Oh, those summer vacation days in our cottage in the mountains, where the only access to the outer world we had was a radio which barely could receive the late night weather report. Telephone and TV was out of my reach for weeks and no one had yet any personal computer at home. So much time! So little to do.
On rainy days I could easily read two novels a day. Asimov. Clarke. Bradbury. Lewis. Heinlein. LeGuin. Tolkien, of course. Sometimes I cried when I finished them because I didn't want them to end. My solution was to immediately start them over again, reading them a second time. It wasn't as good as the first time, because of the diminishing returns effect. But it was good enough for me to enjoy them.
Did I ever think that there was a problem with that I got so immersed into those books? Did I ever wish that my parents had put some kind of control over my reading, forcing me not to read more than at most an hour a day, to let the books last longer? Of course I didn't! And I don't think anyone else did either. We all knew that there was a natural limit to this excessive reading. Soon enough I would be back to school and I couldn't spend entire days in my bed just reading. (Only the nights, since my parents had a stay-up-as-long-as-you-like-as-long-as-you're-reading-policy, but that's another story.)
I come to think of this as I read last week about the player restrictions that are planned for Final Fantasy XIV. You won't be able to get full XP for your character more than 8 hours a week. If you still want to play after that, you're better off playing something else.
Some bloggers were critical, but quite a few seemed to think it was pretty much OK. It will even out the conditions that different players have, making it easier for players with a casual schedule to keep up with players who have a lot of time at hands. And it might also, according to some, help to prevent unhealthy addiction, which ever so often is brought up as an argument against gaming.
I'm not planning to play FF for my own part, but I'm definitely not a fan of this kind of constructions, where you're imposing versions parental controls on the players, using the carrot and the stick to direct them towards a certain pattern of how they spend their game time.
WoW has a way softer approach to this with the XP system, offering extra bonuses instead of putting up a limit like FF. But the game isn't free from parental controls. There are ways which will steer players into the assumption WoW should be played in small, regular chunks and nothing else. Log in every day. Spread the time, don't let it stack up on one day. Because such behavior will be punished! It will cost you frost badges and it will make some of the seasonal achievements impossible to complete.
A question of fairness?
You could ask why they're doing is. Fairness has been mentioned. I don't know. Is it fair that someone who can't spend a single hour on WoW during the week but can play all day long on Saturday, only will be able to grab two frost emblems that week, regardless of how many 5-mans he runs that day? Is it fair that players who are on a job schedule where they work intensively for three weeks but have one week off the fourth week, only can play those 8 hours on their favorite character in FF?
I remember that Gnomeaggedon, who was one of those who suffered badly from this, only playing WoW for one or two nights a week, campaigned about this in the past, demanding a more flexible system that would acknowledge that players will locate their gaming hours differently depending on their life situation. Some play rarely, but a lot once they're online. Other play in small chunks regularly. There's no reason why one should be punished over the other.
Actually it seems as if Blizzard has listened to Gnome. When they announced the new point system in Cataclysm that will replace the badges of today, they said that they'll change it. There will be a cap on how quick you can earn them, but the limit will be set per week instead of per day. A big improvement if you ask me! It won't increase the rate at which the players consume the game in the aspect that they're gearing up their toons. But it will add more freedom, which is about time.
In a world where more and more jobs are done on a flexible schedule, where you work more or less hours depending on the current situation, it seems out-of-date to clinge to a strict only-once-a-day-system. They've even found ways to soften the once-a-week lockouts from raid intances. It's a natural development.
Why they're doing it
Back to Final Fantasy. Tobold was a on the fence in his post, waiting to give his judgement on the design of the XP system until he's seen it in action.
I will take sides though. I just don't like it when you build in parental controls to a game that is intended for an adult audience. We should be able to decide for ourselves how much time we want to dedicate to a game and where in the week we want to put it.
I devoured books as I grew up and I don't believe it made me any harm, as I don't think anyone will be hurt from spending a rainy weekend day devouring a video game. If someone has an unhealthy addiction they'll find a way to work around it anyway, raiding an army of alts. Artificial limits won't help.
So what is the real reason for game companies to maintain this kind of constructions? For a subscribed MMO there's no doubt about it. It's about money. Subscription fees. If players can't maximize their character in XP and gear from dailies, it means that they'll have a reason to play the game a little longer. They can sell you another subscription month.
There are reasons to introduce patronizing limits. But I suspect that it's more motivated by profit than by concern about the players.