Housing for all, all for housing

run-down-house1This Final Fantasy XIV guild housing thing is just a forehead-slapping mess.  The logic, if I’m following it correctly, is that the developers were worried that rich players would snap up all of the open world housing plots for guilds, so they jacked up the prices so much that pretty much nobody could afford one.  And then they said not to worry, that 80% of guilds should be able to afford the smallest-sized plot within three months of this highly anticipated patch feature.

There’s a few stupid gremlins at work here, not the least of which is the feeling that the developers are really out of touch with the purpose of housing.  It shouldn’t be a prohibitively expensive feature that requires gobs of grinding and time to achieve or a massive goldsink; it should be as accessible as possible for everyone so that people have a place in the game to call their own.  It’s in a studio’s best interests to help players develop “roots” in a game, whether that be terrific social tools, housing, or empowering players to be part of the creation content process.

You *want* to give your guilds a place to congregate, socialize, and decorate.  I’m always amazed more games don’t have such places (shifty eyes at Guild Wars 2 and doey eyes at Guild Wars 1).  Ever since I was a kid, the concept of a clubhouse for me and my friends had enormous appeal, and that hasn’t really changed.

Another thing that this FFXIV situation has taught me is that open world housing is hardly ever worth the bother.  I know it’s becoming more en vogue once again with these sandbox up-and-comers, but I’ve never understood the appeal of large swaths of land that are converted into suburban tracts with 3/4ths abandoned dwellings.  Instanced housing is just fine by me, and that way you never run out or have to worry about wealthy players creating a monopoly on plots.

In any case, what should be a day for FFXIV players to celebrate — a major update release day — has become soured by last-minute developments in pricing and the realization that most everyone won’t be enjoying the biggest feature of this patch.  That’s just not how housing should be.

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9 thoughts on “Housing for all, all for housing

  1. Here here. Housing is a pretty big thing in an MMO for me and I’ve only really experienced it in Rift so far. *glares across at Guild Wars 2 with you* So I am very sad to hear that FFXIV housing won’t be accessible for the average casual player. Perhaps they’ll learn from this palava when they implement personal housing. We can dream, hey?

  2. The whole FFXIV housing debacle is utterly confounding. If Yoshi-P wants to be sure that super-rich players don’t snap up all the plots, why doesn’t he make the Deeds one per account? In fact, since these are Free Company houses – Guild Halls – why not make them one per FC, purchasable only be the FC leader? Why would a Free Company need more than one Guild Hall in the first place?

    It’s also entirely possible to have housing that’s both open world and unlimited, too. Vanguard managed it, back when the game was sufficiently well-populated for grabbing a good plot to be highly competitive. They just slapped a few more islands down just off-shore and presto – loads more open-world housing.

    Why SE keep making such a huge fuss about the infrastructure costs of adding extra server capacity to handle stuff like this mystifies me too. They know how many subscribers they have, surely? They know when they are going to launch these features. Why does the demand always seem to take them completely by surprise? If it’s not commercially viable to add this stuff in and give it the server capacity it requires to run it effectively, perhaps it would be better not to bother at all.

  3. While I agree that housing needs to be more accessible than to a few top guilds, I am not sure I would like to dismiss open world housing so easily. It’s “okay” that not every player can afford a player house right away. It’s okay to ask players to jump through a few hoops and that some can afford more space than others, imo.

    If a world map is big (and flexible) enough, the way it totally could have been in LOTRO, pretty much every active account (=/ active players) could have a outdoor house somewhere without zones being crowded. the problem is that many developers just aren’t willing to prioritize housing the way it would have to be, in order to offer this kind of awesome housing system (server pops, flexible planting mechanic etc.). If I recall correctly, they are planning to offer open world housing more liberally in SotA; with city spots being more rare and precious than others. that’s okay in my book as long as I can have my little cabin somewhere out in the wild.

  4. I think I’d prefer a mix of open and instanced, sort of like a homeowner/apartment renter dichotomy. I think Ultima Online’s housing would’ve worked a lot better if a) there were easy ways to sell your plot (including marketing and the transfer), and b) there was an option for all players who don’t have the money or time to invest in a real world plot.

