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When I think about what it takes to make an MMORPG fun to play, what makes sitting at a computer for hours on end playing an online game and not get bored, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is variety; the ability to mix things up so you're not doing the same thing over and over. And this is probably one of the greatest challenges devs have to overcome. How do you make it multi-dimensional? And the more dimensions the better.
When I was in college, I took a writing fiction course and our instructor impressed upon us that it was the characters that drove the story. And basically, there are two types of characters - flat and round. Flat characters are one-dimensional, they have very little substance; in other words, they're boring. Round characters, on the other hand, are full of personality, they have multi-faceted personalities; in other words. they're interesting.
An MMORPG, like a story, is a body or work or a form of art. And as such, its characters need to be round and not flat. Thinking back on my days of playing EQ, I remember trying to make my own character as "round" or as possible. That's probably one of the reasons I chose to play a hybrid class (a ranger). And I tried to get the maximum versatility out of my character. That's why I would sometimes fight hand-to-hand (most of the time actually). But sometimes I tried to attack at a distance using my trusty bow (mostly on raids) and sometimes I would sit back and cast spells (either to deal damage or to heal group mates).
Even the specialty classes can by multi-dimensional with a little imagination. I'll never forget this one time fighting in the Dreadlands of Kunark. We were doing our routine thing, pulling and killing, when our enchanter decided he wanted to mix things up a bit. So he charmed a Drolvarg and got it to fight for us. He was the first enchanter I grouped with who did this, and I was in my mid-forties (level wise) at that point. I thought that was pretty cool. Up until then I figured enchanters had two primary functions - mezzing and mana regen. It added another dimension to the enchanter class that I was unaware of.
That's why mining and crafting are so important even though not everyone chooses to do them.
So anyway, I don't know if this an interesting topic or not, and it may have been addressed before, but I thought I'd add my two cents on the subject.