Wisdom of Nym: Final Fantasy XIV’s Machinist needs a tune-up

    
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There are three roles in Final Fantasy XIV, but you could argue that one of those roles has three sub-roles. Sure, they all fall under the “damage” header, but the game really makes an effort to differentiate melee, casting, and ranged characters. Melee is meant to deal the most single-target damage quickly, casters do AoE damage marvelously, and at this point ranged characters like Bard and Machinist – especially Machinist – do damage at a pace that could be generously be described as “damage per half-hour.”

Also they provide support abilities, in theory.

It’s not exactly a secret that both Bard and Machinist have suffered in terms of damage for this expansion, but Machinist has really been hit with it hard. I had of course heard the rumors, but it wasn’t until I took the class for a spin for a while that I could confirm those issues are there, and they’re about as bad as they look when you’re wondering why Machinist is lagging so far behind other DPS.

Cats aren't involved with this thing at all, guys, you're making us look like idiots.I was initially a little suspicious of claims that the job was horribly undertuned, simply because it’s new. People were always going to be surveying it very harshly, and there was always going to be an element of disappointment simply because not everyone has accepted the game’s established paradigm that ranged damage isn’t quite as strong as melee. It makes sense from a gameplay perspective (it’s harder to get to and from targets as melee, and you’re often vulnerable to mechanics ranged players can ignore or handle differently), but it’s not exactly a screaming endorsement of the class when you find out that the new DPS job is solidly middle-of-the-road.

Realistically, Machinist deals decent damage and deals more damage than, say, tanks or healers. But that’s not nearly enough when you consider that the gap between it and every other DPS job is exceedingly large. It’s not that you can’t do a dungeon with two Machinists as your DPS; it’s that you are going to have much lower DPS than if you brought two equivalently geared characters of any other job unless, say, you bring a pair of tanks with Strength accessories.

Maybe even then.

I do honestly believe that MCH and BRD are meant to be at the bottom of the totem pole, but I don’t think that they’re meant to be this low. And the core of that issue seems to be overvaluing support effects combined with a love of randomness.

Support DPS has been the niche that Bard has occupied alone for a long stretch of time. In the initial version of the game, Bards actually used caster skills as their sub abilities; they were meant to offer support rather than just raw damage. The idea makes sense: While you’re doing a bit less damage because you’re at range and you also don’t get that AoE mastery, you make everyone else perform just a little bit better. It’s the same philosophy behind Astrologian’s almost total lack of offensive ability.

The problem with this idea, of course, is that “support” makes sense only if that added support is worthwhile. And the support offered by these jobs generally isn’t.

Yes, you can offer TP and MP regeneration fields, but literally no one needs those. Every single DPS job has a reliable way of regenerating resources on its own, and that’s ignoring things like the TP restoration effects of Goad. Hell, the class that could really use those MP restoration fields (Dark Knight) can’t actually benefit from them at all. At best, these effects are minor buffs that make life slightly easier, but they don’t exactly make up for the loss of damage for classes already struggling to keep up with other damage jobs.

Other than that, what else do you have? Some mild damage reduction effects here and there. In other words, your “support” effect is limited to restoring a resource that by all rights no one has a problem restoring on his own, and this is seen as valuable enough to cut the core DPS of these jobs. Bards even make the equation explicit: You’re dropping your damage by 20%, so are these songs increasing everyone else’s ability by 20% on the balance? I tend to doubt it. While I’m not exactly fond of the many Bards out there who hamstring their groups by refusing to sing, it’s not as if I can’t understand why.

Is this just a Gunsmith Cats reference, here?  Seriously?So Machinist had an issue walking into the environment. But there was another issue rearing its head right from the start, as well: randomness. And that’s far more distinct to MCH than BRD.

At its core, MCH has a three-hit combo. Each subsequent hit has only a 50% chance to be triggered, but the Ammunition mechanic is there to make sure that everything plays nicely and you can get control over the rate of fire. And in theory, it works fine. When you open up a fight and load up, you can pump out some pretty solid DPS right out of the gate. The problem is that you run out of ammunition, and suddenly you face a minute of hoping that you can actually do some kind of reliable damage at a 50% shot.

