Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV has a serious housing problem for basically no reason

Patch 4.1 arrived in Final Fantasy XIV, and the Shirogane housing rush came and went exactly how everyone familiar with the game had been expecting for months on end. The plots available sold out in a matter of minutes, the people who were lucky enough to get in ahead of the queues were the ones who got new houses, and everyone else was left to rant and rave. Frankly, it all worked great, technically speaking; there were no sudden disconnections, no horrid lag spikes, no zone crashes, nothing. Everything worked exactly as it was supposed to and nothing broke, which means that by definition, nothing went wrong.

Well, unless you count shining a harsh light on the game’s horribly misguided housing design as “something going wrong.”

A lot of discussions about this seem to be missing the point. It’s not that what happened with Shirogane housing was a disaster; it was a model of efficiency and the game working as intended. Calling it a disaster is mischaracterizing the situation, making it seem like something didn’t work, when the real problem is an underlying issue of an open-world housing system that completely fails to adequately serve the needs of players.

This should not be difficult.The game’s housing system is, consistently, suffering from this core problem. It’s not that the housing doesn’t work as designed, it’s that the housing as designed is meant for a much smaller playerbase than the game actually has. It’s a horrid failing on a core conceptual level that’s been going wrong since housing was first introduced at a price that was, quite frankly, absurd for pretty much any player.

From there, we were promised that personal housing would be a separate system and would not have any availability problems; personal housing was instead exactly the same as free company housing (thus meaning that everyone was competing with guilds as well as other players) and subject to the exact same problem insofar as there simply weren’t enough plots. Then came apartments, which also don’t change the core problem, and are themselves limited in number. There are a lot more apartments than houses, but there still aren’t enough to satisfy demands.

Think about that for a second. Apartments are the size of a private chamber in a free company. There are about 8,640 apartments available on a given server, all else being equal. And on the more populated servers that is still not enough.

Of course, it’s still far closer to being enough than housing wards. Consider that in order to have enough houses for 10,000 people (supposedly the upper limit of servers) without any space left over for free companies and with no consideration for size? You’d need about 42 wards per housing region. But there are currently only 48 wards per server, full stop.

Old development statements mentioned something to the effect of wanting housing to be a prestige system, something to work toward over time. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t actually work for those purposes. For one thing, a prestige system doesn’t work if you are fundamentally stuck wherever you wind up. Getting a bigger house has been one of my personal goals for years, but it’s not actually realistically attainable because bigger houses do not exist. There’s not space for them.

More to the point, the prestige in question has nothing to do with anything beyond being the first one on the server blessed with a short queue and good luck. There’s no effort involved beyond, well, being there. You can’t work things up, you can’t improve what you have, and you don’t have to work over time to accomplish something. You’re either lucky and fast or not.

This is in stark contrast to pretty much everything else in the game. One of the parts of FFXIV that continually impresses me is how much of the game is based around the idea that you’re almost never actually reliant on luck. Luck can help, luck is nice, but you can always whiff your rolls and still wind up advancing. If you never get lucky and get that piece of gear, it’s fine, all of the big upgrades come from reliable sources instead of luck. You set your projects and work toward them.

After years of play, I’m not really any closer or further to having a large house. It’s not about prestige, it’s not about earning the money, and it’s not about time invested. It’s about the fact that I logged in as fast as I could, didn’t get a great queue draw, and thus was straight out of luck.

This is not success.

One suspects – or hopes – that the development team knows this. I’ve had a theory going for a while that this addition was, in part, a final test balloon for whether or not the system could work better with a lot of variables changed. It’s a big addition of land (720 plots at once, equal to the other biggest addition with subdivisions), and it’s in a place that cannot be accessed unless you’ve progressed substantially (thus ensuring that any alts have to have done quite a bit of work first). The fact that it was still gone in an eyeblink should serve as notification that the solution even some fans are parroting of “just add more” is just plain not going to work.

As acquaintances of mine have pointed out, this is also after the game’s most populated servers have been sealed off from any new characters since the launch of Stormblood. The problem is not the people buying up a bunch of houses on alts; those people absolutely suck, but they’re just exacerbating the problem rather than causing it. Much like Pacific Rim, this is when we have to realize that this is not going to stop.