    Either way, it’s probably a good idea to not do housing after some of your playerbase have had years to save up, others were able to capitalize on a relaunched marketplace, and yet others come in with neither background poor with no real means to make more money outside of heavy grinding.

  5. I’m not sure what advantage open world housing has over a system like Rift’s, where the housing is instanced but can be made accessible to friends or the public if the owner so chooses. But I look forward to any housing designed into a game. As Syp mentioned, open-world housing seems to lead to both land grabs and abandoned neighborhoods. But Instanced housing inaccessible to others would be pointless. My main concern with Landmark is how land will be distributed.

  6. I completely disagree.

    Since this is a finite resource , it needs to be valueable. If this was affordable to everyone that could bother buying a deed, you can bet that you’d have people coordinating to snag all the plots and then corner the market, so to speak. Even with acount restrictions, it would be far too easy for a rich guild to pick up dozens of plots.

    And really, this is a luxury. Like all uxurious and prestigious things, it needs to be in limited supply and require effort, otherwise it is just taken for granted. It will take 3 months for a guild to get a house, for the same reasons it takes 5 months for a character to get decent gear; it’s there to keep you occupied, not to instantly give you a new toy to play with and forget about it in 2 months when the ‘content runs out’. This will give groups of people a long term goal; if some group finds it too much, then I guess they can wait for the plot prices to drop to acceptable levels (which they claimed would do, just like in a real world economy).

    I ‘m extremely dissapointed by all the negative reactions from the playerbase. Have we, as MMO gamers, really devolved to ‘instant gratification or gtfo’? Because judging from the various articles floating around the internet, it sure seems so.

  7. @Tithian “plot prices to drop to acceptable levels (which they claimed would do, just like in a real world economy)”

    I don’t know what economy you’re part of, but prices for land rarely go down, other than speculative bubble pops. And housing/shelter in the real world is not considered a luxury, but a basic human need. As for the “instant gratification,” I have it from reliable sources that prior to this patch it was extremely difficult to accumulate any kind of cash reserve at max level, meaning that no one can even touch the prices mentioned. That’s not about instant gratification, it’s about poor game design.

    And another thing while we’re at it: since when should I, or any player, have to “earn” enough to get the the “luxuries” in a game? I do that enough in my real life. I’m already putting down a rent check every month just to play the game (well, I’m not because no one has convinces me FFXIV is any kind of worth it) why then should there be another months long barrier to access some aspect of the game. I think you’re confusing content with features. “Keeping me occupied” in some grindfest of the same content over and over while dangling some carrot like “Someday you’ll able to afford a house” is the worst kind of game design. If the devs can’t create a game that intrinsically keeps the players’ interest, they don’t deserve to have the players or their RL money.

  8. @Rowan

    1.) When demand for a product goes down, so does the price. Look at Steam sales. Also look at housing costs in the European south, you can get a decent house for 60-70% of the price of what it was around 4 years ago, due to the market crashing here. This is incorporated in the game itself, as they said that unclaimed plots will go down in price.

    2.) Since your toons will not die of exposure and you can get lodging elsewhere anywhere, having a house to play interior decorator with is luxury. Simple.

    3.) People that favor the crafting/gathering classes are reported to have millions of gil, even up to 10s of milions. Housing is a sink for all this unused money.

    4.) All games need to have longterm goals, if they have a subscription attached. The “I work in RL, I want free stuff in game” is crock and is responsible for people losing interest fast in all recent MMOs, hence the term “three monthers”. The games with the best sub retention are those that keep people busy. See EVE, people are not likely to sub to that but when they do, they tend to stick around for years. “Someday you’ll able to afford a house” is exactly what will keep people logging daily to get to that goal. If people quit the game due to unavailable guild housing, chances are the other gameplay elements themselves were not enough to keep them playin and they’d have quit either way.

    5.) This is GUILD housing, it is supposed to be a coordinated group effort. Personal housing will be more affordable. This is like complaining that heroic raids in WoW “takes months to clear for the average guild”. If your guild can’t do it now, wait until it gets easier.

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