A teapot to call home

Two weeks ago Version 1.5 went live in Genshin Impact. As that number suggests it’s the game’s fifth major update since its launch in September 2020, and for me personally it’s the most important one yet: among other cool things like new bosses to fight we got – cue drum roll – a housing system! Yes, really.

Puntastically called the Serenitea Pot it’s not “just” an apartment or a house, but a whole archipelago or mountain plateau for players to furnish and design to their liking. It isn’t flawless, but miHoYo already said that they’re still working on improving and expanding it, and even as it is now it’s already surprisingly good.

After a short questline we get to choose one of three layouts (to begin with) for our very own magical realm located inside an actual teapot. This fits the game’s lore as we’ve already visited a couple of those realms during the Liyue storyline.

Initially the area is completely empty except for a main building – your actual house – and an NPC appropriately named Tubby.

Sitting here all day is obviously bad for your health, mate

Tubby is the realm’s manager of sorts. Obtaining realm currency, buying furniture and blueprints with said currency as well as crafting items is managed here. Your trust rank is raised by building furnishings for the first time, which in turn unlocks more blueprints, additional slots for the crafting queue and even grants access to more real estate around your main island.

Realm currency accumulates in real time whether you’re logged in or not, which is good. The amount you get per hour depends on your realm’s score…which ain’t so good, at least initially. The more items you’ve placed inside and outside of your house the higher your score; consequently you’ll most likely plop down everything you have, even if it doesn’t really fit your artistic vision. I do think that this is only a beginner’s issue though, reaching (or keeping) the highest score by building your dream realm just the way you want it should be an organic process and sort itself out over time.

It’s not talked about much, but alongside the teapot we also got a new form of gathering: woodcutting.

Unsurprisingly, in order to craft furnishings some materials are needed. Silk flowers to make fabric, various fruits and plants for dyes, ore for…well, stuff that’s made out of metal, and, of course, various types of wood for most furniture.

The gathering process isn’t elaborate at all, but somehow strangely satisfying: you whack any tree in the open world with whatever weapon you have equipped, and it drops one piece of wood, up to three pieces total.  As trees are abundant and wood respawns daily or upon relogging (Ha, get it? I only just now got it!) acquiring the desired amounts isn’t hard. The only thing left to figure out is which of the seven types of wood spawns where, but that’s not too hard to deduce either. Anyhow, I like it.

Now to the most important part. Placing furnishings is easy and – thank god – not constrained by an anchor system or nonsense like that. There are some restrictions though. For example, most items are strictly classified as indoor- or outdoor-furniture and can only be used as such; if there’s a way to work around that I haven’t found it yet. Also, not everything is stackable on top of each other. I can place lamps and vases on a table, but not a pile of books on a bookshelf, although it looks like it should have plenty of space for that.

Some features, on the other hand, are not only really good but, in my opinion, bordering on groundbreaking. “Furniture Sets”, for instance.

You acquire a variety of these sets over time, and each one gives you the ability to place a pre-arranged combination of furnishings, like the dining area above. You still have to build or buy the items needed for the set first, but once you have them all you can place the whole set en bloc with just a few clicks. Even better, you can still tweak each piece individually after placing the set, giving the arrangement a personal note if you’re so inclined.

Not only is this easier and quicker than placing the items one by one, the sets can also be a great source of inspiration for folks who aren’t all that creative in this regard.

The house itself is spacious and looks pretty nice on the inside too. Both versions (there’s Mondstadt style as seen throughout this post, and Liyue style) have two stories, with a large open space and three adjacent rooms on the ground floor and a gallery-like level above that. The latter also has two doors, but unfortunately those won’t open as of yet. To get to my really nice balconies I actually have to scale my manor’s outside walls like a burglar. I hope they’ll do something about that in future updates.

Once you’ve bought the corresponding blueprints you can even replace floors, ceilings, walls and the main chandeliers with different looking ones; by now I have a much nicer cedar parquet floor in my main hall instead of the chequered one you see above.

