Final Fantasy XIV: Crafting and Gathering first

With all of the systems getting rebuilt in A Realm Reborn, what do crafters and gatherers have to look forward to?

With the rerelease of Square Enix’s second MMO, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a few months away, a few of us here at ZAM have had the chance to try the beta and see what’s changed. We all tried out the combat and looked at some of the major system changes and you can find out more about those in Corey’s post. While I put in a good amount of time questing and fighting like the other writers, it wasn’t my primary focus this time around. What I wanted to know was this: did Square Enix finally give me full-fledged crafting and gathering classes like they were promising when the first version of FFXIV came out in 2010?

When Square Enix originally started talking about its second MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, one of the points it kept bringing up to show its game was unique was that crafters and gatherers were now true player classes. Players that wanted to dabble in crafting or gathering could still do so on the side, but those who were primarily interested in finding/selling crafting materials or in turning those materials into equipment and supplies for other players now had full-fledged classes to specialize in. There would be actual abilities you used, gear with crafting/gathering specific stats to get, and technique to learn beyond just clicking on an ore vein or hitting Create in a crafting window. When I played the open beta for v1.0, I was… well, I had a lot of less than kind things to say that are unfit for print, especially about crafting and gathering. Fast forward almost three years and a remake later, it was time to find out what had changed and if it was for the better.

I Didn’t Become A Blacksmith So I Could “Throw Rock”!

During character creation in the original iteration of FFXIV, you could choose to start as any starting job you wanted (some classes required quests to unlock). You could go the normal route of choosing a combat-oriented class like a Pugilist or a Thaumaturge or you could choose something like Miner or Blacksmith right from the beginning. Players interested in the non-combat professions could skip straight to what they wanted. Well, theoretically. What actually happened was you’d finish making your character and join the game in the exact same instanced intro as all of the other classes. Once you finished talking to whoever the game wanted you to chat with, a fight would break out. If you were a combat class, this would be where you’d start using the skills/spells on your hotbar to assist the NPCs and take out your foes. As a crafter or a gatherer, you’d look at this and go, “Why the heck am I here? I thought I picked Miner/Blacksmith/etc.” You could sit and stare at the monsters, hoping they’d go away once the other NPCs who looked like actual combat classes stepped in and dealt with the problem. You might even cheer them on while they fought. Nope – as far as you were concerned, those NPCs were blind until you decided to pick a fight with something and they heard squishy you screaming for help.

Picture yourself as a Miner or a Blacksmith looking at this situation. All that stands between you and your tradeskill-based glory is a handful of level 1 monsters. It’s a tutorial mission – surely they’ll die in a couple of hits, right? You’ll just break out my blacksmithing hammer or mining pick and… oh? What’s that? You’re not actually able to hit them with your weapon? Well, what can you hit them with then… Ah, there’s a button on your hotbar! It’s called “Throw Rock”! Time to throw some rocks! You hit for… one damage. This thing has like 300 health and it’s hitting you for a tenth of your health each swing. Math says you lose. Luckily for you, after about a third of your health’s gone, the NPCs take pity and one-shot the monster. Repeat this two or three more times and the intro is complete. It’s not exactly the best introduction for a new crafter/gatherer, given the whole lack of any crafting and/or gathering. Now let’s fast-forward a few years and a remake later to ARR: are you still spending your early days throwing rocks at monsters and hoping you live longer enough for the NPC to save you?

To begin with, in ARR your crafting and gathering aspirations will have to wait for a few levels. Only classes from the Disciples of War (melee classes as well as the Archer) and Disciples of Magic are available. Once your class is chosen, you cannot switch until you finish your level 10 class quest and are given permission to join other guilds. At first this might seem like a downgrade from the previous system – it may have been broken, but you could still start as what you wanted, right? However, doing things this way actually makes quite a bit of sense. Questing for those ten levels not only gets you familiar with the surrounding area (very useful for any would-be gatherers out there), but it also provides you with the opportunity to make some starter funding.