More land is helpful, but it’s a bandage on a gushing wound. The real core problem is that this system does not work for the game’s actual players. Adding housing wards on another order of magnitude would help somewhat – another two dozen wards per district would be a help – but the real issues are more deep-seated.

First and foremost, private housing and free company housing should not be using the same space. This seems so obvious that I’m baffled I even have to say it; of course they shouldn’t be using the same space, they’re different in function. Heck, I’m not even sure that the whole prospect of open-world housing is something that anyone actually wants or admires; I have never encountered a situation where the open-world nature was actually an advantage.

This feels like luck, not an accomplishment.For the record, I play on Bamung. If there was ever a server that would theoretically benefit from open-world housing, it would be the RP server from the original launch, and yet that does not happen.

Second, we need to move away from the game’s current size-locked plots. If getting a plot at all is an accomplishment, being unable to upgrade or move up is in and of itself an ancillary problem. Relocation should not be the only option for people who want a larger plot, especially when people wind up chasing a new district simply because it’s the only chance at something above a small.

Really, what the game needs is a proper instanced housing system. There are already gates in the original three cities that seem tailor-made to accomodate this sort of housing, and it would also allow the possibility of adding new housing “styles” and upgrading size without releasing a full ward. Ishgard may not have housing wards, but you can build a house there. Revenant’s Toll isn’t technically a city, nor is Idyllshire, but there’s space for players to set up a home just the same.

Yes, I’m sure there would be technical limitations for bringing other players into such a map, but we’re past the point where that’s an excuse. Whatever limitations have to be worked around don’t change the fact that this is something that actually needs to happen to address the game’s hideously mismanaged housing system.

It would also help free companies, in the long run, if you prioritized wards for FC housing. Oh, sure, legacy owners of private plots could keep their land… but the prospect of a larger house (possibly further incentivized by a bigger relocation bonus) would get a lot of people to move pretty quickly. And it would doubtlessly put less strain on the servers and require fewer resources than adding another four dozen wards across the board.

One of the biggest problems that ArcheAge has is that its housing system, however great it might be, is tied behind a horrible and outdated set of land rushes in which there just isn’t enough space for people playing. The fact that the studio seems to just shrug and treat this as a fact of life is often held up as a major black mark for Trion, that they know this system is broken but refuse to actually change it.

FFXIV’s most recent housing opening wasn’t a disaster, but it was the same problems all over again. Calling it a disaster is not calling it out as the product of a system that people have said for years does not work. And the more that the development team treats this as simply a fact of life, the bigger the problem gets. It’s working perfectly as designed, but the problem is that it’s a bad design, and throwing more effort after the same design is just going to exacerbate the flaws rather than fix the underlying problem.

One of the themes that FFXIV has explored repeatedly is that just because a system is familiar doesn’t mean it needs to be perpetuated, that sometimes the way things have always been done needs re-examination or outright replacement. When the game gets so much else right, I’d hate to think that this lesson was getting missed.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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40 Comments on "Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV has a serious housing problem for basically no reason"

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voydd

Shame they don’t even consider Wildstar-esque housing system – the best that ever existed in games

Tizmah
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Tizmah

They should have just done mog houses for everyone like FF11. Simple and easy.

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Ninja Warrior

The weird thing about housing is that I would see so few people in the residential areas, but every plot was owned. My FC’s large house was a fully-adorned ghost-house every time I visited. Far more people hang out in cities and towns, but I can understand if people want to have a place to put their collections. Housing reminds me more of a visual Achievement list that everyone can see, rather than a community gathering place.

With that said, even though I have zero interest in housing, I fully support the idea of expanding the plot availability for those who want to purchase one. I’ll continue to use the Inn whenever I play because it’s perfect for my needs.

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Vincent Clark
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Aaron Biegalski

Awesome. Keep adding more wards so that the folks who already own multiple houses can snag more! >_>

…too cynical?

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Vagabond Sam

I’m very glad to see this response. Late, but better then never.

I disagree with the ‘instance it’ solution as I enjoy the neighbourhoods. I can’t point to anything beyond the feeling of isolation I have in instanced housing like ESO and Wildstar.

