Ragar looks at ways to add progression to the Disciples of the Land.
Hello and welcome to the eighteenth edition of the Eorzea Examiner, ZAM's column on Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For this week's column, we'll be taking a look at the classes that make up the Disciples of the Land. While in other MMOs gathering is relegated to secondary skills for your combat classes, FFXIV treats the three gathering professions – Botanist, Miner and Fisher – as true classes. The gameplay for DoL classes is unique compared to any of the other Disciples, and all three classes have their own unique skills (cross-class as well), equipment and quests available.
The Disciples of the Land may not have the equivalent of new raids the combat classes get every now and then, but there is enough available to make them feel like a true path of progression...well, except for one thing. Similar to the Disciples of the Hand, none of the DoL classes have Job options to specialize in their craft. Does this omission prevent them from doing what they love? Of course not, but the developers do claim that the non-combat classes should feel like full-fledged professions with their own endgame, so shouldn't that include the ability to specialize in a Job?
How Does Someone Specialize in Swinging a Pickaxe?
Now that we've come up with the goal of creating gathering Jobs, there are questions to answer. First and foremost we need to figure out how to add specializations to the three classes. We have three different branches of gathering to consider for this project. Miners specialize in taking the mineral riches of Eorzea through pickaxe & sledgehammer. Botanists wield hatchet & scythe to harvest everything the trees and plants of the world have to offer. Fishers use rod & tackle to supply the culinary world with fish and other sea creatures to feed the masses, casting their lines everywhere from sea to desert to even the sky. How do we go about adding specialties to these three very distinct branches of gathering? I see two ways to go about this: the easy way and the "far more coding and design work" way.
If we go the easy way, then Job specializations would be related to the different kinds of gathering nodes available to the three DoL classes. Miners have access to both Mineral Deposits and Rocky Outcrops, one for each of their class tools. Botanists are the same with their Mature Trees and Patches of Lush Vegetation. As for Fishers, while they may only have access to the one class tool (fishing tackle doesn't really count as a consumable), they do have access to fishing holes in various terrain: water, desert dunes and the sea of the clouds. If we consider each of those gathering nodes a separate specialization, that gives us two options (three for Fishers) for each gathering class. Each of these new Jobs could then have abilities that are entirely focused on those kinds of nodes, from higher bonuses to gathering and HQ chances on those nodes, or even access to previously hidden materials that only these specializations can gain access to.
Taking the easy way also makes it far easier to come up with names and unlock quests for these Jobs. Specializing in smashing Rocky Outcrops with a Sledgehammer? The path of the Rockbreaker awaits those Miners who can learn to sense how deep the treasure lies and channel their strength into revealing it. Botanists that focus on vegetation over trees could follow the path of the Farmer, giving them access to better yields by teaching them how to harvest them carefully, or even provide them with a source of seeds to grow more in the comfort of their FC homes. The Fishers out there could learn the ways of the Skycaster or the Dunecaster, learning the secrets of hidden creatures only the most skilled of fishermen have ever seen, let alone caught.
LF Tank and DPS for Mining
The hard way to add gathering Jobs involves quite a bit more work, but also has potential to add in new and exciting content. For this plan to work, let's look at another game that does gathering a little differently: WildStar. At its simplest, gathering in that game is what you've seen in most MMOs: strike the node with your specialty's tool until loot comes out. That's what happens in about 60-70% of the nodes you run across in that game – it's that other 30-40% that we’re looking at. Occasionally when you strike a node in that game, something unique might happen. That mining node you were hitting? Turns out it was attached to a little creature that runs away since you're chipping stuff off his back. That relic you found? Robots spawn and start attacking you. At the extreme end you have things like the metal worm that attacks would-be miners. Should you succeed in slaying this random encounter, a path opens to the ore-lined tunnels and you're now on the clock to get as much ore as possible before the cavern collapses on your head.
That worm attack is more of an extreme example, but it does illustrate the point that we could add in unique encounters and challenges befitting of a specialized gathering Job. Perhaps as a Miner you could learn to watch for hidden tunnels lined with wondrous ores and gems. A botanist could find hidden paths in the forests of the world leading them to plants unseen by the civilized world. For the Fishers out there, I see Moby Dick-esque duels, pitting the player's skill and equipment against the rage and power of the largest beasts of the sea. At the highest levels these could even be expanded into a group activity. Picture a four-man or even eight-man group accompanying a single gatherer, waiting for them to lure the great rockworm/treant/sea serpent out into the open. Not only would this encourage Free Companies to recruit gatherers to supply their guilds with materials and these legendary beasts, but it would also make those gatherers feel like a valued part of the group rather than simply "that guy that gives Bob the Blacksmith his gems."
Something as extreme as adding in these systems to FFXIV's gathering classes is probably unlikely for any kind of patched content, but it's certainly possible when you look at expansion-level system changes. With new zones, continents, etc. lay ample opportunities to add new content like this, as well as the context and lore for adding in new Jobs. The techniques you learned in the known world of Eorzea could prove insufficient for these newly discovered lands, so the players would turn to the locals to discover their secrets. At first they may prove distrustful of outsiders, but by showing your skills and potential, they would eventually open up and teach you the ways of this new world. A tribe in the forest could teach you the ways of the Treewalkers and how to find paths where none seem to exist. Miners could find a group of Rockshapers, Conjurers who focused on their connection with the earth to open up new paths and delves into the depths. When you're adding in entirely new areas and indigenous people, there are few limits to what you can come up with for specialty gathering Jobs the players can learn.
When we did the crafting version of this Jobs column, we ended on the question, "Is this really necessary?" At the heart of things, you're still doing the same actions you do as a base Disciple of the Land class, but now we would be putting in these gating mechanisms to new content with the addition of Job unlocks. Would adding these classes in reality add much to the player experience as a gatherer? Personally I believe something like this, while not strictly necessary, adds a lot to character classes that currently don't have a great deal of endgame available to them. Yes, there are the hidden gathering nodes that can only be seen by max level DoL classes, but those are extremely uncommon; the bulk of the time, you'll be gathering the same materials you were picking up while leveling. You could consider playing the Market Board, your endgame similar to crafters, but gatherers are at a disadvantage here compared to their DoH brethren. Not only are they competing with themselves, but they're also competing with all of the bots that keep popping up in all MMOs. Try as they may, Square Enix is unlikely to ever completely eradicate the bot problem – that's a never-ending game of plugging exploit holes, banning accounts and dealing with false positives. By adding in these specialty classes however, we now create a second tier of gathering that's far more unlikely to be penetrated by the automated horde. Scripting something to teleport from node to node is one thing, but it's a bit more work to automate a bot through all of the chained quests necessary to unlock all of the abilities needed for these new gatherable materials.
That's it for this edition of the Eorzea Examiner. What do the rest of you think about giving the Disciples of the Land their own Jobs? Do you have a better idea on how to add something like this to FFXIV? Reasons to keep the status quo of only base classes? Tell us in the comments below. If you've got any requests for column topics, add those as well. Until next time, see you in Eorzea.
Michael "Ragar" Branham