That was one of the other major issues with crafters in the first version of FFXIV. Sure you could be a crafter in name, but with no funding to buy any materials, let alone afford gathering tools to find your own, you could find yourself in quite a predicament early on. Sure there were guildleves you could do that might provide some cash if you could craft from the materials they provided, but if you failed at crafting it (I’ll get to that later) then you couldn’t complete it and you’d have to wait 36 hours to try again since there was no dropping a quest and picking it back up. With ten levels worth of combat class questing under your belt, you’ll have plenty of money to work with as starter capital and if you need some quick cash while waiting for your retainer to sell your wares, you can just strap on your sword/staff/etc. and go earn some more. So after ten levels of running around as a Gladiator, slaying monsters for my Hunting Log and just being happy there were finally quests in the game, it was time to try my hand at some non-combat professions. Considering the city I started in only had access to some of the various job classes and I seemed unable to go to another city until further in the plot, I looked at the options available. Since I didn’t have a friend to funnel me materials as a crafter, I decided to farm my own and start with Miner.

With all of the systems getting rebuilt in A Realm Reborn, what do crafters and gatherers have to look forward to?

Targeted Gathering: Because Waiting For Lucky Drops Sucks

The first thing I noticed as a Miner was my initial ability, your standard “show me veins on the minimap” button from other MMOs. I turned it on and proceeded to go right-click the first vein I could find. What greeted me was remarkably different than what I remember cursing at in the original FFXIV.

Life as a Miner or any other gatherer in v1.0 was a series of hot & cold mini-games. Once you opened up a vein, you’d do a test hit and get flavor text to tell you if you were close or not. You’d make an adjustment and try again until either you found the right spot and got some ore or you ran out of time/energy/whatever and lost that hit. Even if you found the right spot on the bar for a vein, there was no guarantee that would be the right spot for every hit, so you needed to do this mini-game for every single item you got from a vein. This was the case for all of the other gathering professions as well. As much as I wanted a bit more interaction from gathering in other MMOs, this was absolutely the wrong way to do it. Gathering in ARR on the other hand? Significant improvement.

When you open up a vein or other gathering node in ARR, a list of different materials is brought up, each with percentages near the name. These correspond to all of the various materials you can gather from this node and your odds of successfully getting one with each attempt. If the gods of mining favor you this day, you’ll get your item as well as some XP toward leveling your gathering class (higher level items = more XP). If not, then you just click again and hope for better luck. Each node gives you six attempts and they seem to respawn fairly regularly. This means that if you really want to focus on just copper ore to level your Armorer class or you just want gems because those are selling really well right now, then you can focus on just getting those. You’ll also see some unknown items with a 10% or so success rate – those are materials you haven’t gathered yet. Gather them once and that entry will update to the new item with a much more pleasant gathering rate.

So far this seems fairly simple, but things get more interesting once you spend more time gathering and gain a few levels. To start with there’s a chain bonus for gathering. Every time you manage to get an item with a hit on a vein, you’ll get a percentage bonus to the XP gained from that item. Come up empty on a hit, however, the chain will break and you’ll be back to base XP on the next hit. This means that if you’re just trying to eke out some levels in gathering rather than focusing on a specific material, you need to think things through. Is it better to go for the big ticket items that reward more XP each, or do I go for the lower level stuff that has a better chance of combo bonuses? This gets a bit more complex after a few levels because you’ll start getting more abilities.

Some of the abilities you get are what you’d expect from a gathering profession: track nearest node, find a higher level node, etc. One that’s quite nice, once you start getting to higher levels, is the ability to stealth; unlike other games with gathering classes, here you won’t require other players to take you into dangerous territory assuming you’re paying attention. The big abilities though are the ones that spend your Gathering Points (think MP but for gathering). With these abilities you can boost your chances of getting items with each hit, squeeze out a seventh hit from a node, or even bump up your chances of getting a high quality item. Those will give you more XP when you get them, but I’ll cover high quality materials in more detail later when I start talking crafting. Your GP will regenerate slowly over time as well as with each hit on a node, so here’s another spot where you need to make choices. Do I spend all of my GP on this next node to boost success rate and the chance for high quality drops, or do I spread it out over multiple nodes and hope Lady Luck’s on my side today?

This may all seem to some like it’s just adding layers in between you and the materials you want. To someone like me who likes the idea of his character doing all of this crafting and gathering, I like making it more involved. I want control over what I’m trying to gather and not just hoping that the 37th node is the charm for the rare materials I need for a recipe. The idea that as an expert Miner I should be better at finding the materials I want in an ore vein than someone who’s just starting makes sense to me, so the system used in ARR for gathering really appeals to me. These concepts also carry over into the realm of crafting, perhaps even to a higher degree.