So I hope they solve the issue with wards and buy spinning wards up when needed in the same way LOTRO does/did.

I was fortunate enough to get a Small house in Shirogane and if they started to allow more flow by having demand roughly equal to supply, it would make it much more feasible for me to hope one day to expand to a medium or large.

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Tridus

“there were no sudden disconnections”

Untrue, people did get sudden disconnects and lost their shot at the queue because of it. The rest of the point stands, though. The system itself is fatally flawed from the outset.

People tolerated it before because for so many players who came late, housing was just a thing that effectively didn’t exist. It was never available, and that was that. Then SE made a big deal out of adding Shirogane. Suddenly people had hope that it was open after all… and it was snatched away.

The psychology is different now. People expect to not have a game feature walled off from 3/4 of the playerbase because they weren’t in the queue until 6:01 on a specific day. I mean, if SE pulled this nonsense on dungeons by saying only the first 700 people can do expert roulette, how do you think that’d go over? Or limited glamours based on server load? Raubhan’s wall happened, but that wasn’t a long term problem.

There’s no excuse for this in a sub game in this decade. Sever scaling is a long solved problem. The design is bad, and their push to stick with it despite knowing it’s bad is just stubborn pride and nothing more. I’m glad to see the playerbase riot over it and so many people cancel. Revenue lost sends a message that senior management hears.

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Vexia

By the grace of whatever gods, I managed to grab an elusive Shirogane house plot for myself and my SO, but I feel at once incredibly happy since I love housing and incredibly selfish since there’s so few plots to go around. Needless to say, I want the necessary changes to make housing readily available to all individuals and free companies (because I wouldn’t have been without a house for so long if I could have bought one ages ago, and I know I just got lucky).

That said, I wonder how the culture of open world housing is different on Japanese servers, where the developers can quickly gather the most feedback sans translation? According to https://ffxivcensus.com/ the numerous Japanese servers level out to an active population of about 5k players each, with the exception of the Tonberry server having twice that amount. Meanwhile the EU and especially US servers are much higher with averages from 10k to 15k active players each, plus some especially packed servers like Gilgamesh, Leviathan, and Balmung, the latter of which has a whopping 20k active users.

So for the JP servers, the problem is not compounded nearly as much, maybe combined with the nation’s culture of shared space or minimizing personal space as is necessary in dense cities for apartments, homes, subways, etc. But that’s just me taking my best guess at the culture on the JP servers because I have no actual evidence in that regard.

If they really wanted to preserve the shared space feeling of neighborhoods, they could do a rework of all housing maps (no small amount of work) to make it so each plot has the potential to be expanded to the largest size then when all plots on a server are filled up, new neighborhoods could be generated manually or semi-automatically so that servers with 1/4 the population only have 1/4 the housing wards. That’s about the only way I can imagine having a happy halfway point between things as they are now and a world where housing isn’t super exclusive. Simply instancing each individual plot of land sounds like it would take much less work and server resources though.

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Spello Tape

This is one of the reasons I haven’t remained loyal to this game and only subscribe periodically. I’ve had the gil to purchase a house for a couple of years now but have never been able to get one. It doesn’t matter to me if an apartment or FC chamber can do “most” of the things your own plot can; I want that experience of having my own house in game and at this stage it seems I’ll never be able to have it.

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Nick

They could probably LOWER server load by making instance housing. You just buy w/e plot you want and when you teleport there you appear on the property instead of outside of it and can’t leave it. Add a market board inside the house and you are done. Now anyone can have a large plot of their liking and the only thing missing is the rare occurrence of a random walking by. If no one is at the property for 30 minutes the instance is unloaded from the server. You can even have it boot AFK people to the wards respective main city.

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Dagget Burmese

Yes, they need to instance better, however it wasn’t complete doom and gloom for late arrivals on *every* server.

On Louisoix, it took about 45 mins to fill the housing plots in Shirogane, but open plots on the old housing zones created by plot migrations were still available deep into that afternoon. As for apartments, even Shirogane Ward 1 front end was not filled as of today, and most apt blocks on the older zones are barely populated.

As for separate housing for FC houses and private plots, I disagree. We have a cluster of private houses adjoining the FC house and it greatly encourages social gathering in the cluster – the bulk of the FC operates out of the housing block, rather than from some hub city.

