When Final Fantasy XIV released the Manderville Gold Saucer last year, chocobo racing was one of the games I was most excited about. I always loved racing and breeding in FFVII, so the thought of being able to train, breed and race against players in an MMO environment sounded amazing.
When the mini-game finally launched, I rushed out to unlock my first generation of racing chocobo and hit the track. The races themselves are patterned similarly to a Mario Kart style game. You have power-ups to gather and use, things to avoid on the track, other racers to beat with the wise useage of your chocobo’s stamina. I always felt the racing itself was quite solid and pretty fun.
So what was the problem? Why does FFXIV need to try to revitalize chocobo racing more than a year after it was originally released?
The Cost of Racing
It didn’t take long for players to realize the cost of racing was high. First, there was the time cost involved. It takes a lot of dedication and many, many races to level up each generation of chocobo you breed. In a MMO with so many other end game activities, making progress in racing means that you forgo progress in some other area, such as leveling, crafting, raiding or gearing up.
The second cost is what it takes if you want to buy manuals to change your chocobo’s skills or feed to increase your chocobo’s stats. While you can purchase Grade 1 feed with gil and craft Grade 2 feed, Grade 3 feed cost MGP. To someone just starting out breeding and training, it felt like there was no way to afford that kind of food and skill resets with the low amount of MGP won for each race.
When the Manderville Gold Saucer was first released, it felt like the team was so afraid of players actually earning the MGP there and buying rewards. So, games like chocobo racing felt like a very slow, cumbersome upward battle. Not only did the early races give little reward, but the cost of improving your bird and the time you needed to invest in racing was greatly disproportional to what you received.
This may have changed later, once you get higher quality racers and could enter harder races. But I wouldn’t know because I never completely finished training my very first tier 1 chocobo, mostly for the reasons listed above.
Cutting the Costs
The first thing I noticed was that patch 3.25 significantly cut the costs of training manuals. This gives players a lot more flexibility to train their chocobos in the skills they like best.
Also, crafting Grade 2 chocobo feed just got a whole lot more profitable. Instead of each recipe yielding one feed per craft, you now get 5 feed per craft. This is a pretty nice bonus for culinarians who craft the feed to race!
Increasing the Rewards
To coincide with the drop in price of skills and materials for feed comes an increase in rewards. There’s been an overall boost in the amount of MGP received for many of the Gold Saucer activities, such as chocobo racing, Lord of Verminion, GATEs and the mini-games. So, more MGP means an easier time earning what you need for the feed and breeding.
Also, the weekly challenge log has been given a nice boost, more than doubling some of the MGP rewards from racing and winning races each week. For example, just racing 3 times, no matter if you win or not, you will earn 5,000 MGP straight up.
Level progression for chocobos has also been given a boost. Experience earned from finishing races is increased overall, helping you rank your bird up faster than ever.
On top of that, the amount of experience and MGP you earn now takes into consideration the length of the track you’re running. Previously, longer tracks and shorter tracks paid out the same. Now, the length is balanced out by giving a better reward for a longer race.
Just out of curiosity, I decided to dust off my T1 chocobo and take him through the very lowest race as a warm up. I won the race, which earned me the weekly “Victory Lap I” challenge log entry and 5,000 MGP. On top of that, I earned an easy 450 MGP for the race itself, and my chocobo leveled up!
At the lowest level of racing, that’s really a nice boost! I’m certainly much more encouraged to try racing again with these new changes.
Increasing the Challenge
There are also new challenges designed to attract veteran racers back to the tracks. First, your chocobo needs to be of a certain ranking – the lowest is 41. Once you have that, you can undertake your first challenge race in the Chocobo Square.
This race puts you up against a special NPC opponent. In order to complete the challenge, you must place higher than the opponent. Once you clear a challenge, you can move on to the next one as long as your chocobo has the required ranking.
These challenges give a really lucrative MGP reward, starting at 20,000 MGP and going as high as 50,000 MGP. The total purse for winning all the challenges is 445,000 MGP. On top of that, you get a swift looking racing barding cosmetic for your chocobo to wear.
And if all those other changes weren’t enough to be excited about, the team has added a number of new skills and a couple new race power-ups to the mix. Having some new skills is nice because it adds some variety to what you can customize your chocobo to do on the track.
For example, the Choco Drain skill actually saps nearby chocobos of their stamina. A Speedy Recovery skill increased ability-induced stamina recovery by a certain percent – that could be a complete race changer right there! New manuals have been added to Chocobo Square that you can purchase to teach your chocobos the new skills.
Also, new tier III manuals of existing skills – like Choco Dash and Choco Cure – have been added to give the existing skills a little boost on your bar. Overall, that’s a lot of nice new toys to play with on the track, and should be fun for both new and returning racers to experiment with.
So now that chocobo racing has just seen a pretty fantastic overhaul, it’s time for me to put some effort into leveling and breeding my racers. It seems like the team has done a lot to address the issues that I, and certainly other players, had with the system and to make it more fun overall.
I hope to see you at the track!