I have to ask, what's so damn wrong with what WoW did in terms of "casualness, pace, and speed" ? For me, the only thing I hated about WoW was the graphics and the other players. The actual gameplay was okay. If I could take the community from FFXI, the graphics of what we've seen in 2.0 so far, and the gameplay mechanics of games like WoW, I dare say it'd be as close to approaching MMO perfection as we're going to get in this generation of games.
I loved every minute of my time in FFXI, which came to an end for me sometime in 2006 or 2007. I also completely enjoyed WoW, and up until a few expansions past it was a great use of my free time.
The arguments you mostly see against WoW are primarily aimed at the modern MMORPG design and philosophy approach that at this point is - for me - bland and uninspiring.
WoW was great when it launched because it was fresh and original in terms of massively online role playing games. In an era of FFXI, EQ and EQ clones, the concept of soloable character development in a fast-paced environment and quest-driven leveling was for all consideration new and exciting. It was arguably what we needed at the time.
WoW success isn't necessarily rooted in what it did, more so because of when it did it. It was new, exciting and it brought all kinds of non-online gamers into the genre. A huge success by anyone's standards, and still remains such today.
But now we're in an era of WoW-clones, and I hate to use that term but it fits the best. LOTRO, Rift, SW:TOR, GW2 - all these games brought something different to the genre, but they were rooted in the fundamentals WoW established. What these game manufacturers don't understand is that WoW didn't succeed because quest-based, solo leveling is the best way to design MMORPGs, WoW succeeded because it was the first mainstream game to do it in an market of games where such was impossible. Its freshness drived its popularity, and Blizzard's penchant for gamer-driven design propelled it to success throughout the years.
Any game that launches now that sticks to these modern MMORPG design philosophies is likely doomed to fail if we simply look at past examples, yet publishers still churn them out because nobody can seem to get past the "zomg 10 million subs - World of Warcraft does everything right" philosophy of MMORPG design.
If I want to play a quest-based, solo character driven game with endgame emphasis on party instanced gear grinds, I'm going to play World of Warcraft. I have lots of other games to choose from if that is my desired game style, but WoW was one of the first, has been here the longest and is the front runner on improving this genre. Anything else is just going to be riding its coattails.
A game that doesn't adhere to these design philosophies can succeed, but developers are so scared of not doing anything inline with modern MMORPG design, nobody tries it. FFXIV 1.0 is a terrible example, because it took the worst of the EQ games combined with the worst of WoW games and tried to call that the next evolution of MMORPGs.
Some of us want a game where group play is emphasized, that exp grinds aren't casual solo quest chains, and that group dynamics mean much more than just slapped together dungeon instanced runs of little coordination. That doesn't necessarily contradict the concept of a casual-based MMORPG, but for some reason the only thing people can imagine when faced with such dynamics are grouping and party camps of FFXI.
Give us a game that doesn't take two hours to simply begin culling party-based objectives, but at the same time doesn't gloss over exp grinds and leveling ladder climbs and speedbumps. There's nothing worse to me than an MMORPG that sends you on 'meet and greet' introductory quests which ding you to level 3 or above before you even leave town. Edited, Dec 18th 2012 12:04pm by Whales