How Harvesting Works
Ignoring experience for a moment, there seems to be some that still don't understand how rec levels or harving speed works, so I'll try and explain it. Disclaimer: Much of this is based on experience, not any officially provided info, so there may be inaccuracies.
When mixing something (such as an essence), the rec level for that item is essentially when you have a 50/50 chance of success. As your level in the skill goes up, you have a higher chance of success. And of course, higher chance of failure if you're below the rec level. Very much below and it's sheer luck if you succeed. You wouldn't want to try and mix a level 80 potion if you only were a level 10 potioner, right?
Harvesting actually works similarly, as we're about to see in example.
Inorganic Nexus and Books: As you go up in harvesting, some items such as quartz and ores require knowledge, so you'll need to read a book before harvesting them. As well, some items require inorganic nexus to harvest, up to as many as 6 for things like dung. Check the encyclopedia in-game before deciding to start harvesting something to ensure you have what is needed.
Tools: Some items, particularly minerals and ores, require tools (gloves, pickaxe, saw) to harvest. Again check the encyclopedia to see what's needed. Always carry a couple spares with you as they can break as a major event (per events described below).
* Base times¨
Base time between mixes for mixing skills like alchemy is 1 second. That is, if you hit the mix all but and don't fail or run out of food, you'll mix one per second.
Harvestables also have base times. Whether it's 1 second for very low-level items, or 9 seconds for dung. This means the fastest you can harvest is that base time if you harvest without fail.
Base times aren't given in the encyclopia, and at this point it doesn't seem anyone's taken the time to place them on EL-wiki either. However, the EL-CEL site does have them on the info page for each specific harvestable.
* Example of How Harvesting Success/Fail Works
For this example, assume your harvest level is 34, the rec level of harvesting red currents.
According to the EL-CEL Red Current Page, the base time for currents is 3 seconds. That is, if you successfully harvest each time, you'll get 1 harvest every 3 seconds.
It's the success part that is determined by your harvest level.
First, completely ignore the events for this part, both major and mini. These are irrelevant for this portion.
For these currents, every 3 seconds you'll either succeed or fail at harvesting them. If you succeed, you'll get them. If not, you won't, and have to wait another 3 seconds for the next attempt.
Unlike mixing, you won't stop harvesting on these fails. You just don't get the item/exp, and have to wait until the next base time period to harv again. This generally goes unnoticed since there's no harv stop on failing.
If you're level 34, harving red currents then, just like mixing you have a 50/50 chance of success each base time period of harvesting.
This is how your harvest level determines the speed you harvest. Lower harvest level = more fails = more base time periods to go through to fill your inventory. As your harvest level increases, you "fail" less which means you harvest more quickly. A level 80 harvester will get a full load of red currents much faster than a rec level 34 harvester for this reason. The speed of the harvest never actually changes over levels, just changes in the amount of fails make it seem that way.
This also means that technically, yes, this same level 34 harvester could in fact harvest a piece of level 100 dung. However, the fail rate would be so high that, along with dung's 9 second(!) base time, it could take hours if not days just to get one full load. Thus not recommended. (In fact, touching dung before level 90 or so is a complete waste of time.)
This is how your harvesting level affects your harvesting ability, and why the recommended levels are there. Those tell you when, like mixing, you have about a 50/50 chance of success.
Level 0 items: Like level 0 for other skills (Potion of mana, bones powder), these are no-fail. There's 7 level 0 harvestables, all with 1 second base times, and due to no-fail as well as some giving 2 items per harv, these are all easy to store. Bad for leveling, of course, but easy to stock.
Since "fails" on harvest don't stop your harvesting like fails do when mixing, let's look at what does stop harvesting...
Events were included to reduce the amount of afk-harvesting, and "add a little something" to the harvesting experience as well. They can be both good and bad, like most things in game.
These are the "original" events. These are the ones you see messages for when harvesting near others and they happen to others. Break a pickaxe, finding a stone, hitting a teleport nexus, finding a bag of gold, and so on.
Astrology is a major determining factor in how often you get these. Using a "harvest/degrade indicator", the top "Harvest Events Increase" bar shows how likely you are to get a major event.
Astro of exactly 0 is considered the norm. In the above example, the astro is "in the red", meaning less major events will occur than normal. At an extreme red, you will likely see little to no major events. On the opposite end, you could be getting one as often as every few harvs with a "high green" positive astro.
