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Observing the forums, It seems as if many of us are locked in a state of constant vacillation when searching for that perfect MMO. Yet, while there probably never was and never will be a game with the exact features we each desire, we often times are capable of settling. Considering such, I do believe that when searching for new games to play, we need to value a game's setting, its lore, its backstory far more. Quite evidently, a list of features is most useful in determining what kind of gameplay one may expect. However, my opinion is that none of it really matters if the game world, its characters, the conflicts, the stories are all dull and lackluster. I see many criticizing MMO's for focusing on story-related aspects, yet I honestly think these are greatly responsible for giving life to a game world.
There are currently quite a few MMO's labeled where developers simply do not put much effort into creating a rich game world, story-wise, placing all responsibility on the players instead. I do believe this is not the correct approach. In order to entice the players, to immerse them within the game world, developers need to first create a world that one may find interest in. That is a key aspect I believe many are forgetting about. I am no advocate for linearity, but story should not be jeopardized simply because a game has greater flexibility in terms of gameplay.
As a final note, I want you all to think of The Elder Scrolls series. I see a lot of players wanting the freedom found in those games to be adopted in MMO's, but I believe what makes the certain lack of restrictions so compelling is that The Elder Scrolls games present us with amazingly detailed, varied, and story-rich worlds.