Patch 2.3 came just a short two weeks ago and already it's been declared the most controversial update in XIV:ARR's still under a year history. Introduced was the Hunt System, part Notorious Monster from FFXI, part Elite Marks from FFXII, it's caused a large rift in the player base since it's inception. The system plays out like this:
B-Rank Elite Marks: One in each zone, has a one hour repop (meaning once it's killed, it takes at least an hour before it appears again). Rewards 5 Allied Seals, 30 Allagan Tomestones of Mythology, 10 Allagan Tomestones of Soldiery.
A-Rank Elite Marks: One in each zone, has a two~three hour repop. Rewards 20 Allied Seals, 80 Allagan Tomestones of Mythology, 20 Allagan Tomestones of Soldiery.
S-Rank Elite Marks: One in each zone, has a 3 day repop. Rewards 50 Allied Seals, 200 Allagan Tomestones of Mythology, 40 Allagan Tomestones of Soldiery.
Now, you can probably guess that as the rank goes up, so does the difficulty. B-Ranks (as of the hotfix from two days ago) require at least a party of four, A-Ranks require at least a party of eight, and S-Ranks require at least three to four full parties of eight. So, the plan of action is to spread out your party members into individual zones and roam around until you find one of the Elite Marks. At the beginning, this was truly just roaming around hoping you stumble upon them. In the two weeks time, we've managed to narrow down the repop timers and there's even a website dedicated to reporting kills so you know which ones have a window open. This greatly helps the process so you aren't searching a zone for nothing. Once sighted, people would call it out in their Linkshells or their Free Companies and unleash all hell on it.
And that is why there's a problem.
You see, there's an amazing reward from this hunt system. Our Soldiery-purchased equipment is item level 100, Weathered equipment it's usually called. This is because each piece is described as being weathered. "Weathered Auroral Tabard", "Weathered Auroral Ring", etc. Weathered equipment requires either Sands of Time or Oils of Time to become unweathered and rise to item level 110 (the current max for non-weapon equipment) and increase in stats. These items were only available from the Second Coils of Bahamut, the current top endgame content. This meant that only the best players were obtaining these items and upgrading their gear. But with the introduction of Hunts, all we need to do is amass 750 Allied Seals to purchase a Sands of Time, or 500 for an Oil of Time. This is amazing, because it allows players who couldn't participate in endgame a chance to upgrade their equipment.
But it's also a bane.
You see, there's so many players that could be deemed "casual" that everyone, and I mean everyone, is doing these Hunts. It used to be, once a target was found, people would alert their Linkshells and Free Companies and everyone would come running. They'd wait as long as they could for people to show up and try to share the rewards. But it got to the point that too many people were coming and not everyone could get full credit for the kills. Nothing is worse than getting only 2 Allied Seals on an A-Rank target that should have netted you 20. To make matters worse, A-Ranks and S-Ranks have the chance to drop a Blood-Spattered Mark Log, the 250 seal items required to purchase your Sands or Oil of Time. The possibility of these free items draws more people to the A and S-Ranks.
There's so many people gathering at these monsters that they are actually disappearing on player side, despite Square Enix's attempts to prioritize the monsters being displayed. As soon as that target disappears, it's a made rush to get in close in hopes it appears once more and get your credit. And gods forbid someone is late to the mad rush. As soon as a target is dead the /shout channel becomes filled with such vitriolic filth. People are coming to expect everyone on the server to wait for them to go to the bathroom, wash their hands, brush their teeth, log in, teleport to the zone with the mark and get there before you pull. A good percentage of the people who show up to these monsters aren't even actively hunting, they're just waiting for a shout-out and expecting to get there in time to get credit, then go back to whatever it was they were doing before, whether it's actually something or just sitting in town doing nothing.
This brings the issue of "How long do we wait?" as well as "Do we even bother announcing this?" It's gotten to the point that hunt targets aren't called out anymore, save for scant A-Ranks and the S-Ranks that require multiple parties to fell. People try to say they'll wait until x time, usually determined by using the in-game clock. "Pulling at 12:00 ET" they'll say, yet someone always gets antsy and pulls at "11:55 ET" and the hate comes rolling out in the /shout channel. People use slurs, threaten reporting to GMs, thank Obama, and add the players who pulled early to their Blacklist. What could be a system built to support the entire server becomes a, to borrow the term, internet hate machine.
There's a couple things Square Enix could do to fix this, they already massively increased the HP of all target ranks. My personal favorite theory is that there should be a weekly cap on Allied Seals and restrict freebie Blood-Spattered Mark Logs to the once every three days S-Ranks. This would mean players who have capped for the week will no longer hunt unless it's an S-Rank and they have their chance to obtain a free Log. Will Square Enix implement something like this? Only time will tell. Built as a way for casual players to "catch up" in the words of SE, they may not want to instill any limits to the Hunts.
As for myself, I've already obtained the three Sands of Times I needed to unweather equipment on Bard, and I'm 750 Allied Seals away from the two Oils of Times I need to finish Bard accessories. I've had a bit of luck, managing to get three free Logs from S-Ranks, and after going through these unnecessary trials I'm not in any rush to continue and unweather gear for my alternate classes. As soon as I obtain these last couple Oils my Bard is finished aside from Best in Slot drops from the Second Coils of Bahamut that I'll hold out for. Perhaps I'll return to leveling my crafting classes with all the free time.
Until then, blessed be the hunt.