Housing in MMOs: Lord of the Rings Online

There are many things I want and expect from MMOs and one thing is housing. I love feeling as if I was in a virtual world and for me, having a little home in there that I can customize is just part of it. I’ve been what I call a “housing tourist” in some MMOs… this is like an MMO tourist who travels through MMOs always looking for “the perfect one”, only that I did not check out the MMOs themselves, but mainly the housing features, hoping to find an MMO that satisfies my needs when it comes to player housing. So I decided to start this little series giving short introductions to housing in some of the MMOs I’ve been playing. I will try to give relatively short overviews of how housing works in each of those MMOs.

The first one will be the first MMO with housing that I played: Lord of the Rings Online.

lotro hobbit deluxe house outside
This is my house.

I had first played Lotro during their open beta for a short bit. The setting was great, but it didn’t offer me more than World of Warcraft at the time. When I heard it had gotten housing (at some point after launch), it finally got my attention. I read about it in gaming magazines, I knew it had some limits, but I wanted housing! Bookahnerk looked at the articles and scoffed. I remember him smirking on top of the scoff and saying something like: “This is nothing compared to Ultima Online!” I nodded, having heard about that game quite a lot and replied: “But I don’t care. Any housing is better than no housing!” After I’d been playing Lotro for a bit, he heard me say: “No housing actually is better than Lotro’s housing.” Of course, this is highly subjective and others may love the housing in Lotro. I see the housing and I wish for more. The foundation is there, but its execution is lacking, but let me introduce you to Lotro’s housing first, so you can get a better picture of it.

Quick FAQ

Is there a minimum level required to get a house?
You need one character that is level 15 at which point you can buy your house.

Is there a fee/a recurring fee to keep the house?
A standard house costs between 950 silver and 1 gold 150 silver. There is no difference in the size of the houses. Some houses are just in a nicer street, I guess. ;) A deluxe house costs between 7 gold and 8 gold 50 silver. There are recurring fees. You have to pay between 47 silver 50 copper and  172 silver 50 copper per week. If you don’t pay for a certain amount of time, your house will be closed and will be available again to buy by others. Your furniture will wait for you, of course.

Which choices do I have when it comes to my house?
As mentioned above, you can either choose a standard house or a deluxe house. The difference is that the deluxe house is a bit bigger and lets you place more items (see next question for more information about that). Other than that, you can freely choose a house belonging to one of the four playable races: Men, elves, dwarves or hobbits. Depending on your choice, your house will be close to the chosen race’s region in Middle-Earth, e.g., Hobbiton for hobbits. Your house will be in a “neighbourhood” which is an instanced area. Each neighbourhood consists of a map with 4 kinship houses, 10 deluxe personal houses, and 16 standard personal houses. So you will actually have other players as neighbours!

Is there an item limit? What about item placing?
Yes. 22 interior (inside the house) and 5 exterior (your garden) “hooks” (see “Additional information” below for an explanation on hooks) for standard houses, 47 interior and 7 exterior hooks for deluxe houses.

Can you expand the house?
No, you can’t. You can only upgrade the size of your storage chests (see next questions about advantages), but that’s about it.

Are there any advantages when you own a house?
Yes. You get a skill that lets you teleport to your house. Your house is in an instanced area next to that race’s starting location. Those starting locations also have the race’s major town close. It is very convenient to have such a teleport skill, even if it involves travelling from your house’s neighbourhood outside of the instance to your location. Additionally, every house comes with a storage chest that lets you store items. You can expand the size of those chests through in-game gold and for the biggest sizes, via mithril coins (which are bought with real money).

What’s the maximum amount of houses per characters / per account?
One house per server per account. Although you can buy a kinship house with your alts (see “Are there guild houses?” for information on kinship houses).

Are there guild houses?
Yes, you can buy a house for your kinship (a guild in Lotro). One kinship house per guild. They also have recurring fees every week, but a higher item limit and the houses are much bigger. You can form a kinship with alts (yours and those of friends, for example) and buy a kinship house that way.

Are there any limitations unless you pay real money?
I need to elaborate on this first. Lord of the Rings Online is free to play with an optional subscription. There are three different tiers: Free player, premium player and VIP player. Free players who have never spent anything on the game have a gold cap of 2 gold. Premium players are players that do not pay for a monthly sub, but who have bought something in the Lotro store for real money already. Premium players have a gold cap of 5 gold. Compare that to the price of the lowest deluxe house (7 gold) and you can see that it’s impossible to buy a deluxe house this way.  So you can either stick with a standard house or upgrade to VIP (= pay a monthly fee) for at least one month, to get rid of the gold cap temporarily. Then you can buy the deluxe house. You can keep it even without being a VIP as long as you pay the recurring fee for your house. Another option would be to buy the “gold cap removal” for 495 Turbine Points (TPs are the currency you buy for real money and spend on their shop). A better deal for your money would probably be the Samwise Gamgee’s Starter Pack, which costs $10, but you get more than just the gold cap removal.