At higher trust ranks the currency I mentioned can also be used to buy progression items like resin replenishments, weapon or character XP and Mora. While it’s certainly a smart move from miHoYo’s perspective to incentivise using the teapot even if you’re not a fan of housing, I don’t like this very much.

Firstly, it excacerbates the compulsion to unlock, build and place stuff as quickly as possible even further, which kind of defeats the purpose of a housing system as a more “zen” activity.

Secondly, it’s most likely the reason for the whole thing being locked behind reaching Adventure Rank 35 – which I hadn’t really taken note of in the patch notes as AR restrictions usually don’t affect me anymore, but Bhagpuss reminded me of it. Now, it doesn’t take that long to reach AR 35 if you set your mind to it, but I think it’s pretty stupid to gate a housing system like that at all.

All things considered I’m pretty happy though, especially since I know more is coming still. Also, in case you forgot, this isn’t an MMORPG. For what’s basically a single player RPG with optional four player Co-Op, primarily developed for mobile platforms, a housing system as substantial as this is already much more than I’d dared to hope for.

I do have a wishlist for those future updates however, because of course I do:

  • Make the house’s interior part of the teapot’s main-instance instead of the separate instance it is now. This would spare us the additional loading screens each time we’re going in our out, and also greatly increase the immersion factor. Also, what good is a balcony for when I can’t actually get to it?
  • Let us use all furnishings wherever we want, inside or out (except those that are too large for indoor use, obviously).
  • Let us stack more items on top of each other.  Encouraging creativity is king.
  • Some more functionality would be great. We already have forge, stove and alchemy table (awesome!), access to the adventurer’s guild is pretty much the only important thing that’s missing now.
  • Add new blueprints to our crafting selections immediately, don’t make us go to our inventories and consume them first.
  • Maybe think about lowering the AR restriction. Making players wait this long until they can experience a game’s housing system really doesn’t make sense to me.
  • And please, for the love of god, let us switch between Tubby’s menus without having to start the conversation all over again each time (this goes for pretty much all of the game’s NPCs, by the way). I swear, I’ll throw that fat finch into the stove when I have to listen to its greeting line just one more time!

Fingers crossed.

EVE’s wretched hive of scum and villainy finally looks the part

If you’ve played EVE Online at any point during the past 15 or so years you’re well aware that the NPC station Caldari Navy Assembly Plant located at Planet IV Moon 4 of the Jita star system is the game’s major trade hub most players use to buy and sell their wares. And scam, and lie, and cheat, obviously. Hell, even if you’ve only heard or read about the game chances are “Jita 4-4” means something to you.

Despite its huge importance to the community the station looked like just another Caldari station for the longest time, on the inside as well as the outside.

Well, not anymore.

About half a year ago CCP completely remodeled the station’s exterior, and I think they did a pretty good job. It looks sprawling and busy, with electronic billboards plastered everywhere.

The thing is though, the station isn’t actually looked at much from the outside. As a matter of fact most arriving players dock as quickly as they can, and warp the hell off right after undocking when they leave again. The reason for this, of course, is the fear of suicide gankers.

The opposite is true for the station’s interior however. Thousands of characters basically live there. I assume more ship spinning happens in Jita 4-4 than any other station, so one might argue that in order to give players something nice to look at this should have been the priority.

Anyway, the wait is over now. A couple of days ago the station’s bowels followed suit at last. As I don’t log on my Jita alt often these days I’d probably missed it if not for Wilhelm. Which would’ve been a shame because I think it looks glorious.

Now, I know that there are much more important things CCP’s devs should be working on. Nevertheless I applaud that they took the time to do this because, for me, EVE isn’t just ‘spreadsheets in space’. It’s a virtual world, and while immersion doesn’t come easy in a game where I can’t run around and identify with an avatar, stuff like this definitely helps.

I’m sure the effect will wear off soon enough, but for now I’ll spin my ship in Jita 4-4 again from time to time, which I hadn’t done in quite a while.