Wisdom of Nym: What the removal of high-quality items means for Final Fantasy XIV crafting

    
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Sing a song of madness.

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.

With all that having been said, yes, I do definitely have some thoughts about the fact that high-quality items are largely being removed from the game, a tidbit included with the game’s last live letter. We do not yet know all of the details about what this will entail, of course; crafting and gathering updates will be held back until closer to launch. But I feel like it’s a good time to muse and speculate on this. Not in a panicked sense of the sky falling, but in a measured response to a rather unusual decision which… well, also does make a certain amount of sense.

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.

Carry that water.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…

And yet.

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?

Half man. Half beard. Another half beard.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 eliot@massivelyop.com. 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.

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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I really loved striving for HQ items while gathering and HQ results when crafting. It added some simple but interesting detail to activities that otherwise could become really routine really fast.

It’s true that HQ mats don’t matter so much once you’ve progressed past them at all in your crafting job, but I still found it fun when crafting “at the edge” of my abilities at the time.

Granted I don’t have a lot of experience as a crafter (just getting into Stormblood now), but I found HQ equipment still typically got me a nice boost in gil over non-HQ whenever I sold it. For someone working their way up the food chain that extra money helped.

I’ll reserve judgment until I see where they end up, I just hope they don’t simplify to the point of boredom.

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Knight Porter

Thankfully, HQ equipment isn’t going anywhere. Just the materials, and I’m sure the recipe requirements will have their difficulties adjusted accordingly.

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Calamity_Jay

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.

This is somewhat misleading. Yes, the initial percentage is low… assuming you don’t do *anything else* in the rotation, and that’s only with certain items. A simple hit of Basic Touch will at least quadruple that percentage. The author fails to mention this, along with the fact that starting with a full set of HQ items will give you at least half the quality bar full, with certain crafts giving you a 75% head start.

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Exactly. What’s more relevant is it fills the bar almost halfway full so the next improvement is most likely to be a very significant boost in HQ % chance rather than just a few % points if starting w/an empty bar.

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Reshy Poo

I will miss them for crafting, as I always aim to fill that quality bar even on for stuff that can’t be HQ, but I will appreciate the extra retainer space far, far more.
As someone else has already mentioned, reagents in general could do with some pruning.

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Scott Leyes

Getting rid of HQ crafting materials is, potentially, a good first step… but it doesn’t solve the problem it seems to be trying to address; it’s JUST a first step.

We still need:
1) COMPLETE elimination of useless and “legacy” materials and items (mostly the dozens of ARR “endgame” rare mats and collectibles that have almost no use anymore)
2) Simplification/consolidation of crafting mats in general; honestly, do we REALLY need 24 varieties of Aethersand, or 11 different kinds of Effervescent Water?
3) The BEST way to address inventory management woes will still be the most obvious (if not the easiest) method: a separate inventory system for crafting mats. This shouldn’t be an impossible dream, other games have this as a core component or a paid bonus; please, SE, let us put all this cr*p somewhere NOT in our bags, and while you’re at it, let us access materials from WHEREVER we are, and not have to play Retainer Search Roulette to assemble items one at a time preparing to craft a single bookcase.

It’s high time to cut the cord and fix the whole system; I worry that dragging these changes out over multiple patches/expansions simply makes it harder and all the more painful in the long run.

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styopa

Let’s be blunt: the FF14 inventory system (I believe firmly sitting atop 1.0 terrible code) is….really bad. From the different inventory packets for different gear to the various different closets you have to store crap in (and some stuff just for glams),
It’s been a good couple of years since I played FF14 but farting around the inventory system always suggested that if they wanted a major QoL low-hanging fruit to spend resources on, that was it.

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Bereman99

Inventory packets for different gear?

Not sure I’m familiar with that, at least by that name.

Fixing inventory issues seems to be a bugbear for multiple games, though. I remember WoW struggling to add just 4 extra slots to their default backpack without breaking things in surprising ways. On the list of things that can be fixed, it’s definitely a low-hanging fruit in that it will almost certainly make a lot of players happy…but inventory woes seem to also routinely be some of the most problematic.

When FFXIV added the 40 extra slots to the basic player inventory, they had apparently spent something like a year working on it before it made into the game.

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Karma_Mule

Much as I gripe about the ESO crafting bag it’s an easy and efficient solution that makes things so much simpler.

Even the specialty-bag approach EQ2 uses could potentially work well.

Having to constantly pull out the retainer (and go through excessively repetitive prompts) is so tedious.

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Nvidia Krall

Hey Eliot,

I actually disagree on paper, because I love choosing quantity vs quality when gathering and when bad/underlevel, full HQ mat helps a lot, for 4 stars too.

I also love crafting with a mix of HQ and NQ mat, making calculations is part of what’s make crafting really fun imho. And as HQ mats introduces variables.

Well, wait and see :d

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Kawaii Five-O

Sure, long gone are the days where stuff like HQ aethersands were extremely lucrative, and HQ mats have definitely lost a lot of relevance over time. However, you can still make a pretty penny off of certain HQ materials, you just have to find some good markets to watch.

What concerns me, though, is that I think this change is indicative of a larger plan to phase out HQ items (yes, food and gear) entirely by 7.x. I suspect that they’re going to segregate crafting useable items/gear from collectables entirely. The former will be a simple button press, whereas only the latter will use the system we’re currently familiar with.

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Erika Do

I would have loved to see a crafting system that actually needed HQ items, where the quality of your ingredients was actually a very necessary part of obtaining the best possible outcome, the way the NPCs seem to see things. But somehow at the same time not making *non*-HQ ingredients completely worthless.

A tall order, and one that would probably make the crafting system and inventory in general far more complicated without much benefit. The current skill-based crafting will make a lot more sense when there isn’t even an option of using higher-quality ingredients.

As it is, I’m very much looking forward to this change because it’ll mean fewer types of items to clutter up my inventory, and I’m interested in seeing its effect on selling monster drop materials on the market board. Will the NQ stuff stay vendor trash, or will it increase in value once HQ is no longer an option?

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Kawaii Five-O

In ARR, HQ materials were paramount to endgame crafting. However, the hasty touch meta that it revolved around was pretty brutal.

You are correct, though. I think the only way where HQ mats are crucial to crafting (without a major overhaul of crafting and itemization) requires you to give up guaranteed HQ and rely a lot more heavily on RNG.

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Steven Williams

Any opportunity to tame the mess that is my inventory is a good opportunity indeed.

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IronSalamander8 .

I’m a crafting/gathering newbie as I ignored them prior to just over a month ago as I work on them all together along with gathering as they are all interdependent. To be honest, I’m mostly doing this to get to 70 in at least one of them to get that tank mount, but I’ll likely get them all capped sooner or later.

I’m mostly indifferent to the removal of HQ gathered items as some of the quests for them get really annoying when the % to get them is so low for me now, but I use them to make it easier to make HQ items for my own gear or for quests that require them, which at 45 was 3 HQ items each for all the crafting quests so that was a bit obnoxious.

I am looking forward to saving a ton of space in my inventory for sure. Between me and my retainers I’ll gain at least 20 spots removing the HQ gathered items!