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MMORPG vs Challenge

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For some time I've been holding these thoughts within my head, but I think it's time to let it out. If I offend anyone with this or offend someone's fav game or smth. – I'm really sorry about that, I'm just expressing my personal subjective feelings. Feel free to ignore =)

TLDR – it's a love letter to old and challenging MMORPGs and disappointment letter to those modern MMORPGs which lacks challenge and don't require brain to be played (new and updated old ones alike)
For some time now I'm seeing a horrifying tendency in gaming in general (not just MMO) – everything is getting simplified to the point of absurd. You don't even have to compare old games (such as Ultima Online, Tibia, EverQuest) to new ones (TESO, WoW, SWTOR) anymore to get this feeling – and that's exactly why MMORPG is such a good case. Games like WoW, SWTOR, Lineage has such a long lifetime of development, that it's quite simple to see how games mutated from something challenging into casual clickers at the brink of falling into autoplay mode.
If we take a look at evolution of WoW (which is quite easy since the release of WoW Classic) – it used to be quite an adventure: no quest markers (you have to read!), rather strong monsters which can easily kill you if you're not careful, and, even tho at that time it was considered by certain seasoned mmo-veterans as casual, it still generated some challenge, some adventures, some thrill, some joy.
Modern WoW, however, is just a rollercoaster – it looks epic, but it's absolutely safe for you, for your feelings, for your character, for your fragile heart, thus it fails to generate intense feelings and drive. If you know in advance that nothing is going to harm your character, that there's literally no threat – where's the thrill in that? The fact, that you're being guided through every quest by the hand, and you don't even have to read it or use your brain at all in most cases, sorta renders playing it (for me) as a waste of time.


As a very vivid example of how it SHOULD feel, I'd like to give a single adventure in Tibia I had a couple of decades ago. In Tibia to chat with NPC you have to actually use in-game chat – you type "hi", NPC answers "hi, how may I help you", you type "weapon", or "quest", or "buy sword" etc. So, while wandering around the starting location, I've stumbled upon an orc. He wasn't aggressive, but I couldn't speak to him – he always answered with some sort of gibberish. But later I've found an orcish dictionary – an in-game book, which contains orkish dictionary, out of curiosity I've returned to that orc, tried to chat with him using the book – and it worked! and iirc I managed to trade with him or got some quest from him, I don't remember exactly.
How would this quest look in a modern game? You'll have some NPC in city to tell you about this orc + you'll get a quest and a quest marker, you'd follow a series of quest markers, mb kill some helpless monsters along the way to get the book, and after that game will automatically translate everything for you! So, basically, this quest won't be any different from any other – you'll just keep calm and follow the markers.

I know, that making games easier (or, how they now call it, "accessible") makes sense in terms of sales – you can get more players to play it and pay you money, broaden playerbase hundredfold. And for MMORPGS it's even harder than for single games to be variative – there's no way to properly introduce "difficulty" setting in an MMO, where you share the world and enemies between different players.
But personally for me (and I'm not trying to be objective or tell for everybody, that's just my personal bitter feelings) it ruins the game completely, I feel like my cat can actually play ESO or WoW or SWTOR and beat them.
And there's definitely a market for difficult and challenging games – looking at success of Dark Souls series and soulslike games and many other hardcore games. Why can't we have a single MMORPG with similar challenge and difficulty? 😢

As a conclusion, what personally I'd love to see in an MMO of my dreams:
1. difficult enemies, to which you need to adapt, find tactics, gear, approaches
2. deep RPG system with tons of skills and parameters, affecting various aspects (not just "stamina/health/mana") – diplomacy, stealth, craft, combat, perception, magic, etc.
3. quests in which you actually need to use your brain, preferable in a creative way, not just following the script
4. variety of in-game actions, that allows creativity in doing quests or hunting loot. You're too weak to fight through the castle of monsters? Put a couple of crates on top of each other, climb into window on the second floor and avoid bloodshed. Ability to negotiate NPC into not fighting you or even help you occasionally. Or smth like that.

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