Simply adding more wards should be technically feasible, and they need to do it. However, they should keep the capacity a bit below the demand in a stuffed server like Balmung, thus creating some pressure to distribute more evenly amongst the servers to get ready housing. There’s nothing particularly healthy from a socioeconomic point of view about a server that is so full it can’t accept new characters for literally years.

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Nemui Byakko

+1000

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Love the game but hate some of their designs. I spend a lot of time crafting and working on housing. Unfortunately, in this game, I haven’t gotten a house yet so my gf and I haven’t been wanting to stay subbed since we are only getting 75% of the game we want.

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Robert Mann

Yeah, open world housing in a themepark is… well, like putting a giant PvP arena with a level 2 max level cap in a level 40 zone. It’s just not logical.

I love the idea of actual neighborhoods where you get to know the people around you, but the status quo of game design in no way comes anywhere close to supporting that. It’s simply a waste of time.

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Schmidt.Capela

For most games, the peak concurrent players is just 10% of the active players, which means about 90% of the players should not even be logged on at any given time. Then you need to take into account how many of the logged players will be doing something else instead of hanging in their houses; in most MMOs with housing, I believe players spend just a tiny amount of their playtime chilling out in their houses, and the majority of their time goes to other activities. Add it all together and at any given time, in a neighborhood with a hundred houses, you might see perhaps one or two homeowners about.

And that doesn’t even take into accounts the houses that belong to non-active players, or to alts; this reduces even more the chance of seeing a house owner at home.

So, long story short, MMOs with non-instanced housing — even sandbox ones — aren’t a good place to “meet the neighbors” because you will almost never even see them, and this is intrinsic to the fact it’s a game. Non-instanced housing serves mostly to show off the houses, not the house owners.

(Though SotA had an idea to improve this situation, kinda. It wanted to have NPCs that mimicked the home owning player and that would be at home, chilling off, whenever the player wasn’t logged. I’m not sure if this is still planned, though.)

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Robert Mann

More it’s intrinsic to a combination of nothing much to do there, and gaining little from bothering to care about other people in games as compared to other activities.

Neither of which are a requirement of games. Sure, they are the status quo of MMOs right now, but that’s not proof that it’s something that must be.

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Nick

In my last FC they had a house DIRECTLY next door to the apartments, market board and retainer bell. You can’t get more concentrated than that. I saw maybe….5-6 other FC members at peak time hanging out and MAYBE 2 people who weren’t part of the FC. And I was usually the person people were used to seeing, so I was there a lot.

With this housing system if their goal was to create a sense of community, they have failed.
If they wanted to create something ‘special’, they have failed.

All they have created is a contentious system and market where demand FAR outpaces supply.

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Robert Mann

Aye, I was speaking hypothetically, and it 100% doesn’t apply to FFXIV as it is designed. My overall point on that was that games don’t have to be designed where downtime is 100% lost progression time. First sentence applies to FFXIV specifically, second to what I wish devs would try to accomplish.

bereman99
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bereman99

but the prospect of a larger house (possibly further incentivized by a bigger relocation bonus)

Hard to argue with that. I love my little cheap plot I was lucky enough to get next to the waterfall (the view down the walkway is also really nice), but I’d definitely give it up to FC only options if it meant I could get an interior the size of a large house or mansion.

I do think they should figure out a way to allow cross-breeding gardening inside apartments/FC rooms as well (as of 3.3 you can grow stuff, but they all go in single slot pots, and you need at least two slots next to each other to cross-breed…and the only things like that exist as outdoor furnishings), as well as divest the company workshop and airship mission systems from requiring FC house ownership…then you get FCs that are getting a house because they actually want a house for the FC, not just for those one or two extra features and not the house itself.

The gardening in particular would be nice for me – while I can grow in an FC room or Apartment any of the single items like Voidrake that are needed for turn-ins for certain crafting materials, other items like Thav Onions and Blood Peppers were effectively out of my reach until yesterday.

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GanonslayerCP .

