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That's what I did, but it failed more often than not. Not sure what else to tell you, that's simply how it went for me. It was a lot better and more consistent before maxing the entire party's affinity (more specifically, low affinity for the separating and high affinity for strong flame mega heating worked very reliably).
Well just in terms of the number, on average you get boosts to 2 qualities from each person who provides party support, and usually everyone will give it. So about 10 boosts in total on average, the average size being 15.5 points. If you have say 12 qualities in the machine, on average each quality gets less than one party support boost.
With Riki as Engineer you typically get only 0-3 turns that aren't gentle flame, so it's a fairly neglible increase from them. Maybe 5-10 points on average.
Even with slightly pessimistic numbers I think you can see why I say 70% or below works more often than not. You would need usually at least 2 party supports to hit the same quality (by my calculation about a 20% chance, if you have 12 qualities) or 1 party support and really bad luck with strong/medium flames also hitting it a few times (very hard to estimate but likely 10% or less). So probably a success rate somewhere around 60% or more at 70% starting, and the lower you go the more that success chance grows.
This isn't to say your experience is wrong. 60%ish is definitely low enough that it can fail as often as it succeeds or more. It's also still frustratingly unreliable and can need some reloads to work. But on average I'm pretty confident it should work more than it fails. And I think a lot of the time the qualities you are separating out will be well below 70%. And once you separate qualities you don't really need to do much with them. With Riki and Reyn as your shooter and engineer respectively you can pretty reliably mega heat from about 100% on a single quality.
I think your mistake is probably assuming most people will think to throw in as many as 12 different qualities to try and separate the ones they want. I've never done that, I've only ever had 4 at most, usually less, not knowing the party supports only affect 2 of the qualities, and not all of them. In fact I've often not even bothered to keep crystals I've collected from monsters if they didn't have the qualities I wanted, precisely because of this. Maybe these are the reasons why, just like TrueArchery, once my party's affinity started getting really high, I've had trouble crafting the gems I want...It used to be easy when it was lower...
I think your mistake is probably assuming most people will think to throw in as many as 12 different qualities to try and separate the ones they want.
The post I was responding to literally says this:
Even if you fill the machine with trash to hopefully avoid leveling your desired traits, the odds are bad.
Filling the machine with 12+ qualities (you can go as high as 16 BTW and there's little reason not to) is a pretty safe assumption and it's the generally recommended method because, as I just demonstrated, it works.
Is gem crafting actually RNG? In my experiences, the topmost quality will almost always get party support multiple times and hit >100%, regardless of whether it starts at 40% or 90% and whether you throw in 4 qualities or 12+. In fact, merely throwing in a trash cylinder at e.g. 95% to absorb the party support blow dramatically raises the chances of successful separation of a 90% quality from <5% to ~30-40%.
1. It’ll be my first time selling anything since I just hit my 500-inventory mark with crystals. Which ones are safe to sell?
Pretty much everything rank I and II I would sell without hesitation. Rank III crystals can make decent gems, especially for certain traits like Agility.
2. When’s the best time to start with time attack challenges?
40 hours in and I’m having a great time.
Really whenever you want. As long as you're at the recommended level you should be able to handle them. The restricted challenges are always the same, so you can definitely do them at any time - they're the exact same difficulty right now as they will be at the end of the game.