Are you shocked? I’m normally so positive. And that’s definitely a goal for me. I make it a priority to always try to be optimistic, to look on the bright side, to find something nice to say. So here we go.
The crafting system in Final Fantasy XIV is the most intricate, skill-intensive crafting system I’ve ever seen in an MMO. I haven’t played a million of them or anything, but the people I talk to who have a more “dabbling” MMO play style (as in they play for a month and then move on to a new MMO) agree with me. The crafting and gathering in FF XIV is pretty much its own game in itself.
And I absolutely hate it.
Way back in the day, I played Lord of The Rings Online. That game required you to pick a vocation, which had three professions. For example, my first character was a Tinker, which meant her professions were Prospector, Cook, and Jeweller. That meant I could gather my own ore for making jewelry, but because the vocation lacked the Farmer profession, I could not gather my own materials for cooking. I had to buy ingredients on the auction house or from in-game vendors, ask a friend with the profession to grow what I needed, or make another character that had the Farmer profession to supply for cooking (which I eventually did).
I remember being cranky that I couldn’t grind up all the crafting and gathering classes on one character. If I was willing to do the work, shouldn’t I be able to do everything? The grind wasn’t so bad. I went out and gathered ore, which yes, was time consuming, but also relatively mindless. You could watch a show or multitask some other way while you did it, step away at any moment if you needed to. You mined a node until it was out of ore and moved on to the next until you had what you wanted. I have certainly seen worse and more frustrating grinds to level a class.
I’d come back to a forge and start refining all my gathered ore and jewels. Pick a quantity to make, press a button, and go. The crafting meter would fill up, and ding! A polished gem. Or whatever. You did this to achieve Proficiency, and then Mastery, and then you could make sweet jewelry for your character, or someone else’s.
Leveling crafting and gathering wasn’t all that difficult to do, and I remember usually being able to make jewelry and stat-enhancing food that was useful for the level I was at. My greatest joy was making things for the other people in my kinship (LoTRO’s name for guild), and once I was leveled, it didn’t cost me a huge amount of time or effort to be able to do these things, for myself or others; I had already invested the time and money leveling the crafting class. All I needed was a set of tools (which were not that difficult or expensive to obtain) and a proper work area (that proved more difficult, but I was impatient. Progressing in the story got me to a place where the Superior Ovens and Forges were in good time). The tools were the only gear you needed in order to craft or gather.
LoTRO, I’m so sorry I was cranky at the way you did crafting. I take it back.
I liked LoTRO crafting because it was relatively mindless. It was relaxing. It was a time commitment, sure, but it yielded great loot that, once you achieved mastery of the material you were working with, was not hard or exorbitantly expensive to make. It was profitable to sell on the auction house, if you wanted to, but it didn’t necessarily or even often bring you ridiculous amounts of money, unless you really, really worked at it.
And I didn’t want to pour that much time into it. I was into LoTRO for the same reasons I play video games today, to play with people I like and/or experience a great story. The crafting and gathering isn’t the main focus of an epic game, right? I mean, don’t we have Facebook/mobile games for pseudo-mindless crafting and gathering? I love the feeling of accomplishment from getting or making loot (I am The Cartographers Guild’s resident loot whore), but I want to go on quests and raids and conquer dungeons and bosses to do it. The making jewelry/insert-other-item-here was just to help me and my people do that better. Or to make sweet stuff for our houses or wardrobes, I’m all about the cosmetics.
So here I am in FF XIV. My sister and I are holding down the fort for the rest of our Free Company (guild), who tend to float in and out of MMOs much more than we do. I’d love to redecorate our Free Company house. There are so many great cosmetic items out there, outfits, furniture, stuff for the yard, barding for your chocobo, and more. I want new orchestrion rolls so we can play more music in our house. There’s all kinds of things I’d like to have.
However, almost anything cool that I can find on the market board (the place where players sell what they make or earn) is quite expensive, especially if it came out in the latest patch. I cannot remotely afford to redecorate our FC house, and this is from someone who is rather frugal with her in-game money (gil) and therefore should have a lot of disposable income. I’m not trying to buy armor or something that gives me a ridiculous advantage in the actual game or anything. I just want my character and FC house to look nice.
To give you an example, I just checked my total playtime in FF XIV and learned in the over four years I have been playing, I have logged 82 days, 3 hours, and 2 minutes. At this time, I now have 11.5 million gil. I think my all-time high was close to 30 million, but I invested about 20 million in my gathering gear to be able to level those classes up to 60 (think about that for a minute). My gil has been earned through some crafting and gathering, but also just being relatively smart about selling the things I earn in the game by killing monsters and questing and such on the market board and, as I mentioned, being careful with my money.
As an experiment, I just logged into the game to check the price on a house furnishing that came out in the last patch, a cute Carbuncle bathtub (if you don’t know Final Fantasy, picture a white bathtub with Pikachu-looking legs). This is an item you can only get in the game from someone who has crafted it; I just checked the Mog Station (the website where you can buy things with real money), and it’s not there. How much was it?
As of right now on the Ultros server, 237,558 gil. For a bathtub. One furnishing. My medium sized Free Company house has a three hundred item capacity. Our yard can hold thirty furnishings.
OK, maybe that’s not fair, that’s brand new. Let’s try something else. I know this one is old, one of the people in my Free Company who isn’t playing right now was a crafter and he made something that sits in our FC house basement called a South Seas Couch. How much is that?