Additional information
You can choose a house from one of the four playable races (elves, dwarves, humans or hobbits). You do not need to get the house that belongs to your character’s race. I absolutely love the design of the races’ houses. Of course, I chose a little hobbit hole for myself. They’re adorable! The general layout of the houses differs from race to race, but other than that, the houses are identical throughout the areas.

lotro hobbit deluxe house outside 4
This is a friend’s house which I can almost see when looking down from my own house.

The neat thing about housing in Lotro are the neighbourhoods with real players as neighbours. I am fortunate enough to have a house in the same neighbourhood than bookahnerk, two of our friends and mine and bookahnerk’s alts’ kinship house. We’re one big happy neighbourhood-family! If we were all visiting our houses at the same time, we could see each other! Neighbourhoods are open for everybody to enter and the garden surrounding the house can be seen by everyone entering that neighbourhood. The interior of your house is instanced. You can decide if it’s public or not. Mine is, so you can have a look at it whenever you like.

I’m going to show hobbit houses as an example, because, as I said, we’re 4 people in one neighbourhood and we are all in a hobbit neighbourhood. So it was quite easy and convenient to just run through that neighbourhood to show you impressions of what you can do. :)

lotro large furniture hook
Small bed belongs to “large furniture”, so can only be placed in “large furniture” hooks.

Before we have a look at the gallery, however, I will tell you why, despite my initial enthusiasm, I really dislike housing in Lotro. It can be summed up with one single word: Hooks! As mentioned above, every house has an item limit. For my deluxe house, this is 47 interior and 7 exterior “hooks”. A hook is a place where you can put an item. This means that you cannot freely place the chair on the ground. You have pre-defined hooks and only *there* are you allowed to place your chair. But that’s not all. Items are divided into several categories. A chair is a “small furniture”. Small furniture one can only be placed in hooks that are for small – or large –  furniture. It does not work the other way around: Large furniture can only be placed in large furniture spaces, but not in small furniture places. This also means that I will never be able to place a chair next to my table. Items can also only be rotated on one axis. I can rotate the chair so it faces the fireplace, but I cannot topple the chair over as if my character had to leave the place hurriedly or whatever other scene I could imagine.

lotro wall and floor slots
The colour and the look of the wall and the floor can be changed.

One thing I do like is that you can change the wall’s colours and the look of the tapestry (same for the floors) and you can add ambient music to your house. But all in all, this housing is very, very limited. Even though I thought I would be happy to have some kind of housing at all, all it did was leave me yearning for more and I think I would really prefer no housing over such limited housing. I can see the prettiness, but I cannot build with it and that makes me sad.

Pictures of the main room of the hobbit deluxe house

Some more images of Lotro’s housing

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (January 5, 2014)

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchWelcome to today’s Bookahneer’s Geekwatch and the first Geekwatch in 2014! The place about miscellaneous interesting news related to Guild Wars 2 – and on occasion, other games.

We have been relatively quiet for some time, as we had visited bookahnerk’s family over New Year’s. My plan had been to use the time away from my main PC to play around with Folk Tale and its Location Editor Preview on my laptop. Unfortunately, my laptop – which isn’t a gaming laptop – can’t handle the game. I shouldn’t have been surprised about that, I guess. ;) On the other hand, that left me with more time to play board games with the family which isn’t a bad thing either (and I got to play all the expansions we have for Talisman now).

So, as I just mentioned, Folk Tale got another update. Yes, updates are very slow with Folk Tale and if you have bought into their Early Access, you’ve got to be patient. But they do update us regularly on their blog about the progress behind the scenes and I was very pleased to see they kept their word and rolled out the Location Editor Preview before Christmas. What it does is basically let you build maps. I decided to start slow and spread out over the map later. What you can see in the picture below is just a very tiny area of the space that I could fill theoretically. But even this tiny space took me about an hour or two. I need to get used to the controls first and need to get to know all the different pieces I can add. But it’s a lot of fun! I still do not regret having spent money on that game. True, it’ll take forever to get my hands on the game, but it still looks like it’ll be a great one for me. And in the meantime, I have this thing to play around with. I’ll build my perfect like Paerokaville. ;)

Folk Tale Location Editor Preview
Folk Tale Location Editor Preview

If you’ve been away over the holidays like we have, you may have missed the winter events. Guild Wars 2’s Wintersday is running till January 21 (the next patch will be on that day, so depending on when the patch lands, which time zone you’re in, etc. make sure you’re done with everything on January 20!). Rift’s Fae Yule Celebration will be available until January 9, while Lotro’s Yule Festival will end on January 14. So, no matter which of these three games you’re playing, you still have some time left to finish everything.

