I Put 100+ Hours Into A Gacha Game That Is Dead Forever And I Feel So Empty Inside....

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Edited By ZombiePie  Staff

Oh, How It Sucks To Be A Mobius Final Fantasy Player

Whelp... it was fun while it lasted.
Whelp... it was fun while it lasted.

It's not every day I get a notification from Steam saying a game I downloaded will no longer be usable. Unfortunately, that's where I am with Mobius Final Fantasy, a game that absorbed over 100 hours of my life. Before you ask, I'm not ashamed of this fact; nor am I especially proud of it. It happened, and it cannot unhappen. Now, I want to make something crystal clear from the get-go: I never spent any money on Mobius. I played a more than "average" amount of the game, but never felt compelled to shell out money to make my experience "better." In fact, Mobius went to great lengths to make almost all of its content "doable" even to those who didn't invest $100 into it every day. Fun fact, the Aerith card in Mobius was the best one in the game, and I got in a random blind pack!

But, I can only assume many of you are wondering what caused me to get so invested in an objective bad gacha game. For a mobile game, Mobius Final Fantasy had astounding production values. The CG cutscenes were a marvel, and the attention to detail on the character models and costumes was charming. The problem was the game required endless amounts of grinding, much like every game of its ilk, to experience its emotional highs. Story cutscenes were hidden beneath grind loops and aimless fetch quests because, for lack of a better word, Mobius was a mobile-ass mobile game. As to be expected, it also had game-breaking character classes and magical spells hidden behind a paywall. However, for the laypeople, Mobius is known for one of two things. The first was when the game's protagonists' default costume was changed when the internet pointed out the sides of his buttocks were visible. The second, and more dubious, is how Mobius completely ret-conned the ending of Final Fantasy X. I'm not joking about the latter of these two points, and if you do not believe me, I wrote a blog about it you should consider checking out.

To say I
To say I "got in deep" in Mobius is an understatement.

That said, Mobius was an interesting experiment to watch. From the onset, it was a typical mobile card game whose only selling point was its excellent production values. However, as time went on, Square-Enix smoothed out the game's kinks and began billing it as an "anti-mobile game," wherein every player would be able to finish its story regardless of the amount of money they invested. Yes, there was a lot of grinding to be had if you didn't shell out cash, but the non-story questlines were an assortment of temporary special events that put you up against anything from PuPu the alien to a cowboy-hat-wearing Moogle. These side quests were as exciting and compelling as the main story, which, if we are being honest, was an over-complicated fever dream I'm not going to bother close reading. I say this to suggest Square-Enix invested a lot of money into Mobius, and I'm not surprised they looked at the game's stagnating user-base and said "no más."

What Was Mobius Final Fantasy And What Happened?

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Mobius Final Fantasy was a "complex" video game, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. On its surface, it was a card-based F2P game, much like Grandblue Fantasy. However, Mobius tried to blend crafting mechanics, PvP multiplayer, and a high-budgeted Final Fantasy story into a single gacha game. Indeed, the game had every hallmark of a free-to-play mobile game. There were dozens of different currencies, and if you shelled out money, the story would progress at a faster clip. But as any Mobius player will tell you, the game got better about its F2P trappings throughout its lifespan. The crafting system got more user-friendly, and the later portions of the story got nerfed to make it more accessible to newcomers. Also, the crossover events were goddamn ridiculous, but in the best way possible. On several occasions, Square-Enix brought back the original voice actors for Lighting, Tidus, and Noctus to provide exciting temporary events that were downright fun to watch.

In terms of what "killed" the game, there are several suspects. First and foremost, the game always existed under the shadow of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and Final Fantasy: Record Keeper. Both of those games supported online communities more than four times the size of Mobius. Second, the ambition that drove many to follow Mobius proved to be its undoing. While its fully voice-acted CG cutscenes were a delight to watch, they likely exceeded the production budgets of every other mobile game under Square-Enix's ward. It is safe to assume that Square-Enix saw how much effort they were putting into Mobius, cut their losses, and put that effort into cheaper but still profitable mobile endeavors. In Brave Exvius's case, it received a spin-off that emulated the spirit of Final Fantasy Tactics!

Likewise, the market Mobius occupied when it first launched, versus when it was shit-canned, was night and day. In 2015, there was a novelty to watching high-budgeted cutscenes with voice acting on your smartphone. Sure, the mechanics were not great, but there weren't a lot of games in the market with cinematic cutscenes that rivaled Mobius's. Unfortunately, that changed within four to five years. It is also worth noting that Square-Enix has been belting out mobile games like crazy since the release of Mobius. The unfortunate result of Square's revolving door of supported mobile games was that it divided Mobius's potential player-base even further. As it stands right now, there are two mobile "companions" for Final Fantasy XV and two Brave Exvius games! So, anyone wanting a mobile Final Fantasy experience has a lot of choices, and regrettably, for Mobius, most consumers went with those games instead of it.

