A few days ago, we posted about Brian Green's musings over what's missing in our MMOs. Steve Danuser has taken the time to take a look at both that post and further incidents of ennui through the MMO blogosphere, and come to a similar but slightly different conclusion -- that what's missing isn't the fault of what's already there. The problem isn't the quests, it's that so few of them feel heroic or individual, and they're more or less your only option for progressing through the game. The problem isn't the exploration, it's that there's no real incentive to bother. In short, that we don't need to penalize people who enjoy these parts of the game, we simply need to stop penalizing the people who don't.
It's an interesting and astute observation that gets at the heart of the real problem -- that game design has moved forward, and by and large this is a good thing. All of the improvements in design we've seen over the past several years, even in games sometimes derided as clones of World of Warcraft, is evidenced that the game industry has a clearer idea than ever of how to do effective achievement-based progression. What needs to be addressed is not the formula, but the scope and the specifics. Something is missing, but there's no sense in throwing out what's there and well-polished to try and find it.