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Dev Diary - Premium Housing

By Cordovan

Develop Diary – Premium Housing Update

Erika “FriendlyHat” Ng, Systems Designer
Hello! With Update 19, we’re introducing a new type of housing, which we’re calling Premium Housing, along with a new neighbourhood!
The Cape of Belfalas
The Cape of Belfalas is a spacious new waterfront neighbourhood, replete with lighthouses, beaches, docks, and a fantastic view of the bay! Relinquished by Gondorians who marched off to war or fled from Corsair raids, these large homes are now generally available to adventurers of all stripes, containing many more hook points to decorate and display hard-won spoils upon.

The Houses:

Stately House
The Stately House is the basic type of house (it’s still super big!). Notable Gondorian Magistrates and aging lords of reduced means have occupied these respectable abodes. It comes with 124 interior decoration hooks and 18 exterior hooks.

Luxurious House

The Luxurious House is one solid step up from the Stately House. Generals, advisors and handmaidens to the Royal Stewards, traders, and outer branches of good family have all lived in these. It boasts 140 interior decoration hooks and a sprawling yard with 27 exterior hooks.
Deluxe Kinship House – Hills of Belfalas
One type of the Kinship Houses rests atop a hill, overlooking the rest of the neighbourhood and the bay. These have typically housed the wealthiest of merchants and the older, local bloodlines of Belfalas nobility. It has over 180 interior decoration hooks and more than 36 exterior decoration hooks.
Deluxe Kinship House – Kinship Island
And yes, the other type of Kinship Houses is on its own island, accessible by dock. Among the highest families of Gondor have claimed these for their summer retreats. It has 180 interior decoration hooks and 63 exterior decoration hooks.

Premium Housing

Premium Housing is a new tier of housing, offering luxurious homes for purchase by Mithril Coin. Upkeep will still cost gold, as it does in Classic Housing, however VIPs don’t have to pay Upkeep on their Premium Houses (including Kinship leaders)! Players are also welcome to own multiple Premium Houses at the same time.
House Prices on the Cape of Belfalas:
  • Stately Houses are available from 145 Mithril Coins
  • Luxurious Houses are available from 445 Mithril Coins.
  • Deluxe Kinship Houses are available from 745 Mithril Coins.
  • Upkeep Prices on the Cape of Belfalas:
    • Free Players and Premium Players: Gold OR Mithril Coins
    • VIPs: Free!
Classic Housing is Here to Stay!
Classic Housing is here to stay and will continue to be supported, continuing the example of Update 18.2, when we increased the number of available housing hooks. We will not charge Mithril Coins for a Classic House.
Players can own Premium houses and a Classic House at the same time! Kinships may only own one Kinship House at a time. If your kinship currently has a home, it will have to be abandoned to move to the Cape of Belfalas.

Housing Storage

Housing storage is shared between all your houses, Premium or Classic, for your convenience! Housing Storage for Kinships will work the same way it always has.
Traveling to and Fro
If you’d like to take the scenic route--and it is rather scenic!—the Cape of Belfalas is accessible by foot. One entrance lies southeast of Dol Amroth, along the coastline; the other west of Dor-en-Ernil, via the new coastal road. If you want to take the speedy way, much of the housing UI (brokers, player housing panel, and neighbourhood entry UI) have been updated—and the housing panel, located from your character window,   offers a quick travel button to each house you own. You’ll also gain a new “Travel to Premium House” skill for your quick-slots. If you own multiple Premium Houses, using the quick-travel button in the housing panel will set that house as the destination for your skill. The travel cooldown for Premium Houses is just 1 minute. Travel cooldowns for Classic Houses and Kinship Houses is unchanged.

Behind the Scenes – Developers Speak

And now we thought we’d share a little from the people who did the hardest work in the development of Premium Housing.

