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One thing that I think is way different (in a bad way) when you compare the MMORPGS and RPGs of today to their counterparts of 90's is this concept that everything should be "fair." In themepark MMORPGs, you are guided from quest to quest in a way that ensures the mobs you fight will always be around your level, so you always have a "fair" (typically easy) fight. The same is true of modern SPRPGs, though they sometimes use devices like level-scaling to enforce this fairness as opposed to simply guiding the player.
This can be nice because you know you'll never be put in a fight you can't win, but it kind of kills any feeling of exploration, danger, and most importantly, PROGRESSION in the game. For example, in WoW, I'm always fighting MOBs that are yellow or green..that's it. The quest nodes and zone levels on the map are very careful to guide me along a carefully determined path so that this is the case. I never really feel like I'm progressing, because my foes are almost always the exact same level as me...they increase in strength precisely proportionately to my advanacement.
So I think this philosophy is misguided. You see, I believe that RPGs are about progression FAR more than they are about action-packed or highly tactical combat. And guiding the player so that they are always fighting "equal" opponents kills that sense of progression.
In old school RPGs like early Final Fantasy games, the Ultima Series (including UO), or Everquest, if you wandered off the beaten path slightly, you may wind up meeting mobs that will hand you your behind on a silver platter. This may seem unfair, but it really puts the danger of the world into perspective. You KNOW that a sand giant can absolutely destroy you, because you encounter them often...they are as much a part of the world of a level 18 as they are a level 40.
And when you finally get high enough level to kill a sand giant...man that's a good feeling. You feel like you actually accomplished something...the deadly predator of yesterday is now your prey!
So in conclusion, I really think (MMO)RPGs should get back to showing the player the terrifying monsters of the world at a lower level, and not being afraid to let them stumble on a dragon's lair just to put everything in perspective. I'm not advocating the use of "grief NPCs" like Everquest had, but I think it would be good to even have a few "non-aggro" NPCs of higher levels wandering around lower level places so that players could have something to strive for.
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