Wisdom of Nym: The roots of Final Fantasy XIV’s awful housing problem aren’t clear

    
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Oh, right.

Let’s start with a simple sentiment that I think absolutely everyone can get behind. However solid the underlying mechanics for decorating houses may be, Final Fantasy XIV’s housing is a damn mess. It’s open-world with a bunch of added restrictions that manage to feel like it also inherits the worst parts of instanced housing with limited availability. The only people who are happy with it are the people who have houses they want and are somehow so devoid of empathy that they can’t think about anyone else’s difficulties.

But you probably don’t need me to tell you that if you play the game. Heck, odds are good that you’re already frustrated as hell by this state of affairs, which means that the question becomes an emphatic and frustrated question of why. Why are we still having these problems? When FFXIV is clearly such a success, why in the heck is the game still running into these problems that seem like they should have been solved ages ago that everyone knows are problems?

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that we know what the solution actually is. We’ve always known. Instanced housing is the solution. The way that the game’s whole “ward” system is set up is never going to match demand, and even the stopgap of apartments doesn’t change the fact that what we really need is something closer to how Black Desert or New World handles houses. Or, you know, just forget the exterior altogether and imitate how Final Fantasy XI had your instanced Mog House you could decorate (and eventually invite people to visit). What could be simpler as a concept?

However, that’s not what has happened. This means that we have now soundly moved out of the realm of not knowing what to do and come to a different conclusion. Either the design team can’t go to instanced housing or simply won’t. And I have a feeling it’s closer to the former… but first, I want to be a little clearer about “can’t.”

Impending.

Square-Enix is not a small company. It might be smaller than you think (compare the company’s value to a lot of Western publishers and you might be surprised), but this is a company that has consistently made money and can pump out some pretty huge titles with major clout. And I think that’s worth noting, in part because Square-Enix is a company that almost seems to celebrate taking risks.

Let’s face it, FFXIV wasn’t an assured hit when it was first announced, just like how every entry in the company’s marquee franchise had been more and more the product of a given director’s unique vision and design sensibilities. When it flopped badly, there was also no real reason to expect that putting Naoki Yoshida in charge would salvage it, and that was already a big swing for the fences. And it worked. The game is definitely a hit now. It makes good money.

Does it make enough money for the housing issue to be fixable, though? Because that’s actually a very different potential issue.

MMOs take time to develop. FFXIV was not being rebuilt completely from the ground up when Yoshida took over development, but there was a lot of work being done from top to bottom. However, that went hand-in-hand with the fact that some things weren’t being rebuilt, either due to the time the team had for building stuff or a simple need to not spend forever on this project. We know that there is legacy code sitting around in the game, and it does us no good to pretend that isn’t the case.

Is housing one of those systems? We can’t know for certain. But I think there’s a fair amount of evidence pointing in that direction, starting with the fact that Yoshida made statements over time indicating something else was in the works.

For example, when housing first rolled out, we were assured that if you didn’t like the housing rush, you didn’t need to worry because personal housing would be very different. It was not; in fact, it was exactly the same. But that alone seems to indicate that some more instanced solution was in the works before being abandoned. Why? We can only guess.

For another, the current wards are separate from other housing areas. You still have an entrance to Lily Hills in Gridania that players can’t access. There’s a weird gate to one side of Ul’dah. There are lots of little indications that there are residential sections in the main cities exist separate from where players can explore, things that do not exist in Kugane or Ishgard… but there are similar implications in the Crystarium and Eulmore.

Some of this is no doubt verisimilitude. But to me, a lot of this reeks of originally wanting free companies to have public houses and players to have private houses on a different system. And… something didn’t work with the game’s servers.

INTO KUGANE

Does that fix the problems with housing? Not in the least. But it’s here that we start to address the split between “can’t” and “won’t.” Can’t doesn’t imply that it is an impossible task, but that it would take so much time, money, and effort to rewrite the game’s code to allow this more instanced housing that the developers have decided it’s not a worthwhile solution.

Whereas won’t implies that the decision is mostly based on “eh, people are happy with things as they are.”

And we can pretty well rule out won’t simply by what the team actually seems to be doing. Not only are there more servers planned for the various data centers to accommodate more housing, the last batch of wards was added through optimizing the existing servers. The development efforts are clearly focused on trying to give everyone more access to houses, just by… adding more houses. More and more houses, larger and larger volume, hoping that eventually the game reaches a parity wherein everyone who wants a house can buy a house, even if you can’t always get the size you want.

To me, that doesn’t seem like the behavior of a development team who thinks the housing system is perfectly fine. It seems more like a team who knows full well that the housing system sucks badly, but the obvious solutions aren’t available due to the demands of linear time. So they’re falling back on what can be done to mitigate the problem, even while they know it falls short.

Am I certain of that? Not in the slightest. But it seems weird to think that Yoshida would suddenly pick this as the hill wherein he decided that players think they want something that he’s certain they don’t, so to speak. This means we’re unfortunately stuck with a system that is far less than it should be… and we have to hope that at least when the next MMO in the series is unveiled, it takes a much more common-sense approach to housing.

That’s not to say that the game couldn’t handle its existing housing problems better. But that’s a story for another time. For now, feel free to leave comments down in the assigned section below or send ’em along to eliot@massivelyop.com; next week, I want to keep the irate train rolling with a short list of absolute red lines that the game has thankfully avoided thus far.

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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Michael Altman

At least on the server I play on, part of the problem is abundantly clear. One person (or potentially a group of people) with multiple accounts created multiple FCs (they all have nearly identical FC tags, with an easily identifiable theme shared between them) owns a very large number of houses in every district, in multiple wards.

