January, my friends. And while I had prayed for sun, I planned for rain, and that turned out to be a wise move. What happened in the end was unpleasant but entirely unsurprising, as Final Fantasy XIV's second implementation of housing went little better than the first.
In the interests of full disclosure, yes, I am one of the vanishingly small number of people with an in-game house at the moment. I work at home and happened to have both the money and the time to grab myself a place to live in-game. That doesn't mean the system is anything remotely approaching good or even acceptable, which is why I want to spend this week talking about the mess that has been made and what, if anything, can be done to correct this fact. Housing in Final Fantasy XIV is a sore spot right now, and that's a problem, especially when it doesn't have to be.
There's not enough
The simple fact is that Final Fantasy XIV's current housing system combines the worst of instanced housing with the worst of open-world housing. It wants to be both, and it is neither.
I suspect, although I'm not sure, is that part of the problem with housing is that it's constantly running, unlike an instance server. Time and again, we as players have been told that what's holding the implementation of more land back is memory or server requirements, which isn't as much of a thing for instances. If no one is in an instance -- say, Aurum Vale -- that instance is using no memory. It makes demands only when players are in there.
Housing wards, however, are persistent, and with a lot of moving parts that players can influence. My guess would be that there is no instanced aspect to housing per se, that it's all kept running at all times so players can walk in and jump into someone else's house at any time of day or night. The net result, however, is that it holds the worst of both worlds. It's not open-world, so you can't drop your house in the middle of Coerthas if you'd like to, but it's not instanced, which means that every new ward is essentially another zone altogether, one that has to be handled separately from the others.
The problem is that doubling the land isn't enough. Nor is tripling the land going to fix matters, at that. The problem is that this system makes land rare, which means that just as in other games with limited land, it's going to fill up. Giving players enough land that they would never run out of it is kind of a pipe dream to begin with under this system, and with no turnover mechanism outside of a bare minimum "you will eventually be ousted if you don't log in" rule, the land just remains taken. Active players will not lose what they have.
The money gap
I'm not happy about the prices either. I had wanted a Medium, but that simply was not happening. Equally frustrating, though, is that the prices are cheaper, and significantly so. At the launch of 2.1, it cost 4 million for a small home even on the cheapest servers; now, the cheapest servers have them up for 2 million as a starting price. Maddening though it may be, this stuff is actually cheaper. The larger houses are still priced way too high for most individuals, but you could argue that's the point, although smalls still strain against size limitations.
But again, I had the money. Some players don't. And I've observed something odd: The players who had no money at 2.1's launch have no money now, despite gil more or less raining from the sky at this point.
There's an odd splitting effect that I've noticed in FFXIV that I haven't seen in other games where some players seem to be perpetually low on gil no matter how many new faucets are added to the game. Obviously, my overhead is low; I can repair my own gear, I can harvest my own items, I don't teleport more than I need to. I make a tidy profit on a weekly basis without a tremendous amount of effort on my part, and while I could devote myself to making more gil, I don't currently feel the need.
But there are people who were at 300,000 gil half a year ago and are still at 300,000 gil today. The countless new ways of earning money doesn't seem to change that fact.
I'm not going to speculate about why, but it does mean that no matter what, pricing is always going to be an issue here. Price houses low and it's less than a drop in the bucket, price them high and the players who have trouble saving are effectively locked out. I don't have a good solution and I'm not even entirely sure that there is one. What I am sure of is that this is a place where a buildable plot model a la WildStar would serve very well; it's a game where the challenge isn't getting a plot of land but buying a big house with all the accoutrements.
Part of the problem, though, is gardening. Gardening, if you have the time, is lucrative. It's something I need to get started with myself because I have the space to do it. And it's going to become even more lucrative based on the people who don't presently have houses because access is stunningly restricted. Ditto training chocobos; ditto the supposed airship building that's coming, and so forth.
This is part of the problem with the housing model. There are features and game mechanics gated behind it that you can't access any other way, so players who have houses are in a better place than those who don't. Sure, your free company can help, but depending on your free company, how much help you get can be highly variable; I'm lucky enough to have a company with a lot of resources and space, and I'm in the minority.
I am hopeful, although not certain, that the expansion will bring something better than the current model of housing. Right now the game's actual mechanical system is sound, but having a house is a luxury, and it locks a lot of features out of reach for many players. It's not something that's going to be fixed just by doubling the plots available.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I'm wishing and hoping we'll have more stuff to say about patch 2.4; please look forward to it.
Don't call it a comeback! Really, don't. We never left. Episode 23 discusses 2.38, housing, Fanfest, and points related, while Episode 24 covers TGS, the Live Letter, and some speculation. Meanwhile, my trip through Final Fantasy IV has featured the one plot point that everyone mentions from this game, followed by planning to doom the world for one person's life.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.
The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV and the housing mess, part 2
Eliot Lefebvre|September 29, 2014 12:00 PM
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The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV and the housing mess, part 2