ESO: Housing

Introduction

This is simply some thoughts on how Player Housing might be integrated into the game. It has be talked about for a while and if/when it does arrive, the primary reason for houses, is to used as a kind of hub for each player/character – a place where they can come to after quests and events and unload and relax and perform routine chores like crafting writs, upgrading armour, managing finaces, etc without having to venture all over Tamriel. As such, many existing game features whould be accessible from here and many additional features could be added.

Before discussing those features, just a quick mention about how a home could work. I have often seen it asked whether houses would be instanced to your character or accessible for other players as well. I don’t think there is enough land in Tamriel for each player to build their own customized house and place it on the map, and also doing so would be tremendously taxing on the servers and turn the game into a kind of Sim City. So everyone will have to goto the same place (or one of a few different places in ctities across the map) and go through the same door to get into the house – meaning that unless housing is instanced, you may end up walking through a mass of people as your enter your own house, not unlike walking into the bank during busy hours of the game – making it impossible to even goto the toilet in peace. However since you spend so much time customizing a house, it might be nice to be able to invite people over to see what you have done with the place etc. For now however, lets just assume that when you enter your home, you are entering an instanced zone and the house itself appears the same to everyone from the outside regardless of any upgrades you make.

So now we have established how going into a house would work, lets discuss how houses might fit into the game.

Skill Line

While its not a profession I think housing deserves its own place amongst the skill lines as it is somethng that your improve as your level up. Perhaps it would be better suited to slot it unto the World skills, although if we allow people to have multiple houses and potentially rent them out to NPC characters to earn some gold each day, it could turn into a profession – but more about that later. First, should it really be a skill and if so, how do you advance it?

I think the housing should be something that brings many of the skill lines together and it grows with your other skills as your character grows. Basic housing should be available early on in the game, so some of the features can be utilized by low level players but other more advanced features should only be available later. This would also encourage low level players to go out and look for the crafting stations in the world but higher level players can relax a bit as they have already explored a lot. Such upgrades can only be added once the related skill is completed. This is one way you can advance the new home skill, though there should be other too as some people have no interest in crafting or leave crafting to one character. With that in mind, all skill lines that have been completed should further add to the house skill as can any achievements. By the time you reach complete the main quest line, you should have completed the skill line and be able to add any of the passive skills you desire.

Once this skill line is leveled up enough, various upgrades for the houses can be unlocked in the form of passive skills or perhaps crownstore purchases. These might include
– adding crafting stations for each profession once that profession reaches level 50
– a herb garden which gives you roughly the same return as crafting survey without having to leave the house (once a day)
– a pet stable where you can feed and manage your active pet
– a trophy display case to show off your rewards
– a display manequin to dress up with your costumes/armour for the fashion conscious
– a fighting manequin to test your damage abilities on
– personalized storage space, which is linked to your bank/access to guild bank and store
– home assistants/servants
– map of tamriel (areas covered and areas unexplored) – journey planner
– kitchen for advanced food prepation
– helper to send crafting writs from house to supply depot without you having to leave house
– bed for well rested bonus when you logout for extended period from within the house

I will discuss some of these in greater detail further on and others may seem redundant, as you can already get helpers to send you food and other materials through their respective professional skill line. I do think having a house should still benefit those professions in some way though.

One thing to mention regarding making housing a skill line though, is that it will require additional skill points to be added to compensate for the use of skill points in attaining these skills. Its possible they could be unlocked without using skill points in much the same way your racial skills come with the first skill line partially unlocked. In fact basic housing should be available early on as it might include some features which are useful to all players regardless of level. So this first passive skill should come as unlocked in this manner, when the house is first added to the players skill line.

Basic Housing

Before getting into the advanced features you add onto your house once you have it, what basic facilities should be availble for all users. I should mention here, that while the house has many in game functions, it would also serve as a kind of portal for the user to access content from outside ESO (through either a phone app or possibly a website) and so this basic housing which is provided to everyone, becomes a fairly core part of the game and even if you don’t have an actual house, you can still use these features.

