[EDIT] Honestly, my rant after all this is more interesting than my responses, and actually goes to the core of the issue I'm talking about with combat-centric game design ultimately creating an experience that feels empty even when the world is immense. [/EDIT]
One thing that needs to be clear, It's too late for WoW to do much about this stuff. It's systems and the game are too old for such an extensive revamp.
Breeding systems: FF11 had chocobo breeding, for about 6 months it was awesome and now almost no one cares.
That's also because it was issued to a bored population with a massive excess of gil and literally everyone did it. If breeders were the only source of mounts, and not everyone had the skill to train them (and certainly not to breed the fastest mounts), and it was part of a game at launch, it would certainly be a different story.
Politic system: It just wouldnt work, why put in a system that caters to the few, everyone pays the same amount shouldn't everyone be entitled to the same experience? and internet popularity polls just mean he who has the most friends or followers or most amount of money to bribe can be the king/mayor w/e
Why would you automatically reduce it to something like this? Why assume it has to be as empty and pointless as an internet poll? Make it necessary to cultivate votes in the local community by raising your reputation with them, only allow people with houses in the town vote (discouraging people from just getting reddit to win them the election), actually give the winner the ability to set the town laws and tax rate (and then utilize the funds, such as by increasing guards outside city walls so that farmers lose fewer crops to brigands, or authorize hunting parties to curb wolf populations, etc.). People will care really quickly when who they vote for actually affects their experience.
Intricate crafting: Again Ill go back to FF11, you could make furniture in that game, some people used it to make their Moghouse nice looking, most just put in the items they: got for free, needed to max out storage space, gave them a buff to crafting, or needed an item to get a quest.
Again, why are we automatically using the same systems as a decade-old game? Crafting doesn't need to rely on an RNG and always have a chance for failure to be intricate? It needs cross-craft interaction (which WoW had, once upon a time). It needs more input from the crafter other than just selecting the materials and clicking on a recipe (why in the world can't crafters work to put their own effects on items, and train to get better at certain effects than others?) Why can't materials actually be harder to access than titanium ore? Why can't a sword actually break beyond repair, so blacksmiths don't run out of things to make two months after an expansion comes out? Etc.
Also WoW had/has cross crafting. you need a BS to make the rod enchanters use and a few others. But all it doid was act as a pay wall for new crafters, becuase to get passed a certain point and level a craft you needed said item, and If you couldnt find someone to make it for you cheap you needed to pay stupid high prices on the AH to even get farther in crafting.
That's REALLY stretching it. I think it's pretty clear I was talking about actual crafting materials, not random gates you need to get through. I mean like:
Scholar wants to make a transcript of a ballad which, when read in battle, reduces incoming damage by X% for Y seconds (those numbers set by his choice, and his skill).
To do so, he needs a quill, ink, velum, and a copy of the ballad. Ink requires an alchemist, who will require the goods produced by an herbalist and/or forester (LOTRO term, iirc). Vellum requires a leatherworker, who will require hides from a skinner, plants from an herbalist, and some basic chemicals from an alchemist. Quills require feathers from an adventurer, and can be prepared with a penknife by a scholar (and scholars can choose to invest in training with a penknife so that they can get more use out of each Quill).
And the quality of the final product will be based to the quality of the materials, modified by the skills of the Scholar. Truly experienced scholars might even be able to edit works to produce works superior to the original. Etc.
Any crafting system can be made vastly more dynamic and interesting. The only question is where you stop. I'm also a VERY strong proponent of no artificial limits on numbers of skills (a la EVE). If a Scholar wants to train to be fully proficient at producing or procuring all the materials necessary for their work, and to use them efficiently, they should be able to. The cost is that time spent developing those is time spent not developing other skills.
Also for a while you couldnt invite people into your MH on FF11, after they introduced it no one cared unless they wanted to cyber, I think I used the option to invite someone one time to try out the system but never cared to again.
There was also never any reason to invite anyone into your house in FFXI. Say you are running for office in a game, and private chat channels are only possible between secure locations. Inviting people into your house for some scheming would be VERY appealing. Or maybe you want to run a crime syndicate? Same story. Maybe upgrading a house to include crafting stations you need would allow you to sell your wares out of your own home, instead of having to let the auction house take a cut (a big deal in a world where gold doesn't flow like water). If you bought a house in a less protected area of the world, you might be letting friends into your home for protection from the gangs that rule those towns. Etc.
