I love the fact that there is no "set price" for items. In FFXI no one would pay 50k for a flame sword because they could see the last 10 sales were all for around 21k. In FFXIV if you see a Flame Sword that you have been wanting and its 50k and you have 120k in your wallet, you buy it and feel excited to have a new sword. In FFXI if someone lists the Flame Sword on the AH for 50k you try 21k, and don't get it.... try 22k and don't get it...try 23k and don't get it.... then you proceeed to cuss out the greedy ******* who obviously listed his flame sword for more than its worth and you go without a sword for a couple of days even though you could have easily afforded the one on the AH.
Worth should be determined by the buyer, not the price history on the AH. Finding that item in a bazaar for cheaper than you expected to find it is like stumbling accross a rare prize. Its fun.
Also, I bought some of the ingredients for a Hopolon Shield and crafted myself one last night. It was very satifying to make my own shield. I bought enough of each ingredient to make a couple of extras to sell for some spending cash.
I think as they tweak the system it will get much better and the things I like about it will become apparent to other players.
there is still a leveling effect in terms of price per product. Now what you cite as an example is exactly why you need an AH. You as the maker of the sword may not know that the swords are being sold for 21k. You put up 50k and wonder why no one is buying your ****. Now if you are the 2nd or 3rd crafter of a rare item than yes this system benefits you because there is no price history and the price can remain inflated for longer. However, the spam crafter is not far behind and he will destroy your market, your price will come down and people will know the true value of your inflated sword. It still happens, just at a slower rate.
You miss the main issue though in that it's not about price fixing, it's about access to materials and finished products. If you make 5 swords and you want to sell them, you have no access to the market place other than shouting in a small subsection of the population hoping that 5 people want to buy your goods, or you become just another retainer in a sea of retainers hoping ppl look at your bazar and think they are getting a good deal on a product. So now you're sitting on 5 swords that you can't sell because people who want to buy them from you have no access to your goods. If you could list them on an AH sure you wouldn't be able to inflate your price, but you could get rid of them much faster.
The same issue applies to finding materials for your sowrd, if one material is from a mob not within the region you are in you'll have to walk to the region it is in, than you'll have to search countless retainers hoping that someone else sees value in your item and didn't NPC it. An AH provides items with value that most players don't associate value too. For example when I first started playing XI I NPC silk thread, because I had no idea it was a high demand item. While looking for materials to craft I came across silk thread on the AH and realized it was a high demand item and worth 1,000 times what I had been NPC'n it for. Without that AH i would have continued to remove supply from the market and hurt my self by not realizing the true value of the item I thought was trash.
This system benefits price fixers because there is no evidence they are price fixing, and example of this, the haub piece that a level 17 crafter can make. The mats are 80k, if you add in leveling cost and break costs along with "new" costs this gear should sell for ~180-220k depending on the crafter and how fast he wants to get rid of it. I'm sure as crafters we can all agree that is a fair price range, and eventually given time prices would fall to within that range. However, the current system we have I know one person selling them for 500k. Now, it's the first few synths I get it. But think about this from a buyer perspective, you are getting RIPPED off and have no way of knowing it till 4-5 days later when you see them going for much less cause the price inflaters have moved on to something else. An AH keeps the economy honest. Yes we as crafters will end up losing more gil to level synths, but thats why there is such a large emphasis in this game about leveling up minning/gather/fishing. So that the material costs can stay low, allowing margins on either loss or gain to remain small but constant. It won't be like xi where you only make money on the tier 0 synths and lose 100k+ on the NQ versions that you NPC cause you can't sell em.