Designing MMOs is often the art of shepherding players in a given direction while at the same time giving them a sense of freedom. Even in a themepark environment, players want to be invested in areas, to have reasons to come back and explore and go off of the rails should they want to. World of Warcraft
's most recent expansion, Cataclysm
, has frequently been accused of giving players nowhere to go but a series of rails, and according to a recent response from a community manager, Blizzard agrees
A very long thread on the official forums has spawned some interesting discussions about the game's overall endgame philosophy, with community manager Draxxari
stating that Cataclysm
's tightly linear design was an "error" on the design level. He goes on to state that Mists of Pandaria
is meant to give players more reason to venture out and explore the world, although players will have to wait to see whether that promise holds true or not.
[Thanks to SgtBaker for the tip!]