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I've come to accept a number of things about MMOs and have really shifted my focus on what I want. So, here's what I'm looking for in a game.
1- Social player base. Much like the old days when you had to rest between some fights, group up for an instance, or just plain leveled better with others, I want something where communicating with other people is common and expected. Being beneficial to the game is a plus but not vital. If I can play the game for three days and not utter a word that doesn't involve trading, I probably don't want that.
2- Amazing soundtrack. Music does a lot to make an MMO and some of the best free MMOs had soundtracks that were worth buying on CD and even remixing. Ragnarok Online, I'm looking at you. Runes of Magic did this well too. However, I'd prefer something that didn't get too excessively theatrical like WoW would at times. Setting a fitting atmosphere is the goal.
3- Weak level tether. Yes, a level 10 character has no business hunting in a level 50 area. The point is more that I don't want some bottleneck at level 25 fighting precisely one monster in an inconvenient area because it is the only thing that yields even halfway decent exp. Meanwhile, if I have a quest or rare drop to find from something lower level, it would be nice to get diminished yet existing exp. It's also nice when rare drops that are useful are not strictly tied to level ranges such that there are items at level 25 that haven't become infinitely obsolete by 35 by every possible measure.
4- Item production outside hunting. Yeah, crafting is always in demand and never done right. This one's really just a bonus. Trickster had drilling which mattered for the longest time, but it ended up becoming a quest mechanism above all else. I'm not quite sure how this can be done right but I'd quite enjoy seeing someone try.
5- Not a PvP ego fest. Seriously. Not doing that. I want a social player base, not a trash talk forum.
So yeah, there you have it. Probably not easy to put those together, but getting #1, 2, and 5 all in one would be impressive on its own. Any thoughts or suggestions?