Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Housing in Wizard 101 versus LoTRO

I love having a house in any MMO. It's one of the things I really missed during the "year of WoW." When they added housing to LoTRO I was actually very excited. It's probably the most basic housing system I've seen, but that also means it's very easy to use. You get a yard and you get to pick where your house is in your neighborhood (meaning a wide variety of potential yards). There are four different architectural styles, one for each PC race, and four different neighborhoods. Any crafter can make at least a few housing items. My characters makes rugs, wall paintings, and wallpaper so far.

There are also a lot of "trophy" systems in game to let you get unique decorations for your house. All the major bosses in game drop trophies. I have one from a boss deep in Fornost that I'm especially proud of. Many regular mobs in game have a small chance to drop a trophy. And via the fishing system you can get some nice mounted fish trophies (I personally stopped once I got to the giant goldfish, that was the one I wanted). And finally, maxing out with any faction gets you access to unique housing decorations.

My one major gripe is hookpoints. Any given item can only be placed at specific "hookpoints" in your house. So, for example, a bed can only go in a "large furniture" hookpoint. Every other major MMO I have had a house in had a system where you can place items anywhere you like. This limitation seems a bit odd in a MMO that is otherwise so polished. However, overall I've been pretty happy with my house in LoTRO.

Then along comes Wizard 101. The full housing system was added in the most recent patch. And I have to say that for a micro transaction based MMO, I am impressed as hell. Unlike the system in LoTRO, you get a small dorm room for free (and so far that's all I have messed around with decorating). To upgrade to a real house is a one time fee (no upkeep). The housing system is just as easy to use as the LoTRO system, and considerably more flexible. No hookpoints! Extra housing items go into your "attic," they don't take up precious storage space in your bank (brilliant!). You are also tripping over trophies for your house as you complete quests. My dorm room currently has a very Egyptian feel to it because that's the theme of the area I've been questing in. The number of items you can buy to decorate your house with is pretty staggering, as well you might expect in a micro transaction based MMO. However, so far I haven't found anything so expensive that I couldn't buy it just with the gold I've gotten running around doing quests.

Overall the housing system in Wizard 101 kicks the butt of the housing system in LoTRO, which is not at all what I was expecting. There aren't quite as many ways to earn trophies, but the sheer volume of trophies you get doing quests more than makes up for it. In addition to free form furniture placement, W101 also has a much greater variety of furniture (though LoTRO does still edge it out in lawn ornaments). W101 has furniture that you can put on top of other furniture (e..g, books), which LoTRO lacks. There is also a greater variety of housing types, from dorm room to castle. Every character on an account can buy their own house if you are so inclined, and there is no upkeep. If you can just barely afford a given house type you can go right ahead and buy it. Finally, you get to keep any house that you buy. So, for example, if I decide to upgrade to a mansion from a house I still get to keep the house. I have to say I am very impressed, and I'm starting to wonder why LoTRO doesn't have a housing system as flexible as a MMO that's practically free to play.

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