So today, I was exploring Northern Thanalan when all of a sudden all in-game sounds stopped. I also ran into an invisible wall. After evading the wall somehow, I proceeded to fall through the world and ended up dead, as seen above. When I clicked to resurrect at my Return location, I got stuck at the black loading screen then crashed. Since then, I’ve been stuck at “This World is currently full. Please wait until an opening is available and try again.” Gee thanks, Square-Enix, I’m totally ecstatic that you’re going to inform me when there is an opening and I can try again! Not to mention I did get the below once, which made me explode with WHY THE F DO YOU HAVE A QUEUE IF IT KICKS ME OUT ANYWAY!!! Because sense.
Anyway, since I can’t play the game, I figured I’d compile some notes here on the crafting system in FFXIV, since it’s really quite intricate and rewards careful thought and planning.
I don’t have exposure to a lot of MMOs, the ones I’ve played extensively are World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2, so I can only compare to those games. I’ll go into detail after the jump.
World of Warcraft is fairly simple. Gathering and crafting requires skill level. When either crafting or gathering, the color of the text denotes the macroscopic plateau of your skill: red means you cannot gather/craft it; orange means you will always gain a skill point if you craft/gather; yellow means you have about 50% chance of gaining a skill point from crafting/gathering; green means you will rarely gain a skill point; and grey means you will never gain a skill point. Players were restricted to knowing up to 2 crafting or gathering professions, and high-level crafting required obscene amounts of raw crafting materials and/or rare monster drops. One big distinction in WoW was that gathering nodes were public, meaning if someone gathered a particular herb or mining vein, you could not. The system itself was rather simple, gather the list of ingredients, find an allowable workstation to craft, usually in a major city, and watch the progress bars.
Guild Wars 2 improved on this simple system in a number of ways. At its essence, the same concepts apply, use gathering tools to gather materials, use the materials to create an item. GW2 differed in that characters did not have to learn a gathering profession, they merely had to purchase the correct tool in order to gather. This means that as long as you carry around a mining pick, lumber axe, and harvesting sickle of a high enough level, you can gather anything you find. GW2 also used private gathering nodes, so there is no in-world competition to finding and gathering materials. The crafting system is where GW2 really starts to differ. First, instead of skill points, GW2 uses progress levels. There are 2 types of recipes, orange, which are relevant, and grey, which are irrelevant. Orange recipes will fill up your progress bar based on the difficulty of the recipe, while grey ones are too low-leveled and will not. Now, it may still take many crafts to gain a progress level, but, unlike WoW, you aren’t gambling with your materials in order to gain skill points, you’re making consistent progress.
The most interesting part of GW2 crafting is how you learn new recipes. Aside from a handful of basic recipes learned from the trainer and some high-level end-game recipes sold by vendors, you learn everything else through what’s called the Discovery Panel. This screen consists of 2 sections: your relevant materials, and your mixing bowl, as it were. If something appears in your list of relevant materials, that means it can be used in a recipe you haven’t learned yet. If you drag an item into the mixing bowl, you can see the level required to craft, how many recipes you can learn with this material, then all other materials that cannot be used in conjunction with this material will be faded out in the relevant materials pane. In this manner, you are encouraged to go out and collect as many different items as you can since you never know what will be useful or what can be combined to create a new recipe.
Compared to WoW, I really enjoyed the crafting in GW2. It was fun to check my discovery pane whenever I got new items to see if anything could be used. There weren’t any incredibly surprising recipes to learn, and most of the high-end items that could make something were just random enchantments and not something fun, but the concept was there, and Arena.net seemed to imply that they would be adding recipes all the time. Unfortunately, my work got busy and I stopped playing GW2, so I don’t know how things turned out in the end. I thought it was a great system, though, and it could do some really cool things for players.
