Housing is one of the best things about FFXIV. Despite being entirely optional, player housing is fully-featured and a big part of the game’s culture. It’s the first thing people include in Free Company advertisements — “We have a large house in The Mist!” — and an excellent platform for player creativity. It’s also perhaps the ultimate vanity purchase. Bored of glamoring your gear and have gil to burn? Wait ‘til you see how expensive furniture can be!
Yet while the housing system itself is great, many players are locked out of ever being able to enjoy a property of their own. Few servers have available space to build new homes, and as there’s no requirement to pay upkeep on a property, there’s no reason not to buy land the moment it becomes available even if you have no intention to use it.
Houses are only demolished to make way for a new buyer if their owner doesn’t visit for 45 days. This is very rare, and there’s no waiting list meaning that buying a house is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Want to buy a property from another player directly? Tough luck, because it’s against the Terms of Service. (Depending on what mood the GMs are in, anyway; the actual policy is nebulous.)
There’s nowhere near enough capacity. There’s over 2,300 plots of land on each server (three districts, each with thirteen wards containing sixty plots of varying sizes), which seems like a huge amount. But that’s not enough to accommodate the game’s active player base. Sure, some dead servers have land available, but this is a multiplayer game. What value is player housing in an MMO if there’s nobody to share it with?
Patch 3.4 gave us apartments. It’s a half-step; they’re great for storing furniture, very cheap, and you can be pretty creative with it. Unfortunately, much of the charm is lost, as is some of the function. Your neighbours are just names on a list, and you don’t have a garden, so you can’t install a training dummy.
Despite the drawbacks, I figured that apartments would go some way to loosening up the market and making sure everybody had housing; I expect the dev team did too, given that they added 1,500 apartments to every server.
The trouble is that people are reporting that blocks are already filling up on Balmung, and with no auto-demolition timer attached to apartments, the market is entirely at the mercy of Square Enix adding more space. SE have said that they can add hundreds more rooms per server, so it’s a question of when they do so, not if. But if the devs are waiting for quieter servers to fill up before they apply the change across the board, the people of Balmung might be waiting a while.
Something isn’t working. So what can be done?
Making the housing market into a real market would be a good start. Let people put deeds up on the market board with some limitations (something like, ‘you can only participate in a property transfer once every 48 hours’), or create a new kind of market board entirely.
This would puff up prices, but if SE is worried about that, they could easily put a cap on how high you can sell a property for. You could even expand such a system to the enable the sale of furnished properties, allowing you to sell on furniture you no longer need and creating a small market for interior design.
Some players have houses for themselves, as well as an apartment, and they might even have an alt with property, too. But adding a one property per account limit would do nothing unless applied retrospectively, and nobody will tolerate housing being taken away from them.
Adding more housing along the lines of what we already have isn’t working; the wards added in 3.3 practically filled up overnight. Apartments are so cheap that no matter what form they took people were always going to buy them just to have them.
The best option, then, is to encourage people to give up what they have by offering them a good enough incentive — and Stormblood is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
We opened this by talking about how people would brag about having a house in guild recruitment adverts. What about opening a new area with mega-housing aimed at Free Companies in the form of houses substantially bigger than the mansions we have available now? This would force the bigger guilds to pack their things and upgrade to stay competitive, and the fabled RAM issues associated with PS3 players will be gone.
Depending on how alluring this new area was, further conditions could be attached to buying property there. If you’re a rich player that wants to show off, then great! You can buy something here, but you’d have to relinquish all other housing, including the apartment you don’t use.
The reality is that nothing can be changed in terms of the old housing areas without upsetting players who’ve put down roots there. If Kan-e-Senna decided to raise taxes in the Lavender Beds, someone would say they didn’t read the patch notes and complain when their house got demolished. What we need is housing with different requirements that forces people either let go of what they have or miss out on something new.
Back this up with a system (such as waiting lists or the above ‘housing market board’ idea) that keeps the market moving and you’ll have a housing system that works for everyone, not just those who’re already lucky enough to have property. Right now, there’s no simple path towards buying a property of your own beyond transferring to a dead server. Given how important housing is to the culture of the game, it’s important to give everybody a way in.
Christmas comes to Eorzea
The Starlight Festival began this Thursday, and, with that, Christmas has come to Eorzea. This year, you’ll be helping out at a children’s hospital in Ul’dah. It’s not that simple though! It never is.
The story is cute, and the quest won’t take you longer than an hour or so. But like a few previous seasonal events, this one comes with a daily quest that’ll run throughout the event’s duration. Tell kids stories, take awkward screenshots, and open a present from a friend each day until the event ends on December 31.
What’s your reward? A dyeable festive coat, a music roll, and, er, furniture, including a massive pile of snow. If you’re one of the many players without access to housing, let’s hope that it doesn’t melt before you have somewhere to put it.