I've tried to stay quiet on this subject and let people make up their own minds. But I've decided that one post by me amounts to a drop of water in an ocean, and that everyone who cares already knows about it. So here are my thoughts:
I think the OP's quote is a good way to rationalize the existence of surplus. I don't think it's entirely analogous, but if that's how you want to look at it, great.
In my opinion, it's not just the implementation that is wrong. It's the mindset of the developers that, rather than rewarding wanted behavior, they think of it as punishing unwanted behavior. (Ok, that's not entirely true. I do have one problem with the implementation: if Square is going to place such limits on XP, there should be some sort of indicator (just a gauge that fills up when you've reached surplus would be fine.) If players' XP is being affected by a core gameplay mechanic, the devs should at least let the players know when it is affecting them.)
My problem with the system from the beginning has not been "how much will this affect me as compared to a different MMO?" It won't. I have other things going on in my life and I don't plan on playing the game enough that the system will affect me in the least. My problem with the system is an ideological one. I disagree with Square's limiting of players who want to play the game differently than they'd anticipated.
If SE had decided that they'd encourage players to switch jobs by providing bonus XP for the first 8 hours' worth of XP, and the normal XP amounts were small and made it a real grind to get to the next level, I'd probably be ok with that. The end result would be approximately the same. People would see that there is an advantage to switching jobs and taking time off, and most players would do so. The developers obviously aren't thinking of it that way, though. They've never once said "think of it as bonus XP for the first 8 hours," which they easily could have said, but instead have presented it as a punishment for playing differently from their expectations.
This type of logic is seen not only in the surplus system, but in the guildleve system cooldown, in the lack of an auction house, and in the lack of MP regen while in passive mode. Each of these systems has been implemented to limit the players into playing the way the developers want. I'd like to see the devs make a real effort to reward the behavior they want to see, rather than forcing the behavior on people using limiting game mechanics. It's all in the mindset.
Edited, Aug 29th 2010 2:28pm by khorbin