Oh yeah, non-combat systems in MMOs. Here's a particular part of what MMOCritic had to say that I really dug:
Dynamics Part II: Player vs. Player (non-combat) [Guild Thief Systems]I really like the idea of a non-combat PvP system being put into more games. Boon's ideas remind me a lot of those parts in the Baldur's Gate games where you would find rival guilds and religious sects in the cities competing for your help and depending on who you aided, the rewards and story would branch off in different directions. I find myself asking, why can't we have similar systems in our MMOs?
Players should have a chance to join a few different rogue guilds in a city, at least two different ones and possibly up to five different ones for the bigger cities. There would even be some of these rouge guilds in cities that do not allow Rogues as a playable class for that race too. One thing I find all too disturbing is the lack of ‘choices’ or ‘options’ a player has inside the game world, seems like most games since EverQuest II have looked to provide less and less options and choices for characters outside of character customization, which only extends to the creation process.
Players are given some sabotage and other adventuring sphere quests and some diplomactic quests to prove themselves to the guild. Once they are found worthy and accepted to the guild, the real roguish activities begin. This could be done by building faction with the guild, conducting a series of quests, or paying some gold, it could involve all and even more options.
In LotRO, I'm finding that there's plenty to do to divert my attention from purely questing, but still the great majority of it results in hunting or killing. Even the crafting system requires the player to go out into the wild, fend off boars, bears, and goblins, just to get the materials needed for his crafting profession.
What I'd like to see more of, as we come into a brand new age of MMOs, is content that is not linked at all to killing. Vanguard, love it or hate it, had a great premise with their diplomacy system, even it ended up half-baked like the rest of the game. Give me the option, if I so desire, to spend an entire evening playing cards to raise a gambling skill, running errands within a city to raise my charity skill, and so on. Like Boon said, there's plenty more to a world than just killing and gaining levels. I eagerly await the company who can bring this to the table.
It's not that killing and questing aren't fun, but there's so much more to be added to a virtual world that companies are missing. The question is, can adding all this stuff remain viable when priority for content is questing and killing? In other words, can you dabble in so many areas without letting the core of your game suffer? I hope so, and I'd love to see it done.