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One of the biggest problems I've had with recent MMORPGs is that it just seems like that feeling of exploration is just...gone.
In SPRPGs like BG/BG2, PS:T, or the Elder Scrolls, one of my favorite things to do has always been to just explore the world. There's almost always interesting things to run into just through exploring in games like that. You never know when you're going to find and often exploration can be very rewarding. For example, you could find a caravan under attack by monsters and the grateful merchants would reward you after saving them. Experiences like this are typically spread all throughout the world of an SPRPG.
UO had this feeling of exploration as well. You really never knew what you would run into when wandering around the world because of things like player housing etc. Even EQ had a decent feeling of exploration. While EQ didn't exactly actively encourage exploration, you could find some really nice camping spots by exploring and increase your rate of gaining exp.
But in a quest node MMORPG...exploration is basically actively discouraged. If you decide to just go off on your own, you will always run into a bunch of MOBs that are meant for quest X, but since you don't have quest X, they are useless to you. So you are forced to just go from one quest node to the next being drawn along on a string to each location. If you ever decide to just explore on your own, you may find some pretty vistas, but your exp rate will suffer dramatically...and there generally aren't many rewards for exploring other than cosmetic achievements.
This is why I really hope that MMORPGs get away from the quest node experience. Theme park or sandbox, we need to bring exploration back. I truly hope that new approaches like the dynamic events in GW2 will bring back this feeling of exploration that has been missing for so long.
So now that I've sounded off, what do you all think? Do you agree that quest nodes have basically killed the feeling of exploration in MMORPGs?
Are you team Azeroth, team Tyria, or team Jacob?