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To Auction-House or not to Auction House. That is the question.

22 Oct 2010

We received a number of responses to our Editorial on the Auction House, both on the forums and as Op-Ed submissions. There are those that agree, those that disagree, and those that don’t really know what they think. A few community members submitted Op-Eds  showing that they have given this topic a lot of thought – and we hope that the below Op-Eds might shed some additional light on the subject.

{tab=Op-Ed #1}

Why FFXIV never will need an Auction House

Written by AtrixWolfe

Auction Houses were first implemented in Dark Age of Camelot. All prior MMOs, including the ones that started it all, had no auction house. Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Anarachy Online, none of them. Final Fantasy XI was the next major MMO released after DAoC and it did have an auction house. Many major MMOs released after Final Fantasy XI included auction houses but not all.  UO added one on March 12, 2006.

Auction Houses are convenient for users, but also ripe for abuse. They also take out a great deal of interaction. They definitely are not must haves. Though MMOs without them these days are often railed with requests for them, most developers oppose the idea of adding one.   Anarchy Online still doesn’t have one or plans for one, nor does Asheron’s Call.  Why is this? Development costs are one issue, but the complexity of such a system isn’t significant enough to make cost an issue for many software developers, though with some older MMOs with smaller player bases, it is a potential hurdle. The biggest issue is an issue of gameplay rather than resources.

So let us look at the way FFXIV differs in gameplay from popular auction house MMOs and how it differs from ones without auction houses as well. With this information we can then form our own conclusions. My job is simply to inform you with facts and then present my conclusion. I know not everyone will come to the same conclusion but I can rest easy knowing the decision at least is an informed one.

First, let’s take a look at some ways to measure MMOs of this nature:
Scale, resource procurement, methods of gathering, amount of resources and resource types, how it compares to similar strategized MMOs, and how easy it is for an individual to supply others with things they need and/or can use.

WoW and FFXI are set in large worlds, so is FFXIV. For the most part this is not an issue one way or the other, the issue is travel, i.e. how small the world is in player hours.

  • FFXI and WoW makes travel take a long time at early levels and easier as you level up, granting you access to larger portions of the world for the same player time spent.
  • FFXIV requires initial exploration time, but after that, no matter your level (even level 1) you no longer need to worry about travel time.  It balances this with forcing you to make intelligent decisions about where to spend your time as you accrue anima at a static rate of about 1 teleport a day. You have a large buffer to work with however so some days can be spent traveling a lot while others you may travel not at all.

Resource Procurement
FFXI, Wow and XIV all have resource procurement. XIV has the most sophisticated system however, and grants you base levels, skill points and more for your efforts where as in XI and WoW, resource procurement is only for profit and has no skill involved other than click and wait. It is based purely on statistics and node type for gathering. XI and WoW have purely skill point based systems.

In XI and WoW you have to share resource procurement nodes with other players. This can make competition stiff for highly sought after node types. In FFXIV, nodes are private, and each player has their own stock of access to any given node that regenerates over time. This means you require no specialization or “I’m better at this than him” procurement. In XI, some nodes were a matter of how good your gear is (such as movement speed) and how well you time your macros, and people with bots would often oust those without.

In this category, it stands to reason XIV’s resource procurement is safer and easier.

Then there are the items obtained from drops. NMs have yet to appear in FFXIV, but they can be a problem in any MMO. Regular mobs on release week were sparse but leves, behest, and the fact that the server population will spread out more normally over zones and levels will make it a moot point. In this category none differ as all have mob claims, etc, though of note is that in XI, mob claiming was do or die, you could not always run away. Mobs would chase you to the ends of the earth. Or a zone line. Whichever came first. Some mobs would deaggro since scent was lost when you ran over water, if they were that type of mob and water was about. But I digress. In this category XIV is much easier to gather with with gathering jobs. And in mob drops, WoW, XI and XIV vary little.

Amount and rate of resources accrued, and how much one person can supply X amount of something.
In FFXI and WoW, resource procurement is tedious and slow, and you usually need a lot of something to make just one item of something else. Exceptions exist, like in FFXI with lumber, ammunition and so on. But in general, one hide would give you one tanned hide, and you’d spend components.

In FFXIV, many items “multiply” upon being crafted, meaning most the time you only have to procure one of something. One taupe scale bug and one linseed oil yield 4 sheep leather dyes. That linseed oil and scale bug are a pain to procure from the right area, but after that you never have to about it again, because from those 4 dyes, you can make 16 dyed sheep leather hides from 4 sheepskin, and from those 16 dyed sheep leather skins you can make 64 dyed leather straps. Or 64 spetchs. So on. Recipes after that call for one strap or one spetch. So from that one linseed oil and one taupe scale bug, you have a crafters lifetime of supplies. For this reason alone, FFXIV, imho, does not need an auction house. It just requires crafters to know more about the world, and non crafters to know a few crafters. I’m already seeing gear I want everywhere just glancing in bazaars. What this system means is that one crafter can supply a slew of adventurers with ease.

