A few expansions into playing Final Fantasy XIV, I decided to try levelling one of the game’s many crafting classes. For one, I’d heard a fair amount of FFXIV’s strongest weapons and most stylish gear were locked behind them. On top of that, I’d found the adventuring life to be expensive. Sure, running dungeons and completing quests always paid gil, but rarely enough to cover the costly cycle of purchasing the new gear and weapons I’d need as I levelled up.
No, crafting was where the real money was. FFXIV has its own in-game free market called the Market Board, where players can buy and sell items and gear at their own prices using gil as currency. Filled with excitement, I thought it’d be easy to pick up a trade and make a name for myself as an artisan and merchant. I soon found it to be anything but simple.
Final Fantasy XIV has eight crafting and three gathering classes. Gatherers can forage for materials by either fishing, mining, or reaping crops. As for the crafters, weavers work with cloth, goldsmiths craft jewellery, alchemists brew potions, and so on. I thought it’d be as easy as just picking a particular craft and honing it, but my adventure in crafting quickly became increasingly complicated.
At first crafting materials were easy to obtain, purchasable from NPC merchants. But material procurement for one job ended up requiring the skills of six other classes. Let’s say I’m a weaver looking to craft a level 50 caster’s robe. I’d need a specific kind of thread, cloth, leather, and metal ingots. A weaver can spin thread and make cloth, but to make those threads you need to forage for cotton as a botanist, one of the gathering classes. Leather is made from animal hides that drop from enemies in battle and has to be crafted by a leatherworker. Metal ore is found through mining, and processed into ingots by blacksmiths.
Unless you’re playing with generous friends progressing at least as quickly as you, you’ve only really got two options to progress: You can level every crafting and gathering class simultaneously. Or you can buy the necessary materials off the Market Board, more than likely at inflated prices.
Early in my journey, I foolishly attempted the former, levelling every crafting class, save for culinarian (so while I could brew elixirs and forge a mighty spear, I had no idea how to create a boiled egg). I told myself it’d be cheaper, but soon enough, I realised I just didn’t have the time to spend hours foraging and switching back and forth between classes just to synthesise the basic materials I’d need to make a little top hat.
So I broke down and started buying my materials on the market. While I was happy to pay other players to hit the rocks and reap the crops I didn’t have time for, I also found that they frequently charged exorbitant prices for my needed materials. I mean, 3000 gil for a two-pack of Dravanian Spring Water? Outrageous.
At the same time, very few of the products I crafted were selling. I made everything from furniture and potions to gear augmentations and minions, but despite my retainers MissPlompley and Twinkums trying their very best to sell my goods, market goers just weren’t biting. Revenue remained stagnant while my operating costs only grew. I needed to take a loan from my free company to pay expenses, and eventually ended up without a gil to my name, unable to even afford a teleport from Aleport to New Gridania.
One day while running raids with my ex, she mentioned having made roughly 20 million gil through the very same scheme at which I’d failed. I had to know her methods. She obliged.
That was the moment it all changed. She taught me buying and selling are the game’s true PvP combat. That the Market Board was FFXIV’s Wall Street, and that gil, for lack of a better word, is good.
If I wanted to make a living at the market, I needed to be ruthless like Ifrit. Cold-hearted like Shiva. Slippery like Leviathan. I learned that much like the real-world economy, Eorzea has its own market forces to take advantage of. The average prices for items changed every day, shifting like the sands of Ala Mhigo. To make sure my goods sold, I’d have to undercut all my business competition with the shrewdness of a stab-happy tonberry.
And so began my campaign as a merciless Market trader. It was all about supply and demand. When an item was selling like hot popotoes on my server, I’d travel to another server where it was selling for much cheaper, then bring it back home to turn a nice profit. If a certain item only had one seller, I’d buy their stock and resell it at a high mark-up to adventurers in need.
Soon, I was making hundreds of thousands in gil. Then millions. But at what cost? What of the values I had held as a fledgling artisan?
I began to recall my earlier frustrations feeling taken advantage of by sellers on the Board. When shown an opportunity to rise above my station as a humble artisan, I’d become what I beheld, quickly throwing away my ideals and turning into the exact kind of cutthroat capitalist I despise. I found myself deriving a sick glee from overcharging a sprout for a carbuncle-shaped lamp. Gone was the ambitious young craftswoman. In her place was an avaricious merchant who’d sell you the pom off a Moogle’s head if it meant more gil in her pocket.
Now, I live in the lap of luxury. What I can’t craft, I buy. My chocobo wears the finest barding, I have an armoire full of superb glamours, and my free company’s home is decorated in luxurious furniture. Sure I became everything I claim to stand against in real life, but I also got this fancy dress and glowy spear! They match!