I bought the collector’s edition of World of Warcraft. I bought it specifically to get the “Making Of” DVD (this is the same reason I bought the collector’s edition of Age of Mythology).
I was kind of disappointed because there’s only one section of the DVD about the design of the game, and about twenty on the various artistic aspects of the game. Still, two things came through in the design section that are critical to the success of the game:
1. Every character can solo. Yes, there’s big, cool, fun stuff that can only be done in groups. But if you can’t group (or just don’t want to), you can still advance your character yourself. When I played the stress test, I thought I’d just lucked out and picked the one race/class combo (Human Paladin) who could solo. Nope. Everybody can solo if they so choose.
2. There’s more to life than levelling. The problem with most MMORPGs is that levelling is about the only real reward in the game. And the more you play the game, the longer and longer it takes to level. Which means your rewards come farther and farther apart – and since by this time you’re already powerful, they tend to mean less and less. Thus, the game gets less rewarding the more you play it. The WOW designers identified this problem and solved it by creating several parallel systems which all iterate at different rates, so the odds are good that no matter where you are and what you are doing, you are about to be rewarded in some way. You’re either going to level, or gain a skill point, or finish a quest, or find that recipe you’ve been looking for, or collect enough money for that cool suit of armor you’ve been eyeing, or something else.
And in identifying and fixing these problems, they have gained me as a player. I normally hate MMORPGs, but my time playing WOW during the first stress test was wonderful, and it was what convinced me to pick this as my first serious MMORPG.