Sometimes I wonder whether I would have enjoyed Everquest.
I guess I should start by saying that I’m basing this soley on what other people have said about it, but my understanding of that game is that it was a lot like WoW, but difficult to solo; had not very much structure in terms of directed goals or quests; and had a lot of travel time, forced downtime and other “inconveniences.”
I also understand that all of that did a few things: forced players to band together thus placing an enormous emphasis on social connections, encouraged players to seek out or create their own gameplay rather than relying on the game to tell them where to go and what to do, and placed a high priority on preserving the world as something big and unforgiving and meaningful.
WoW has been moving strongly in the opposite direction for more than a few years now: everything in the world is soloable, even in group content you never need to so much as speak to another player if you don’t want to, the game is very careful never to let a player fall out of the structured progression path, and the player is less a part of the world than an unstoppable juggernaut, conquering all he comes across.
As a game, WoW is the best it ever has been. But as new players have skewed the demographics of the playerbase from people who like RPGs to people who are playing this game because their friends told them it was awesome, the immersive elements that RPG players value have been gradually eroded to be replaced with the structure that so many people need to avoid having to think for themselves or interact with other players. The world was shrunk because people valued the convenience, and so now though it is a fantastic game, it’s a lot less of a world than it once was.