198,000 gil. And that’s a level 50 recipe, which means you could make it at the end of A Realm Reborn, two expansions ago! So, you could make that, what, three years ago, real time?
OK, one more try. I’ve had my eye on the Falconer shirt for a while, this is just a costume piece, it has no armor value. And it has a small chance to drop in the Palace of the Dead, so surely it can’t be that ba– 275,000?!
This stuff is too expensive for me to just buy, I’ll bankrupt myself in no time, I thought. Well, maybe I should give leveling up crafting another try. Maybe’s it’s not as bad as I remember.
I lasted one day at it before giving up in frustration. It was exactly as awful as I remembered.
FF XIV does let you learn every crafting and gathering profession on one character, and to this point I’d gotten two of the three gathering classes up to level 60, my goldsmith up to 50, and the other seven crafting classes up to 30. As you can see, I gave it the old college try.
I’d stopped at 60 for the gatherers because after level 50 they added a new mechanic that made gathering much more like crafting in that you really had to pay attention. Up to this point you gathered and, depending on your level and gear, you had a chance of failing. Annoying, but livable. After level 50, you now had to gather certain rare items to trade for something called scrips so you could trade those for new gear, and you needed the gear to be able to continue to reliably succeed at gathering (the gear thing had always been true, but to this point I’d endured it. To the tune of a 20 million gil investment). The new skills that let you gather the things you could trade for scrips (to trade for gear) were almost as meticulous (and chancy) as crafting. I’d prioritized gathering because it wasn’t as intensive as crafting. Well, so much for that.
I’d stopped where I had with the crafters because I hated the mechanics of crafting. To make a long story short, it’s a mini-game with a lot of chance involved. Yes, pressing the right skills in the right order (and having the right skills– the game very much encourages you to learn more than one crafting profession because you can use some of the skills universally and they are super helpful) was important, but there were parts of the mini-game that were beyond your control.
In short, everything has a percentage chance of succeeding, and sometimes the “condition” of the item you’re crafting fluctuates, which you also have no control over. Even if you press all the right buttons, have all the right skills, and are wearing a good set of crafting gear– yes, you need a whole separate set of gear for this too and it is not at all simple or cheap to obtain– you could still fail, and waste materials it was similarly difficult to get.
Gone are the days where you paid in-game currency and/or time to get the materials you needed to craft in order to get what you wanted. No longer are you guaranteed to succeed in gathering. No longer, in order to level your crafting profession, can you just specify a quantity of items to craft and go take a bathroom break, assured you’ll receive items and experience from the things you took the time to gather or buy when you get back.
In FF XIV, first you pay to get all the gear and therefore the stats you need to maximize your success gathering. Then you pay in time to actually attempt to gather all this stuff. And then you pay in time and resources to have a (hopefully) decent chance of actually making the thing you wanted in the first place. None of this is a given unless you are very over-leveled, you could fail an attempt to gather or craft any time, wasting time and resources.
Now, before I paint this too black, a few things.
- You can “auto-craft”– set it and forget it. But you should only do this with stuff way below your level, or you’ll waste a lot of resources. It’s in your best interest to play the crafting mini-game to maximize your chance of success.
- High Quality (HQ) items sell for more, and you drastically increase your chance of success if you start with HQ resources. But unless your gatherer is well geared, those can be hard to get.
- There are a lot of skills from other crafting classes (cross-class skills) that increase your chance of success. But that means leveling up eight crafting classes.
- There are all sorts of ways to get experience for the gathering and crafting classes. Levequests, delivery quests for your Allied company, beast quests, and more. It’s not just you sitting somewhere and crafting repetitively like in some of the less complicated systems in other MMOs. If you want to level these things, do quests. If you didn’t, that would be like leveling in an MMO by just killing monsters and nothing else, i.e. it would take forever.
- Yes, a lot of the craftable stuff is really expensive on the market board. But I am in no way slamming the crafters/gatherers for this. I’ve heard that just to be competitive in their gear, omnicrafters (people who can craft and probably gather everything) dump over 50 million gil into each set, minimum, on top of all the gathering and crafting time and who knows what other hidden costs. I’ve been playing semi-casually and mostly in dungeons and story for over four years and I barely have 11 million gil after my comparatively mediocre gathering gear investments. These people work hard to get you the expensive goodies.
Believe it or not, I actually simplified the explanation of crafting! I didn’t even go into all the materia-melding you need to do to get the stats you need to gather or craft, among other things. When I say crafting in FF XIV is like a whole other game in itself, I mean it.
And it is also completely optional. I have spent over four years in this game doing almost no crafting, comparatively, and loving everything else the game has to offer.
FF XIV has something for everybody. There are people who legitimately adore the crafting system. Most of them are rolling in very hard-earned gil after a long and arduous investment. And I have to say that as far as I know, it’s unique; crafting and gathering in this game takes skill and luck and fervent dedication, more than any MMO I’ve ever heard of. I am not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying I hate it.
I’m sure the easy retort is “then don’t do it.” Valid point. But I also really love cosmetic things, and this game offers beautiful ones. I imagine I’m going to have to find some kind of middle ground, somehow.
But for now, back to Palace of the Dead. FFXIV is a great game, and I need to get back to enjoying it. That’s why we play, after all.
Image Credit: My FF XIV character, Micah, failing spectacularly to craft.