Hey monkeys, it’s your resident pro-angler, KT here. Now that I have your attention, I’d like to talk to you all about a topic that’s near and dear to me: fishing, and more specifically, fishing in video games. Did you guys honestly think my first article would be about anything else? Of course not, right? This is me, after all. Let’s dive in! And don’t worry, this is only the start of horrible water-themed puns.
Now the fishing mini-game is a very popular mechanic in many games, most of which are MMOs, RPG/JRPGs, or some combination of both. Some fishing mini-games are complex, others are simple. Some are good and enjoyable, others are boring and unnecessary. Some people love it, others think the game is just fine without it. Regardless of which camp you’re in, I’m hoping that after reading this, you’ll all understand the al-lure of in-game fishing. Hahahahaha.
In this special installment, I’ll be going over why so many game companies have a fishing mechanic, what makes it so popular, and give a few examples of games with fishing mechanics and analyze whether they add or detract from the game. As we are mainly a PS4 server, I’ll stick mostly to games that are PS4-native or have a PS4 port, but keep in mind that many MMOs and RPGs/JRPGs have similar fishing systems and/or use fishing to fill the same functions. This list will by no means be exhaustive, but it will serve to give an idea of how game devs tackle (heh) their in-game fishing mechanics and how effective/integral it is to the game.
Before we talk about how effective of a mini-game fishing is, we should look at why they’re such a popular choice for gaming companies in the first place. Whether it be that the mini-game requires little attention/effort, provides useful materials and products, or offers achievements, there has to be a reason why it’s so prevalent in many MMOs and RPGs.
Easy-Peasy, Lemon Squeezy
One major reason that game devs might include a fishing mechanic is simply because it gives players something else to do. In MMOs like WoW, Runescape (commence flashbacks to early middle school), and ESO, grinding bosses and mobs for drops for hours on end can be tedious and even boring. Fishing is something mundane that, when done right, can give players a way to “disconnect” from the constant fighting of enemies. Fishing in games is (usually) an activity that’s referred to as “low cognitive load”, meaning it doesn’t take much effort on your brain’s part to process the activity. Because of this, fishing can be used as a way to wind down after a long session of slaying waves of enemies just for that rare item that has a .05% drop rate.
Being a low-demanding activity, fishing makes it so players are free to multitask, doing things such as organizing their inventory and stashing/chucking items from their latest dungeon haul. They’re free to do real-life things, too, such as rummaging for something to eat or drink, making a quick visit to the porcelain throne, or even house chores that they procrastinated on.
Being Submerged in the World
Another reason why fishing might be a popular mechanic for MMOs and RPGs, especially the former, is because it provides another level of immersion into the universe of that game. Just as fishing is a real-world activity that people can do socially or as a profession, in-game fishing can be offered as a way to round out the game’s universe and give it more depth. Players can fish socially, and in some games, fishing can even be a profession or trade that grants skill levels and profits. Another important aspect, which I think might be underestimated, is that for the most part, the fishing mini-game serves to eliminate in-game skill differences. In games like the Monster Hunter titles and ESO, having rare/high-level gear or being a high-level character has no bearing on your fishing ability; anyone can show up to a fishing spot and cast their line. This feature may or may not have been intended, but I think it is important because it allows players, old and new alike, to experience a degree of fullness and immersion into the reality of that game without having to worry about being “strong” enough. They can just go with the flow.
Diving more into the immersion aspect, some games offer fishing as a profession or trade, granting profits and materials, and even achievements in some cases, which is yet another level of immersion and similarity to the real world. In games like Warframe, ESO, and Stardew Valley, fishing is a viable means of gaining income and farming materials to craft items or for furthering progress in the game. ESO even offers achievements for catching every rare fish in each locale, which is sort of like anglers receiving accolades for catching big/rare fish or winning fishing tournaments. Additionally, some games offer different fish in different locations and even at different times, so there’s also a temporal-spatial aspect, mimicking how you can catch different kinds of fish in different areas around the world at different times of the year.