So, now we get to FFXIV crafting. To preface, I am absolutely, completely in love with the crafting in this game, and I find myself spending as much or more time in it than the actual RPG gameplay aspect :)
To start off, FFXIV is different from WoW and GW2 inherently in how it handles characters. While you do choose a class when creating your character, once you reach level 10, you are allowed to learn and become any other class in the game. Because all of the crafting and gathering professions are their own classes, this means that any character can be all classes and all professions. While on the surface this might seem to take away from profession interdepedency such that a single player can singularly provide all materials for her or himself, because of the pure amount of time required to level up a Disciple of the Hand or Disciple of the Land (the in-game denomination for crafting and gathering classes), I seriously doubt that this freedom will simply collapse that interdependency and instead will just provide a viable alternative for players who wish to spend the time on more professions.
The two main gathering professions in FFXIV are miner and botanist. Miners can pick mineral veins or quarry stones while botanists can chop trees and gather plants. Fishing is also a Disciple of the Land, but it’s so different from mining and botany that I won’t cover it. So, when you find a gathering node and right click on it, a screen pops up that has a list of items and a bunch of percentages. What we have here is the elimination of finding rare materials through random chance in favor of the ability to aim for specific materials, which is A++ good implementation. You can cherry-pick what you need when you need it. This is a much welcome change from WoW/GW2, where you just brute force gather and hope you happen upon the rare materials that you need. What was done poorly in FFXIV in my opinion, however, is the sheer amount of experience necessary to level up and find the next tier of materials. Gathering nodes have levels in multiples of 5, and you need to be within 5 levels of the node’s level in order to detect it at all. For the purposes of crafting, though, you usually get enough of what you need of each material within 1-2 levels, so the next 3 levels are just spent grinding the same nodes over and over and over again. Fieldcraft guildleves also do not award nearly enough experience compared to, say, tradecraft guildleves, making them just not worth the leve allowance.
All in all, though, the decision to make gathering more interactive compared to other games is a big plus. It’s pretty exciting to reach the next tier of materials since you get to hunt them out and discover what they are, or you can always open your Gathering Log when you’ve unlocked the next tier and look up where to go for the next materials.
One big difference between FFXIV and WoW/GW2, which I hear was also present in FFXI, is that little swirly symbol just to the right of the item symbol in the screenshot above. That represents a high-quality item. In other words, when I’m quarrying this node, I have a 15% chance to obtain a high-quality Bomb Ash and a 14% chance for a high-quality Silex. Now that I’ve mentioned high-quality items, I hope your interest in piqued! All random item drops from monsters, gathered items, and crafted items can come in high-quality versions. A high-quality piece of equipment has higher attributes and stat bonuses than its normal-quality counterpart, but otherwise has the same level requirement. In addition, tradecraft leves and Grand Company supply & provisioning missions award significant amounts of bonus experience and seals for turning in HQ items.
This leads me to the crafting overview. If you’re coming from a game like WoW or GW2, the first time you change to a Disciple of the Hand class might seem like a bit overkill. You have to equip a specific weapon, then to craft you have to press “Synthesis” and use an ability on your skillbar? You can even fail to craft, but you just keep pressing the skill until it works? Yes, crafting appears to have a lot of whistles attached for no purpose, so you make a few items, unlock a few new items to craft, then you hit level 5… whoa, “Basic Touch,” what’s this skill for? “Increases quality”? Huh, I don’t get it. I use it, it fails a fair number of times, that HQ% number goes up a little bit, but nothing else appears to happen. Oh, if my HQ% is higher, I guess I get a little bit more experience. All right, whatever, might as well use it. Level 7… “Master’s Mend”… huh, this move restores durability during crafting. So I can use Basic Touch even more now, I wonder how high I can get the HQ%. Nice, 20% is pretty high, and… wait, what? I just made a high-quality item? And it has better stats?!
…At this point, my mind was blown. Gathering was interesting and had some cool dynamics, but crafting had an amazing amount of depth and could prove to be good enough to be its own game. Case in point, one of my Free Company members (sup Clink) stopped leveling his Conjurer and has his Weaver class about 10 levels higher than his actual class.
I think my favorite part about the crafting in FFXIV is that it reminds me of engineering; you’re constantly checking and rechecking your method to improve the process. Part of this involves upgrading your crafting gear, since each incremental increase in stats can result in the elimination of a whole necessary step, leaving more room to use quality increase skills. I’m still taking notes on what the significance of different numbers or situations is, but I plan to make more blog posts on methods to madness in crafting and gathering, so stay tuned :)