Bank
Should things like access to the bank be available at lower levels as it will mean less people goto the actual bank and more people manage their banking from home? Banking is an integral part of the game though, and more places you can access the bank, the better. I do think the bank/guild bank and guild store should be accessible from the house – however a small fee might be charged from the bank for using their facilities while at home. A passive skill could later be used to minimize this if needed.

Cooking Fire
The ability to make yourself a meal and some refreshing drink is part of any good home. So even from a basic level this should be available. It is definitely something that should be upgradeable as you level up the associated professions. I think when it is upgraded it should complement the existing profession passives – for instance being able to produce stacks for food/drink in a single serving, perhaps using slightly less materials to do so.

Bedroll
Coming home to the house and logging off, esentially putting the character to sleep for a while might be used to produce a small bonus similar to enlightenment. It may even be able to utlize the existing enlightenment to earn extra XP system depending on how much time the character is logged out. Alternatively, the bonus might be a short half hour to hour HP increase when you log back in, similar to the ‘well rested’ bonus seen in other Bethesda games – making your first hour or so back in the game a little easier. This could also be upgraded though it depends on which bonus they went with, more enlightenment is probably safer than adding additional HP. Notifications could also be sent through the app to let users know their enlightenment or their wel rested bonus is ready.

Memory Wall
Playstation and Xbox aleady have built in capability for capturing screenshots and short videos and sharing them through their respective networks. This is a feature similar to that but built into the game, meaning you can look back on some of your boss fights or dungeon runs and share the video of its retroactively, withouthout having to press record before you start. From here I think it should also be possible to share clips and screenshots outside the game, by linking to the users social media.

I mentioned it briefly above but Housing essentially becomes a portal for access to ESO from the outside world, and ESO benefits from free advertising with users uploading clips and screenshots to social media. This can already be done obviously, but simplifying the process and making it retroactive so that users don’t need to be recording beforehand or if they miss that perfect screenshot, they can simply look back and add it in.

Research Station
A place to manage research and see the overall status of your characters research. There are plugins that do this for PC already but hvaing it integrated into the game and accessible from the house – which as mentioned is a portal to the outside world, gives you more control over the researching and as the home is acting like a portal to the outside world, it would be possible to get notifications and start new research from outside ESO via the app, meaning you can stay up to date with your research and optimize it.

Storage
Basic housing should also add a small amount of storage space in the bank, and as the skill level increases so does the storage space. Additional storage space can be purchased later. These can be marked in the bank as stored in the house but should be accessible from everywhere in the same manner as items in the bank are. As a side note, it would also be very handy to add notes to items in the bank.

Location and Appearance

Since housing needs to be available early on in the game, I would say the first house should be available in the captial city of their alliance. However rooms can be rented in each city, which gives access to the features like the Memory Wall, Research Monitor, etc so that even without a house users are not left without those. The house itself should be in the style of the characters race and a certain amount of internal customization should be allowed – based on dyes and achievements earned, however as already mentioned the exterior of the house will remain unchanged and will appear the same for all users.

As the character progesses to other zone and cities, they can rent a room in the city which will effectively put them in their own house (via wayshrine technology). Exiting the house brings them back to the same door they entered through.

As for the cost of the rooms, I would suggest it is the same as the cost of transporting to a wayshrine via the map. If however the character enters the map through their own front door, there is no cost. So they can effectiely eliminate all costs by using the wayshrine to port to the captial city they have a house in and then walk to their front door.

The house should be obtained by completing a quest and then purchasing it from on of the NPC’s in a manner similar to Skyrim, but I would also suggest it be available in the crown store. For players who want to access the features of the house without actually having a house, they are accesible from the rent rooms in a generic style and without any of the upgrades. It is not neccessary to own a house in ESO as all the people so far are existing just fine without it, but it does make things much easier.