(Important Note: The second "degrade" bar on the H/D indicator determines break chances of armor/weapons when fighting, and has no effect on harvesting. As such, ignore it for this tutorial. There are some who believe this affects how often your gloves/pickaxes break, but that's not true. Those breaks are determined by random major events, thus they're determined by the top bar and how often you get major events.)
There's not much you can do about major events. To avoid them, try to time your stock-harvesting to times you have red astro per an indicator. Indicators can be purchased from an NPC in Arius, and as well from many bots and players as they are makeable by engineers.
Of course, this also means you're avoiding the chance of getting a good event (like finding a rare stone) as well as bad, so you have to weigh your options and decide what's best for yourself.
Reducing harm from major events: You should be prepared to "not die" from harvesting events. Be able to heal yourself at all times through magic or potions. Armor can help reduce the amount of damage taken from things like cavern walls collapsing and radon pouches, but weigh in that armor also takes some of your emu so you'll not be able to harvest as much in one load.
Minor events, called "mini events", were added later to the game. These are small events that cause harvesting to stop. Only you see the message for these, noone around you sees them. These are the ones like:
- You hurt yourself, and lost 1 HP.
- You gained 10 extra harvesting exp.
- You found 6 coins. (Not a bag of coins, which is a major event)
Unlike major events, mini events are not affected by astro. You have a steady chance of getting one of these regardless of if your astro is red or green. You stop harvesting on each of these.
With a Harvester Medallion, you can avoid stopping when you get these, and as well you'll get more coins and experience on each. More on this below.
There are three special days that can randomly occur (or someone who has a stone can start) that affect harvesting.
Green Day - This is the bad one. Absolutely no harvesting can be done during this day. It doesn't happen often, but does happen. Always be prepared to do something else in case it comes up.
Non-Stop Day - The text that shows in-game with this one isn't precise. What actually happens on this day is that there are no mini events at all, so less stops while harvest. Major events do not change. (You are recommended to not use a harvester medallion on this day, since its primary benefit is not stopping with mini events.)
Day of Aleksei Stakhanov - On this day, you get three times the harvest experience that you would normally get. This is a day you should particularly sit at something where you'll get the best experience possible. All harv exp, including dailies and other quests, as well as mini events and queen blessings, is tripled as well.
This medallion is used during harvesting to get some benefits. Due to its cost, normally around 7.4-7.5kgc, it's up to you to determine if it's worth it. Some never use one. Others like myself rarely harvest without one.
- You don't stop harvesting on mini events. This means a lot less harvest stops in general. If you have red astro, you can likely get repeated full loads without any stop. (This does not affect major events. Only astro affects how often you get those, and you will still stop on a major event.)
- You get double the experience and coins from mini events.
- Bags of coins major events are increased, 15 times what would normally be received.
- Queen of Nature blessings are 12 times what they would normally be.
- Chance of a major event breaking your tool is halved.
- (who cares...) You won't pull a rat out of the dung while harvesting that.
Drawback: Medallions are fragile. On a major event (which by the way, also includes one where nothing happens, you just "stopped harvesting"), there is a chance mother nature will break your medallion.
On red astro with few major events, if you only harvest during those times, a medallion could last you months. On heavy major events, you can break several in one day.
So as said, it's up to you to decide if it's worth the gc to use them, and how you will use them.
Personal opinion: Very beneficial to use during red astro when you need to get a lot of stock of something. You can go for hours with no major events, the medallion prevents you from stopping on mini events, so harvesting is essentially non-stop until you get a full load.
Global Quest Rewards
When global (community) quests are completed, a long period ensues where a special benefit is given. There are two benefits that can come up that will aid in harvesting or leveling harvesting.
1- Fewer harvesting mini events - Less stops while harvesting.
2- Daily quests can be done every 3 game days instead of 4 (every 18 real-life hours instead of 24) - This will allow you to do both of the harvesting dailies more often, helping with leveling.
Harvesting Perks and Capes
There are three perks that affect harvesting in some way.
