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Let's see. My ideal MMO experience would be my by myself, or 1-2 people that I know, all going off to explore some area, purely because we haven't been there before and we want to. Upon getting there, we find a cave/temple/starbase/whatever, and start checking it out. There's monsters we haven't seen before, maybe a special kind of item one of us can use, and puzzles to solve- maybe in order to get into the deepest levels, we need a Cat Demon's Heart, and none of us have seen a cat demon before, and need to figure out where we might run into them. By the time we're done, it feels like we're on a 'quest', because we've got an objective, a cool location, and and a decent level of challenge, but it all happened without clicking on the guy with a ! over his head that every other character our level is clicking on. By the time you finish it, you have the feeling that you've 'discovered' something, and been rewarded for your efforts, and in fact, a friend you know that also plays the game may have never heard of the place.
And yes, I do know a game in which the exact experience I described above happens regularly...but it's an open-source, older game, and I'd like to see if anything commercial can match it.
Things I hate:
- Limited character design. Being told that if I'm a level 12 whatever, I'm a jacktard unless I run THIS gear, THESE powers, with THESE options. I don't need my creative ideas to be on par with the most efficient cookie-cutter characters, but I can't get enough options.
- Killing the same kind of monsters for days so that I can get better at killing the next same kind of monster for days.
- Being rushed. I like to smell the roses, read the lore, and poke my nose in all the little corners.
- Being railroaded. Nothing makes me tired of a game faster than the sensation that the game developers have firmly in mind everything that I'm going to do in my characters career.
- Games built for my mom. I.E., I hate it when a game feels too limited or too easy, or doesn't have any sort of death penalty, because everything is designed to be as kind and gentle as possible for people that really have no business playing video games in the first place. I haven't played WoW, but I assume it's not for me, because every WoW player I know whines about the difficulty and complexity of every other game they try.
Ryzom. This game has perhaps my favorite character progression schema ever, but I couldn't find anything to do but go to samey-looking places and kill everything that moves. Considering I could only find half a dozen different monsters, and most of them seemed designed to make me feel bad for killing them (i.e., cute, innoffensive, minding their own business), it got old fast.
Eve Online - Almost perfect. Character progression, sandbox feel, high-risk play, freedom to do what I want...all in a setting that utterly doesn't appeal to me. Even though I really could care less about spaceships, I still played that game for months and may go back to it one day. Also, everywhere you go looking exactly the same wore me down.