Also, I want to try to avoid stating any of my observations as fact, and this is for a couple of reasons. Without having done a detailed recording of my actions and outcomes, these are just general observations. Also, a sample size of about 100 attempts isn't enough to really nail anything down, especially considering that I was progressing my class rank along the way.
k? k. Here we go...
Because everyone needs to read this for the 40th time ;D
For starters, as we all know, when you're a lowbie DoH and you decide to craft something, once you equip your tools and select your ingredients and your recipe and go through all of that, you end up at the synthesis interface pane where you're given four options:
That's it. It's the same for every DoH class. Once you reach rank 10 with a DoH class, you get an ability that can be used during synthesis. For descriptions of the various abilities you can learn, visit the Abilities section in the wiki here for the various different DoH classes.
This is what we know about the different actions (descriptions do not include outcomes with a destabilized element):
Standard: All around average. With entry level tools (not sure if it would change with better tools) it will advance your Progress by a maximum of 20%. The most I recall having seen it reduce my Durability on a failure is around 20, and many times as my class rank progressed I had successes where I lost no durability at all. Successful Standard synthesis can increase Quality anywhere from 5 to 50+.
Rapid: Potential for a greater increase to Progress (max 30% that I've seen). Seems to have slightly lower maximum Durability loss compared to Standard, but adds very little to Quality.
Bold: Highest increase to Progress I've seen so far is 10%. Greatest decrease I've seen to Durability is about 15. Highest increase to Quality I've seen was 87. Note that on a successful Bold attempt, your increase to Progress will almost always be lower than or equal to your Durability loss.
So based on that, we can see that the different actions serve different purposes. If you've failed several times and you need a quick jump in Progress to try and prevent from failing the synth, Rapid is the way to go. A completed synth with low quality is worth more than a failed synth that blew up at 300 quality. On the other hand, if you're near completion and have Durability to spare and want to increase the quality as much as you can, Bold is the best choice.
Levequest Rewards and Quality
I'm adding a little blurb in its own section for this because it's important. Common advice these days is to just spam Rapid synthesis. That's not a good habit to get into for all things. As above, if you have a choice between successful completion with low final Quality and failure, obviously you want the success. On the other hand, if you're cranking out gear or items for levequests and finishing the synthesis with tons of Durability left over but low quality, you're missing out.
For the purpose of levequests, when you look at the levequest information you will usually see a reward listed as a type of ingredient (ie. Bronze Nuggets x 3). That's the base reward for simply completing the required items, regardless of quality. You can potentially earn more than that, however.
When you are successful in completing one of the items for the quest, you will see a notice like this:
"The appraisal of your synthesized items increases by <x>. (Total: <y>)"
<x> is based on the final quality of the item you synthesized divided by the total attempts you had for the levequest. So if the levequest asked for 2 items but gave you materials for 3, the appraisal score for each item you complete will be its finished quality divided by 3. If the quest required you to complete 4 items and gave you materials for 5, your appraisal score for each completed item will be its finished quality divided by 5, etc. etc.
<y> is the sum of your appraisal scores for each completed item.
If you complete enough items to finish the levequest, when you turn it in, you will see this:
"Your reward is based on a performance rating of <y>."
Performance rating is the same as your total appraisal score. Additional rewards for a higher appraisal score can include gil, shards/crystals(?), and other materials above and beyond the ones listed in the levequest information.
In the same pane as the list of actions you can take is your synthesis status information. There are three key figures you want to keep an eye on in this part:
If you reach 100 Progress before you reach 0 Durability, the synthesis is successful. (Note: If you reach 0 durability during the same action where you reach 100 progress, it counts as a failure) So far, despite several HQ results today, I have been unable to find a direct correlation between durability and quality as far as deciding for sure whether or not you'll get an HQ result. My best outcome today was Quality @ 277 and Durability @ 72 and I got an NQ result. For most of my HQ results, durability was around 70 and quality was just above 100, so it seems to be heavily influenced by randomness.
In a nutshell, synthesis is about selecting an action from the list on the left of the pane, observing it's results, and continuing to select actions until Progress reaches 100% or Durability reaches zero. For some gear recipes, after reaching 100% Progress the action list will change and you will get the option to Finish the recipe as-is, or "Touch Up" your item. Choosing "Touch Up" is an option that allows you to use up your remaining Durability in order to increase Quality, but it's still random. You can still reduce your Durability to zero and if you do, you fail and lose the item even though your Progress was at 100%.