As someone who now owns a house as of yesterday at 6:05am EDT, I don’t see the problem

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I think you have to use sarcasm tags in 2017 because of, you know.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

Two things of note about FFXIV’s ability to host instances:

1. The server load that completely trainwrecked duties at Stormblood’s launch.

2. My own self having issues entering our FC hall at the Goblet last night. I kept being bounced off the front door due to – again –
heavy server load. This was well after the big housing rush.

Having slept in a Holiday Inn Express last night, I see massive issues with networking and server architecture that road block any attempt to improve housing availability. They just don’t have the bandwidth, servers, and/or code to handle the neccessary expansion.

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Leviathonlx

Which is pathetic for a company like Square. It just shows how much they refuse to put the needed resources into the game while they keep siphoning money it makes into other projects.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

Back of the envelope calc based off of Eliot’s number of wards for 10k players and you’re looking at more than quadrupling the network and server budget for housing. Unless you absolutely know how much Square is paying for such, we can’t say how many more resources are needed.

Or more to the point: How much more a month would you be willing to pay just for more housing?

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Tridus

They don’t seem to have a problem spinning up however many Deltascape instances are needed at any given point in time, but they can’t add more housing wards?

That makes very little sense. Housing is literally the only system in the game that has a hard cap after which it just goes “nope, that 3/4 of the playerbase is SOL”.

Glamour requires sending more data across the wire and puts more strain on everything, but they don’t limit that to the first 50 people to login.

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Leviathonlx

Well Square already more or less charges you extra money per month if you like having glamours and room for holding crafting materials due to an inventory system that still hasn’t caught up to WoW and GW2.

Squares problem is that their server infrastructure is not yet caught up to 2017 or even 2010 it seems and would seem amateur when compared to the infrastructure companies like Blizz and ANet have. This isn’t a money issue, Square has plenty of that, it’s a ‘we don’t want to put more money than we need to into this game’ problem. It doesn’t help that the game itself is based on the 1.0 code and the 1.0 code was based on shit from a decade earlier with FF11. And even then I’m only able to accept excuses about the spaghetti code mess to a certain point when Blizzard has managed to hack their 17 year old engine to pieces to pull off things they want to do.

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Nick

What? Quadruple? how do you even come to that? How is more housing require MULTIPLES compared to how much combat the servers have to host which is BY FAR the biggest strain on bandwidth?

SE has been notoriously ‘conservative’ with their server resources. Outside of things like programming or design flaws, it has been the source for the biggest problems in the game for years. ‘laggy’ fights, ‘server ticks’, small inventories. Games that don’t have a fraction of their playerbase, or ever did even, have better housing than SE nor do they run into these same problems.

flatline4400
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flatline4400

Which comes to another idea being thrown around… limit it to one house per server/account, and if you want extra, then you have to pony up some RL $$ per month, just like an extra retainer.

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Toy Clown

I’m all agreeable, except with using RL cash to buy more. Some people have deep pockets and if they have the ability to own an entire ward (like on my server), then it creates more animosity among the playerbase.

If they are going to limit housing, it should be x amount per account and that’s it, IMO.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I quit playing FFXIV because of their housing implementation. It seemed the first thing they were trying to accomplish was to reward those who had played before AAR; the next thing it seemed their housing was meant to accomplish was to drain players’ banks of excess currency. When I saw the prices of the houses, I knew that I could play all day every day and never, ever get anywhere near being able to afford one.

I’m generally not a dungeoneer, but I enjoyed FFXIV’s dungeons and did a lot of them on my healer, but I just couldn’t justify spending time in a game that considered a game basic like housing either a huge money sink or so elite that it was designed for a very small portion of the player base that had either been there at the beginning or had the prescience to play the game in such a way as to amass a huge amount of gil.

TL;DR: Housing was priced and designed from the get go to be beyond the reach of most players.

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Siri

I left because of the entire housing system implementation myself. As far as them catering to players like myself that played ffxiv from beta to 1.0 into Reborn, I am not sure if anyone even remembers this but SE didn’t allow 1.0 players to bring all there cash into Reborn. We only kept 10% of our funds I think. I think they were catering more to the ultra rich who still had major bank even after the transition to Reborn.

