I'm probably going to show my age here when I say that I think it would be interesting if by a focus on the "growth of the character" Tanaka meant that there would be no level system involved, which was the old school way that Ultima Online did it. IIRC, the focus was on enhancing your character. You'd simply play your character, pick a skill (mine was Archery), and hone that. You'd dungeon crawl for a chance at a rare item that eventually broke on you and in general, you just enjoyed playing in the world.
I know it's probably hard to imagine a game without the grind. Since UO, I've played EverQuest, Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard, and EverQuest II. None of these games ever went back to what was a very simple, yet crucial aspect of what made Ultima Online such pure fun.
I'd be really interested to hear what people think of it, since for many of you, FFXI or WoW was your first MMO.