Friendly to Noob Devs
On the flip side of gaming, the fishing mini-game serves a purpose for game devs, too. A lot of times development teams will place newer/less experienced devs on mini-games like fishing or mining, as this lets the newer staff learn the core mechanics of the game and how commands and objects interact with each other without giving them the responsibility or stress of working with the core game. Accidentally deleting or revising the code for an aspect of fishing is much less serious than doing so for a portion of, say, a main quest line or stat calculator. This tactic allows devs to swim around with water wings on without making too much of a splash if anything goes wrong. (That’s pretty much all I have for this section because I don’t know much about game development outside of a cute mobile game called Game Dev Story by Kairosoft)
Big Catch, or Small Fry?
In this next section, I’ll go over a few games with fishing mechanics and discuss whether I feel they add or detract from the gameplay. If you don’t see your favorite game on here don’t fret, because like I said, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and these are the games that I have the most experience with in terms of fishing.
Elder Scrolls Online
Fishing in ESO is fairly simple: there are four types of bodies of water, and each uses a different kind of bait. To fish, you go up to a fishing spot (marked by a steady splashing texture), equip the appropriate bait, and cast your line. You can tell when you’ve hooked something by a soft vibration in your controller along with your character pulling up on the rod accompanied by a sort of stretching sound. Hit ‘X’ and congratulations, you’ve caught a fish (or sometimes a sack with stuff in it).
There’s no fishing skill level in ESO, per se, but there is an achievement you can get for catching all the rare fish in each locale as previously mentioned. The real benefit of fishing in ESO, however, is what you can do with the fish. Most common fish can be sold as-is to vendors for around 3 gold apiece, or you can process them to get fish filet for provisioning, which is a skill you can build. Every so often, however, you’ll get lucky when processing fish and get a product called “Perfect Roe”, which is highly sought after by higher level players. Perfect Roe is an ingredient in crafting something called “Psijic Ambrosia”, which is a consumable that increases experience gain from any and all sources by 50% for 30 minutes, and can be sold for a lot of money. So, if you’re low level and happen to luck out and get a perfect roe, find a player to pawn it off to.
Strictly speaking, ESO’s fishing mechanic doesn’t offer much to the game in terms of excitement or complex, skill-based mechanics, but it does provide useful materials that provide stat boosts, which is quite helpful if you’re thinking about taking on dungeons or world bosses. You’ll be perfectly fine if you never touch fishing in ESO, but there’s absolutely no harm in trying the waters.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV offers one of the most engaging fishing mini-games I’ve ever come across. In the game, your party consists of the four main characters, each with their own unique skill. Noctis, the edgy crown-prince who you play as, has an affinity for fishing. This mini-game is pretty complex, as it involves the player selecting and equipping a rod, fishing line, and different tackle depending on where they choose to fish. There’s a bit of a learning curve, and fighting against a fish you hook is almost as enthralling as a battle with enemies.
Fishing in FFXV is very useful as it provides provisioning ingredients, AP (ability points, for levelling your skills), trophy fish, and even to complete quests. One of the more predominant uses for fishing will be to gather fish for Ignis (a party member) to cook (his unique ability) when you set up camp for the night. Eating food provides useful buffs the next day, such as bonuses to XP gain, increased attack/defense/HP, or better luck.
I really like FFXV’s fishing mechanic and I highly recommend that if you play this game, to fish as often as you can and level up the skill. Again, you don’t lose much from not fishing, but fishing constantly is super beneficial to your gameplay and provides a pretty rewarding experience.
In honor of the series’ widely-anticipated return to console, I’ll go over the fishing mechanics in the Monster Hunter franchise. In the MH games, fishing is pretty much the same regardless of the title you play. To fish, you go up to a fishing spot, equip bait (different bait catches different things, but you can use any bait in any fishing spot for the most part), and cast your line. Fishing in MH games involve a twitch reaction mechanic, so when the fish bites on your bait, press the action button to reel it in before it gets away or you lose your bait.
The fish you catch in MH games are useful in that some can serve as materials to craft with to obtain things like ammo for your weapons or to make food for temporary stat boosts. Some fish, like Goldenfish, exist solely to be sold for profit. Some fish can even be used to craft equipment at vendors.
Overall, while fishing is a fun mechanic in MH games, there is no loss if you don’t fish. Sure, you get useful items from fishing, but most of the products you get, even the fish themselves, can just be bought from vendors in the game. Whether or not you choose to fish in Monster Hunter games has no reel effect on your gaming experience.
