I enjoy World of Warcraft a great deal. At it's inception, it was clearly an attempt to take the existing MMORPG genre and refine it to be a better game. And over it's many patches and last expansion, the game has evolved to be a better game. Interface improvements, raid and guild management changes, etc. For all my griping in this blog about WoW, it's impossible to imagine running a guild in DAoC or EQ.
My guild is moving through high level raiding content in WoW. I enjoy the mechanics in the game. I like playing a class and doing it well. I like PvE. But there are things I want to see change. Fundamental issues that seem to plague every MMORPG out there. Things that I think could be changed to make things even better.
1) Teach players how to play your game. You can play a hunter in WoW and make it to the max level having never learned about shot rotations. Either the class should not require you to know how that works, or the game should reveal that information to the player during the course of their playing. Not only does it keep people from being "another stupid hunter", but it opens the higher and more in-depth aspects of the game to more people. The mechanics of a class should not be hidden from players. Even if it's just an in-game manual, it would be a huge help.
2) Don't make me have to consult an offline resource, or do complex math, to try and figure out if an item is an upgrade for me. This is similar to my first issue in that it involves the game hiding the game mechanics from me. Sure, give me options in my upgrades, but why should I have to try and determine if +34 Agility is better or worse than +20 Hit Rating for my class role? If people can write mods to distill all this information down to a relative number, why can't that be designed into the game? It sure would help people know how to tank/heal/dps/etc better instead of guessing, or making huge mistakes on what they think is good upgrades. Heck, removing stats from armor or items might be a good step. Have all your armor be just armor and let people add the class appropriate upgrades as enchantments.
3) Give me good rewards when I do something. Let's say I turn in a quest, I should not see a list of items that are useless to me. I should also not see two items I have to decide between, knowing I can never change my mind or get the other item again. Every quest should net me something I can really use. I should never complete an objective and feel like I need to pick the item that will sell to a vendor for the most cash. Why not just give me money?
4) Don't make me solo with morons. I appreciate the scope and open environment of an MMORPG. I really do. The ability to play with lots of other people is the reason I keep playing MMORPGs. But if you want to allow me to solo, then let me do it alone. There's no need to force me to be exposed to the other knuckle-heads when I am playing by myself. No matter how massively multi-player your game is, I don't need some jerk stealing my stuff, killing my quest goals, and making my life more difficult. The game should be fun to play with people, and fun to play when I am doing something on my own.
I know what games were like before World of Warcraft. I know about arduous corpse runs and losing experience every time you died. I remember when quests did not really exist and you leveled by killing monsters over and over. I was there. I know game designers can make the games more fun without sucking all the challenge out. But do not think that WoW's success is some validation that there's no more ways to make the genre better. It can be better, and being better might not get you WoW's subscription numbers, but it will make a great game that people enjoy and keep playing for a long time.