Are you getting enough role-playing elements out of your MMO? Cari Davidson over at MMORPG.com thinks we could use a lot more, and feels that a true MMORPG with an engaging storyline has yet to be created. She refers to the current crop of online time sinks as "glorified chat rooms" that are big on player interaction, but void of entertaining narrative or character development. The type of experience Davidson longs for may not be possible in today's MMOs, and she acknowledges this, sort of. Initially, she claims "it's really not that hard" to create player interactions that blend well with role-playing, character development, and storytelling. But then she recants, "telling a story in a world populated by thousands of players is a big challenge."
I would subscribe to the latter train of thought, and I suspect Dungeons & Dragons Online developer Turbine would as well. DDO favors the "meet and greet" party formation, and the system creates an instance of each dungeon for you and your co-players. This type of controlled gameplay experience allows for the possibility of more immersive storytelling, but its execution has met with little success. As a result, Turbine has added solo play to DDO, and PvP is on the way. Which means more lifeless, formulaic quests for those gamers who prefer a little more depth to their adventures.
A happy medium has been around for the past four years in the form of Neverwinter Nights. It supports dozens of party members and, while not quite massive, is considerably larger than a typical Baldur's Gate or Diablo II session. Skilled modders have succeeded in prolonging NWN so successfully that BioWare has even hired some of them on -- maybe to work on the Canadian developer's new MMORPG.
What are your thoughts on the current state of MMORPGs?