EverQuest, World of Warcraft, The Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online and many other MMOs all have one important thing in common. Well, okay; they have a lot of things in common -- like about 85% or more of their gameplay mechanics. But the main thing -- indeed, the reason why they have so much in common -- is that they are all descendants of a kind of text MUD game called Diku.
Acknowledging that, virtual worlds blog Terra Nova published a "State of the Diku" article for the year 2008. The article was written by Timothy Burke. It's mostly a dispassionate look at game design -- serious business. Burke starts out questioning the purpose of "vendor trash" drops (or grey items as they're generally known in many popular contemporary MMOs). Then he analyzes the public quests of Warhammer Online, viewing them as a positive variation on traditional Diku design.
If you're into thnking critically about MMO design, it's worth checking out. We take for granted the fact that most of today's MMOs are based on the Diku formula; maybe that means we're clinging to old ideas that don't make a lot of sense in today's world.