Building the Cape of Belfalas

Tim “Baccata” Dwyer, Content Designer
While there's plenty more adventure to be had in Middle Earth, I'm sure all its travellers could use some well earned rest. I hope that you come to know the Cape of Belfalas as your seaside getaway. Originally, The Cape of Belfalas was a pet project of mine. I always wanted the connecting land between Belfalas and Dor-en-Ernil to be a playable area. While it had been a possibility, we cut it from the West Gondor and Central Gondor updates due to the fact that nothing happens there. It was a long stretch of land without any conflict; just a trade route, unaffected by war. I decided to start tackling the Cape of Belfalas in my spare time. Not too long after I had begun work on the Region, we were discussing ideas for premium housing in Gondor. That's when we all decided that my little project and the new housing area were a match made to be. For the housing area on the Cape of Belfalas, things needed to be grand. Every aspect needed to be bigger and better than any house currently on the market. Also I knew right away that I wanted to give players the option of purchasing their own island. There were some challenges, too. Some yards were actually too large for our old technology and sets of hook points did not appear in early trials. The engineers who set things up years ago never imagined the things we were going to try! At times the process felt like peering into the technology of an ancient civilization (us, a few years ago!). Some shrubs decorating the outer yards gave way to hook points… so you can place your own. I placed a lot of hook points.
I hope that you enjoy these grand houses, expansive yards, and great views just as much as I enjoyed making them. See you on the beach!

Teaching Old Code Some New Tricks

Johnny “Silorien” Wood, Engineer
When it was decided that we wanted to give players multiple-house ownership, I was tasked with the initial R&D to see if that would even be possible. A cursory glance at relevant source code and database tables seemed to at first lean toward a simple “no,” but I decided to take some time to prototype something regardless. For any chance of success, and to keep complexity to a minimum, I decided right away that this tech could only move forward if we could avoid having to perform offline acrobatics with the existing database schema and the underlying character and housing data contained therein.
More research proved that the source code and much of the user interface were written with single-house ownership in mind, with practically no indication that multiple-house ownership was ever even considered early on. This was evident in finding that both private and kinship houses were stored in separate, non-iterable containers and handled very much independently in the UI. I very much feared at this point that the database would reflect a similar rigidity, but as it turned out, the housing tables were already capable of handling infinite growth. The only real limitation that I discovered would be the inability to easily provide unique housing chests per residence, which would result in a common housing chest between all of a player’s properties. As it turned out; however, storage limitations and item accessibility facilitation could both be solved by having a common housing chest. Strangely enough, the one major limitation I found turned out to be what the designers wanted, which is a very rare occurrence in engineering.
A working prototype soon followed, largely consisting of UI changes to handle a list of houses rather than two separate housing types, and the addition of premium house list containers throughout code. Interesting problems presented for the duration, from how to make the best use of a single premium house travel skill icon for multiple properties, to, oddly enough, how we could re-utilize ‘Mûmakil tech’ to place hook-points farther away from houses. The net product is an almost completely revamped housing system that we hope you’ll agree is a huge improvement over the old.

New Windows on New Homes

Adam Carriuolo, UI Artist
As I approached the UI design work for the new LOTRO Housing System, I was largely occupied with a desire to simplify the player flow through the new Premium Home-buying experience. As a result, we needed to revisit the existing Classic Housing system design to look for the best way to consolidate both classes of housing into a single UI flow. With those objectives in mind, I laid out wireframes in Illustrator for the main UI panels, taking into account existing and new features (many of which we were still evolving).
Old Housing Broker UI:
Proposed UI (wireframe):
In this new design I’ve consolidated the house information into a single panel, making use of unused space, and isolating or featuring the information most pertinent to the player.
In finalizing the graphical look of the completed assets, I clad the UI in familiar LOTRO graphical skins and made full use of existing graphical conventions.
New Housing Purchase Panel:
The other Housing UI elements (Houses list panel, Neighborhood Gate panel, For Sale panel, etc.) were all approached with the same objectives of consolidation, effective information architecture, and familiar look-and-feel.

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