Got this from mmorpg, thought it was a well written and thought out post. Original author is Greyface.
Let's talk about the assumptions we all make about MMOs that are suffocating the genre. I love MMOs -- I've been playing these games for a long, long time. But it's suffering from a serious case of stagnation. If things don't change, I see MMOs going the way of the Adventure Game.
As players, our own expectations are to blame. There are so many things we simply take for granted -- no one even thinks to question them. Developers, for their part, have gotten lazy. Very few can even articulate what's wrong; they just know that they're bored. Bored players don't rant on forums -- they cancel their accounts. Developers, for their part, respond by doubling down on past mistakes. The list is strictly my own opinion; feel free to disagree or add your own.
Assumption #1 Developers should listen to the players: Henry Ford once said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Developers who design based on player feedback get a lot of praise. They really shouldn't. What do players ask for? More of the same: more raids, more gear, more levels, more buffs, more nerfs, more convenience.
The truth is that the players don't know what they want, because they've never seen it before. Verant (now SOE) took a lot of crap back in the day for talking about their "Vision." Sure, they sounded like jerks, but they also built a landmark game in Everquest. Back in 2004, no one was demanding more quests. Blizzard did it anyway, and you got the runaway success of WoW. When was the last time a game feature came out of left field like that? The reason why there's never been a WoW-killer is that the AAA developers can't move past the WoW-clone. Players aren't game designers -- they're going to ask for a slightly different version of what they know. Innovation comes when a developer takes risks.
I'm not saying there should be no communication between the people who make games and the people who play them. But the industry has gotten into the habit of trying to please everyone, and the players have gotten into the habit of expecting it.
Assumption #2 Players are the problem: I cut my teeth on Ultima Online, a game where players brazenly tormented one another and exploited even the smallest bug. It was one of the best gaming experiences of my life. You never knew what was going to happen when you logged on, because human beings are unpredictable. Note, I wasn't a PvPer in those days -- in fact, I spent a lot of time complaining about player killers. But I loved the spontaneity -- the sense of player agency. There were a thousand ways to play that game, and someone was always coming up with a new way to turn things to their advantage. It was far from perfect, but like many other gamers, I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2013, and all you have are walls to prevent players from bothering one other, and from playing the game in unexpected ways. MMOs used to be one the most social and creative of genres; today, players are isolated from one another. Group finders match us up with random strangers, so we can grind away at scripted content in instances that ensure that we never run into anything, or anyone, unexpected. Groups are fixed in size and composition, and deviating from developer-planned strategies will result in a wipe at best, bans at worst. When soloing, you follow breadcrumb trails of phased quests that enclose you in a cozy little bubble of isolation where no one can get in the way of your progress. Trade is anonymously conducted over auction house. PvP is more like football than warfare – except you can’t trash talk the enemy because we don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt. Nothing you do really affects anyone else, and nothing is unanticipated.
Other players could make life hell back in the old days, but in our quest for convenience, we've tossed the baby out with the bathwater. We play alongside one another, not with one another. There has to be a happy medium between Lord of the Flies and It's A Small World. This brings me to...
Assumption #3 Sandboxes are sandboxes, theme parks are theme parks: To read these forums, you'd think that we're discussing two entirely different genres. It doesn't have to be this way. In spite of what I've written above, I'm not a die-hard sandbox guy. The game I played longest, besides UO, was WoW. As players, we need to move beyond seeing sandboxes and theme parks as irreconcilable opposites. They should be looked at as points along a spectrum.
Sandboxes avoid a lot of the problems in #2. But they trade those problems for a new set of issues that have doomed them to a niche audience. Where theme parks suffer from over-scripting, sandboxes leave new players adrift. EvE, for example, almost dares a new player to enjoy it. Why can't we have a game that starts off simple and gradually expands your options as you progress? Why do we have to choose between free-for-all PvP and instanced battlegrounds? Why does persistance have to mean dog-eat-dog?
In the real world, both totalitarianism and anarchy are seen as bad ways to run a society. Most places opt for something between the two extremes. Why do we, as gamers, fail to see that there's a third option? I'm no game designer -- I'm not sure what it would look like in practice. But I know that the game that combines the accessibility of WoW and the persistence of EvE has the potential to be the next ginormous hit.
The lack of publisher support for this concept is a little baffling to me. One of the biggest headaches in running a modern MMO is keeping up with player demand for new content. Allowing the players to have meaningful interaction is an inexhaustible -- and free -- solution to that problem.
Assumption #4 Story is important: After the failure of Star Wars: the Old Republic and The Secret World, I'm amazed that the takeaway seems to be that the subscription model is the problem. Subscriptions are fine -- players will pony up for a game if they think it's worth the money. The problem with both games is the notion that voice-acted cut scenes are the magic bullet for a smash hit MMO. If we, as gamers, want this sort of thing we'll play single-player games. They still make those.
Being the Chosen One in an MMO is just dumb, because there are 500 other Chosen Ones pouring out of the same instance right behind you. Context, not story, is what we need. Make the world and its back-story live, and give the players the tools and freedom to create their own story.
Assumption #5 The Endgame is all that matters: So many gamers -- and games -- have this idea that the process of developing your character is somehow a precursor to the "real" game. If a single-player game shipped with a 40-hour tutorial and 3 hours of actual gameplay, how do you think that would go over? WoW is one of the worst offenders, which is stunning to me. Most of their initial success came from the fact that Blizzard was the first developer to put actual content into their low level game. But these days, people level as fast as they can just to get to the raids and battlegrounds.
If players are rushing through solo content just to get to group content, the solution should be obvious. Instead of shortening leveling curves and then adding loot grinds to slow down the rate of content churn, why not just put the good stuff up front?
Just spitballing here, but imagine a game without a level cap. As you progress, the cost to level up increases and the benefits shrink. Eventually, players would hit a de facto cap, but it would take a long time, even for the worst content locusts. How would players respond to that? In practice, there wouldn't be much difference from the current status quo: slow advancement coming in tiny steps. But it breaks from the idea of loot as "endgame" progress. Players would be free to seek out the content and activities that they enjoy, rather than just charging into whatever instance gives the next set of gear.
Anyway, that's my list. If you read the whole thing, I'm grateful and a little amazed. Of course, your mileage may vary -- this post isn't intended to be a universal proclamation of the way forward. Looking forward to hearing the responses (if any).