Treehouse Livin’

Over the weekend I spent lots of time and plenty of currency creating a treehouse on my character’s housing plot:

Given how indifferent I’ve always been to MMO housing systems in the past, it was a really big and strange deal for me to be so engaged with this project. I can’t even say particularly how or why I decided to get started. Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it.

From the Ground Up

I started out slowly with plenty of staircases, wooden 2x4s, pillars and wooden platforms (which are all, thankfully, some of the cheapest materials you can buy). Eventually I circled the tree multiple times. While there are no true physics in WildStar’s housing – you can place anything anywhere – I wanted to make my treehouse seem as if it might be structurally possible.

It’s really difficult for me to pinpoint what exactly it is about WildStar’s housing system that has captured my interest. If you told me last week that I would have spent several hours over the weekend laying individual 2x4s in a video game, I’d probably have said you must not know me very well. Normally I just have no interest in that kind of minutiae, and yet on Sunday I agonized over how to place pillows so that they looked as if they’d been casually tossed on my deck.

Some of the appeal for me is simply how many different pieces of furniture are available, and how well each of those items fits into WildStar’s overall theme. While I did end up placing a lot of individual pieces together in order to create curved steps or the railings that you see in the picture above, so much of what I needed already existed. The housing system has a good balance between giving you the materials you need to be able to create things from scratch and also giving you plenty of options for pre-made pieces. Essentially, you can do as little or as much work as you want and still end up with a house that looks like a home.

As much as I enjoyed putting together my treehouse over the weekend, it was pretty sad to think that all that hard work would disappear once open beta concludes. Fortunately, one of Carbine’s engineers, Aaron Chard, wrote an add-on in his spare time (i.e. when he wasn’t being paid to work on the game) that will allow you save your decor, reuse it later and even share it with other people. Grace over at Moonshine Mansion has written a post explaining how to install add-ons in WildStar and her experience with “Decor Set Manager.”

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Keeping Up With the Jonses

Another huge aspect of why I have enjoyed WildStar’s housing has been the social side of designing your home. You can become Neighbors with someone in order to allow them to visit your house whenever they wish – even if you’re offline at the time. This has led to some very good-natured and light-hearted competition between my guildmates and I to test the limits of what we can create. When I first log in, I tend to do a circuit of my neighbors’ houses to see what amazing new ideas they’ve come up with since I last visited.

There is also a choice to make your house public. If you do so, your house will show up in a list of public housing plots that anyone on your server can visit at any time. It’s a great way to show off your decor, and it’s also a nice way to make any challenges you’ve placed on your plot accessible to everyone. Challenges are timed events in WildStar. You will encounter the vast majority of them while you are questing, but there are also certain challenges which you can place on your own housing plot. They award cosmetic items and dyes, and can be used by anyone who visits your lot. In my experience, many people who have found some of the rare housing plot challenges have made their lots public so that other players are able to experience those challenges as well.

Some of the rarer housing “plugs” I’ve seen are even a step above challenges. There are a handful of plugs that are actually portals to instanced mini-dungeons. In at least one case so far, defeating the final boss of the mini-dungeon rewarded me with my own version of that housing plug, so that I can now go back to my house and put that portal on my own land for all my friends to use.

I love the idea that when you find an interesting rare item – like one of these housing plot challenges – the goal really isn’t to keep that for yourself, but instead to share it with as many people as you can. Though the house owner really doesn’t benefit from having players running around her lot, the prevailing attitude still seems to be “I have something fun that other people would probably enjoy. I should let them visit and experience it for themselves!”

Public housing is yet another way that WildStar encourages its players to get out there and meet other people. This option, along with zone events and mobs that do not tag to the first person who hits them, seems to demonstrate a commitment to encouraging people to play together and help each other out.  I hope that this positive attitude survives the game’s launch, and I can’t wait to see the ideas that people on my future server come up with.