A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the joys of starting a static. Raiding in FFXIV is really good fun, and putting together my own team has definitely been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done in this game.
But one thing that’s really hit home since then is how much of a pain the loot system for Savage raids is. Previously I wasn’t in charge of organizing events — I was just lucky enough to be taken along by my FC — but now I’m scheduling things myself, the main problem I’m coming up against is trying to make sure everybody gets a fair shot at loot.
Let me explain how the system works if you’ve not done Savage yourself. Unlike in normal, each week you get a page (a sort of token) as a guaranteed drop the first time you clear a stage. You can expend a number of pages on a piece of high-end gear. You can’t get more than one a week, but that’s fine, because if you stick to it you’re guaranteed to get something, RNG-free (It’s four pages from the second stage of Omega Savage for a pair of boots, for example).
But chests appear as well. These contain things you can buy with pages, letting you leap weeks ahead — so instead of buying a pair of boots with pages, you might find them in a chest. They also contain some random upgrade materials that are otherwise unobtainable or at least expensive / inconvenient to get. Like pages, chests appear once a week, and you have one shot at getting something from them. If the stuff that appears in the chest isn’t for you, tough luck!
It’s the chests that make raid loot such a crapshoot. This isn’t because their contents are random, because people will get what they want given enough time. Nor is it because it enables some people to get ahead of the curve while their unlucky peers are lagging behind. Again, pages solve all that — after a few weeks, all luck equals out in the end.
Rather, it’s because of the arcane loot system in which the number of chests that appears is proportional to the number of people in the group who have already cleared that week.
If nobody’s cleared, two chests appear, meaning a couple of you will probably walk away happy or at least with some gear for an alt. But if even one person has cleared, the number of chests goes down; if up to four people have cleared, one chest will appear, while if five or more have cleared no chests will appear at all.
What this does is act as a disincentive against playing with other people, forcing them to pick one group and stick with it. But it also means that if a group ends up with someone on holiday (which has been inevitable for us, as we’ve been playing throughout August), getting a replacement is a huge headache. Not only do you need someone capable of clearing, but you also need someone who hasn’t cleared that week and who doesn’t have a group of their own that they’re already committed to helping.
I cannot really comprehend why this is, and it leads to lots of situations where people looking to practice fights accidentally ruin other people's’ chances of getting something useful. I’ve seen a lot of threads pop up on Reddit and the official forums where people who join clear groups unknowingly end up in a party with people who’ve done it that week and get fewer rewards as a result, because nobody gets a warning except the party leader.
I suppose the thinking behind the system is to make it so you have to really earn savage gear and to cut down on buying and selling clears, but if that were the case, pages wouldn’t drop either; they drop into your inventory even if everybody else has cleared. More to the point, people already sell runs, so it doesn’t make the system any less open to abuse.
All it does is add an extra layer of difficulty on top of the actual fights themselves and force people to be extra careful about organizing things. If someone says they might be able to attend, that’s not good enough — you need a hard commitment, or else you risk not having anyone who hasn’t yet cleared that week to go in with you. Inevitably, that means that the further you get away from the weekly reset, the harder it is to find someone who can help you without requiring your group to sacrifice loot along the way.
I’d be more than happy with you getting a shot at the first two chests you see and having that be that, because that’s how most games work, or maybe reducing the number when a majority of people have cleared — but cutting the amount a group receives for a successful clear by at least half if anyone’s gone in already that week is obscene.
Further compounding this irritation is that if you have to go through stages in order. Alte Roite is in V1, followed by Catastrophe in V2. If you queue for V2, you immediately forfeit all loot in V1, including the page, even if you don’t manage to kill Catastrophe, and you count as having cleared the encounter. I’m currently on V3 Savage, and what this means is that if I want to get practice in advance of a raid, even if I don’t clear, I’m completely unable to do so.
None of this is the case on normal mode, which has a much more reasonable system of ‘if you get something, you’re locked out for the rest of the week’, and you can do things in any order you like. It doesn’t require an essay to explain — that’s all there is to it. I know that most MMOs have some kind of lockout system, but given that most don’t break raids up into one instance per fight, there’s no need for something as aggressively restrictive as this in XIV.
It’s bizarre, because FFXIV has a great mentor system and loads of incentives for helping other people, such as giving people bonus currency if they do content with a new player in the group. Savage raids are the only content in the game that encourage people to stick together in a close group and steer clear of playing with others. Extreme primals have a better loot system and they’re sometimes harder than Savage raids (Thordan, back in the day, is a pretty good example).
Savage content is really good fun, and I’m enjoying every moment of it (except for the wipes). But there are people I’d love to take along or offer help when they need it, and I’ll never be able to without either them or my group losing out. The same goes for other people when we need help. If someone’s sick, the other static in our FC can’t offer to help. They can only wish us the best and look on from a distance.
This is how raiding in FFXIV has been since release, so it seems unlikely it’ll ever change, but I hope we’re eventually afforded a new system that’s easy to understand and conducive to playing with people outside of your clique. I can’t imagine it would do anything other than open up raiding to a wider part of the community — and isn’t that a good thing?