Considering the ‘housing crisis’ in MMOs like Ultima Online, FFXIV, and EVE Online

    
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MMORPGs with limited digital real estate for player housing such as ArcheAge and Ultima Online may be hurting rather than helping the overall game, a new piece at Game Developer by Lars Doucet argues. The rush to grab land and the potential for real money investment make all of this a dicey prospect, according to the author: “I’m concerned these will lead to digital land speculation bubbles that will make players, developers, and investors alike lose stupid amounts of money.”

Ultima Online’s almost-24-year-old housing crisis on its most populated shards, which is due to an open world housing model and limited plots, was held up as a prime example, as was EVE Online’s galaxy. FFXIV’s infamous housing shortage, which we’ve covered extensively ourselves, was also mentioned: “The biggest problem with FFXIV’s hyper-dimensional suburbs, however, is that it has somehow achieved the worst of both worlds – a virtual bedroom district that doesn’t interact with the rest of the game, and a limited supply of land that has led to rampant housing speculation, sky-high prices, and a black market for land.”

The author argues that virtual real estate differs from the real world in several respects, such as the ability to make more land, not having to respect physics, and not even requiring land as a necessary factor for gameplay.

Ultima Online’s Raph Koster responded to the piece with a number of notes. One of these mentioned that Star Wars Galaxies had plenty of room for housing but a limited number of desirable locales: “This latter topic opens up the issues like we had in Galaxies, where there was ample room for everyone to own a house if they chose – but people did things like build player cities atop the entrances to dungeons to monopolize access to resources.”

We’re guessing longtime MMO players can think of even more examples – we sure can!

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John Anical

Tibia has an insanely good housing system. They are moderately expensive but everyone can see them as they run towns and owners can invite their friends or guilds. It has prestigious more pricey ones or small ones. Can decorate or flex rares there. They are also limited and valued heavily but not to the point of a bubble like mentioned. Players can own 3 houses max and with only about 250 houses and 1-2k+ active people per server it can get pricey.

Yangers
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Yangers

Don’t people always say they play online games to get away from the real world? Now the housing crisis is following me into games as well.

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Jon Wax

Make the world a blank slate and absolutely brutal to live in.

Let the players build the world from the ground up.

The harder or more distant a place is to reach, the more interesting it should be.

I honestly hate instanced housing. Feels like disneyfication. Everyone has the same experience.

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Toy Clown

Of all the MMOs I’ve played with housing, my favorite has been the way BDO handles housing, in that housing instances are phased so that endless tenants can live in one location, but when you walk through the door it’s your house.

It made the game feel like it had open-world housing without all of the stress involved with open-world housing.

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hellodeliciousfriend

I agree. I love open world housing like when I played UO back in the day, but the issues with it outweigh the benefits. The BDO model is a good compromise, although I’m always holding out hope someone comes up with a better one.

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PanagiotisLial1

Its very hard for EVE to develop a player owned structures space problem. To be honest the way it is made probably even if it somehow risen 5x its current population it still would be fine. Also most structures can compare more to guild structures than to personal structures. Unless you consider things like Mobile Depot or Tractor as personal structures

Turing fail
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Turing fail

The linked article’s EVE content was about the in-game economic impact of having a limited number of factories. Wasn’t playing EVE until 2013, but I think the factories referenced were located in indestructible stations.

The current player-owned stations are readily available, but must be defended from destruction like everything else player-owned.

The stations in EVE aren’t housing like in other games. Customization is limited to defense/offense modules and/or research/manufacturing capability. With the removal of the capsuleer’s quarters there isn’t even a representation of living space where one’s in-game character can be seen.

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Sarah Cushaway

Open world housing is awesome– but it doesn’t work in massive online games where thousands of players are fighting over a few hundred plots/houses. EQ2 had the right idea with instanced housing (and the best housing system out there, frankly–too bad the rest of the game has gone to rust)

Fisty
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Fisty

Open world housing is the best. Everyone seems to be doing a little something wrong though. In SWG, there were just too many houses right beyond the no-build zone. If you keep a wide berth between your towns and dungeons where you can’t build, you’ll end up with this. I think they (MMO devs) should allow expansions of existing towns with your prefab buildings, streets, etc. Maybe have modular housing that has streets and deco attached, so when placed, they create uniformity. I think harsher weekly rent upkeep you actually need to show up for could help. If you miss the window, your place gets packed up. SWG servers tend to do cleanups waaay too far apart and the landscape is always just trash. I know I currently have 3 houses that are just littering the land, taking up unnecessary space.

Or, create your world with cool spots that people would want to gravitate to. Don’t limit leaving and entering and selling around a city and people won’t need to pile up around it. Put some cool spots all over the landscape and people will want to build there. I can find a hundred cool spots to build towns in Minecraft because the world generation creates some really nice places (even more so with cliffs and caves update). I think having so much variety would be awesome in an open world.

Ooh, pizza is done.

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IronSalamander8 .

My MMO housing experience is limited, but I’ll go over what I do know.

