Letters From Tamriel

An epistolary gaming blog

Housing: OMG

@Zells - sepia stone - small

Hi, and welcome back from winter break!  Or maybe that’s just me.  At any rate, welcome to 2017. 🙂

Housing is coming to ESO in February.  Right now it’s on the PTS, and I considered diving in to the PTS to try it, but I decided to wait.  I don’t want to hassle with downloading the game all over again to get PTS access, but more importantly, I don’t want to “re-do” any work I put into housing – don’t want to decorate one on the PTS and then decorate it again when Homestead goes live for real.  But the preview vids are hitting YouTube and I am drooling.  The rest of this post is a verbal rendition of that drool, and my personal history with TES. 🙂  It’s extremely TL;DR.

Memory Lane Time:
I bought Arena off the shelf in 1994 and fell in love.  It was like nothing I had seen before.  Daggerfall frustrated me – so, so buggy, and the graphics were… ambitious for the time, but not there yet.  I found a lot of the gameplay aspects annoying and difficult, and I hated the end-game.  It ticked me off that I was able to buy a home, but not decorate it – my character lived in a big, empty box.  Daggerfall was disappointing enough that I didn’t buy the battle tower game when it came out; I also didn’t buy Morrowind at first – I waited to see the reviews first.  When Morrowind won Game of the Year, I decided to give it a try.  Fell in love with it literally right out of the box – I tore it open on the ride home and read the manual out loud while my mostly-patient husband drove and sort-of listened.

The GotY edition of Morrowind had a bonus addition I’d never conceived of – a program called the Construction Set; modding had arrived.  Game editing by the consumer… blew my little mind.  I customize everything – build my own daytimer, make my own jewelry…  I’ve been a role-player for decades, so I’m used to really interacting with my fictional worlds; I’ve also written fan fiction.  But it had never once occurred to me that I would ever be able to alter a video game.  That disk was pure magic.  Bethesda gave me crack, and I was hooked.

I knew some Basic and I taught myself html, but I’ve never been a real coder.  The Construction Set came with no instructions, and I didn’t have the knowledge base the program required, but I didn’t care, I taught myself how to use it one error at a time.  Of course it was buggy AF, but I spent hundreds of beautiful, frustrating, exhilarating hours building house after house after house for each of my characters, dozens of them.  For the first time, my characters actually lived in their own homes in a game, they were part of the world.  Inconceivable.  Amazing.  Breath-taking.  I edited the houses after each major event and added trophies from the dungeons they’d been through.  Dwemer ballista in the courtyard and working Centurion training “dummies” in the dojo.  A garden of the plants I used most in alchemy.  A display area for Keening and the other tools in the foyer.  Teleportation pads to the places I went most often.  My game, my way.  Heaven.

In 2004 I bought a new computer specifically to play Oblivion, but Dell screwed me – the machine wouldn’t run it.  Even though the specs were technically what I’d asked for, it was a box of fail.  I won’t go into the specs, but Dell can blow me forever; I will be bitter about that computer until the day I die.  I played WoW on it for a while, but it was such a piece of crap that it couldn’t run WoW past the Liche King expansion, and then not at all.  And then I had to cancel my internet b/c I could no longer afford it.  So I went back to Morrowind the system just couldn’t run anything newer.  I had to keep that piece of crap machine for 10 years, and played/modded Morrowind exclusively for about 4 years.  Yeah, really.  I wiped the game, Kit, mods, and save games over and over when unfixable bugs developed, but I kept playing.  I’m a gamer, and it was the only game I had.

In 2012 I still hadn’t been able to play Oblivion; I had saved up for years but still couldn’t afford a gaming computer, so I bought an X-Box because it was cheaper and I ran Oblivion on that.  Hated that I couldn’t mod it, hated that so much, knowing the program was out there and I was stuck on a console.  There were homes in the game, but none of them fit right, and mostly what I remember about Oblivion now are the mods I wanted to build and couldn’t, not the actual game.  (Except the end of the main plot w/Martin.  That was stunning, I will always remember that.)

I love MMOs.  My first one was Ultima Online, then I moved to Everquest, and Asheron’s Call.  It was announced this week that the AC servers are shutting down, and that gave me quite a pang.  But from the very first moment of online play, I wanted a TES game online – all the others were substitutes.  I’ve literally been waiting for ESO since the late-90s.  Except when the ESO beta finally launched, my computer was incapable of running it, I had no internet, and I had no resources to change any of that.  I sat and cried the night the press release announcement of the ESO beta came out, because I wanted to be a part of it so badly and just couldn’t.