Yes, mathematically, it might work out in the long run. But it all comes down to 50% odds, which means that you may as well flip a coin to determine whether your DPS is going to be reasonable or utterly worthless for the fight. This is not helped in any fashion by the fact that every attack will consume that Ammunition buff, meaning that you have to time it perfectly.

“Oh, so you have to time your attacks?” you might think. “What a horror.” But that’s not it at all; the problem is that Ammunition is a counterbalance to a counterbalance, an attempt to even out random chance that could be solved with better adjustment in the first place.

What makes it especially odd is that Bard, again, had a template for making this work. I don’t blame the designers for trying to do something different with MCH rather than just making it identical to BRD in all but appearance (although considering the whole pseudo-casting thing, whether or not something different was tried is up for debate), but the way that it actually plays out is less than impressive.

Add in that the damage buff for Gauss Barrel doesn’t really make up for the losses you incur in terms of auto-attacks and mobility, and it’s easy to see why people are generally underwhelmed by MCH. There are workarounds, yes, and some of it is entirely reliant upon player skill and practice, but the job itself is suffering badly from an over-reliance on random chance and over-valued support effects that no one really wants.

Can it be fixed? Of course it can, with a bit more balance tuning (adding a reason to use Slug Shot or Clean Shot beyond simple combo potency would help). But at the moment, it’s struggling to keep up with everyone else, and the sad part is that the problems I’m pointing out now are nothing that couldn’t have been seen before. They just were either ignored or marginalized, and now we’re left with corrective measures.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around, I want to talk about whether or not the expansion is maintaining its luster a month out and content consumption speeds.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Magna_Leo
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Magna_Leo

AGx DPandaren Alunari chosenxeno
I agree w/ feeling gipped in regards to the new content from the expansion. I had been following XIV for some time after ARR was released in the hopes that they (SE) finally got their act together. So shortly before the release of HW, I figured I’d give it a try, and the new classes they added in the expansion (DRK & MCH) really got my attention. Only to find out that I (as a new player) would have to “beat the entire game b4 I could play the game with a job I wanted to beat the game with.” 

I understand the desire to have players get through (main story related quests) for the purpose of story development, but when you release new content, you aren’t just aiming for retention from your current customers, but to also attract new customers….not turn around and block access to the very content you hope to entice new customers with. There are only a handful of jobs that I was ever interested in (luckily I found, and fell in love w/ Ninja! I love RNG but the BRD aesthetic is lame IMO) and a couple of friends lost interest because they simply could not play a class they liked b4 lvl 50. Even rogue class was added to Limsa post-ARR, which didn’t have any prior cannon existence. Anyhow, I’m done with my rant for the day!

AGx
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AGx

DPandaren Alunari chosenxeno I agree, yet I disagree. I disagree because the game is story driven and they want you to experience, not skip, large chunks of the story. At the other end, I’m one of those players who left early in the 2.x cycle of patches and had DAYS of content to catch up on. It was REALLY annoying when all I wanted to do was try out the new classes. I enjoyed the story. It’s not that I regret doing it but theres an obvious problem there and they absoloutly CANNOT keep doing this going forward. I mean, if I’d picked up this game as an entirely new player, I’d literally have weeks of content to catch up on JUST to play the class I wanted to play. This means I’m forced to play a class I don’t like before I can get to one that I do. I personally am not fond of any of the current classes. Maybe I’ll like Astrologist? Guess I’ll have to wait 50 levels to find out and then spend another 20-30 levels on it before I can get back into the high-level content.

Vunak
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Vunak

I miss FFXI… The class system in that game was extremely fun. Where the support role actually existed. WTB true support role.
Machinist and Astrologian are just the Corsair from FFXI butchered up into two classes. Its sad because I loved Corsair in FFXI, but machinist just doesn’t do it justice.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

Alunari chosenxeno I mean, it took me 12 hours to get to Ishgard on my day off. I stopped playing when Shiva was released and I skipped as much of the standing around and talking as I could. That was complete bullshit. Especially because I do not care about the storyline. And that’s not even counting my legacy character who I haven’t even bothered logging into because he’s still sitting behind the 2.1 content, and he’ll probably be stuck there forever just because I have to grind on through the post 50 2.0 storyline, again. 

