What I think makes MMO's fun are the ability to play with other people in a vast world with beautiful locations, really giving that sense of being a "fellowship" of some sort. Think of it as playing a shooter in multiplayer mode, the difference being you're not shooting the same people over and over again in a small level, you're working together with people to complete a quest, each member having his own tasks within the group. The group aspect can be immensely fun as you plan a mission, tasks get divided and you chattily work your way through a mission. Even more fun, in my opinion, is the competitive aspect between Guilds (as experience by me in Guild Wars), where you know the people better and the group sense you get in normal missions is enforced, and you really feel the need to give it your best shot.
MMO's have something for a lot of people, be it the social interacting with other people, the competitive aspect in PvP, exploring a vast world with all sorts of characters and creatures or getting the sense of progression. On the other hand, the people who wanted a solid story or gameplay that doesn't constitute grinding may have been left in the cold. I think that's what BioWare wants to change. They want to make MMO's fun for even more people. Whether they're going to succeed, is something for another thread.
I do agree with you that MMO's are completely focused on rewards and getting better loot and armor, etc. And you play through the game until you're wondering why you're still playing it, if the only thing you're going to get is better loot. It's all resolved around becoming better, so you can defeat an enemy, to get his loot, to become even more powerful. Your character's progression is only physical, not mental. You don't feel as if you're character has experienced all these dangerous moments in that horrible world, you don't feel connected to your character. It's a thing of numbers, and your job is to increase those numbers. I think there's certainly something that should be done about that.
The only MMO I've played regularly was Guild Wars, and it's not even considered a real MMO. It's nothing like a decent singleplayer RPG, but I've enjoyed it. It's highly balanced, PvP is fun, especially Guild vs. Guild, and it's a really beautiful world. But I can understand why you wouldn't like it.
I think MMO's have the potential to be fun for a lot more people, but it'll have to mean throwing out some gameplay elements that have become standard in the genre. It's a genre that's still in its "youth", but it's a genre that can appeal to more people than any other genre can, I think.
Last edited by Miltiades; 08-28-2009 at 10:30 AM.