Harvester of Sorrow - This is a negative perk. The usual teleport nexus major events will send you to Nordcarn PK Arena where you can be PKed, away from whatever map you are harvesting on (even on the second continent). It is highly recommended that you not take this perk if you plan to be a heavy harvester or mixer. It's only the "pure fighters" that take this perk for the pickpoints it gives.
Excavator Perk - This perk allows you to harvest two of an item instead of one with each harvest. It has no effect on high-level ores and such that require you to have swords or matter conglomerates, but works on everything else.
The general consensus on this perk is to not waste your pickpoints on it, as they are too valuable. Instead, wear the Excavator Cape (brown cape) while harvesting as it gives you the same benefit.
Note: The number of items you harvest is twice the number of harvests when using this perk/cape. So for things like Xaquelina dailies that tell you to, say, harvest 100 of an item, you'll actually have to collect 200 of them to finish the daily. You're getting 200, but only doing 100 successful harvests in doing so. Quests generally count the number of harvests you do, not the number of the item you collect.
Dedicated Harvester Perk - A newer perk, considered "neutral" as whether it is beneficial or detrimental is determined more by your playing style. As well, it requires no pickpoints, just some gc to get it.
With this perk, you'll get experience for the first 140 harvests every hour instead of the usual 120. Thus more experience per hour, every hour, for the rest of your game days.
However, it also comes with increased mini events. As well, the global quest bonus of "fewer mini events" will not work for you.
(Personal opinion: Don't get Dedicated Harvester unless you regularly use harvester medallions, as it could get annoying with more stops during harvesting, and there's as of this writing no way to remove the perk. With medallion, this means more experience/coins as well from the increased mini events.)
How to Level Harvesting Skill
Harvesting is an odd skill to level compared to normal mix and fight skills.
Only the first 120 harvests of a game hour give experience
This being the big oddity. Unlike other skills, this limit is in place for harvesting. (Note: 140 harvests instead of 120 with the Dedicated Harvester perk mentioned above.)
Because of it, if you're wanting to level harvesting as quickly as possible, you need to learn ways to get the biggest experience for your allotted harvests.
Here are some tips:
1- You must be online when the game hour changes for your harvest exp to reset. If you're not, you have to wait for the next game hour to get experience.
2- Find the highest level harvestable you can for experience harvests. You can use things that have a rec level above your actual level for this.
3- Don't go too high above your rec level. Remember that the lower you are below the rec level, the longer it will take to harvest. If you go for something too far above your level, you may not even get the full 120/140 harvests done in an hour. That means you'd be better off doing something lower level and getting the full number of harvests. Trial and error will help you determine this for your level. Also keep in mind how much time you want to waste just getting harv experience.
Personal opinion: Try something maybe 10 rec levels above your current level, see how long it takes you to get a full 120/140 harvs, and move up/down based on that.
4- Are you harving something useful? While you may harv something that's nice experience, is it something you think you'll be able to use later? Or if not, is it something that is easily sellable? You'll level harvesting a lot faster than you expect, so there's no point in wasting that time on something that's useless just for a few extra points.
5- Always do the harvest dailies - Both Xaquelina (who the newbie tutorial shows you) and the dung daily. Even if you can't harvest dung, you can still buy it from others or bots and get experience, and it's not that expensive.
6- Take advantage of the triple harvest special day - This is like three days worth of harvest experience in one day. This would be the time to put serious focus on harv experience, getting the absolute best exp possible regardless of what you have to harv to do it. Queen of Nature blessings, bonus experience from mini events while wearing a harv medallion, and so on are all triple as well. Definitely do your harvest dailies on this special day.
7- Once you get to higher levels and can afford the regular breakages, the harv medallion can heavily add to your daily experience intake. Especially combined with Dedicated Harvester perk. DO NOT, however, take this perk or use medallions until you're certain you can live with the breakages and the extra mini events.
Leveling harvesting may feel incredibly slow, but if done right you'll be at a point where extra levels don't mean much to your game play in no time. You don't need to be a "top harvester" unless you want to be. 20 or so levels above the highest item you regularly harvest, and you're pretty much set for the rest of your game life. Any further levels from that, which you'll still get, will help slightly with harv speed, but not enough to be concerned about. Just like mixing, there's no special level you can get to that's no-fail, but at a certain point the fails just don't mean much.
Basically put, don't stress harvesting, unless your plan is to be a full-time harvester. You'll get to a good point sooner than you think!