Ah yes, Pokemon. I’ve probably put more combined hours into Pokemon games than any other games I’ve played put together. Fishing in Pokemon involves getting a rod, going to a body of water that isn’t a puddle, and casting your line. This is another twitch-reaction mechanic, where you simply press ‘A’ when you get the notification that a fish is biting. You’re then taken to a battle screen where you can fight, catch, or run from the Pokemon you fished up (although it’s kind of rude to run from something after you hook it and yank it out of the water, don’t you think?)
Pokemon’s fishing mechanic is intriguing in that you don’t gain money or materials from fishing, rather you have a chance to obtain more Pokemon from it. Different bodies of water will have different Pokemon you can encounter from fishing, with varying degrees of rarity, or encounter rate. Fishing is really important for those playing for completion-sake, as some Pokemon can only be encountered by fishing. Although this is sometimes much more trouble than it’s worth. Looking at you, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Feebas (this Pokemon, introduced in Gen 3 Pokemon games, had only a slim chance of being encountered in one single water tile that was randomly chosen upon first turning on the copy of that Pokemon game, you didn’t know which one it was so you had to either get lucky or put in massive amounts of hours to find it).
Mechanically, fishing in Pokemon requires no skill other than being able to press a button quickly enough. Moreover, it doesn’t really offer much to the game in terms of material gain. The only real benefit to fishing in Pokemon is encountering and catching a rare Pokemon, either to use on your team or for completeness-sake (even then, with newer gen Pokemon titles, you can use a feature called Global Trade System to search and trade for specific Pokemon to fill out your Pokedex). Overall, whether or not you fish in Pokemon has no lasting impact on your playthrough.
In Stardew Valley, you play as an employee who is tired of corporate life and decides to move to their late-grandfather’s farm to pursue a more rural and fulfilling life. You can choose to start from a variety of locations, such as a heavily wooded area, a fairly flat and grassy area, or an area bordered with rivers and streams. Fishing in this game is rather unique because it is completely viable to choose fishing as a profession and complete your playthrough with just fishing and minimal other skills. To fish, you have to obtain a rod and bait, go to a body of water, and cast your line. Once you hook a fish, you get a small pop-up screen where you see a little fish icon bob up and down and a green bar. The objective is to keep the fish icon inside the green bar while a meter on the side fills up, and once it does, you’ve caught your fish.
Fish can be sold for money in Stardew Valley, and different bodies of water will offer different fish to catch. Additionally, the fish you can catch change depending on the time of year. You can even catch boots if you’re unlucky, or treasure chests that contain weapons and rare items if you’re lucky. There’s a fishing skill that you can level up, and you get bonus perks for training it, such as making fish easier to catch, greater chance to obtain treasure, or being able to use better fishing equipment. Fish can be sold for profit, like I said, or kept and turned in for something called “community bundles”, which provide bonuses and perks to you and your town.
Along with being entertaining, the fishing mechanic in Stardew Valley offers a completely viable and fulfilling way to experience the game. There are things you miss out on if you choose to only or mainly fish, but it’s possible to play through the game that way. Variation in different fish based on location and time of year offers a reason for fishing at different points in the game, too. I highly recommend giving fishing a go if you play this game, as it adds a lot to the game in my opinion.
My Two Cents
Different people have different opinions on whether or not fishing in games is necessary, or if it even needs to be included. I think that fishing is a fun and useful mechanic that offers a different way to play and experience the game. Sure, some games had fishing mechanics that are more fleshed out and enticing than others, but I like to believe that each system is made to fit the flow of their respective games.
If done correctly, fishing can be a way to enhance a game and offer a completely different set of rewards to players who choose to utilize the system (after all, you usually find different things in water than you do on land, right?). Making sure that the fishing mechanic flows with the rest of the game is a great way to ensure a positive and rewarding experience for players. Cliché/overdone or not, I genuinely think that games such as MMOs and RPGs can benefit from a polished fishing system, and I’m sure that game developers think so too, which is why it’s so popular and prevalent in many games.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
So, what do you guys think? Do you agree/disagree with my points? Do you know of any games with good fishing mechanics? Feel free to reach out to me with your opinions, I’d love to discuss them with you. Many people have conflicting opinions about fishing in games but as for me, I’m proud to say that I’m hooked. I hope that after reading this you’re more open to trying fishing in the games that you play, and if you already do fish, then I hope to catch you on the water sometime. Keep calm and fish on.