Anyone who has read my column here for any substantial length of time probably knows that one of my biggest axioms is to wait and see. There are lots of things that sound like bad ideas that actually get revealed as being better ideas than they might seem at first glance, and a lot of system changes that might be easy to judge based on preliminary information that later work out just fine upon a bit more play. This is as true for Final Fantasy XIV as any other game, and I try not to give in to knee-jerk conclusions.
Let’s start with a revelation you might not be aware of if you don’t actually craft on the regular: High-quality items are generally not in very high demand.
No, really. There’s an image in people’s mind that HQ items are useful for crafting high-quality end products, and that is at least theoretically true, but for everything but the most elite recipes at the highest end, there’s not really any need for them. Even then, they’re more of a convenience than anything; higher-quality items let you get away with slightly worse melds, but you will still fundamentally be trying to do as much as you possibly can without actually worrying about HQ materials.
That probably seems a bit odd, but it makes sense once you think about it. After all, HQ items are a crapshoot to get while gathering, and a lot of the nodes where you would want HQ items don’t give you a lot of opportunities to get them. Heck, some items aren’t even available in HQ format for crafting. You generally learn to work with what you can reliably get your hands on, and even if you dump a full set of HQ items into a craft, you’re only starting out at about a 15% chance of getting an HQ result.
Most of your crafting experience, then, is about working the system and getting higher quality without having to be replete with quality ingredients. And frankly, high-quality stuff has always been an added complexity on top of what the game already has.
I want to cut a fine line here because inherently, there’s not a lot of added complexity when you have to consider HQ items as well as normal items. But there is some added complexity, and one of the things I consistently see with new players starting crafts is not really understanding what the whole point of HQ items is. I’ve known people who didn’t really understand that crafting skill and your use of abilities matter more to the results of your craft than just having high-quality items, for example.
No, what players generally want are more ingredients and more items rather than higher quality ones. It is faster to burn through a bunch of crafting attempts at a lower shot at HQ than to go through fewer attempts with a slightly higher chance. Removing the items frees up inventory space and just makes more sense in the long run…
One of the things that I do love about this game, idiosyncratic though it may be, is some of that arguably unnecessary complexity. I like the fact that there is stuff you don’t actually need to have in high-quality versions, but that this is an element of gameplay. It’s relatively subtle and small, but it’s there just the same… until, of course, it’s not there any longer once Endwalker comes out. Now all of our materials will draw from the same sources.
The most relevant place where quality matters, of course, is and has always been equipment. And that’s not going anywhere. Crafting adjustments will obviously take into account the fact that players will no longer have the option of HQ ingredients to make HQ crafts reliably possible because despite everything, the crafting experience is astonishingly non-random and predictable on many levels. Heck, that was one of the things that Expert crafting was meant to play with, and I would not be sorry to see that system generally banished to the land of wind and ghosts.
But the removal of HQ items for crafting is one of the only times that I’ve felt like something is genuinely being simplified without strict need. Sure, you have to instruct new crafters that they’re not terribly useful or relevant, but that’s part of the fun of learning to craft. It’s an important step in your understanding to realize you can just worry about steps first and foremost.
Then again, that’s really making the argument in favor of removing this element anyway, isn’t it?
The reality is that an element of complexity where the primary interaction players will have with it is being told to ignore it is a mechanic that doesn’t need to be in the game. While it does theoretically involve an element of the game becoming simpler or less involved, it doesn’t actually lessen the gameplay or the involved systems all that much, it just makes them more streamlined. Quite honestly, I think most developers would jump at the chance to remove a system that technically made the game more complex but in practical terms had little to no effect on most actual gameplay.
But it is still a significant change, even if the primary importance of that change has to do more with the designed legacy of the game. High-quality stuff is now detritus. It’s only relevant with equipment you want to have better stats. Like aetherial items, it’s a vestigial element of the game kept around for a small portion of gameplay but otherwise largely left behind.
This is not inherently weird. This game has a lot of detritus in it; I still have some old beast tribe currency kicking around in one of my retainers from 1.0 just in case it actually becomes relevant at some point. (The odds of this happening are vanishingly small, of course.) The weirdest part is actually just how this felt at one point like a core element of the game and it’s now being removed. It shows that it was never as central to the game as some people – including me – tended to see it as.
Of course, for all we know there’s going to be a lot more interesting stuff going on with crafting when we learn about it. I feel confident that this was the right decision for the game’s overall mechanics. But I will shed a tear for the removal of these particular systems. Not because they were the best thing ever, but because I do like high-quality materials for crafting, even knowing that they’re mostly useless.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, let’s talk a little bit about bespoke gameplay for jobs and what it both offers and doesn’t offer in regards to FFXIV‘s balance and play experience.