Compared to Non Auction House MMOs
Now let’s compare the game to Ragnarok Online and the original Everquest, both of which don’t have auction houses and thrive even today. RO, having no auction house, simply had a slew of bazaar and you were given 45 or so characters to describe what was in it.  Of course that space may or may not be used to describe what’s in the bazaar (and more often than not didn’t). People sort of self organized into regions but that was in no way dependable. Finding stuff required a method, rather than being a “I have xx gil time to buy” thing. It worked fine actually.  You developed a methodology. You would ask around, you would make friends with blacksmiths, you would make bazaar gazing a hobby which was actually fun :) And it was part of the culture. The fact that cards dropped from any mob and were highly valued was a big part of this. You were always looking for that card deal so you could slot it in some armor and be rocking some gnarly stats.

The original EQ resorted to shouting and everyone congregated in more or less one zone, like in RO. Buying/selling consisted of staring at a wall of text for hours. Most people hated that, kind of like most people in FFXIV hate wards, and so even though it has its uses, it is a last resort more than a staple of virtual life. As with most things, it is better to know some people in various trades who can help you out.

In XIV, we have market wards, something the NPC even sort of warns you is very time consuming but if you just got to have it, you can spend the time for it. ( And maybe not find it.) There is less immediacy in this market, and more interaction. But you can shout, and find things more often than not. If that doesn’t work, just keep an eye out in camp bazaars or make a friend with a higher level crafter.  They’re easy to find, run into the guild hall for the craft and you will find one who has been slaving at their trade since release. That is also a good place to find higher level items, and if you have mats, the people to make them.

Market Control Large and Small
Last, we’ll talk about market control in the macro and microcosm. Market control is done by buying out all of something, and essentially, holding a monopoly over goods. This is done by first accruing a fair amount of money to buy out a market, let’s say, silk thread. You buy every single silk thread from every single auction house in every zone, as well as buy out the guild npcs from every zone, and tadah! Suddenly you can set the price you want for silk thread. Set it too high, people are likely to boycott you and you take a loss. But set it to the maximum amount they will grudgingly pay and you max your profits. If anyone undercuts you, you thank them for their contribution to your gil pile and buy them out and resell it at your higher price. Wait a few weeks, then use your maximized profits to propagate the control over silk thread. Do a bit of research and then find another market to monopolize. It isn’t usually worth it to take over a market someone else has controlled already but you can start wars. Sometimes costly ones but the winner gets the spoils. And who takes the brunt of this? Not the market controllers, that’s for sure, but the end users, who, no matter supply and demand, will always pay a premium for things they need. When you begin to mix in real money traders, it gets even more sophisticated and more craptacular as their goals have nothing to do with the goals of players. So, you have a wealthy few getting richer and the poor underclass paying duress and tax for their privilege to buy anything at all. WoW if anything was even worse, I have heard the tale of a man named Twinkie, and his entire fun in the game was gotten from doing market control. When people started boycotting him because they hated him, why he’d just roll an alt and suddenly hey it’s not that evil twinkie guy I hate for always making me pay a ton, it’s some other guy selling. He had so much gold he’d simply pay people ridiculous amounts to do his in game bidding.

In a non auction house economy, this is not only ridiculously hard to do, it is nigh impossible. You can’t keep people from mining certain things, or getting certain items, and once they get one they have free reign for a lifetime of crafting. Or at the least a very very long time. With new items always cropping up, and no way to corner the market, RMT’s biggest moneymaker is gone. With gil so readily available in FFXIV, no one feels a need to buy gil. This is sort of a death blow, since with no buyers they will not profit from spending time finding ways to exploit making money. And with no trial software to download, they have to pay 60 bucks for the privilege to try. SE is very on top of banning those known to be RMTs. So we might be looking at one of the few almost RMT free MMOs ever to be built which makes it pretty nice that people can’t use real life success to get in game success. RMT gil prices are already up to about $150 bucks per million, and a million isn’t such a hard thing to get in FFXIV. They have also eliminated all mail systems, which while isn’t a big deal with the ability to instant teleport anywhere you want, also makes it hard on RMTs. Also, you can be sure SE has scripted monitors for any one character getting a bunch of gil trades.

In conclusion, auction houses are a nice thing for users. However, they aren’t the end all nor are they required and there are benefits from not having one. The downside is a lack in convenience. The inconvenience is, imho, negligible, though it will pose a problem for those with the need to sate the desire to “have it right this second” and be able to go to a npc and click a few buttons in a window for it. The upside is a richer, more depthful, and more stable economy immune to the manipulation of fat cat market corners and their eviler counterpart, real money traders. It also means you know where everything comes from, as you have to harvest many things once (but not usually more than once), which adds a realm of realism. The biggest shift, is a shift in mentality which for many users is hard to do, or they are unwilling to do. If that’s you, hey, I’ll even tip my hat as you walk out the door. For those of us that enjoy it however, we’re just getting comfy in our favorite chair and ready to settle in for a long time. Looking forward to seeing you in Eorzea.

