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What if you take away leveling from an MMO (I know UO did this and I hear the Secret World does this too, but hang in there a moment)? Then what if you either take away leveling/improving attribute and skills (so you design your character right at the start) or make that aspect go very quickly? On top of that, what if you make it so getting solidly good gear (not the best possible) also fairly quick?
If you do those three things in an MMO, what do you add in to keep the players interested in the long term?
The reason I wonder about this is over the years I've always seen the same, as I would call it, flaw in MMOs. That is that the design switched in MMOs from the journey to the endgame. In fact most MMOs are now designed that you should get to endgame quickly and then grind out gear/Raids/etc. with a max level character. Problem is MMO designers spend a lot of time and money on making all of that content to explore as you level which then gets ignored. The second problem is they also almost never release with enough endgame content and can't produce it fast enough. This creates a system where players jump from new MMO to new MMO blitzing through to max level, complaining there is nothing to do, and quitting to do it in the next MMO.
So what if we take that aspect out. Levels don't exist, long grinds for gear don't exist, long grinds to max skills don't exist. The problem though is so what does exist that makes the players want to stay and play week after week. Most MMO players enjoy progression as it gives them goals to reach. What would a decent progression be that didn't become the new "grind it out ASAP to be capped in it" or what other direction can you take the game so that progression isn't really a factor in any form, but the game is still interesting enough to play for a long time?
There are achievements, which almost all MMOs have now. Those give you goals, kill x number of these types of creatures, explore all the parts of this map, find the 3 hidden things in this area, etc. I think those are good and can make people want to play to finish them all. But that alone wouldn't be enough. There's wealth creation, but only a small segment of the MMO population makes that enough of a focus to keep them playing. So what else can you do to make it different, to make it not a rush to endgame then grind design?