What Does The Future Hold?

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I always like to have a bit of fun regarding "fan theories" on my blogs, and shortly we will look at three and assess their chances of becoming a reality. If you ask for my thoughts about what happens next, my hunch is Mobius is dead forever, and any hopes of a comeback are for naught. Nonetheless, let's address some of the most popular fan theories related to Mobius's future! First, a handful of Mobius players are hoping this cancellation notice is a smokescreen for Mobius's long-awaited third season. For those unaware, throughout Mobius' five-year lifespan, it had two "seasons" of story-based content. During the promotion of season two, Square-Enix hinted at more substantial gameplay changes to Mobius that never fully transpired. Optimistic fans hope that these changes require Square-Enix to start a new Mobius game that cannot exist within the architecture of the current game. As I have suggested earlier, the idea Square-Enix is willing to sink in more money to "save" Mobius, when cheaper and more viable alternatives are present, makes this a pipe dream at best.

The second hope a lot of players have suggested is Square-Enix releasing a version of Mobius with a single price tag and its story-based missions intact. Again, I think this is a dubious expectation for a variety of reasons, the first being there's no precedent for this happening. Mobile games come and go by the bucketload, and you rarely see defunct mobile games get a second life. For fuck's sake, Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII had a dedicated fanbase even outside of Japan that has repeatedly requested a remaster for over two years! Regardless, Square-Enix has done nothing to make that game accessible on modern technology since shutting it down. If a game that informed the canon of one of Square's biggest hits doesn't get a remaster, then there's little hope things will transpire differently for Mobius.

The third and final fan theory is that Mobius gets a community-run "legacy server." Now, this hope is problematic for several reasons, the least of which is it would require Square-Enix's blessing. Additionally, a legacy server would require Square-Enix to hand over Mobius's source code to a community member, and that's not something I think they will ever do. They didn't hand over the source code to Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII despite that game's fanbase sending petitions with millions of signatures to Square's HQ. If you were wondering, there's a fan attempt to create a shot-for-shot remake of Before Crisis using RPGMaker, but it has progressed at a snail's pace, and at any point, Square could DMCA the project. Like I said earlier, the prospects look grim for everyone who put in time and money into Mobius, which leads us to my final point order:

What Does This Say About Mobile Game Preservation?

Also, I wasn't kidding about a team of fans trying to recreate Before Crisis using RPGMaker.
Also, I wasn't kidding about a team of fans trying to recreate Before Crisis using RPGMaker.

We now arrive at the real reason I wrote this blog: the bleak outlook of mobile game preservation. To those of you who continue to maintain that mobile games are "not true games," and the people who play them aren't "genuine" gamers, this blog's exit is to your right. Games have evolved significantly in the past two generations, and I can safely dismiss such a perspective as being ten years out of date. No matter, let's discuss the state of mobile game emulation. To clarify, I'm not discussing running an emulator on your Android or iPhone, because that's a topic I'm not touching with a sixty-foot pole. What I am talking about is the Herculean effort it takes to play mobile games after they have been discontinued, or their underlying mobile OS has been retired. Have you ever tried playing the old Nokia Symbian-based mobile games from your childhood? Trust me; it's not a fun experience!

The term "lost media" gets thrown around a lot when it comes to video games, and rightfully so. Whether it be a game removed from Steam due to an expired music license or an attempt by a developer to retcon an ending (i.e., Mass Effect 3), video games become "lost" far more often than we think. In the sphere of mobile and browser games, it is an almost daily occurrence. I understand it is incredibly difficult to be sympathetic towards the deluge of cheap-knockoffs or exploitative F2P nonsense that litters every mobile marketplace. However, since the dawn of mobile games, the ability to emulate these games has not dramatically improved. Check any emulation suite, and you'll find most mobile cores to be in a state of constant disarray.

Part of the issue here is that the "mobile" platform spans over a dozen different operating systems, each with their own quirks and limitations. Worse, as time goes by, it becomes harder, not easier, to emulate or preserve mobile games. This issue means that even quality mobile games like Doom RPG are virtually impossible to play on modern technology. For Mobius, what this translates to is that its community has a limited amount of time to preserve the game's five-year-long story arc. Without Square-Enix's support, it is likely the game will be lost to time forever. And unfortunately, I'm going to side with the pessimists that this the end of the line. Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't say I like this scenario. The idea that I will never be able to re-live my memories with a game that absorbed over 100 hours of life is a colossal bummer. At best, I can only hope to see Mobius' protagonist milling about in Final Fantasy XIV, but that is a story for another day.

