This has probably already been posted so I am sorry if this is just a repeat.
When I look at FFXI I often find myself confused as to why I played as long as I did. The game is nearly a constant grind, money is hard to get, and so is a lot of good gear. When you take a step back, the leveling is slow, the combat is really slow, the game itself is slow. The thing is, none of this really bothered me. It may have been because FFXI was my first MMO, but I didn't want to stop playing until I eventually hit endgame drama/bullsh*t.
I think I have some small idea why. Gambling is known to be addictive. At first glance the game doesn't seem to be all that chance oriented, but if you really look it, the entire game is a lottery. While all MMOs are, I feel FFXI has some of the highest levels of this gambling aspect.
The reason why this is so true is because of the pacing of the game.
In WoW you're character throws attacks quickly, so much so that misses don't mean all that much. Think back to the beginning levels of FFXI. Skill ups start quickly as they should, but then they become hard to get nearly just as fast. When you get skill ups after that initial surge they mean a lot. If you are the kind of gamer I am, you look for them. Seeing a .1 is nice, but seeing that .3-.5 makes you feel great. Because of the slow pacing, all the accomplishments made are amplified.
Building TP for a weaponskill is another example.
The biggest thing that kept me playing was NMs. This may be the best concept in a game ever (from a time sink point of view). It also happens to be psychological warfare (Argus anyone?). Casinos use a similar concept. For example, you have a row of slot machines. All the machines are hooked up to a computer. The computer only allows for, say, a 3% chance at payouts. People play all day thinking they are getting closer and closer to hitting a jackpot. Their chances never change. The same is true of drop rates from NMS in FFXI. Most of the time the drops rates aren’t as low as 3%, but the concept remains the same. You are playing slots. My heart was racing every time I was killing an NM.
Here is where it gets warfare-ish.
Instead of being like a true slot machine that you can walk up to and put time (and money) into, you have no guarantee that you will even see the slot machine (BCNMs are the exception). In fact, there are a few other people in the room that also want to use this machine. It also happens that the slot machine can appear anywhere in the room at any time. Only one person gets to use it when it does appear.
You roll on low odds twice.
%chance to claim NM
%chance to get drop
This is genius from a developer's point of view. The 'payout' for the person camping the NM gets more and more desired after every failed attempt. When you finally succeed, there is an asplotion of feel good juice all over your brain. Not to mention the feeling of accomplishment. "I beat all those people, I worked hard to get this, I'm gonna be rich, omfg my E-peen grew a few inches".
If SE did this on purpose, they have people with psychology degrees walking around their office torturing little children and recording their reactions for use in their MMO time sink techniques. They may also happen to have pointed hats and the ability to cast Fire II.
Overall, I just feel like I was playing so long because every little thing I did meant something in a brain chemistry kind of way. Not that I didn’t have fun doing it though.
Will we see similar tactics make a return in FFXIV? Will they be the same and just less time consuming? Is SE finally sick of torturing little children?
Edit: Made more FFXIV related :)
Edited, Oct 2nd 2009 12:29pm by ELodius