I do hope they fix the housing issues for those playing, I wont be coming back unfortunatly. To little to late.

bereman99
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bereman99

I think you’re on the right track with the TLDR…

At this point, I don’t think the developers consider owning a housing plot to be a “game basic” as there are a number of much more accessible ways (on most servers, and Balmung as well if they ever follow through on increasing the amount of apartments per Ward) to obtain a form of housing.

So they don’t see it as a basic, inherent feature, and have designed it according to that belief.

plannick
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plannick

i haven’t played for years, but i’m not sure i’m understanding you. it shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference how big a location is, aside from a “realism” aspect. housing in ff14 is instanced insofar as it’s just a map with a load of fixed plots connected to one of the big cities. i don’t see why it’s not possible to have a few thousand instances of that, for example, aside from some sort of database issue. (everything is a db issue with ff14!) one could probably argue you should end up with less issue if you only need to load a smaller area.

for my old fc to move to a bigger house it required an alt to create a new fc, get desired bigger plot, everyone shifting over and (i think) ditching the old house. idiocy.

bereman99
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bereman99

The issue is that the housing zones are persistent zones. Unlike FC room which are not persistent and can potentially reach tens of thousands of them per server (512 per FC house possible), as well as Apartments (which right now are at around 90 per ward and so 8k available per server, though they’ve said they can increase this number to 512 per ward in the future) which are also not persistent zones.

And they are persistent zones because of certain features, like the Chocobo stables and cross-breeding gardening (you can garden in an FC room or Apartment, you just can’t do cross-breeding), as well as access to the Market Boards.

That’s the reason – they operate like the adventure and city zones, always being on. That decision is what has hamstrung them on far they can extend it.

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Nick

So they could actually FREE UP resources by making instance housing. Imagine a typical plot. You teleport there but instead you appear inside its perimeter/land. Allow houses to have their own market boards and you are done. The ‘outside’ of the house property is just copy pasted from the wards but you can’t go there. If no one is in the house after 30 minutes, poof, the server unloads it until someone goes back.

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Leiloni

That’s a lot of uncessary words to say “FFXIV’s housing system has all the other pitfalls of other open world housing systems”. I agree and it should have been obvious to Square Enix, so who knows what they were thinking.

I want to put BDO out there as a model for how things should be in every MMO with housing. The phased housing assures everyone can have multiple houses and the style and location of the houses assures that they perfectly match their surroundings to assure great immersion. It’s a win-win. Plus, they’re super cheap. I also like how the physical house is actually in a neighborhood and not your own personal instance – that makes it a much more social experience.

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Steve Fury

One of the best mmos on the market but they go FULL DERP mode when it comes to housing. I don’t understand it at all.

bereman99
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bereman99

Here’s the likely reasoning, though this is just speculation:

They never meant for housing to be a feature that everyone could access, with the additions of Private Chambers in FC houses and later Apartments meant to accommodate the player demand for a personal space they could call their own.

Consider how few non-cosmetic features actually require a housing plot now…cross-breeding with gardening (you can garden just fine in a Private Chamber or Apartment, but cross-breeding requires a gardening plot not a gardening pot and those only exist as exterior furnishings right now…hopefully that changes) if you’re an individual owner, and that’s about it.

For FC houses, they get access to the airship missions and the company workshop (both could probably be separated and accessed via non-housing means if the devs decided to go that route).

I’d be willing to bet that the developers see how the apartments and FC chambers provide about 80% of what plot housing offers, and have decided where housing changes/improvements/additions fall in their development priority based on that.

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Tridus

And then they made Shirogane to a central feature of the marketing of Stormblood, which they failed to deliver in spectacular fashion.

They created the problem, and now they have to deal with it.

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Vexia

I would speculate that since housing was a planned feature from before the ARR re-launch, they underestimated how much interest people would have in FFXIV (and by extension, housing). Even though the housing feature clearly wasn’t going to be sustainable for population growth, they probably pushed it through for the sake of keeping promises to players. Then server space, the other thing they horribly misjudged in relation to the game’s surprise success, prevented some kind of workable solution. However, now that there are separate server locations for Europe and North America as well as the latter apparently moving to some better hardware right around Stormblood launch time, hopefully the necessary resources will be put toward a much-needed housing rework. *crosses fingers*

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