A better middle road would be to let people skip the post 2.0 storyline if they own the expansion, just to get those players into the new areas, while offering the chance to go back and do those 2.0 stories on a later date. Also scrubbing up the dumb trial requirements.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

Alunari chosenxeno Nope, it’s a pretty scumbag move to block content off from players that bought the expansion because the last time they played was when 2.0 launched. If they have maybe, an hour or two a day to play, it’s going to take them forever before they even get to see Ishgard.

n3rdbomb3r
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n3rdbomb3r

themindstream agreed. there’s  kind of nothing like that feeling of running in a double WHM trial and seeing them almost OOM and popping a clutch battlevoiced mage’s ballad & saving the day. its just unfortunate that DRK can’t benefit from or MB :/

n3rdbomb3r
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n3rdbomb3r

chosenxeno aaaand Rift’s soul system is a (albeit more robust) copy of FFXI’s class/job system, so…
but I feel you. I occasionally still play ‘The Secret World’, which has one of the best customizable skill-set/toolbox in any MMO. Want to tank as a healer, Want to AOE heal as a DPSer? All of these things are totally doable. The existing class/job system in XIV is basically “you have to cross-class XYZ because they make your main class function” and there’s no options for hybridization or wiggle room. Do I want ‘Goad’ for a clutch TP regen on our warrior tank, or a combat rez as a bard? You bet your ass I do. Can I get it? NOPE.
(an aside: if you don’t want a grindy game, you’re playing the wroooong franchise. this is a J-MMORPG afterall. kek)
As for the OP: I totally agree that Machinist could use some work. Aesthetically they’re cool but like… functionally its just a bard with a gun. However, I will posit that Bards and Machinists who are pulling low numbers and complaining about it stems from the fact that that there are simply lots and lots of players who don’t know how to play their class correctly. I could make a Dragoon joke here but we’re all on the same page there :v
I’ve been able to single target for about 850dps (number’s parsed from last boss in Neverreap), and I know I can do better if I tighten up my rotation. My FC leader can pull about mid 900’s as a bard. He’s got absolutely crazy dps. I was running Alexander the other night with a Machinist who was pulling about 700 avg single target dps. Right now, anything above 500dps for either Bard or Machinist is “decent dps”, esp considering the “decent” dps in ARR for Bard was  like… 350+ or higher if you were raid geared.
Could we see some improvements to make the damage ‘flow’ better? Oh yeah, most definitely. Mach need a helping hand. But we’re support classes. We’re not a pure dps class like a Monk or a Black Mage. Augmenting the damage of other classes > our personal dps. We’re never going to see the kind of AOE numbers of a well played Summoner (I’ve seen as high as 2300+ dps in Fractal on those big pack pulls. yowza!), or a skilled Monk.
I would really like to see Machinist eventually have a better ‘flow’, cause its kind of awkward right now. I would also like to see them change-up some of the turret/drone effects, and not just be a lower dps bard with a gun.

xania
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xania

AngelBlack xania Actually I was thinking about way back in 2.0, at the start. Parsers didn’t track dots properly, and SMN got a rep as the worst DPS – which is hilarious, considering they removed Thunder from being crossclass-able from all jobs simply because it made SMN so powerful. I didn’t really see opinions on SMN change until Second Coil, only to change right back thanks to Final Coil. Now SMN is beloved again… I can only hoping the obviously incoming nerf doesn’t swing the pendulum back *again*…

Alunari
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Alunari

chosenxeno The thing is with FF is it’s a story led MMO, so the MSQ’s are an essential part of the game and that’s how the majority of it’s player base seem to like it. However, I can’t argue that in ARR the MSQ could have been trimmed with some of the side quests, where you go talk to this person then that person etc, being condensed. HW has far less of these type of quests in imo.

There are plenty of MMO’s out there that aren’t story led I would hate to see FF become one of them.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

AngelBlack ManastuUtakata Midgetsnowman 
In comparison to a good Black Mage or a Dragoon? As in, they close the DPS gap where any becomes differences negligible?