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The reason why most recent MMORPGs are boring is because they are just too convenient.
When you design an MMORPG that probably aiming to use a subscription model you need to create an environment where the player can delve into for long playing time feeling that they "belong". It is when developers started to turn the world into a "game" of convenience that players started to feel more of being in a "themepark" than being in a world. (and sandbox has nothing to do with it).
The key here is we're so spoiled that everything is made easy to the point that "getting there" feels pointless and effortless. You don't feel accomplishment at all because it's a fact no matter who you are, you WILL achieve everything eventually (which is usually within a few days).
If traveling is too easy, death is unimportant and leveling is very linear and fast.... then what's the point???
Adding such inconveniences to the "World" would give you enough design options to add player-intederependence skills that help overcome such inconveniences. Traveling is too slow? you give, say, 30% of the classes abilities to overcome such a thing (teleporting, speed boost...etc).
The old timers always ask "Why can't I even convince myself to login in?" part of this because there's no sense of "investment" in your character. Everything feels very generic and again too convenient.
If every 2 minutes you're going to loot a gear upgrade, I say tell me why would you feel excited about gear upgrade anymore? I think we need to balance the pace of a game. Traveling pace, combat, leveling and gear upgrade. I think if it takes you 5 days in order to get a minor upgrade would actually make the item a lot more exciting than the recent trivial/redundaness of itemization in the insta-gratification MMORPGs.