{tab=Op-Ed #2}

The Listing House: An Alternate Proposal

Written by Dukuji (Dukuana Jina, Rabanastre)

The lack of an auction house in Final Fantasy XIV, similar to what is available in Final Fantasy XI, is a subject that has ignited message boards and online forums since the first alpha/beta testers leaked the word. With the official release upon us, the concerns and anger are only bound to grow and overshadow the positive and fascinating aspects of Final Fantasy XIV. Many bill the introduction of the auction house as the catch all save all which will lead XIV from the darkness and shine the way for its denizens. Another large group of players are hesitant to take up the rally call; knowing the evils and dangers of bringing the auction house back into their game play. After all, is this FFXIV or FFXI.2? Their fears are based on years of experience of watching people manipulate, abuse, and undercut a system that tends to favor certain tactics and/or persons. However, this piece is not about bringing the merits and evils of the two to light, it is to suggest a neutral proposal that I believe will stay true to the new feel of Final Fantasy XIV, bring buyer and seller together, and limit the harmful actions of others. Without further ado, I present: The Listing House.

Section 1, Definitions and Scope

A Listing House is a place for those in need of an item to list a request in which potential sellers can search and, if they desire, fill the request at the price listed by the buyer. The goal is to create a real sense of what items are in demand and what people are willing to pay.

Section 2, Organization

The listing house would organize items similar to how they were in the auction houses of FFXI; by type and which craft they are associated with. When a buyer or seller views a particular item though they are not given the number of how many items are up for sale nor are they given the sell price/date of last ten items. While browsing the Listing House, a player would be given the option to: (1) view the current requests, (2) list/remove a request, or (3) view the price history of an item over a certain time frame. Viewing the current requests would display a list that organizes the number of requests by which price. For example, the list for Puk Wings could read like this:

Stack of Puk Wings – 8 open postings:
1 @ 2000 gil
3 @ 1750 gil
4 @ 1500 gil

Information such as the buyer/sellers name, the date of the request, the number of stacks a person is requesting or anything else of that nature would be hidden. From this menu a seller can choose whether not to fill any of the requests at the prices listed. When a player lists a request they dedicate the gil they are willing to pay and complete the request. Viewing the price history will give basic statistical information such as average mean, mode, and median sell prices and percent of requests that are filled for this item. A price/statistical history of six months should be sufficient.

Section 3, Mechanics

Unlike FFXI where the buyer submits blind bids (with only the ten recent transactions to gage their bid on) the buyer actually selects the item he wants and lists what he is willing to pay for. Once the posting is listed the gil would be removed from the buyers account and placed in holding. If the posting goes unfilled for a certain time (say, three earth days) then the posting is automatically removed and the gil is returned to the play via their retainer. If the request is filled the desired item would be sent to that player’s retainer. When a seller fills a request, the money is given directly to the seller via an NPC Listing House Agent.

Section 4, Fees

The poster is responsible for a fee based on a percent of the request they list. This Listing House fee would be non refundable. The gil the buyer intends to use to purchase that item would be removed for the short time their post is up. At any time a player can retrieve the gil they have put up in the Listing House but they will lose the fee they had to pay.

Section 5, Example

Player A wants a stack of Puk Wings and decides to list a request at the Listing House. They see the following information:

Stack of Puk Wings – 7 open requests:
3 @ 1850 gil each
4 @ 1500 gil each

Mean – 1870 gil
Mode – 1700 gil
Median – 1825 gil
% of requests filled – 73%

Using their judgment, Player A decides to list a request for one stack at 1900 gil. A few hours later, Player B sees the same information only that somebody wants a single stack for 1900 gil. Agreeing to the price, Player B sells their stack of Puk Wings for 1900 gil. The request Player A listed is removed along with the gil they had to dedicate (plus the fee), the Puk Wings are sent to Player A’s retainer, and Player B instantly receives 1900 gil from the Listing House. Later on, Player B acquires another stack of Puk Wings. Going to the Listing House they only see one request @ 1000 gil. Player B thinks this is too low and decides not to fill the request and instead posts the Puk Wings on their retainer @ 1500 gil.