The computer I have now was a birthday gift from a friend the summer of 2015, as was Skyrim.  I still couldn’t afford internet when I first got it, but I had Skyrim and the new Kit and I played it exclusively and exhaustively for a year and a half before I ran the Kit into the ground.  I have about a 1000 Steam-logged hours in Skyrim (not inc. offline hours) and hundreds of hours in the Creation Kit.  I eventually (inevitably) triggered a “known issue” bug (translation: “we know it’s broken, we’re offering no after-market support, have fun with that”) which causes the Kit to crash about every 15 minutes.  It’s fixable, but not by me – requires Actual Coding Skill.  The only “solution” available to me is to remove all my mods from my computer, wipe the game and the Kit, wipe all save games, re-install from scratch, and never use those mods again, like I had with Morrowind.  I couldn’t bear it though, after all the work I’d put into those mods.  So I kept playing with the glitches – only the Kit was fatally unstable.  The game was less fun, though; by then I’d completed several play-throughs and the modding was what was keeping it fresh.

At that point I still did not have internet all the time.  Losing access to the Skyrim modding software was a huge factor in my decision to start playing ESO, even though it required a budget overhaul to figure out how I could reliably afford internet every month.  Late last year I was sure enough I could consistently keep my internet connection that I asked for ESO for Christmas.  Logging into the game for the first time… I can’t even tell you how that felt.  Dream come true time.

I love ESO so much.  It isn’t flawless, but it’s awesome, and over and over again, I’m surprised by this or that perfect detail.  Decades of lore are evident in the depth and breadth of the world.  The only thing that’s been missing for me is that my characters didn’t have a home and I couldn’t mod them one.

Blah, blah – I’m verbose, y’all know that by now.  But I could throw another 10,000 words at the screen and still not really be able to express how much this new housing system is a perfect storm of game-crack for me.  It’s the game world I love best, with all the expanse and depth and social interaction of an MMO, and now it will have a built-in game editor I can use to customize a character home.  A safe, fully-supported editor that won’t crash my system and has no chance of suddenly making my game unplayable.  I will be able to customize a gorgeous, unique character home and invite friends into it.

“Excited” does not begin to cover how I feel about this update, not remotely.

The houses themselves are beautifully done, and there’s a lot of them.  Deltia has an excellent vid series (“ESO Cribs” – here’s the first one) that walks through each one, including the Crown store exclusives, which are… just so, so cool.

If you’ve never modded a TES game and are curious about how the editor works, here’s a vid of Elara Northwind decorating a small home with the editor.

Here’s an amusing one from Sypher  where he sets up a trap in the house to insta-kill friends he’s dueling with, because you’re not really a PvPer if you don’t look at a pile of random furnishings and ask yourself how they can be used for the death and destruction of your friends.  (“He was a good sport about it,” Sypher says in the vid.  LOL)

I’ve only heard glowing reviews about Homestead; it’s everything all of us wanted.  The only single criticism (from me and others) is that the houses provide no additional storage – no inventory slots.  The chests you can see in the vids are not functional.  I would have loved a chest to store character-specific mementos so I don’t have to have them in my character’s bags all the time, but that’s fine, and I do believe that’s something they’ll add eventually.

However, there is a great deal of functionality in the houses – lights/candles toggle on and off; crafting stations can be installed; you can sit in the chairs.  I believe it’s going to be possible to set up a pet in the home who will be wandering around whenever you step in.  Functional training dummies will allow us to test builds without going into combat.

And they’ve added achievement trophies to the furnishings!  Achievements in the past have had dye colors and titles as rewards, now they have trophies you can put in your houses.  What I originally learned to mod for – bring home the cool thing from the dungeon and put it on the mantle – that’s possible now, in-game.  PvPers who have achieved Emperor status will be able to put the goddamn Ruby Throne in their house – and an Elder Scroll is one of the trophies as well.  I mean… c’mon.

So obviously I could keep going for days, but I should stop.  Homestead is cool, though.  Really, seriously, deeply cool.  My little fangirl heart is so full of squee that if you put a stethoscope to my chest it would make such a high-pitched sound only dolphins could hear it.  I am counting the days ’til February.


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One thought on “Housing: OMG

  1. Pingback: June 6, 2017 | Letters From Tamriel

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