Overall giving you a way to increase combat just feels natural as most MMOs are focused around it, and if your looking for other crafting systems there's other games out there to fit the niche. Its a tangible reward you can actually see advancing your character.
Othergames have tried to get rid of the gear grind but either they find niche markets (GW2) or become so stale you have players leaving (FF11 of a few years ago
I'm not sure what niche market GW2 is filling? It's sold over 3 million copies, and every one of those is a permanent account (minus those banned). That's not really a niche so much as making it the 2nd or 3rd largest MMO on the market. Sure, we don't know how many are actively playing, but that's true with games like WoW as well. How many people in the 9 mill report haven't logged in for months, but have a sub because it let them get Diablo 3 for free (or whatever deals they're running), or just haven't cancelled their account? Mine usually always ran for about 3 months before I finally cancelled my sub from lack of use.
FFXI also was not a niche market, considering it was one of the largest MMOs when it was going strong, before WoW ever even launched. It isn't even a niche market now, since they aren't really actively trying to attract new players. It's still around because the people who have played it for a long time still want to play it and are willing to pay to do so.
It's not about getting rid of the gear grind, it's about giving players the way to advance their characters outside of raiding. That's a big difference.
I actually think Skyrim is a good example for this, because Skyrim's wasted potential is so massive it's actually disturbing. Skyrim's a great game. I really enjoyed playing it, I still play it quite a bit, I just bought Hearthfire and can't wait to start building houses, I'll be getting Dawnguard (PS3 user, btw). There are things about Skyrim that are way better than earlier ES games. There are also things that are way worse.
Combat has gotten better, for sure. I know some people like (for some reason) the failures/misses of Morrowind, but I hate them. Graphics are better. The scaling and feeling of immensity of the world is better (imo). But a lot of people feel like Skyrim's towns feel empty, or that it's missing the soul of other games. The people are less interesting to watch, they don't really interact with each other like they did in earlier games (more banter, less approaching real conversation, or more mindless interaction). Their schedules tend to be less interesting and they go fewer places throughout the day, they mix it up less, etc.
But what I really want to talk about is the speech skill. I @#$%ing hate that this skill was even put in the game. Not because I don't want it, but because I find its implementation so insulting. Skyrim is this war-torn world, with each city its own faction, and then two master factions on top of that, and then the dragon threat above that. There are separate guilds, but none of them take any stance in the other story lines. You can become a Thane of holds, headmaster of the college, whatchamacallit of the Companions, etc. etc. etc...
But when you go to a new hold, you're just some random beggar coming to get work, and the jarl doesn't care about you at all until you wipe out some bandits for him. REALLY? You don't care that I can forge legendary armor for your guards? You don't care that I have a tongue that could sell lightbulbs to the mountian-Amish? You don't care that I am the head whatchamacallit of one of the most respected groups in Skyrim or that I'm the Dragonborn? All you care about is that you have some bandits in a cave 7 miles away from your stupid walled hold?
It drives me insane.
I want the speech skill to let me weasel my way up to the Jarls. I want to be able to manipulate them. I want to join the Thieves guild and convince the Captain of the Guard to change patrol patterns because I have him thinking it's a good idea. I want to join the Dark Brotherhood, but take out my target after making everyone at court trust me more than their own mother.
THAT'S what a speech skill should be. And it absolutely kills me that Skyrim ultimately boils down to "So, can you kill bandits?" Because the raw potential in that story and that world is massive. Why the hell can't I direct troops to strategic locations on the map (and join or NOT join them in battle)? Why can't I actually go after mill operators (physically, financially, or persuasively) to cut the supply lines to the Stormcloaks?
It's like Bethesda created the perfect world for such amazing gameplay, and then stopped short of adding any of it besides the combat (which is already easily Skyrim's weakest point). It's like they left the Speech skill in just because they felt bad for eliminating so much complexity from Morrowind.
The worst part is how dumbed down from Oblivion that aspect of the game is on top of it. In Oblivion and Morrowind, how much an NPC liked you actually affected what they would do for you, what information they would provide you, whether or not they'd lie to you, if you could buy a house from them (or access whatever service they provided), etc.
It was amazing. In Skyrim, it's basically they're your follower, they like you just fine, or they're trying to kill you. That's a LOT of missing gray area.
I mean, I completely screw over that Bard in Riverrun and he'll still play me songs. For free.
It makes me furious.
Okay, sorry, I've been holding this rant in for an audience for a long time now. Edited, Feb 28th 2013 10:27pm by idiggory Edited, Feb 28th 2013 10:29pm by idiggory