So this will be the first in the series of The Anima Glass, a once-every-wheneverly column about Final Fantasy XIV; mostly a look at design mechanics, discussion of the world at large, and some idle musings about the game. Hopefully this’ll be interesting, if anything it’s a nice way for me to get a bunch of thoughts out of my mind and onto paper. E-paper. The web. Whatever. Take into consideration I am not a game designer or an economist or an expert in MMOs or anything similar; these are just my thoughts, so take them with a grain of salt.
For the first article I wanted to talk about Palace of the Dead, or Deep Dungeon, whatever you want to call it. If you’re not aware of what that is, it’s a randomised dungeon introduced in patch 3.35 and expanded upon in patch 3.45, adding 150 extra floors. The draw of the dungeon is many-fold; it gives quite good experience at sub-60 (better than most other sources), at level 60 it gives various Allagan currencies, and finally it gives you a high level weapon when fully attuned, which is (at time of writing) one of the strongest endgame weapons in the game. None of this truly matters to what I wanted to talk about, but it’s important to set the stage. Instead, the part of what I wanted to discuss about Palace of the Dead is its effect on the economy of Eorzea.
The economy is any MMO is a very big balancing act. There’s a large focus on balancing out positive creation of money for player user (gil fountains), and the removing of money from the economy (gil sinks). If too much is created, players all end up with too much money and people hoard money or the economy becomes heavily controlled through savvy market board hawks. If too much is removed, the economy slows greatly, things become overpriced due to stagnation and it really halts crafted gear for progression, because people just won’t want to spend. Of course, this fluctuates from server to server; larger servers have a much higher flow of economy, as there’s more people using these gil sinks and fountains, which is why you often see a lot cheaper items on the market board on Balmung in comparison to say, Zodiark. Competition drives down those costs, and more gil translates to more, faster sales.
Palace of the Dead upsets much of this balance, for better or worse. You see, when levelling up normally via dungeon or FATEs, players are constantly (ideally) upgrading their equipment to remain competitive. Of course, for first time through the main scenario you’re always given a fresh set of gear at every turn, just for pacing’s sake, but for gearing secondary combat classes you’re going to have to rely on gear from other sources. Players have a few options here too: they can craft their own gear, have it crafted for them, they can buy pre-crafted gear off the market board, they can receive gear drops from dungeons, or buy lesser-stat normal quality gear from vendors. Vendor gear is particularly interesting here, admittedly the gear is quite terrible but every piece of gear bought is a gil-sink, taking money from circulation. Market board gear works similarly, but to a much lesser extent; a small portion of each sale is taken as tax, and that money is removed from the pool too, with the rest going to the seller. Dungeon drops have no effect on the economy directly, but instead they promote something different entirely; these drops promote players running group content, which is the lifeblood of an MMO. All of this is super interesting, I’m sure, but how does this all relate back?
I said before that the Palace upsets this balance, and that’s because it uses its own set of gear, called Aetherpool armour and weapons. This gear is levelled up in Palace, and cannot be unequipped once you’re inside. There’s a few factors at work as to why this is a problem.
Firstly, players use Palace of the Dead to level up because of the speed of the content; around 15-30 minutes at earlier floors, and has a low failure rate. It’s also part of the mentality of players to take the path of least resistance, regardless of how interesting content is. We’ve seen this before with FATEs, because even though players complained and complained about how boring the content was, Northern Thanalan was always kickin’ at all hours. As Palace has a low barrier for entry, it’s fast, and the experience reward is very good; players are running it a lot more.
Secondly, because players are running this content more, they don’t really require that levelling gear anymore, at least for combat classes. I’ve watched the market board pretty closely since the release of Palace of the Dead, and the market on levelling gear has not only stagnated quite seriously, but the items that were there has been fairly consistently decreasing in cost. It’s not too much of a crazy problem, but for crafters, the levelling gear is a very large part of your crafting log. There’s still options to make money, but the bottom has dropped out of the market.
Thirdly, this closes up a few gil-sinks too. Runners of Palace aren’t repairing their gear, they’re not updating from vendors, hell, they’re not even teleporting around, and they come out of it with one of the better weapons in the game currently. It’s a sweet deal. I had noticed a trend of players not doing levelling dungeons too, but SE have combatted this issue with the latest patch, which is something I’ll talk about at a later date. There is also a positive flow of currency from selling items dropped from Accursed Horde chests, but for the most part this is fairly minimal (a small blessing).
I can normally work out what Square Enix is thinking when they design changes, but one change has eluded me fully, and that’s the additions to Accursed Horde to add glamour items. This is one of the largest decreases in markets I’ve seen, and it affects both crafters and non-crafters. Previously, one of the good sources of income for non-crafters was to run the Binding Coil of Bahamut and sell the aetherstone drops, used for making glamour versions of the normal gear drops. Prior to the additions to the Horde, these items sold for around 100,000 gil, with the glamour items going for 500,000. Post the additions, this market bottomed out and instead the final items sold for around 5,000, with the aetherstones not moving at all. The only logic I understand here is wrestling the product away from crafters, but the downside is that it also ruined that market for battle classes too, not that the content was hard. It’s interesting too, because normally new content exists to get people to run the least popular content again (more on this another day), but this actually active discourages people from running the older content. The only thing I could possibly guess at is that Square wanted to push the new content and its rewards, even at the detriment of older content, to keep people interested in something that for all intents and purposes, randomised with little extra work required from the team to keep the content relatively engaging.
I don’t have anything against Palace personally. It’s some really good rewards, and I appreciate the way it goes from awesome to it’s-all-gone-to-shit-kupo in seconds, but I just thought this was an interesting point of discussion. This is only a fraction of what I want to talk about in regards to Palace of the Dead, and especially in regards to Eorzea’s economy on the whole. Stick around, we’ll hopefully get into some nice discussion around the mechanics of Eorzea. May you ever walk in the light of the Crystal.