Further houses can be obtained in later zones – with additional quests and at a pretty steep price, which you can rent out to NPC players making yourself a bit of gold everyday and making your a landlord. I expect their could be some interesting customer complaints from noisey tennats and dealing with Khajit problems or Argonian maids could be rather interesting side aspect of having houses.

Advanced Housing

There are a lot of things that can be added onto the basic house once you have completed the quest and moved yourself in. I am in two minds as to which should be available from the crown store and which should be upgrades for the house available via skill points. If any at all? There is nothing in the advanced section would I would consider giving people and unfair advantage, it merely makes things easier and more convenient.

Crafting stations
These should not be available before the character has reached the maxmium level in that profession, as this encourages them to explore and find the various crafting stations spreadout throughout the world. Specialized sets have their own places in the world and it may be a nice idea to be able to import that specific set to your home station once you have been to that location once. Only one at a time, but if you craft a lot of a specific set, it means you don’t have to keep running to that place each time you want to make a new piece of that armour and the whole idea of the home is to bring everything together. Meaning you can rebuild your character without having to leave the house.

Workshop Assistant
An assistant in your house who will bring you the new writs daily and deliver your goods for you, so you don’t ever have to leave the comfort of your own home. You can already get materials delivered to you via the profession passives, but a workshop assistant might also augment these deliveries. It would be good if you could use your costumes/disguises on the assistants, so if you managed to get a chefs hat you could put it on the kitchen assistant, or if you had a banekin polymorph you could use it on the butler and have him poof in from Cold Harbour when summoned.

Kitchen
I briefly touched on upgrading the cooking fire before, but being able to make full stacks of food or drink in a single click would be a bit of an upgrade and if you have the workshop assistant, it might mean you save 20% of the matierials by making in bulk.

Recipe List
Show all the recipes you know and which ones you still need to find.

Herb Garden
A small garden that gives you lush alchemical ingredients once a day. The same as you might find in a survey report only without having to go out and look for them.

Fishing hole
A slightly higher chance of catching that perfect roe, or getting 4 fish fillets for every 3 fish filleted.

Pet Stable
A place to put all your pets (some people have quite a few). You can interact with your active pet, playing games and feeding them (much like a Tamagochi) using the emotes in the game. If people have the phone app, this is would be a nice side activity that you can do while you are away from ESO. Especially if you could get the pet as a baby and watch it grow and keep it happy. A baby pet couldn’t follow you outside the house, but perhaps once they are large enough they could be added to your actual pet list and follow you around. Another side note, it would be nice if pets had more of a purpose, like running off if they spot a heavy sack or backpack you can loot, or growling if they sense danger.

Trophy Case
For all the dungeon trophies you collected and currently just sit in the inventory. This would be a place to show them and highlight some of your achievements and seeing the empty spaces is a bit of visual encouragement to go out and complete those quests.

Display Mannequin Set
For the costumes you aquired but can’t wear, show them off with a set of dummies you can position in fun poses. Ties in nicely with the screenshot and share to social media.

Fighting Mannequin
To test your DPS and practice combo attacks and weaving. Add your armour to the dummy to test your mitigation strength against your own attacks. Turn the dummy into a daedroth and have him spew fire on you to test your fire resistance. Its a useful tool to have in any adventurers home.

Additional Storage Space (Personal Vault)
Buy more space for crowns (up to a house limit) that is added to your bank space. Items placed in here are accessible from the banks across tamriel. This is perhaps the most controversial item on the list as some might argue that having more space gives you an advantage.

Library
Display all the books you know – already in the lore library section, but sometimes it nice to have a hardcopy of the things.

Shrines to Stendarr and those guys
So you can reset your skill points/attribute points etc. A very lore rich area where you can learn about much of the history of ESO.

Celestial Observatory
Reset your mundus stone from the comfort of your own home and see more information and lore about the various daedra and the boon’s they bestow upon you.

