In the past few weeks Funcom received both positive and negative remarks for their new offline leveling system. Massively had a positive post about the feature, which received a lot of comments.
I think both the author of that post and also Funcom are on the right track here. Many MMO games have run into a trap in that leveling itself in a game has become a key purpose for playing. People talk about speed of leveling, if there is enough content to support leveling to max level etc. And when talking about alternatives to the mob killing/leveling part, we may talk about crafting or similar features.
But these are very abstract concepts and if we do not lose this abstraction the different MMOs become just a grey blur – they all have mob killing, crafting, PvP, PvE or whatever – in one form or another. For some people that is fine and enough. But I would hope that we somehow can get past the pure abstract mechanics and get back into the virtual worlds.
I want to play a game because I can be a kick-ass space pilot, or command demons from the underworld to wreck havoc. Or I can explore worlds with strange creatures that no-one has heard of, or see twin suns set on the horizon.