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someoneproud

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Sounds like they really gacha good... I feel dirty... I'll see myself out.

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#2  Edited By eccentrix

Always a shame.

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Super interesting read. It’s a huge bummer

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Yeah it's a bummer when this stuff inevitably happens. I think part of it is just as longtime game players you kind of get used to the magic of digging up that old save or booting something up again as a way to either see or even remember the progress. Gacha games and games as a service model pretty much feels designed to just end at some point and consider the hundreds of hours many have put into them it can feel like such a huge bummer when things turn and they just did forever.

As a fellow gacha player, having put countless hours into Marvel Strike Force, literally been playing since the alpha, I know that reckoning could come as well. Anyway this was a very good read as often your blog posts are.

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Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

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Humanity

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Better late than never I suppose!

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After Marvel Heroes and Star Ocean Anamnesis went under, it's kind of broken my ability to get invested in f2p games, particularly mobile gacha games. It's one thing when a game that I used to play years ago goes under, but when it's one I'm still actively playing everyday... that's rough.

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This is the wrong takeaway of course, but this makes me actually regret not playing it

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thatpinguino

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#10 thatpinguino  Staff

That game sure was weird. What a high concept slot machine.

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bigsocrates

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Why do you feel empty though? You still had those experiences and that fun?

People want to have games in their "collection" and I understand the impulse (I have it too) but how often do you actually pull out a given game and replay it? How many games do you have that are on hardware you no longer own a working piece of or that you'll just never play again for whatever reason? Surely this isn't the first online-based game you've played where the servers went down or changes to the game made it unrecognizable.

Some games you can keep forever and revisit from time to time if you want (though there isn't enough time to do that with too many of them) and some games are just temporary experiences that you have and move on from. Yes you "invested" your time, but you got what sounds like a fun experience and good story for free. That shouldn't leave you feeling empty.

Mobile game preservation is another issue and a mess. All online game preservation is a mess. Destiny 1 and The Division will go down some day and become unplayable. World of Warcraft, one of the biggest games ever, has had preservation issues around its initial content. There are plenty of MMOs and even just online PC or console games that are totally unplayable at this point.

As long as games are a commercial medium and the companies who own them don't actually care about them this will continue to be the case. Square obviously should develop some kind of offline version of Mobius but it won't. It doesn't even have ways to play many of its classic games on currently available hardware, let alone an online spin off that never achieved mass popularity.

It's sucky that gaming isn't a hobby like books where most stuff gets archived well, but it's not alone in that.

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Awh! Thats a bummer I would install Mobius about once every 6 months and play it for a week or so.

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I've been playing FF Record Keeper, daily, since shortly after it came out. I wonder how much time I have left?

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#14  Edited By Onemanarmyy

I played a month or two of Record Keeper. I eventually realized sudoku's & picrosses are the exact thing i want to have access to on a phone, and i don't need to do all these games with timers and currencies. Especially the timer-games really attack my 'things need to be efficient' brain and i found myself staying up an extra hour or 2 so i could be as efficient as possible and hit the button as soon as i could. Not having to have gametimers in my mind felt great.

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I used to play King of Fighters All-Stars when it started being advertised in the states. There was an issue plaguing someplayers, making a black screen at certain boss fights for certain events that gave rewards to directly power up your character. These were the only way to get these items, not even paying money can get you these items. This affected many players. I also had an older phone that made the game very laggy - frame rates would drop to single digits sometimes.

These were perfect excuses for me to quit the game, not to mention gameplay that is extremely repetitive and all about forcing the player to grind and sink money into a never ending pit.

ALL GACHA games are some variation of these mechanics, and it's a really bad idea to get invested in this. How much time and money did you spend on this that could have spent on other more substantial games or platform. It might not be much, and it may not honestly hurt your wallet, but it adds up over time and could have gone towards something more fufilling, instead of just making arbitrary numbers go up.

If you're not playing any other Gacha games, see it as a blessing in disguise.

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#16 ZombiePie  Staff

Sounds like they really gacha good... I feel dirty... I'll see myself out.

I'll take it! As someone who "ruined" Ben's attempts to livestream Them's Fightin' Herds with horse-based puns, I'm not one to judge.

@devise22 said:

Yeah it's a bummer when this stuff inevitably happens. I think part of it is just as longtime game players you kind of get used to the magic of digging up that old save or booting something up again as a way to either see or even remember the progress. Gacha games and games as a service model pretty much feels designed to just end at some point and consider the hundreds of hours many have put into them it can feel like such a huge bummer when things turn and they just did forever.

