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you frequently hear people claim that certain game designs might be esoteric and unsuccesful as a result but it's the wrong position to take. where do you think the gaming industry would be if developers were only interested in remaking super mario world? the mmo genre is in a state of flux and developers certainly aren't helping themselves by copying old-hat models, especially when these models lack long-term appeal. it's counterproductive and even counterintuitive.
abandon the "story as the 4th pillar." give us creative minds who understand pacing, the value of death penalties and exploration, and the nuances of player interplay. you'd be surprised how many people enjoy that sense of dread and the frustration that makes overcoming obstacles much more satisfying (see: dark souls). these behaviors would only be enhanced in an mmo because if there's one fundamental difference between the single-player game and the mmo it's that the mmo has the potential to realize people's fantasies in a living, breathing world -- you know, the reason this genre exists.
if you build it they will come (assuming it's not an amateur hackjob).