Mystery is one of the most significant themes in culture. One of the most appealing aspects of the fantasy media and mythologies that inspire and inform games like EQII is the sense of uncertain, and most likely perilous, adventure. But in EQII and its peers, however, the unknown, basically, doesn't exist.
Gambotto-Burke goes on to note that Tabula Rasa is attempting to fill in a bit of this gap, with its fluid control points system: The AI-controlled alien enemies, the Bane, will work against both player and computer-driven humans to capture towns, military bases and cities. Sometimes they'll succeed. Players will never really be certain of which areas are safe and which are overrun, as the battle constantly waxes and wanes - with or without player input.
Ultimately, I think this issue of the unknown in MMOGs leads to the ever-present problem of resources. Despite the joy of the occasional easter egg, providing 'mystery' isn't really the best way to say it: what he's talking about is new content. Content that hasn't been seen by that many people, content that isn't endlessly categorized on a website. That's why expansions are so popular, after all: killing a boss on launch day may mean you're one of only a handful of people to do it - ever. The chance to actually be heroic, in a genre that more often than not defines heroism as 'investing time', is exciting.
The problem, though, is that new content is a challenge. Designers and writers have to create it, developers need to implement it, QA needs to make sure it actually works ... and there's only so much room in the pipeline. Say you're a producer for a game. In one hand you've got a bug that the whole playerbase knows about, a bug that's causing some serious frustrations. In the other you have some designer's plan for a new quest hub. It's sort of a no-brainer, right? You fix the bug. That eats up pipeline for the given week, and the quest hub gets back burnered for later.
That's why content releases in these games are such big deals. New experiences in a living, breathing service environment are incredibly hard to do. The Star Wars Galaxies (a game I'd like to point out gets far too little credit these days) designers tackled this in the most recent chapter with a Collections system. It's more of a game element than the one in EverQuest 2, but remains dirt simple. The most important part of that system, though, is that it looks like it's relatively easy to add new content to it. Content additions via simple systems can keep the game feeling fresh even in between big updates.
Like anybody else, I'm a big fan of new content. I love getting the chance to try out the new hotness ... but I have fairly low expectations. If it's 'new to me', it's usually more than new enough. I've been leveling a Horde character this year, and enjoying it a great deal - despite the fact that something like 50% of the entire population of Azeroth has gone through the same exact content.
Next time you're getting bored by the same old same old, remember that the next time the publisher releases an expansion isn't the only time there will be content you haven't seen in the game.
What do you do when you get dragged down by the routine in your game of choice?