Section 6, Market Wards and Miscellaneous

Market Wards would continue to give players selling and buying options in FFXIV. Given that the Listing House is to cater to those searching for items needed, the Market Wards would serve sellers looking to push their wares. As a bonus for renting a stand, all items located in stands would be searchable via an index available in every Market Ward. Players who do not want to wait to have a request filled have the option of warping into the Market Wards to purchase their item now vs. having to wait on the Listing House. Creating a Listing House would help steer people from posting worthless or overpriced items on their retainers by giving them a quick reference on what actually willing to pay and if the item has a high sell rate. This would greatly clean up the excess items and retainers in the Market Wards and open it up to more serious buyers and sellers.

Section 7, Conclusion

The Listing House proposal stays true to the Market Ward feeling that I believe the developers originally wanted but gives the players more choices and options when it comes to how they want to go about their buying and selling. Having the market wards, bazaars, stands, retainers, and the Listing House in operation at the same time will diversify the market and help reduce the types of abuse that an auction house is prone to without harming the player base.

{tab=Op-Ed #3}

Making the Most of FFXIV’s Economy

Written by Dukuji (Dukuana Jina, Rabanastre)

First of all, let me welcome everybody to Final Fantasy XIV! A new world, new foes, new adventures, new lands, new quests, and a brand new economy! Now, a new economy is not something you will often see advertised nor bragged about before you log in for the first time. Once you do, you are probably like most people and have a flood of questions and frustrations. It is the intent of this piece to help smooth out some of the questions you have and hopefully clarify this new economy of ours.

From the moment you log in, you are broke but after a few battles, a few quick quests, and perhaps selling a few minor items that you have picked up along the way, you will find yourself with a few thousand gil and ready to investigate your buying power. At this point almost everybody feels the need to buy new armor and sell what they have found in the field. The first question out of their mouth is: “Where’s the auction house?” to which a chorus of replies will quickly tell them that there is no auction house in FFXIV. In case you missed it, or thought I mistyped, let me say it again: there is no auction house in FFXIV. Not only that but there is not even a similar system to an auction house. I’m deeply sorry but all is not lost! Furthermore, most people quickly notice there are very few NPC vendors to be found and that they sell mostly minor materials and very little in the way of weapons or armor. So, what is a person suppose to do?

Square-Enix gave us two main resources when it comes to buying and selling: player bazaars and retainers. You can place a certain number of items in your inventory on sale for the public to purchase. You can also place a request for items you want in your bazaar. Since there is no auction house you will be surprised how quickly people jump at a chance to check other people’s bazaars. In each of the main cities, there is an NPC that will allow you to hire an NPC retainer to sell your goods for you. Hiring a retainer allows you to place items on the retainer (or advertise for items you want) and set them up in the Market Wards to sell. Market Wards are located in each of the three major cities and require you to be next to the appropriate gate to teleport inside. Once inside you’ll be able to browse through the different bazaars.

Having bazaars and all is nice but it does not help a whole lot in figuring out how much to charge nor does it spread the word on what you and your retainers have to offer. Do not fret; the clues are all around us. When selling, the first thing to do is first figure out what you have and if it is something that people want to buy. Typical questions you should ask yourself include: Does an NPC sell a similar item? What is the resale value of the item? Is this needed in a popular craft or quest? What can I make or use this for? This is where a site like Eorzeapedia excels! Let it help you do a little research and you will not only know if it is used in crafting but if it is sold by a vendor. Buying is very similar to selling only in reverse. Do your research, find out if an npc sells it, find out if it can be mined or gathered, try to target people and bazaars that consistently acquire and sell the items you want.

Some final tips:

  • If you are selling an item that a vendor also sells, stand next to that vendor, put your bazaar up, and sell it for a little bit less than the vendor does.
  • Players form habits; if they remember that your retainer typically sells botany items or crystals they will be sure to remember who and where you are.
  • If an item is not selling, chances are that nobody wants it.  You might be better off to sell the item to an npc and put up something somebody would be willing to buy.
  • Armor and weapons are almost always in hot demand; you will sell a shield much faster, for much more, than that old bloodworm bait that anybody can buy for eight gil at a vendor.
  • Name your retainer something that will tip the buyer off to what you sell. If you are a fisher and often have your retainer full of fish try naming them “Fishmarket” or something similar. When they come looking for fish your name will tip them off.
  • Network, network, network. Do not be afraid to speak up in market wards and other busy places of what wares you have to offer. Same thing goes with items you need. (Please be respectful and do not spam or you will find yourself on everybody’s blacklist.)
  • Talk to your Linkshell, they will be able to share what sells and what they bought/sold items for in the past.

One final thought: we have just started off on our journey, soon more will join us. We will be an entire society of warriors and merchants each looking to sell and buy different items at different levels. Over time the economy will balance out as people figure out what sells and for how much. An auction house is not absolutely critical to this game’s success. Even as I type this people are complying information and building databases for players to use and search.

The short and long of it is that without an Auction House and vendors to rely on, we will have to get creative as individuals and as a community to sell the items we find and buy the ones we need.