In my previous post I talked about the elements that I thought were vital to any MMORPG. I was fairly brief in my descriptions of it, so I think I'll expand it a bit and explain further. Keep in mind, these are in order of importance for my engjoyment, but I try to keep it universal.
10. Well designed skill/talent/etc system for advancement: Levelling in and of itself is not the goal of any MMORPG, getting stronger and able to handle more content, however, is. In that logic, as you advance you should be getting better at your role and able to do more. This relies on a system for advancement of specific skills (i.e. melee damage, ability to hit, etc) as well as special abilities and moves (i.e. Mortal Strike, backstab, etc). These should improve as you level, or there should be a seperate mechanic that improves them, but something that makes logical sense. The more straight-forward this system is, the less hassle there is involved in gaining your new skills.
9. Reasonable levelling requirements: When Blizzard was releasing TBC and WOTLK, they had a major problem with xp gains. Namely, that it took a ludircous amount of xp to gain lvl 61 and lvl 71 respectively. They fixed this by decreasing the xp needed and increasing the xp rewarded from quests and mobs in those expansions (an effect that can still be seen by grinding equal level mobs in hellfire peninsula and eastern plaguelands, the hellfire ones give a great deal more xp). I have played MMORPGs that were easy for the first few levels, then the xp requirements shot up to a ridiculous level. One caveat, though, a game like Entropia Universe, where skill progression is based on a progressively increasing xp requirement for that particular skill, works well with this kind of system, because it creates a soft cap in a skill, a point where gaining more skill would take more xp than the benefit is worth. This also allows other players to catch up a bit to those who have been playing forever.
8. Player-Based Content: I am wanting content beyond what the developers think we need. This can be as simple as player-inspired RP events to actual player cities. This is both to allow players to have an impact in the worth and to have something to enjoy that is not neccesarily a developer priority (they should be worried about mechanics of the game more than making it pretty, let players make it pretty). Now, there should be regulation on this sort of thing as when given freedom a great deal of people on the internet tend towards the darker sides of expression (sex, racism, violence, etc) that is not needed in a social game.
7. Continued development: I want the game to keep evolving and changing. While I don't prefer to have to buy expansion after expansion to see the new content, it is still preferable to a game that only has a certain amount of content, and once you've played through it there's no reason to play through any further. Blizzard did a good job by releasing new raids and holding plot-driven events before TBC, and then continued to have excellent content additions throughout. The addition of the Collisseum is one great example. That was soemthing that could have waited until Cataclysm, but Blizzard released it now. Also, the various new battlegrounds (even the originals were content additions and not in the release version) are excellent examples of this. This does, however, tend to encourage developers to leave certain aspects out of the base game so they can be released later, which is unfortunate.
6. Competitions: MMORPGs should have some form of competitions to enocurage intelligent play. Blizzard does WoW tournaments that test levelling speed and skill. These can range from decorating contests (where the best decorator of their MMORPG house is rewarded in some way) to Player Spotlights, where a player or guild is interviewed by the developers and the interview posted on the website. Anything can be included, but the idea is to bolster community and involvement.
5. PVP: PVP is as important as non-combat competitions. However, PVP, when balanced and fair is some of the most fun you can have. With Blizzard's changes to their PVP battlegrounds and the virtual elimination of twinks (i.e. a restoration of fairness), I have not had more fun in battlegrounds since they first came out (i.e. before people figured out every exploit in them). When PVP is fair and balanced, it comes down to skill, and if it's friendly, it is fun. I have had many duels with friends where we were balanced characters, and the victor was the one who used his class the best. Many of these duels were fun for the winner and looser (I lost a lot to one of my friends, but enjoyed the duel). This is the essence of PVP...fun competition.
4. Balanced Gear System: If WoW has one failure it's that most gear that isn't randomly generated is very class specific. These class specific gear sets are not universal either. For example, the Wailing Caverns has a set of gear that is oriented towards druids. Scarlet Monestary has a set that is geared towards warriors and paladins. Dead Mines has a set of gear for rogues. However, there are not specific gear sets for all classes until lvl 55+ and end-game raiding. Even PVP gear is difficult to call balanced, as some classes (warriors) have drastically different needs than others (i.e. mages). It's not a matter of balancing +damage stats with +defense stats, its a matter of making the armor roughly equal in utility, which the entire system is clearly not. Resilance is a key point. It is a percentage damage reduction for pvp for damage from virtually all sources. However, it doesn't take into account that 3% DR means more for a warrior than a mage, namely because the warrior, who already has high DR, also has more HP than the mage.
3. Excellent Crafting System: Crafting needs to be more than a grind. There needs to be real skill at it. It should be simple to use but difficult to master. It should also never be completely finished. New patches should release new crafting items, or people should be able to make their own items (see player content). Resource gathering should be in a similar vein, that is to say it should be easy to gain basic materials (of all levels) but the more advanced resources should be difficult to find and use properly. I could go on forever about crafting (bet you're suprised this isn't #1).
2. Developers That Listen: Developers that listen to the concerns of the majority of the players is very important. This helps development, and is key to ensure that the game survives for a very long time. This is the sort of thing that makes or breaks a game. Some games (like SWG) failed miserably because the Devs didn't listen, or when they did they listened to a very small percentage of the player base. Communication is vital to the survival of any MMORPG.
1. Community: I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's the Massively Multiplayer part of MMORPG that makes it fun. Playing without friends or even other people is not the reason we play MMORPGs. This also improves every other part of this list. Again, I could go on forever, but I will just defer to my other posts, and future posts on this subject.