Gearswapping in Final Fantasy XI is a player term that specifically refers to changing one's Equipment for the current situation, even while in battle. Final Fantasy XI is unusual in that outside of PvP, the game does not deliberately penalize changing armor while in combat (although changing weapon does incur the loss of all TP). As a result, competent players will build up numerous sets of equipment and develop macros to change between them in a second.
Annoyingly, whenever a player changes visible equipment, they become invisible for a brief moment, and other players lose target on them. (This also interrupts movement.) This unwanted "blinking" effect is the reason that there is a penalty in PvP for changing equipment. The development team has repeatedly asserted that fixing this is impossible, although there is a third party tool to do it.
Common equipment setsEdit
For physical attacking jobsEdit
- A "tp gear" set, to be worn while in combat while building up TP for a Weapon Skill. Such a set will prioritize enough +Haste% to cap equipment Haste, enough Store TP to just reach 100% TP in a certain number of hits (5 or 6), and enough Accuracy to cap hit rate against most monsters.
- At least one "ws gear" set, to be changed into immediately before doing a weapon skill and changed out of immediately afterward. Such sets will swap out Haste, Store TP, and often Accuracy (weapon skills have an innate accuracy bonus) for attributes such as Strength that increase weapon skill damage. More skilled players will have one ws gear set optimized for each weapon skill that they commonly use.
- A "-dt" set that focuses on reducing Damage Taken, to be worn while fighting monsters with very high area damage output.
For mage jobsEdit
- An "idle" set to be worn while not doing anything else. This will include as much +Refresh as possible, one +Movement Speed piece if available (multiple +Movement Speed do not stack), some +MP, and usually some -Damage Taken gear just in case.
- A "resting" set to regain MP quickly by using the /heal command. This will also include +Refresh and +MP, but also +MP recovered while resting. The +Movement Speed is unnecessary (players cannot move while resting) and if you are taking damage while resting you chose a bad spot for it.
- A "nuking" set, to be worn while casting directly damaging magic (for jobs that this is a significant role). Focuses on +Magic Attack Bonus and +Intelligence (unless the "nuke" in question is White Magic such as Holy).
- A Cure set, to be worn when casting cure spells (for jobs that this is a significant role). Focuses on capping Cure Potency% and minimizing spellcasting and recast time.
- An Enfeebling Magic set, with lots of +Magic Accuracy.
- A Stoneskin set to be worn when casting Stoneskin, to maximize the HP absorbed by Stoneskin and improve the casting and recast times. Since Stoneskin is cast when expecting damage, this set often also has -Damage Taken and -Spell Interruption% stats too. +Enhancing magic skill helps with both the Stoneskin HP and -Spell interruption (since Stoneskin is Enhancing Magic).
A good mage will have more sets than this--one for every important spell that they cast, in fact. A competent mage will specifically swap their Staff, usually to an appropriate elemental stave that matches the spell.
Impact on the gameEdit
It is a safe bet that without rampant gearswapping, Final Fantasy XI would have sunk into decay a very long time ago. The fact that to play at peak ability, a player needs to have dozens and dozens of pieces of equipment keeps players busy long after other MMORPGs would have run out of things for them to do. This also helped keep old content still relevant, and thus meant that groups could still do it for years after its release. Even players who obtained everything they want for one job could just Job Change and start building their equipment and abilities all over again on a new job. The fact that it was possible to find groups to do older content helped casual players stay in the game instead of quitting because they couldn't find a group (or quit because the goal they were working towards had been made obsolete). This was a unique source of strength for Final Fantasy XI that kept it relevant even a decade after its original release. (However, Akihiko Matsui has expressed a desire to move to a more conventional World of Warcraft-like model.)
The need to hoard dozens of pieces of gear per job, combined with the need to maintain backwards compatibility with the PlayStation 2 client, also means that players' inventories are constantly bursting at the seams, and there is never enough room for everything that a player might want to bring with them or pick up along the way. This impacts the in-game economy as players are more likely to throw away Synthesis materials and other item drops they don't really care about.
However, some players are bored with the endless 'sidegrades' and want new equipment that will completely obsolete (and thus let them throw away) old gear. They don't want content they've already done enough to get sick of to stay viable, and wish it would go away so other people wouldn't do it. There is also a small but vocal faction that insists that gearswapping is somehow "cheating", and while it is true that to gearswap to peak impact requires third party tools, a great many players are content to rely upon the game's built-in macro system.
- The common Final Fantasy XI mage practice of swapping elemental staves is referenced in the way that the orb on top of Shantotto's staff changes color; the most common set of elemental staves in the game for a very long time all resembled one another exactly except for the color of the orb on top.