Rift Yulefest

Of course, even gaming companies, or rather their employees, take some time off during the holidays. This means there weren’t any live streams from the developers. The first 2014 twitch live stream from TrionWorlds will be next Friday, January 10, 2014. It has become part of our weekly routine to have the live stream open on Friday evenings, so it was a tad bit disappointing that there were no such entertainment this Friday. ;) Guild Wars 2 did not have any live streams either. They are concentrating on finishing/making the next four living story releases. Hopefully, after that, I will never have to see Scarlet again. I suspect ArenaNet will have another live stream soonish for the next patch. With the patch coming on January 21, I doubt the live stream will be this Friday, though. Oddly enough, Turbine – or their community manager Sapience, at least, is joining the ranks of using twitch live streams. Sapience wants to start streaming regularly. Nice to see them getting closer to the community. Or, we’ll see, at least.

Dragon Season GW2 News

And last but not least, I am proud to mention that Tilion from Dragon Season launched a News Section on their website! This works by him and certain partners using the twitter hashtags you can see on the left when they are making tweets on Twitter. Bookmark this site if you don’t want to keep checking the Twitter website for news about Guild Wars 2.

Juggling through my MMOs

Sometimes I really wish there was just one MMO. The perfect one for me. But you rarely, if ever, find something perfect for you unless it was specifically created just for you and nobody else. All of the MMOs I’m currently playing offer me something that the others can’t give me.

gw2 winter jumping puzzleAt the moment, I am mainly playing Guild Wars 2, thanks to the Wintersday update and my new-found old love, the mesmer (who insists I earn enough gold to craft her an ascended sword). I love getting the giant wintersday presents and have already gotten Ho-Ho-Tron. I squealed, then looked at the price on the trading post, but decided to keep him besides the fact that selling him would about double the amount of gold I have. As a sidenote, I also got a mini (Scarlet… brrr) out of the black lion chest after I got a key for map completion of Iron Marches with my warrior! This seems to be my lucky month. ;)

My favourite mini game is the Choir Bell activity at the moment. True, it doesn’t sound good. You just can’t really get in-synch with the other players. But it’s still fun to do. Toypocalypse, on the other hand, is rather fast and easy to do when you just place snowmen and catapults everywhere and it gives you a nice amount of wintersday gifts. Don’t bother running back to the centre, just drop the catapults and snowmen where you find the materials. Although we still did run back to the centre once in a while to make sure it has enough firepower.

aion meffanda engineerThe game that got the second most time recently was Aion. Yes, Aion! A fellow guildie in Guild Wars 2 made me reinstall the game and check it out, mainly for the housing. Once I read about the beginner servers, my decision was made: I want to see the world. At least up until level 55. ;) Aion has a PvP zone where the two factions and a third faction made up of NPCs fight against each other.

The game also lets players from one faction invade the other faction’s regions once in a while and this is the part that I don’t like at all. I am all for PvP, but not when it’s mixed with PvE and questing in PvE regions, like World of Warcraft’s PvP servers. *shudder* This usually turns out to be high level players killing low-level players who have no way of defending themselves. I know there are people out there who like that kind of game and that’s fine. It’s just not for me. The beginner server in Aion (which you can switch to every time you want from your normal server) gets rid of all PvP. No PvP in PvE regions, no PvP in the PvP region. The latter would probably be a bit boring, but that’s where the switching to and from the beginner server comes in handy.

I had left the game before they added the two new classes (engineer and artist). I got myself a little engineer and levelled her to 10, so she got her wings, and then I also got her a pet. No MMO character should be without one (the non-combat version). What I haven’t seen so far is… the housing. :p

Rift YulefestThen comes Rift. There always is Rift. The game I fell in love with without being able to say why exactly. They also started their winter/yulefest activities in-game. I got lucky and got two non-combat pets out of the reward boxes that I got for doing the yulefest dailies. Kind of lucky, I assume. :) I didn’t do anything else, other than trying to empty my inventory by selling all sorts of stuff on the auction house. It’s funny how in Guild Wars 2, most of the stuff I find when playing gets sold to the vendor or salvaged for the crafting materials and the luck essences and in Rift, most of the stuff I find gets kept in my inventory until I finally make a stop in Sanctum again to sell it on the auction house, because it would be a waste to sell it to a vendor. I make a nice profit in Rift, but I would like a balance between those games. I love selling stuff on the auction house, but it gets annoying if the items crowd your inventory too fast. On the other hand, finding items and knowing they’re not worth anything is boring, too.