It is glaringly obivous that this is either one person or a group of people who just own a huge chunk of housing, preventing other players from getting in on it or new FCs from getting their own housing, and despite tickets having been sent in to GMs nothing is ever done about it.

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Alicia Villicana

Didn’t they say it was a data issue? I’m unclear if instanced housing would actually prevent the data being the issue. I believe that they mentioned once that the portability of data carried on your character and by certain entities follows that actor and entity, and are updated to all local clients when you move which if I’ve remembered correctly would be what causes a lot of the strain. If the data issues could be resolved, it might be the case that the design of the housing solution isn’t as problematic as its coding.

I personally like the wards. It’s cute running around and seeing what everyone’s done. Making it exactly like Black Desert is my nightmare scenario, especially since I doubt this game is capable of filtering chat text that way–but I assume you mean that everyone goes up to an unadorned house and it loads you into an instance, rather than BD’s method of populating the space based on which house you picked from the list. I don’t think FFXIV is capable of the latter based on how it’s coded.

If it falls on the side of instanced housing as the proper solution, I’d hope that they would move toward offering luxury apartments with different layouts and “outdoor” areas a la the Bokairo Inn. Though, as apartments are also limited, I’m fairly sure that they would need to change a whole lot of the game to make it work in a more ideal way.

Maybe it’s a loss until the next FF MMO, as you suggested? I hope that the next game has something like the current solution, except scalable. Like the district grows dynamically, or they add more districts automatically. I don’t think instanced is a silver bullet here. It still takes up server space and cycles.

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Knight Porter

There’s a lot of minor issues that led to the current problems, but the biggest single decision was the decision to allow individual players to buy houses alongside FCs. Technical issue or not, it was a bad call. No personal housing, or waiting a year for Apartments to be ready, would have been the better call.

They could *still* mitigate the damage of this decision by properly opening up new wards ONLY to FC purchases for a time, but they refuse to do that as well. A few times they claimed to do this, but in practice did nothing of the sort, as they allowed individual house owners to *relocate* to the new supposedly “FC purchase only” wards, which then left empty spots in the old wards that anyone could purchase, leading in practice to a situation where individual players still made the majority of new purchases.

TL:DR: technical limitations are a part of this, but explicit non-technical policy decisions, advantaging individual buyers, have greatly exacerbated the problem.

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Evasive Dice

Yoshi already addressed some time back why there wasn’t near infinite wards. If we’re talking strictly housing availability. It demands alot of server load. They already upgraded the servers twice I believe just for housing. “it’s why we have been getting more wards every now and again. Yoshi feels peoples pain and stated it was a server load issue. He said they can’t just keep adding more wards when they want but he DOES make it an effort to push for more server upgrades/capacity to please people. He is always looking to keep expanding wards when they can. He hears the screams of the housing availability.

Second issue. Why isn’t all this strictly instanced? Ffxiv promotes social gameplay and interactions. The ward system by design is to be like this to motivate social interactions. Who here has had at least some random encounters with people in the wards and sometimes I’ve had people in my mansion hanging out which lead to them joining our fc. This is by design, to promote social interactions, they tried to meet people halfway with apartments.

Hope that clears the housing frustration up. Check alot of Google articles over the years on yoshi addressing this. He knows.

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Knight Porter

See above comment about technical decisions vs. policy ones.

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Evasive Dice

I seen it. My comment still stands. Your coming in late. Yoshi has addressed most if not everything. He is an avid ffxiv player himself and knows. The people theory crafting hasn’t read his live letters covering all this. I’ve personally play with yoshi in live public stunts events, translators were on hand after and before the dungeons. Can’t blame him. We don’t speak the same language. He visited cactuar last year. This guy deeply cares. People need to start reading his live letters. Your solutions suggest opening more wards. Yoshi already addressed this last year that it’s a server load issue and costs alot of time (aka money). Your comment means you didn’t even read mine. I addressed what yoshi said. In live letters. Alot of people’s problems are they were not actively keeping up with EVERY live letter. If your coming into the game on and off then it’s super easy to miss. Again. My comment still stands. You obviously didn’t read my comment. I read yours. It’s a server load issue. That’s why they can’t just add wards when they want and this was public knowledge since last year.

But the skinny of what your actually asking. The options and how wards functions. It’s RMT. Also addressed. Why can’t we allow new mechanics on how housing works? Well RMT. It’s illegal for the company. Why do you think we have random timers now when a house gets put up for sale and everyone is flocking it? The RMT got SO bad they had to out this in.

Your big gripe on trying to break down housing in a mechanical way and make it function more fairly will never happen because RMT. This is why we can’t have things so the company has to try and level the playing field on decisions like this that stops RMT and at the same time it affects us as players and won’t be reversed. Ever. Blame the RMTs

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Knight Porter

Okay, but none of what you said addressed my post about personal housing flooding out FC access. Are you sure you’re not replying to someone else? What does RMT have to do with any of this?

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Mark

Just to make clear – there is instanced housing in FFXIV – of a sort – in the form of the Apartments. The drawback is that you are always limited to one size, and you can’t use any outdoor decorations, as it’s essentially an instanced inn room that you can customize.

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Sean Walsh

The thing about software in general that makes it so great, is that you can do anything you want with it. But that doesn’t mean it has to be easy to do anything.

My parents often told me growing up that I could be whatever I wanted, and that is an entirely true statement. But at 5’8″, I can much more easily find a job in software development than I could as a starter for a NBA team.