I keep a blog at GS and today's entry touched on this game, so I thought I'd share it with you all.
The MMORPG, genre of the addicted and compulsive, never really appealed to me, largely because it seemed like a bunch of generic fantasy-types running around levelling up endlessly, for God knows what reason. But then Square had to come along and inject their Final Fantasy series with the online virus, and although I'm not generally a completist, there are a few things that I must have EVERYTHING of... and Final Fantasy games are one of those things (though you won't find me ponying up the dough for the GBA FF Origins... I'll play the one that won't ever havea dead save battery, thanks).
After successfully changing jobs this summer, I decided to follow a good friend of mine and try out FFXI. It would be my first MMORPG, and I was both excited and a little scared I'd blow a lot of cash.
So I prepared. I picked up Logitech's superb NetPlay controller, which has Dual Shock configurations at each end and a roughly laptop-sized keyboard across the middle of the large controller, the strategy guide for the game, since I'd never played a game remotely like this before (2 hours of .hack was it), Sony's Network Adapter, and an extra $5 fee to my cable provider, since I don't use a router, and I can't trick the provider the way I can with my Xbox *ahem*.
So after a few weeks of studying the guide (which I now realize is not a very good guide at all, but as a beginner, it is a fair help), I installed the game over a period of many, many, many, many hours, even with broadband. And once I got on, it was easily the most intimidating game I had ever played.
It's like driving shift without knowing what a car is. You realize that everything has a turn, kind of, and there's a delay for action, and overall it plays like a menu-driven action/rpg... but the persistent online world is totally different. Player-driven economies, several jobs to level, quests and missions that can be picked up at whim or left by the wayside whenever one chooses, and literally thousands of people. It's a total overload.
But I played the game pretty often, usually two to six hours a day, and began to gain an understanding of the game, and my role within it (first and foremost, I'm a Red Mage, and I love it). I also took my girlfriend and got HER hooked (she's a Bard and White Mage, and she's darn good at it), and now we've got a house with her, me, three cats, and a video game that literally sees play EVERY SINGLE DAY.
What's interesting, to me, is that it's not so much the monetary cost that makes FFXI and games ofits ilk so pricey. To be honest, dollar for hour, it's the cheapest game I've ever bought, and that includes all of the peripherals and the $90 game with HDD itself.
It takes TIME, and when I say TIME, I mean TIME. Now, my girlfriend and I are actually light players, logging 3-5 hours a day. That's right; we're CASUAL, or LIGHT, players. Some people seem to play 8-10 hours a day MINIMUM, whereas with us, that's a once in a while thing (or for my girlfriend, days off, but taht'sa nother topic for another day).
I have logged over 500 hours in this game over the past four months.
Think about that. 500 HOURS. And it's a mixed blessing.
On one hand, I am currently spending less money on frivolous crap than ever. I limited myself to four games this fall, and so far, I'm sticking to it. I bought Fable and SH: Covenant, and will get Ace Combat 5 and Halo 2. That's it. And when I look at my backlog, with games I haven't even STARTED yet, and when I look at the time I've put into the games I've picked up this fall already, I know ti's good that I have limits, because I just don't have the time to get more games anbd actually put them through the paces. And so I don't get more games. It's actually very good for me, financially, even with the monthly charges and large initial investment of funds.
And because my girlfriend and I both play, we don't play too much. She gets home from work and hops online to play. About four hours later I get home from work, we hang out and talk and have dinner, maybe watch some TV, and then she goes to bed and I go play the game. It's a nice balance, really.
So it's odd, really, that a game like this has helped me achieve better financial control, to value the time I spend with my girlfriend (because I don't just want to work all day, come home and play all night), and also get to play a game that's a whole lot of fun. It demands a lot of time and quite an investment towards the whole process, but that's the price it asks. And for some people, a game like this is destructive, and some people are unable to control themselve, which is unfortunate. But for me, it's been a positive experience.