I will be the first to say that the new rules and restrictions were definitely a success. In terms of getting people connected with houses, this all worked, we got stuff more sorted out, and this is definitely the best we’ve had it since housing was first introduced. That doesn’t mean that I think the problem is really solved yet, though; a lot of the rules as they stand are inelegant solutions to a problem, and that’s part of why we are where we are.
First of all, a caveat that I feel is important to note: I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone playing on Balmung, which is also known as the biggest dang server, the unofficial RP server, and probably the place where housing is going to matter the most. Yes, Mateus is going to feel the sting as the unofficial RP server adjunct, but I assume that whatever happens on Balmung for housing is indicative of the game as a whole as the high-demand example. There’s your salt to munch on.
What worked very well were the facts that players were not able to get into the wards ahead of time to camp by houses, and the one-week delay kept people focused on the content of the patch before having to worry about any sort of housing rush. Keeping things limited to FC purchases or relocation also ensured that the day-one bloodbath… wasn’t. The Large plots got snapped up quickly, but Medium plots took long enough that a friend’s FC was able to get one in the Goblet well into the middle of the day. And my relocated ward itself was a ghost town, with plenty of small plots for anyone who wanted to pick up an FC house.
Of course, this also highlights one of the problems. While the changes to the rules definitely made sure that more people could get houses, there’s still the issue of how much larger plots get, and how unbalanced it is on a whole. The difference in scale is astonishing, and I wonder how many FCs missed out on a Medium only to decide to bypass housing altogether.
No, I don’t think that’s the right call to make. But it’s a call I can see people making.
In some ways, this is part of the reasons why the account restrictions exist in the first place; it’s a patch on a system that’s already broken in various ways. Yes, for the average player, one character is all you need in the first place, which makes the restrictions somewhat irrelevant. But the reason that there are rules about how many characters can have a house per account is specifically because there are few houses, and the more desirable ones are still really intensely rare. There’s no upward mobility, even if you really want something more.
I also wonder about how reasonable it will be to add even more wards at this point, considering how the absolute demand for houses on Balmung seems to have settled notably. This is part of the issue, again; what a lot of the players who have houses want is the option to have a bigger house, not necessarily to get an additional house. Depending on how full the wards are for smaller servers, adding more districts or wards might seem like an unnecessary expense.
This is one of the issues with the structure, though, and it comes back to the same core problem of the housing system. Because of how the game is run and how its rules work, you can’t have extra housing wards on Balmung without having them everywhere else. But the result is that the servers where housing is congested remains congested, because the system can’t be tailored to the needs of the populace.
That having been said, I still feel like this was an improvement over the Shirogane rush and the disappointments that came along with it. People seemed to actually be able to get houses, and the various wards filled up again nicely once personal houses were an option. There are still apartments to be had in various locales, to boot. It’s just that the core issues are still there, unresolved; the rules patch is just a rules patch, not a full fix.
At the same time, I always wonder how doable a full fix really is at this point. After years of asking for instanced housing, one has to wonder if the reason it doesn’t materialize now is because adding more housing servers is cheaper – in terms of work hours or just plain cost – than trying to retrofit the existing housing system. Obviously, we’re here because someone is making the decision to stick with this.
If we keep getting new housing districts, I think that using the rules and selective rollbacks to them is probably the way to go, which also seems to be the route chosen by the team. It’s an approach that’s worked well with expansion launches, as well – at first you have area instancing and strict AFK kick timers, then those restrictions come down as server strain reduces. Perhaps a few months down the line we can see the rules on houses-per-account relaxed, in case there are still unclaimed places to grab.
So it’s still not great, but it’s better than it used to be, and this time wasn’t as painful as prior housing rushes. It still has a way to go before it really reaches a point that I’d consider ideal, but at the very least it feels like the developers have finally realized how important housing is to players and how much demand there actually is for a place to hang your metaphorical hat. It’s just still also a space with lots of room for improvement that I hope we get sooner rather than later.
Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time around, I want to start talking and speculating about Eureka, since we’ll all be heading over there on Tuesday. It won’t be undiscovered for long, that’s for sure.