Map Room
A map of Tamriel you can zoom in and see your various battles and achievments and each location. There is an existing plugin which I like called HeatMapR, which also colours part of the map that you have visted and the more you spend at that location the darker it gets. Its a good way to see which areas you have yet to explore and nice way to plan your day. I would consider this just a expanded version of the existing map and the quest tracker rolled into one. The fact that it also has achievements and dates and can be linked back to the memory wall would make it quite a useful search tool.

Looking at all these, the house is going to need to be pretty large it would seem. More like an estate with mines and forests you can plunder and lakes to fish in. Fortunately, the house is a zone in itself so this is very possible for your primamry residence. For the houses you rent to the NPC, I think it might be slightly overkill and having your own forest in a major city is also a little bit crazy … though the house doesn’t neccessarily have to be the city centre.

Phone App

The phone app is a fairly important component of using the housing feature like this. While not everyone has a smart phone or tablet that can run this, it is not essential and they will still be able to use everything in game, they may not appreciate the full experience. The housing feature being accessible from outside the game, means you can still interact with your character albiet in a limited fashion. You can’t play ESO on the phone, but while your character is in his home or you are logged off, you can use the phone app to do a number of things to stay connected.

Manage researching for one, its really just a progress bar showing you how much time left until you can start your next crafting item. As there is access to your bank from the home, you can select the item you wish to craft and kick it off without actually being online. Useful if the crafting finishes while you are at work. Which brings us to the second point, notifications. Research timers aren’t the only thing you can be notified about, new mail messages, guild updates, enlightment activation, pvp scrolls alerts, new emporer alerts can all be sent to the phone through the app.

One of the biggest features of this housing model is the integration with social media. It seems like everyone has a facebook or twitter or twitch or youtube, and being able to locate your guild members social media profiles should be easy enough. Obviously there re privacy issues with that, some people don’t like sharing that kind of information, so it would be an opt in thing. Even if you aren’t sharing your social details with other people, you can still post screenshots and videos from the app though.

The pet tamagochi idea mentioned before I would imagine as an option extra. If you could bring a pet (that you had cared for and played with) from the phone into the game, it would make that pet so much more appealing. And again, if that pet could do something to assist you, that would be even better.

Links to the ESO forums and realm status messages would be useful on the app, letting you know how things are and being able to report any issues.

Being able to add various armours to your character while he is offline, and see how they look to find the right racial style would be a nice tool. Especially if they allowed all the emotes could be used while posing and you can create merchandise from the screenshot. With the option of generating a 3D printed version of your character in that pose, in various sizes from keychain to action figure.

Quick reference for Potions, Enchantments, Recipes and other such items.

Normal account features, like managing your subscription and buying crowns can also be done on the app.

Guild chat. So you don’t miss out on anything.

If your character is logged on and you use the app, it can be used as a mini map to show your location in the game and a quest tracker so you can see what you need to do.

Final thoughts

Another option would be to take out the skill line idea and replace the existing costume, pet and mount icons and put them under the house icon. Most of the rest of the stuff doesn’t need to change. I just liked the skill line because it puts everything in one place and also because it is something you can progress.

It may also be an option to make the home zone accessible from the character select screen – instead of choosing play with that character you can load directly into the home from there and get redy for the day, choose the outfit you want to wear and then step out the front door from there. It adds an extra step between play time, so I think it should be an optional step – in case you know you have a few things to take care of before battle.

You should not be able to port directly into the house from the map.

If a barber is added or a feature to customize your character it could be added to the house, the same with spell crafting.

Inviting other people into the house should be possible, like taking a taxi into foreign campaigns in cyrodil – they need to be a group before coming in. The items in the house would not be accessible though, but it can still be used for house parties and entertaining guests. If you get a bellydancer costume, one of your ‘assistants’ could provide some entertainment – then again, one of your guests might take it upon themselves to do just that.

The same architecture used for houses could be used for Guild Halls, although they would be more communal spaces but I would like to see them integrated with the phone app.

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