Friday, April 08, 2011


The realities of MMO life.
I was screwing around a bit in FFXI before my WoW raid last night and figured I'd start leveling my fishing skill. I used to fish a lot back in the day but it turns out things have changed pretty substantially since I last played and I need to relearn mining for fish. The changes were made almost exclusively in an attempt to crack down on rampant botting of the admittedly very trivial system. How it used to work is you'd equip a rod in your ranged slot and bait in your ammo slot. Walk up to water, hit enter, select fish. Wait for it to tell you if you caught anything. Hit enter to see what it is. Repeat. Very easy to bot once you cracked the game to not run solely in full screen mode and crash when you alt-tab. (Eventually they added a windowed mode to the options themselves.)

Now, there is a quest in the game to get the best fishing rod that merely requires trading 10000 fish to an NPC. This fish could be caught with no fishing skill in one of the starting towns. People who earned gil in other ways but wanted the fishing rod would pay a reasonable price for these fish. It doesn't take a genius to realize you can make a lot of money setting up computers to bot fish these fish up, sell them to actual players, and then sell the gil online. Square did nothing about this for a long time but eventually decided the economy was blown way out of whack and started aggressively attacking people who sold gil online and apparently did a pretty good job of it, but in the process they screwed with the players as well.

They changed fishing in a good way by making it more interactive. You now have to play a little mini-game to catch your fish. This would kill trivial bots for sure but I'm certain I could write a good enough bot in less than a day to play the new game. (Note: I wouldn't do that. I'm just saying it's not hard.) They also put in a hard cap on the number of things you can catch each day. As you get closer to that cap you have to wait longer and longer between tries until eventually you can't try at all. This cap is 200 catches for most people, but if your account is less than 30 days old or if your job level is less than 20 the cap is 10 catches. So I can't realistically fish for a month. *sigh*

Fishing isn't the only gathering profession hit like this. The other one that got hit hard since I played is gardening, which I used to actually do on 2 alts in addition to my main character just to grow more stuff.

What is gardening? Well, in FFXI each person gets their own house which they can put furniture and decorations in to provide a minor buff to themselves. One of the things you can put in your house in a flower pot. (Well, you can actually put up to 10 flower pots in your house.) Then you can plant seeds in these pots to grow stuff. You need to examine the plants every day to make sure they aren't dying and you can feed them crafting crystals to help them grow. Depending on the seed you'll get stuff anywhere from a week to a month later.

Now, there is a seed type you can buy from a vendor. And it grows into something that sells to the vendor for way more than the cost. I hope people can see the problem here, too. Gil sellers would open up trial accounts, garden like mad by vendoring everything, and introduce a ton of gil into the economy. Not just gil sellers, either. I found a blog about a guy who did this to finance buying a top level item or something. Apparently you used to be able to buy a trial cd for $2. So this guy went around and bought all of them he could find anywhere near where he lived. He went through about 100 of them, apparently. He'd run 16 accounts with 16 characters each every month. So he was examining 2560 pots a day which apparently took him 3 hours a day to do. But he'd also have to set up 256 characters with the pots, seeds, and crystals to start with and would spend a couple days straight not sleeping or going out to set them all up. (How paying $200 and 15% of your life to make 10M gil appear from a vendor can be considered ok but paying it to someone else for their gil is not is a little confusing to me, but I digress.)

This guy was doing it and so were an awful lot of other people - real players and gil sellers - so Square eventually stepped in to crack down on it. Me, I'd remove the seeds from a vendor or nerf the vendor value of the product. Instead Square made it so any account created within the last 90 days gets terrible results from gardening. Most recipes make tons of stuff from a bag of seeds, new players get 1 item maximum. I used to garden for corn so I could cook it into bait with my cooking skill. The recipe to make corn typically yielded in the 12-24 corn per seed range. A new player would get 1. Which pretty much destroys any hope a new player has of doing practically anything of value with gardening. (There are some recipes that only yielded 1 good thing anyway, so those should still be ok.)

Of course there are other ways to gather raw materials and as far as I can tell the other ones haven't been nerfed simply because you had to level up to do them. Fishing and gardening could be done just as well on a new level 1 as on a max level character. (Kinda why I wanted to start in on them again... Oh well!) I figure it's worth going over the other ways of gathering stuff too just to have it all in one spot.

Mining, excavating, logging, harvesting: These all entail wandering around the world looking for spawn points and then using a gathering item on the spawn point. Spawn points don't look like anything special and I don't think there's any way to detect them like there is in WoW, but you can target them by tabbing around. (Tabbing becomes force of habit in FFXI. I found a hidden wall yesterday when I was doing a mission with Tom entirely by accident because I was hitting tab instinctively.) When you find a mining node you target it, walk up to it, and use a pickaxe on it either by selecting it from your inventory or using a macro. (/item Pickaxe ) Mining nodes stick around for a while so you can use them a few times before they disappear and respawn somewhere else in the zone. Using a pickaxe on a node could result in the pickaxe breaking and becoming destroyed so you need to carry a bunch of them around if you're actively mining. There is gear you can wear to decrease the odds of pickaxes breaking. The reason a level 1 can't easily do this is the mining nodes are out in the world and tend to be surrounded by aggressive monsters who will just kill you. There is a website with maps of each zone along with what gathering nodes exist there (and which rare monsters spawn there too). The other 3 work the same way, except you use different items on different types of nodes to acquire bones, logs, or cloth.

Chocobo digging: Essentially this involves mounting up on a chocobo and feeding it gysahl greens to make it dig up items. There is a hidden skill associated with this gathering profession and you need to spend a lot of money on greens at a loss before you get to the point where you can actually make money. Since I both don't have a chocobo nor money to throw away this isn't a big concern for the time being. They also added a cap here to limit the number of times you can dig in a day similar to fishing which puts a real damper on leveling it up as well. (The site I found says it takes about 28 months to cap now if you get all your digs in every day which seems insane.) I imagine I'll do this for fun if I get some greens in some other way beyond buying them but for now it isn't a concern.

Clamming: This is a mini-game where you find clamming nodes and add clams to your bucket trying to get as close as possible to your bucket maximum without going over. Go over and you break your bucket and lose everything. You get to keep the stuff you clam up, so I think there's strategy in terms of knowing what you have and if it's worth risking it for something more and maybe busting your bucket. Apparently if you come very close to going over but stay under you can upgrade to a bigger bucket. Not really sure how it works since it's on an island covered with level 40+ mobs. Something to look into for the future I guess!

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