Traps are another staple of "roleplaying dungeoneering" that are sorely missed from our traditional MMO play. Without traps, there's no reason to be cautious or wary. People barrel through dungeons like bulls, knowing that the only thing that can really touch them are the monsters within.
Traps, on the other hand, make you think. They make you look at walls and doors and they slow you down a bit. They even let the player take in the environment and enjoy the craftsmanship of the game as they force the player to look carefully. They can even put the player into situations monsters can't provide, such as avoiding arrows shooting out of walls, running from a falling boulder, or even dodging giant bladed pendulums. These are experience that can add a little more action to the MMO, but cautious players will be able to avoid these situations by simply applying their rogue skills correctly.
Furthermore, passive abilities FTW
The rogue here is only the tip of the iceberg at hand, however, as more games seek to dethrone the use of passive skills that utilize a class's position in the world. Why can't a priest see ghosts and talk to the dead? Why can't a mage inscribe hidden runes on walls to leave messages for other mages? Read unknown languages? Speak other languages other than your own dialect? Perception to see traps and hidden doors anyone?
There are plenty of openings here in the traditional classes that we know and love that can be fleshed out without going to extreme lengths to find new ways to play. Some of these can even open up brand new gameplay or social experiences that you can share with your group.
You don't have to innovate to innovate
It seems we're drifting away from our pen and paper roleplaying roots more and more -- which is simultaneously a good and bad thing. Sure, we get to try out new ideas and play in brand new ways, but some of those older ideas still have some legs on them.
Classes are more than just DPS, abilities, and a few other gameplay numbers. They each have a place in the larger world, and it's the larger world that's suffering more and more from the focus on uber l33t gear and buffs.
If y'all are looking for a decent example of what I'm talking about, check out Dungeons and Dragons Online
. Since they're so entrenched in their roleplaying roots, they included some of these things into the design, like hidden doors and traps. But their design is only the beginning of what newer titles can build on, and I'd like to see someone else follow in their footsteps and create something great.
Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who is more of a paladin than she is a backstabbing stealthy thief, so you can't say she's biased. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at seraphina AT massively DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.