Tools and Orbs
In addition to the synthesis interface window, your character will kneel down and pull out an anvil, or a still, or a saw table, etc. Upon that will be a glowing orb. It always starts out solid white in color, but after each action its appearance can (and usually does) change. Possible conditions are:
Slow pulse (various colors)
Moderate pulse (various colors)
Rapid pulse (various colors)
Swirling "smoke" around the orb (Color corresponds to destabilized element. If this status appears, you will also see a notice in your chat log saying that an element has destabilized.)
There has been a lot of speculation suggesting that the different solid colors are an indication of what action you should take next. After all my time spent doing one synth after another, I would suggest that this is untrue. It appears as though the color status of the orb is just an indicator of your chance to success with your next action, as well as what the outcome will be in terms of Progress/Durability/Quality gains and losses. Here's a breakdown of my observations:
Solid white: Best chance for success. Successful attempts will yield highest gains to Progress
After further testing, it would appear that while a solid white orb offers the highest chance for success and frequently results in larger increases to Progress than other orb states, the increase to Quality is actually the lowest with a white orb. I observed this while converting Moko Grass to Hempen Yarn as a rank 9/10 weaver. Not only did my rank allow me to spam Standard Synthesis with a low rate of failure, I also had access to Preserve (rank 10 alchemy ability, holds orb at solid white status ("favorable conditions") for duration of effect.) During this time I noticed that it was rare to see an increase to Quality of more than 10 for any given Standard action, whereas with other orb states I have seen an increase to Quality from Standard synthesis as high as 47.
For the time being and for the rest of the orb state descriptions, assume that the lower your chance for success based on orb state, the higher the potential increase to quality for a neutral/successful result.
Solid yellow: Slightly less chance for success than white. Successful attempts seem to yield slightly lower gains to Progress
Solid red: Lower success than yellow (but still not bad). Seems to be the same durability loss as white and yellow.
Pulsing: The faster it's pulsing, the lower your chances for success. Progress
Swirling smoke: Just don't. Unless you're feeling really lucky, keep using the Wait command until the smoke goes away and you get a message in your chat log saying it has stabilized. The most times I've had to use Wait for it to restabilize was 6 (25 Durability loss total). A failed action while an element is destabilized can not only result in a very large Durability loss, it will also result in a Quality loss as well.
Important note: I mentioned earlier about the rank 10 Alchemy ability "Preserve". When you use Preserve, your orb stays solid white for every action you take until the Preserve buff wears off (4-5 actions). This is what partially convinced me that the orb states/colors are not intended to indicate what ability to use next and simply indicate what your chances of success might be with your next action. Keep in mind that I've failed on solid white orbs and I've succeeded on rapidly pulsing orbs. There's still a random factor at play at all times.
(Related note - "Chaotic" element: I was messing around with HQ ingredients (moko grass +3) and wound up starting a synth with 177 Durability and over 250 quality. The element destabilized after my second action and I figured I'd try to blast through with Rapid just to see what would happen. After three failures, I got a message saying that the element had grown "chaotic" and I lost 106 durability and a massive chunk of quality. The quality didn't matter, though, because 106 durability loss was enough to insta-fail the synth).
So based on this, we start to get a better understanding of when to use the Wait command. Obviously, we want to use the Wait command if an element destabilizes. The exception to this rule is if you don't have enough durability to risk wasting it all on Wait, in which case sometimes it's best to just take a chance and try to finish up. Also, the wait command can be used whenever you've got a pulsing orb to see if you can't get it to shift to a solid color. Again, the random factor comes into play. You could use Wait once on a rapidly pulsing orb and have it go solid white, or you could use it 5+ times and the orb will just continue to pulse.
It would seem that sparks will start to appear if you fail a Rapid and/or Bold action attempt twice for any given synthesis. They start off as yellow sparks shooting out in a small radius and for each subsequent Rapid/Bold failure, they will progress from yellow -> orange -> red and the radius they fly out at will increase.
Based on early observation, it appears that the presence of these sparks indicates a reduced chance to succeed with any further actions. Failures with Standard synthesis do not produce sparks, but it suggests that Rapid/Bold synthesis are intended to be used sparingly based on the situation.
Edited, Sep 19th 2010 10:49am by Aurelius