lotro linja guardianLast but not least: Lotro – “How did that get in here?” you may be wondering. Well, they were selling level 50s for 4995 TPs (which is about 38€). I shocked the aforementioned Aion-playing guildie when I told him I caved in and bought a level 50. But I have a lifetime account and get 500 free TPs every month. I’m not playing much anymore, so even after getting the expansion with my saved TPs, I still had lots of them left. There are several reasons I’m not playing the game anymore. One of them is that I do not like my main class, the warden, anymore. The other high level character is a runekeeper and I’d switched away from her to the warden, because I didn’t enjoy playing her. With the amount of time I have to devote to Lotro, it just didn’t make any sense to play a new character for months and months to finally see the new regions. Getting a new character to 50 speeds this up a lot! So I now have Linja, the hobbit guardian. I noticed too late that the name probably sounds like “ninja”. I pronounce it “Linya”. Silly German here. ;)

So that’s my gaming for the past weeks and it didn’t even include The Secret World which I would also love to play more. Next month then, for sure! ;)

Waiting for Helm’s Deep…

lotro_hobbits_picnicEdit: We have just gotten an update from Sapience on the official forums. The expansion is postponed and will be released on November 20th instead.

I was hoping I could log on to Lotro and buy the expansion (Helm’s Deep) tonight. It will cost 4295 Turbine Points for the complete expansion minus the extras you got for pre-purchasing with “real money”. I am not sure I will continue playing my warden now that they’re changing the way builds work, but I had thought about de-dusting my runekeeper.

Unfortunately, Turbine’s game servers went down early this morning (European timezone). Apparently, the data server that hosts the servers had a power outage. The servers are back up (or most of them, at least), but they cannot just put the update on the servers now. Testing has to be done – I assume. I’m not too sure how that all works. But if they’re delaying it, there are probably serious reasons for doing so.

All LOTRO game worlds are now available. At this time, the Helm’s Deep launch remains temporarily delayed. We will keep you updated #LOTRO

So currently, all we can do is sit and wait for them to update us on the situation. I bet that’s not how they pictured this day!

The “good news” is that players can still logon and get rid of their bounder tokens for as long as the servers are still available, as those tokens will be gone once Helm’s Deep is here. And, of course, if you still haven’t bought your housing chests, hurry online and do so now!

For updates on the situation, watch their Twitter account, Facebook page or maybe the dev tracker of the official forum. Although I guess social media outlets are updated before their forums are updated as gaming companies seem to prefer those outlets for fast news (I guess news spread faster on there than via the forum).

Lotro: Buy your housing chests before Helm’s Deep arrives!

lotro_packedUnfortunately, there aren’t many exciting news about housing changes on the horizon, if at all. The most important change at the moment is that the chests available in your personal house will get more expensive when the expansion hits in a few days on November 18. This only counts for housing chests that haven’t been bought yet!

Let me elaborate. At the moment, when you get a deluxe house, you can unlock two housing chests which can be used for storing items. The first costs 100 silver, the second one costs 500 silver. Each of those chests can hold up to 30 items which means that you get 60 slots for 600 silver.

When Helm’s Deep arrives on November 18, the chests will be changed to “storage slots”. If you already bought your chests, don’t worry, you will keep those 60 slots. If you haven’t bought them yet, you will have to pay 1 gold for the first 15 slots, 5 gold for the next 15 slots, 25 gold for 15 more and 125 gold for the last 15 slots to get to the current 60 slots. This means that instead of 600 silver, you will have to pay 156 gold!

Lotro Kinship HouseIf you were wondering whether to buy a house or not: Now is the time to go buy it! The good news is that they cleaned out the neighbourhoods and evicted inactive players a few weeks ago. There are lots of houses free now! I had abandoned my own one to move into a neighbourhood where bookahnerk has his tiny house, a friend has hers and bookahnerk’s and my private kinship (“Second Breakfast Club” – yeah, we made that kinship mainly because we wanted that name… and the kinship house) is right next to my new home. I was so happy when I saw that this perfect spot was available!

The good news about those changes is that with enough gold (and later, mithril coins) you can now get up to 120 storage slots in your house! It’ll cost you 156 gold (depends on whether you already have the first two chests or not) plus 400 mithril coins. You can buy 500 mithril coins for 4000 Turbine Points (that’d be 2 times 250 mithril coins for 2000 Turbine Points each which is the best value at 8 Turbine Points per mithril coin). Those numbers are all for deluxe houses. I’m not sure if the regular small houses will still keep their current chest limit of 30 slots.