For the record, Blizzard is interested in player housing, but they've never had the time to do it and don't expect to anytime soon. This has been their response since the beginning of the game, and I doubt they'll get around to it for several years more.
Plots of Land
Apparently, some games have allowed players to plop houses in the game itself anywhere the land is flat, which would mean that all the charming quiet forests and grasslands would be overrun with obnoxious level 80's getting in the way of decent human beings leveling--and that those same high levels would have a whole slew of "will u help me with this quest? it's right outside ur front door" every time they log on (woe betide the one who would set up shop beside Hogger!). This sort of "open world housing" is mainly useful for world PVP and opening shops in which to sell wares.
Other games have residential towns available through instance portals (reached from major cities), which takes care of the space problem.
The solution I find most reasonable is something akin to Sims:
- Residential and community lots available for purchase. Residential would be tailored to fit guilds and individuals, and commercial lots would be tailored to fit people with goods to sell.
- Open to the public. All residential instances should be open to anyone who wants to visit, though the houses themselves shouldn't be "just come on through!" I would like to see only a few residential instances that people can build in, to keep people from losing the massively multiplayer feel of the game. (I really don't think guilds should be able to run into their own private instance and hide from the rest of the world.)
- Guilds can easily reserve large chunks of space for their members to set up houses without having to worry about strangers moving in while guild members try to grind the gold. Members could then "buy" their desired parcel of land from the guild. Perhaps this could be a "guild house deal," where the land to specifically build a Guild House can have a variable amount of surrounding land tacked on for an extra price, to make sure the guild town can spring up without strangers deciding to move in right beside the Guild House. I think the best way to describe it is an Area of Effect Spell. The guild house would be in the center and the land around it could flare out either a little or a lot, and that land would be where members could set up their houses.
- The ability to move one's house to a different location, or to sell one's house and land. (In case your neighbors become uncomfortable.) This would be especially pertinent to people who build next to their guild and then gquit and don't want to live uncomfortably close to people they don't get along with anymore.
I read that some games have "stages" of houses -- big and expensive or small and cozy -- and in some you must pay rent, which takes a lot of time and effort to keep up so that only the most successful guilds can afford a house by pooling their resources.
Obviously, this wouldn't do in Warcraft, since everyone would want a house of their own. Personal customization is one of the best parts of any game.
What I'd like to see:
- Architecture themes. Obviously, a Night Elf would want to live in a tree and a Blood Elf would want a charmingly elaborate town house, maybe with turrets and a moat and window boxes and a few enslaved indigenous peoples.
- Lockable doors, so people cannot just waltz into your home unless you give them permissions to enter the house (this could be done through "house keys"). You can also leave certain parts of the house accessible and lock other parts.
- Decoration available from various professions. Rugs and pillows and bedding from tailors, furniture from blacksmiths, garden plots from herbalists, delicate statuary from jewelcrafters, and drops drops drops!
- Ability to set hearthstone to house.
- Each house can set its own terrain, meaning a barren ogre mound can set up shop beside a lush treehouse, and the ogre mound could be on grass or dirt and the treehouse could be on grass or dirt.
- A pet cage to hold your favorite non-combat pet. (Ranging from tall golden birdcage to squat iron prison.)
- A water trough to which you can tether your most treasured mount. (Maybe even three?)
- Bookshelves for the books you pick up around the world. (Dustfire would love to put her Steamy Romance Novel on a shelf.)
- Profession-related items like fireplaces by which you can level cooking or just enjoy a small spirit buff or your own personal (extremely expensive) mana loom.
- Locked chests for which only you have the key--each gives you a solid chunk of storage space.
- The less space a useful item takes up, the more expensive it is. Space inside the house would have to be pretty precious, I'd think.
- A treasure room (underground, maybe?). Like in the game Evil Genius, your pile of gold grows or diminishes depending on how much you have.
- Guilds can have the heads of slain beasts and a guild flag with the tabard design to hang out front. Guilds can award trophies to members to display in their homes for exemplary work (ie, "Winner of Guild's 2008 Hide-and-Seek").
- Your alts. When you're not playing them, it'd be nice to have the option to run into your alts (same server/faction only) hanging out in your house in a specific position. Talk to them and get the text message you told them to say (sleeping: "Zz...zzz...zzz..."). This would be activated by giving your alt(s) a key, taking them to the house, and choosing the position/activity and text you want. (Would be nice to make a level one, put them to a chore, and have their text say "Almost finished, master" when you talk to it.)
- Rent is out of the question. No no no no. No recurring fees. Once you buy it, it's yours.
- Price of lot depends on lot size.
- Pay for the size of house you can afford (of the style you like), with the option to add to it as your finances allow. Make it bigger, add a stables, rooms, turrets, catwalks, airy windows, etc.
I personally just want a little townhouse for Dustfire right next door to my brother and his wife, decorated in rich fabrics and pretty items that lend an air of snootiness. I want to be able to show her colors (red and gold) and theme (phoenixes) through decoration and the use of items already in her possession (such as small pets or the mount I'll get... someday).
You might ask why I didn't include my husband as a neighbor. The truth is that he'll be an undead and they're horrible decorators. I might allow him to live in my stable or guard my treasure room, if he promises to hide when Dusty has company.
Anyway, those were just my thoughts. I probably missed something, but please feel free to expand on or discuss anything here. I'd love to hear your ideas.
Resources: Tobold, MMO Hub, Wowwiki