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I'm looking for relative values here. For example, if it takes a person about 40 hours to complete only the story for the average Final Fantasy, then how long, in comparison, would the Final Fantasy XI story take?

In other words, how much longer is the FF-XI storyline completion compared to Final Fantasy storylines?

This does not include expansion packs or downloadable content.

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Does FFXI even have an over-arching narrative that you can work through? I was under the impression it was much more open ended than that. Similarly, knowing the MMO structure, I'd wager the 'time-to-complete' if such a narrative exists will vary wildly based on group size and composition - and it will almost certainly require a group to see it all. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 21 '10 at 14:42
    
The answer to this question will vary a lot depending on what the starting conditions are. Do you already have a high-level character? Are you starting from scratch and leveling up? Do you have other high-level friends to help you out? –  Brant Oct 21 '10 at 14:42
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@Less: There are several long series of quests that most players consider FFXI's main story, in addition to all the usual open-ended MMO stuff. (wiki.ffxiclopedia.org/wiki/Category:Missions) –  Brant Oct 21 '10 at 14:44
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The answer is it depends. If you have max-leveled well-geared friends to power level and run you through all the missions then I'd say it could probably be done in about 100-200 hours if everyone knows exactly what to do. I don't believe there's level requirements for the missions (Need to get at least level 20 to do the chocobo quest unless everyone's willing to keep you alive while you walk the whole way)

Also note that I'm taking a very conservative definition of "main story" to mean finishing your nation's mission chain, which only accounts for really about 5-10% of the story if we take not including expansions literally. With the expansions you're now talking about maybe 3-5% of the game's story. If that was all you did you would be missing out on tons of stuff.

Realistically speaking unless you have some really dedicated friends this is all theoretical because it's really hard to get a group of people together to run some low level person through the game.

Doing it normally with just people in your level range, I would expect no less than 1000 hours.

Additionally it's not really realistic to say not including expansions because I don't think you can even purchase a copy without them. Last I checked (quit the game about 2 years ago) every time they release a new expansion they bundle up all the previous expansions together and sell it for the price of the original game.

I played for 5+ years with close to 1 year of gametime and I still never finished all the main nation missions because finding people with time to help with old content is somewhat difficult. For the later missions you'd probably want to allocate at least a 3-5 hour block per mission where everyone's ready to go. Literally estimating time to do something in FF11 is like estimating software development. Take your best guess, and double it.

Some things might be easier now than when I played though, and with the new level caps you might only need 2-3 max level friends with a lot of free time instead of 5+ but overall, it's not really a question that has a direct answer.

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"finding people with time to help with old content is somewhat difficult." which is just sad. –  alexanderpas Oct 22 '10 at 0:10
    
Well, do understand that each "thing" you do is going to take up a good 2-5 hours of someone's time. Finding 3-10 people to help 1 person with something often times isn't very reasonable. Generally at least with the people I played with it we did it in batches where we have 6 people that need this thing, let's spend a good 5-8 hour block and finish it for them all, rather than spending 1-5 hours to help 1 person individually. There's only so many hours in a day. –  Davy8 Oct 22 '10 at 2:29
    
That was @alexanderpas –  Davy8 Oct 22 '10 at 2:30
    
Also with the nation missions, past Mission 6, half of the segments require people who are either at the same point you are or beyond. Additionally each nation has their own mission line, so that narrows down the people who can potentially help even if they wanted to by 1/3. Then since we were a casual linkshell, about half the people weren't even high enough level to help even if they wanted to. So of your social circle, only about 1/6th of them are even qualified to help. That and timezone differences with international players. –  Davy8 Oct 22 '10 at 2:33
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