As a fellow gacha player, having put countless hours into Marvel Strike Force, literally been playing since the alpha, I know that reckoning could come as well. Anyway this was a very good read as often your blog posts are.

It's surprising and unsurprising how common this is even with mobile games that have iconic IPs. The big brands are even more susceptible to imploding than the smaller games because the stakes are higher for the developer(s). I guess, as you said about Marvel, I viewed the inclusion of the Final Fantasy brand meant that things would be different. But, in the end, when the power users jump to play a different gacha game, all things stay the same.

@sevith said:

After Marvel Heroes and Star Ocean Anamnesis went under, it's kind of broken my ability to get invested in f2p games, particularly mobile gacha games. It's one thing when a game that I used to play years ago goes under, but when it's one I'm still actively playing everyday... that's rough.

That's kind of where I am at with F2P games. I put in a lot of time and effort to get acclimated with the game's mechanics and community, and in the end, I have nothing to show for it. As I mention in the blog, this isn't a case of me buying a crazy expensive retro-game and never playing it to preserve its pristine condition. I literally have nothing to show for my hundreds of hours. Also, it's not like I will ever be able to re-connect with that community. The users for the game were from around the world and the actual in-game networking tools in Mobius's case were awful.

@slag said:

This is the wrong takeaway of course, but this makes me actually regret not playing it

You know what, this wasn't the response I intended, but it also is one I'm happy people are expressing. I really think there was something to Mobius more people should have been aware of, and I'm glad after publishing this blog, that there are some people who agree.

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#17  Edited By cloudymusic

I have been playing a lot of Another Eden, which is a mobile "traditional" JRPG with gacha elements (a loose spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger with some of the original staff involved). It's been a really great experience that I've enjoyed all the way through, and will probably continue to enjoy for as long as they keep adding new story content. I absolutely don't regret any of the time or money that I've put into it; I've gotten hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of it so far and am happy to support the dev team.

My biggest concern is the preservation aspect that you bring up, because it's honestly the kind of game that I'd probably love to revisit a decade from now, and I assume that's just not going to be possible. It's a real bummer to think about. It's true to some extent with all "live service games" so it's not just exclusive to mobile, but it is certainly a concern for the majority of mobile games available these days.

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#18  Edited By Slag

@zombiepie said:
@slag said:

This is the wrong takeaway of course, but this makes me actually regret not playing it

You know what, this wasn't the response I intended, but it also is one I'm happy people are expressing. I really think there was something to Mobius more people should have been aware of, and I'm glad after publishing this blog, that there are some people who agree.

Personally I really have no excuse, I had it downloaded on Steam a few years ago. Just never got around to actually jumping in seriously

I tried to the tutorial once and had trouble getting it to run well and never went back. Always meant to, just never did

but yeah, fwiw I'm glad you wrote this up even if it makes me a little sad I didn't see it for myself.

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#19 FinalDasa  Moderator

*closes Marvel Strike Force*

Pfft, who would do such a thing?!

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#20 ZombiePie  Staff

Why do you feel empty though? You still had those experiences and that fun?

It's sucky that gaming isn't a hobby like books where most stuff gets archived well, but it's not alone in that.

So these are the two points I want to address. First, the issue at hand is, and other have brought this up, that ten years down the line if I wanted to even remember my time with Mobius, it would take a Herculean effort on my part. And the community I interacted with? It is virtually impossible to network with those people again. Also your last point, while I know a common perspective, defers the issue of game preservation; it's also an informal logical fallacy. With mobile gaming gaining more and more common acceptance, the industry has not reconciled its responsibilities or obligations of making games on mobile platforms historical relics or artifacts. If the answer is "No, they do not have any obligations" then we as a community are basically allowing generations worth of games to come and go with little to no documentation at an unprecedented level. There's a larger scope to this issue as well. Should I be able to play "vanilla" Destiny 2 or how about the launch version of Final Fantasy XIV? Both of these games no longer exist despite informing company and corporate actions in the industry. Doesn't that make the historically important?

I used to play King of Fighters All-Stars when it started being advertised in the states. There was an issue plaguing someplayers, making a black screen at certain boss fights for certain events that gave rewards to directly power up your character. These were the only way to get these items, not even paying money can get you these items. This affected many players. I also had an older phone that made the game very laggy - frame rates would drop to single digits sometimes.

These were perfect excuses for me to quit the game, not to mention gameplay that is extremely repetitive and all about forcing the player to grind and sink money into a never ending pit.