WoW’s garrisons were a lost opportunity. It’s called a garrison, yet it’s just you and your NPCs, and like all other WoW content, is soon forgotten and ignored at the next expansion. They could have been so much more, like guilds/friends building their own unique takes on the idea, with diffrerent layouts and building types, group and raid quests associated with the garrisons, and so much more. With all the different races in WoW all having their own styles, the potential for not only more diverse and interesting garrisons, but also player housing was immense, and fell so far short.

Wildstar is a game I never played much, but did mess about with my basic Drakken warrior’s house just a bit, but my impressions here were positive. Wildstar made a lot of bad decisions, but their housing was great.

EQ2 has houses and guild halls that are one of the best, if not the best, thing about that game and the first video I ever made was a tour of my house in Neriak, (although a low quality one). I did more after that video with my Mistmoore manor which is perfect for my love of Scooby Doo and classic horror, but for me, EQ2 has the best housing in any game I’ve played to date, barring non-MMOs anyway.

CoX’s bases are decent. Homecoming gives infinite resources to make them, so they aren’t as fun for me, just like creative mode in Minecraft lacks something when compared to building in survival mode.

CO has the hideouts which are ok, no great shakes but not awful. Feels like more of an afterthought than anything else though.

SWTOR housing is odd as the actual zones are pretty cool, I did love my Yavin 4 temple with the secret caves and grotto and lots of RP opportunities there, but the hook system is absolute garbage, especially when compared to EQ2 that let you scale things and still put them almost anywhere with few limitations and SWTOR often frustrates with how limited the system is.

FF14’s housing I want to like, but it’s such a mess. Just make them instanced like EQ2 or something like that. I’d love to have a place to call my own, but with their wonky system I can’t see it ever happening. It should be tore down and completely redone.

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IronSalamander8 .
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Jeremy Barnes

FFXIV has a lot of tech debt from using 1.0 as it’s base system (Inventory space, Armory space, Housing zones, thing like Eurkea/Bozja being instanced zones thus stopping you from using party finder, several different methods of storing cosmetic looks, the class system being required for jobs, etc).

I don’t think it’s possible for them to solve these in a good way because they’d basically be re-writing the whole game from the ground up and there’s no way the company makes an investment of that scale without just making a ‘new’ game especially given that the game is popular even with the current problems.

I’d love for it to happen though.

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somber_bliss

Eve has no shortage of space, especially with wormholes added in and it’s the only thing that drives Alliance wars.

Ff14 on the otherhand…definitely is annoying. I had to pay 100 million for a medium plot on the housing discord. It doesn’t even make sense since there are wards (shards) so they can make any number of copies.

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IronSalamander8 .

100 million, I know I’m a bit behind, but the most I’ve had so far is 1 million at once. This makes it even more unlikely that I’ll ever get one.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

Alternatively 4,000usd in BitCoin will get you a large. Square is well aware of this and yet they continue to sweep this system’s warts under the rug.

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somber_bliss

You can wait it out for a dip in popularity in the game…but that hasnt happened even in the typical lull you see near an end of an expansion and if you aren’t too picky can get them for like 50 million.

It’s outta hand and a lot of people justbsit on them on alt accounts with FCs. Which breaks the entire system.

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Dagget Burmese

FFXIV would love to add more wards but every ward adds to server load and they can’t get the hardware for that in today’s chip-shortage situation. They slightly increased the number of wards last year but that was all they could do with the current servers

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Jeremy Barnes

Your statement lines up with what I recall about them saying they can’t just infinitely add hardware and wards to solve the problem, but this has been a problem since long before the chip shortage.

They were talking about not being able to just add infinite wards before that.

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Jeremy Barnes

From what I understand is it’s not that simple. They can’t just ‘spin up more hardware’ and create more wards. It’s been awhile since I recall really paying attention to the discussion on it, but I think the way they did it with the problems caused by 2.0 being built on top of 1.0. I recall something about the resources for adding a ward are likely more than you’d expect.

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cursedseishi

Yeah, unlike more conventional ‘shards’ or instances–such as even what we see in Final Fantasy 14’s open world–which can be generated and closed as area populations fluctuate. Like… If Azys Law, for some horrid reason, saw a resurgence and hit a cap, then I went and teleported into it? I’d get plopped into a new copy of it. Then whenever the population in the OG dies down and I transition, I can be slipped into it.

But the ‘Ward’ system can’t do that though. And that’s because it was designed explicitly for permanence. Even though each ward is essentially a new shard being spun up from the base area, once it is added in its a permanent fixture. Things have to be tracked in real time (house prices, chocobo stables, gardens, etc.), so even if a fresh ward somehow had just one house in the whole area? That entire ward has to be kept up and tracked, same as if nobody had bought any plots and it was a ghost town.

It’s also why any time we see a new Ward added in, the game gets knocked by a 24hr-long maintenance period.

And it still baffles me to this day that they went the permanent route like this, when they’ve already done instanced housing before and knows it works far, far better.