Final Fantasy XIV and Final Fantasy XI are the two games that make me hungrier than any other. It’s not because I associate Final Fantasy XI with sitting in my dorm room and eating takeout, although that is also true. It’s because these games are veritable buffets of in-game foods. Other games have stepped on the idea of buff food before and since, but in both Vana’diel and Eorzea, a cook can be the centerpiece of your character build.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Final Fantasy XIV had one of the best food systems I’ve ever seen at the time that its first version shut down. There was subtlety, there was grace, and above all else there was a lot of tasty stuff for everyone to eat. So let’s talk about all of that wonderful food, from miq’abobs to bubble chocolate, and let’s look back at the state of food from the game’s beginning up until the fall of Dalamud. (Or the shutdown in November, if you have no poetry in your soul.)
…and finds it to be divine
Like many parts of the game at launch, food was not a very well-explained system. What was clear was that the game vaguely allowed for inidivudal taste, so a Miqo’te eating something might not have as positive a reaction as a Lalafell. We knew, as players, that all of these foods had some effect, but the game really didn’t like the idea of letting us know what any of those effects were, leaving everyone to just stumble through and guess.
Food also suffered from the same problem that gear did in the early days: High-level items were marginally less effective, but that balanced out quickly compared to ease of acquisition and relative power jumps. Eating powerful food would provide big flat boosts that scaled down only slightly based on your level, which meant that a good plate of meat could sometimes be more relevant than your sword in a battle.
Not that making high-end food was necessarily easy. Remember, crafting at launch would draw on logical but frequently impractical ingredient combinations, so making a a dish would require low-end items, high-end items, and vendor-bought garbage. And that was true whether the dish itself was meant for level 3 or level 37, so most people just ate whatever food they had on hand, content in the vague knowledge that it was probably doing something.
Yoshida’s team put off revising this for a while, mostly since revising it meant revising cooking and a lot of other system points. The food revision we finally got, though, more than made up for it.
The feast of a thousand hams
The big food revision we got in 1.0 made food responsible for long-term buffs, reprising the role of food in FFXI. There were two unique aspects to this system, however. First of all, food bonuses were entirely based upon percentages rather than flat values. Second, all of the bonuses had a cap on value that was inversely proportional to the percentage.
If that wasn’t clear enough, look at the GamerEscape pages for Orange Juice and Pineapple Juice. Pineapple Juice gives a much smaller percentage bonus to your MP, but it can give a much higher overall bonus, meaning that there’s absolutely nothing preventing you from using it at lower levels, but it’s going to be much less advantageous than using Orange Juice with a higher percentage and a lower stat cap.
This is pure cleverness right here. It’s a mechanical trick that ensures you want to use the right item for your level without ever coming out and slapping a level requirement on anything. And since all food gives you a small experience bonus with the same percentage bonus no matter what, it was always better to eat something than nothing.
The one downside to this reveal was that the game also made getting food a little bit harder. Before the food revision, levequests would dump stacks of food on you in Limsa Lominsa, resulting in my character swimming in morsels at all times. Afterwards the food rewards became much more modest, encouraging players to actually take up cooking or buy from the market wards if they wanted to remain fed. That wasn’t really a downside, per se, but it still meant less free food.
Joy of slaying and subsequently cooking
Of course, that was part of the fun. Acquiring stacks of meat was not particularly hard, and once you knew what those stacks of meat could be used for, you had a new mini-project. So you would go out, hunt something with your food buff, and turn the meat and vegetables and such that you acquired from all that hunting into new meals that would then be used as another food buff for another session of hunting…
Or you could just hunt, sell your ingredients, and then buy some food and keep hunting. It was pretty fun when you got down to it.
So why talk about this now? Because we’re all going through the withdrawal of not having the game in front of us and waiting for version 2.0. It’s nice to remember what you loved about 1.0. In my case, part of what I loved was having some delicious food all around me.