older game like EQ2 (originally released in 2004). However, in EverQuest II, I love scrolling in to closely examine threadwork on my armor, etchings along the edge of a table, and the wide variety of textures throughout the game. EQ2 hasn’t just “aged well”, it’s on par with many modern games and in some aspects far better than most — housing, in particular.

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MMOs, Housing, and Hope

There's No Place Like Home

There’s no place like it…

Do you ever find yourself wandering from game to game, finding friends and taking down the bad guys, then losing interest? Perhaps the game gets repetitive, or you feel that you’re not getting real value for the time and money you’ve spent. However, I’d venture that what you’re looking for is a place to call home.

Housing: Just another time sink?

  • Developer’s Perspective — the time sink means more money earned for less effort. Large MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) that don’t have housing always startle me, as this is an often requested feature that requires very little development time and reduces server load through instanced neighborhoods or houses.
  • Player’s Perspective — everything you do in a game that isn’t what you want to be doing is a time sink. Every time you run, ride, or fly from one area to another. Every time you return to your home city to craft or sell materials. Every time you “grind” a dungeon (run the same task over and over) to gain better gear — so you can do it all again in the next dungeon. Every one of these things has the potential for the Time Sink label.

As time sinks go, housing is actually a lot of fun. Achievers stand around capital cities displaying their beautiful (read: high-level) gear, and often place rare goods in the auction house or their personal store at impossible prices, just to display their achievements. Collectors turn in sets of similar trophies for in-game money, or they fill valuable storage space with trinkets they’ll never use again. And then, there’s the role-players….

Lord of the Rings: the Ecstasy and the Agony

Dawnsong Explorers LotRO Housing Small Birch Tree

LotRO’s beautiful landscaping (Image from Dawnsong Explorers)

Yes, I love the RP in RPGs, when I just want to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. I became deeply enthused (read: crazed) when Lord of the Rings Online announced the addition of housing to what is, in my view, one of the very best games running. I did the research, I purchased a house and paid ahead on my mortgage, and I began loading my trophies into the proverbial wheelbarrow, carting the products of taxidermy and quest rewards to a pretty little two-room home in Falathlorn, the Elven housing area in Ered Luin. And yes, I knew all about “hooks” —  or so I believed — and felt certain I could still work within these limitations and furnish a lovely house for myself, complete with landscaping.

And you know what? It IS beautiful, and I’m very happy with the way the outside of my home looks. From the birch saplings to the clumps of clover and the inviting little picnic table, plus the gorgeous view, I could sit outside and wish for a gardening plot for hours. And then I went inside.

I tried to place a bed in the second room of my house (looks like it a bedroom to me). I can put that bed in one place: the very center of the room. Not against a wall, but right in the middle. Well, fine. So next, I’d like to add two chairs by the fireplace, with a small rug between them. No, pick one, any one, but just one of those three things. Frustrated, I moved back to the living room, and placed a table in the center, hoping to display a few books, a map, and perhaps a piece of gear or two. If the table hasn’t been designed with these visuals in place, I can’t add them. Also, no stacking; you can’t place one thing on another in your home. Apparently, I hadn’t researched this feature as well as I’d thought.

LotRO Elven Housing

LotRO Elven Housing: Kinda empty? You’re out of “hooks”!

Terribly discouraged, I felt that perhaps Turbine should have left housing out after all, as this apparently simple issue — hooks rather than free placement — pushed me away from LotRO for many months. I returned to a game that didn’t tease me with possibilities, World of Warcraft, a game that degraded, through one expansion after another, into arguably the easiest graphical MMO available. No challenge equals no fun for me, but that’s fodder for a future article.

Recently, I’ve started chasing hope again, looking for a place to call home. Part two of MMOs, Housing, and Hope will continue my walkabout through the realms of fantasy, as I seek a place to hang my scabbard and put up my feet by the fire.

Read the next part of this article, MMOs, Housing, and Hope (Part 2).

Battle Pirates on Facebook

Starcraft, Eve Online, and Tower Defense in a Waterworld average joe vs the evil corporation.  Kixeye’s Battle Pirates certainly fills this role.  You start off on a spit of land and begin by mining your resources: Oil, metal, energy, and zynthium.  The tutorial does walk you through and give you an idea of how the interface works.image

I was happy enough spending time just mining, setting up buildings, building ships for my fleet and setting up perimeter defenses.  Until I decided to take the fleet out for a spin.  You don’t get to see the entire ocean, you can only see your immediate surroundings and anyplace your fleet has visited.  So of course, I spent my time running patterns around my island trying to open my field of vision. That’s when I found the resource islands.  All over the place little islands are available with mining opportunities.  I decided to pull right up and start gathering resources.  Everything is going well, the ship is getting loaded up.  Hey look, another player is getting close to me, probably just wanting to get a closer look at what I’m doing.  Next thing I know, I’m in a battle.

You have two choices: Join the battle or Hide.  I’m not really sure what Hide does.  I tried it once when a much higher level fleet was attacking me.  Didn’t do anything so I just joined the battle.  Maybe I should have waited.  EDIT: One of our readers explained that the Hide option merely hides alerts; thank you Fallen-sec86!

The battle screen gets a closer view of your individual ships in your fleet and you can assign each ship it’s own target.  Over time you start to figure out patters with the NPCs.  Live action with another player is a whole other story.  You do have seven days from the time you start playing, until another player can attack your base.  It’s recommended to gather up as many resources as possible and build up your defenses.  I’m still on day one we will see how that idea pans out.

There is a wiki out there, but it really isn’t even worth clicking on.  I did find a pretty decent game guide in one of Kixeye’s forums (A Complete Guide to Battle Pirates).  So far the game isn’t dependent upon how many friends I have.  I’m getting bored of having to “hire” my friends to do stuff on my game page (Sims Social, Social Empires, or most of the other Zynga games).  I have seen some chat on Battle Pirates about alliances.  Did I forget to mention that there is in-game chat available?

Stop waiting – go check out Battle Pirates on Facebook.

Are You Game?

You’re at work, trying to stay focused on yet another repetitive task, and your mind wanders to what you could be doing, that which seems more productive for the feelings of accomplishment inherent to great game design. Chess players mull over strategy when they’re not in a match. Athletes jog through their lunches and move as much as possible while they’re at the office.

Believe me, video game enthusiasts — gamers — are no different. We think about which of our friends we haven’t recruited into our Facebook gaming addiction in the last few weeks, and we realize we’d rather be gathering material for that ring-mail armor we’ve planned to make, and we relive the adrenaline rush from the latest Capture the Flag competition through XBox Live.

Essentially, we’d all rather be playing.

Do you game?
What are your favorite games, and what are you playing now?

Gamer

Image by Br3nda via Flickr