ALL GACHA games are some variation of these mechanics, and it's a really bad idea to get invested in this. How much time and money did you spend on this that could have spent on other more substantial games or platform. It might not be much, and it may not honestly hurt your wallet, but it adds up over time and could have gone towards something more fufilling, instead of just making arbitrary numbers go up.

If you're not playing any other Gacha games, see it as a blessing in disguise.

I think everyone accepts that gacha games aren't objective "good." They prey on obsessive human tendencies and dole out enough rewards to where investing in them doesn't feel like a fool's errand. What developers of these games have admitted, time and time again, mind you, is that most gacha games are able to keep on going by a small portion of their userbase. These "power users" spend hundreds of dollars per week and sometimes per day, and when they disappear or leave, the developer decides to shut things down and move on to a new well. What was interesting about Mobius, and I do not want to make it seem like Mobius was free of exploitative practices, was that it was possible to see all of its content without spending any money. Also, as I mention in the blog, Mobius is one of the only gacha games that invested in making its grinding questlines as cinematic and story drive as its mainline narrative.

I have been playing a lot of Another Eden, which is a mobile "traditional" JRPG with gacha elements (a loose spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger with some of the original staff involved). It's been a really great experience that I've enjoyed all the way through, and will probably continue to enjoy for as long as they keep adding new story content. I absolutely don't regret any of the time or money that I've put into it; I've gotten hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of it so far and am happy to support the dev team.

My biggest concern is the preservation aspect that you bring up, because it's honestly the kind of game that I'd probably love to revisit a decade from now, and I assume that's just not going to be possible. It's a real bummer to think about. It's true to some extent with all "live service games" so it's not just exclusive to mobile, but it is certainly a concern for the majority of mobile games available these days.

And this is where I was with Mobius. Yes, the game had its problems, but I was ultimately having fun watching its story play out and listening to the characters I met along the way. If I had spent money, it would have been as an endorsement of the time and effort the dev team put into the game. However, that leads me to the issue of preservation again. It's one thing I can't show anyone what I accomplished in the game. It's another thing that I cannot even go back to those cutscenes or even review what I did in the game. And as I say, if something does not change, we are going to witness a massive portion of the game industry basically go undocumented and unpreserved.

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@capt_blakhelm said:

I think everyone accepts that gacha games aren't objective "good." They prey on obsessive human tendencies and dole out enough rewards to where investing in them doesn't feel like a fool's errand. What developers of these games have admitted, time and time again, mind you, is that most gacha games are able to keep on going by a small portion of their userbase. These "power users" spend hundreds of dollars per week and sometimes per day, and when they disappear or leave, the developer decides to shut things down and move on to a new well. What was interesting about Mobius, and I do not want to make it seem like Mobius was free of exploitative practices, was that it was possible to see all of its content without spending any money. Also, as I mention in the blog, Mobius is one of the only gacha games that invested in making its grinding questlines as cinematic and story drive as its mainline narrative.


I think that's one of if not the biggest problem with this kind of game - if you're not one of the people putting loads of flushing loads of money into it, the game doesn't really "care" about you. Of course, no game truly "cares" for you, but those kind of games are designed for the whales. Only after spending so much money after a certain point do you start feel the reward of progression, completing collection, and achieving goals. And if they aren't making money, they have no reason to exist and thus not giving a flying fuck about their free customers. They all tend to have some mechanic, appearance, or process to keep you coming back, but I start to feel like the game is treating me like a money dispensing machine to put into their money grubbing machine masquerading behind pretty graphics, fun sounds, and progression-for-progression's sake mechanics, it makes me realize that I'm not really playing a game. I'm just paying a game. It's a gross, unsettling, unrewarding, demoralizing feeling to be seen as nothing more than a human ATM. I'm always sitting there asking myself "What am I doing with my life?" as I run on a digital treadmill to make some sort of mildly satisfying number go up or reach its maximum.

You mentioned this game still gave you progress with no money input, which I guess is good. I suppose that is fine, if you are getting real progress. I Was still able to have fun with KOFAS for the simple fact that it was a Beat Em Up (one of my favorite genres) featuring characters that I had a mild and growing interest in from playing King of Fighter games and games featuring their characters. I started watching videos going over the history of the game series and the story/lore of the characters. That part alone is still worth investing to IMO, but I determined the treadmill of the game wasn't. It was just an innocent way for me to waste downtime at work or while waiting for things, but I had to stop when I realized I was playing too much.

Anyways, I didn't mean to get all preachy, but you might later find yourself saying "Man, I'm glad I'm not wasting time on that game anymore" when you're enjoying on something else. Sucks that something you enjoyed is suddenly stopping, but it might not be as bad as you feel right now.

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