Oh please. One man's thrill in this case is one hundred people's dismay.
I doubt it's as skewed as that, but it doesn't matter even if it was. The fact that there were five people at some of those camps 24/7 for years on end shows that at least that many people thought camping was a more appealing way to earn gil than the alternatives.
If you did enough camping to develop such a dislike for it, I can't believe that you didn't get a taste of the thrill that went with it, too. Seeing the Valkurm Emperor pop on wide scan and rushing towards it, knowing that everyone else in the area is doing the same got your heart pumping like few things could. Getting the claim was exhilarating, and actually getting the drop gave a high that lasted all day. Even if you never got it, it was the lottery of FFXI. There was always the possibility out there that you could get lucky and strike it rich. It gave people something to dream about.
Instanced battles just can't replicate that. Not the full experience, anyway. They've still got the challenge of the fight and the random drops (unless you're arguing for 100% drop rates on everything, in which case you're nuts
We both recognize that valuable items should be harder to get, but where we disagree is with the methods and intensity. I think certain items should represent a milestone in a player's improvement and skill, and not their willingness to camp or farm for exorbitant lengths of time. Make a mob that's incredibly difficult, by all means, but make access to the fight relatively easy. Makes battles challenging, not getting to battles.
I think they're both important. Patience and dedication are virtues just as much as skill is. There's nothing wrong with rewarding both, and again, by offering rewards for both you include and appeal to a larger and more diverse group of players. In the real world -- in sports and business, for instance -- skill and commitment usually go hand-in-hand.
But in any case, there are plenty of problems with emphasizing skill over dedication in an MMORPG.
-By their nature, the games are about character growth over time, i.e. long-term dedication to a goal. It's at the core of every aspect of gameplay. If it were only about skill it would be an online FPS or action game... and even those have started to realize that players find RPG elements more rewarding in the long run. Stuff like Call of Duty 4, Team Fortress 2, and Metal Gear Online all require large inputs of time to unlock new skills and equipment. Skill helps to speed that process along, of course, but it's not the only requirement. Proving your skill in one match doesn't unlock all the best content. That would get old in about two hours.
-In FFXI and lots of other MMORPGs, it's a stretch to call what we do "skill." There's a lot of knowledge involved, some mastery of the controls, and a bit of timing, but more than that there's a **** of a lot of common sense and luck. Your ability is mostly a function of your character's skills, which again are a function of your time input.
-Even if FFXIV does emphasize skill and strategy more, the fundamental problem with these attributes is that they can be instantly duplicated. If somebody with sufficient skill can win an unrestricted fight once and get the reward, he can do it many times. So can everyone else with similar skill, and the reward quickly becomes worthless. That's why hard restrictions on the rewards are essential, whether that's done through spawn rates, drop rates, seal collection, or just cooldown times.
The ride is not a bonus to waiting in line... it's the reason people get in line in the first place. How do you think most people would feel if they waited in line and finally were told that they couldn't ride the rollercoaster? Do you think they'd say, "Well that's ok, just waiting in line was a thrill of its own!"
Indeed, the ride is the reward for waiting in line (and paying the gate fee, obviously). But that's a different case, with temporary, intangible, guaranteed
rewards and no competition. If people had to race to the coaster to gain access, and one of the cars randomly had a box in it, and there was some chance of that box having a large sum of money in it... you bet they would think the lineup was a thrill. People would come from around the world.
We have those attractions in the real world, in fact, but we don't call them amusement parks. We call them casinos.