This should be framed above the desk of every MMO designer. Guilt became the primary motivator that kept playing EQ. People logged in because of their friends, not because the game was so fun. My entire guild quit en masse during Gates of Discord and just played WC3 till WoW was released.
I'm basically playing the normal game now because I'm needed, I've been entrusted with precious Frost Res gear and I don't want to screw over 39 other people like my predecessors have.
I understand the game's gotta be about moneysinks to combat inflation, but right now it's getting dangerously close to the breaking point. If some people don't want to play because they can't afford to play because of potion requirements and repaircosts, I'd say you've pushed us too far as a developer.
Now, I think the designer perspective is "well that's what guild banks are for." Yet this simply isn't the case for many people. It's expecting too much from people who are playing for stress relief, not more administration on top of their 9-5. (Sometimes I feel more like an HR manager than a raid leader.)
I don't think that as a designer, you should be expecting people to go out of game for anything that becomes such an integral part of game play for any tier of player. (Excel, DKP sites, etc)
If I were designing a game whose goal was to steal raiders away from WoW, there are 4 key elements on which I'd focus:
(Assume the actual raid content is as good or better than WoW.)
1. Simple, intuitive guild bank feature.
- Checklist menu permissions for your officers to deposit or requisition gold or items.
- In-game logs that document all transactions in big, clean text. (Name, amount, date, note)
- Built-in mail function to make covering repair costs easy. Members mail in their repair bill, you just reply from the guild bank interface and reimburse them on the spot.
2. Guild Housing supports raiding.
- Allows creation of in-house merchants.
- Tradeskill support. Got a large batch of potions to whip up? Drop off all the mats at once, pay a small service charge, get them all created instantly. Logging in 30 minutes early to make all the potions for the raid sucks.
- Recipe library. How many of you have rare recipes that will never allow you to switch out of that profession? Store them in the guild library. Only players that previously knew them will be able to reacquire them. This prevents exploitation.
3. Invest in your guild.
- Putting gold into the guild bank earns interest. Give your players additional incentive to strengthen their guild. Farming sessions aren't just about endlessly refilling a bucket with holes anymore. To curb enormous guild banks, it becomes auto-taxed once it reaches N amount.
- Herb gardens. High level herbalists can now extract seeds from plants. Plant them in your guild's garden/farm/estate to grow a higher yield batch of herbs. Harvesting them yields no additional seeds. Seeds must be obtained in the world, or purchased from players.
- Access to additional vanity and prestige items such as tabards, cloaks, mounts, battle standards.
4. In-game DKP management.
- Simple database entry feature that uses XML for customization.
- Allow players to track attendance, loot, and anything else (dark glare deaths!) the guild needs. Keeps players in the game and not relying on external administrative applications. DKP is here to stay. It's going to be a part of any successful item-based MMO, so rather than burying their heads in the sand, devs need to accept it and find a simple, intuitive way to track this information in game with quests (easy tutorials) that teach players how to use it.
The reality is, many players are very new or very bad at this, and it sours a lot of people to the endgame. So when they're soured and with no place left to go, they quit. Designers need to help their players achieve success. My roommate is part of a new raiding guild that's run like a bunch of monkeys fucking a football and it really turns him off to raiding. He's skilled enough and likes raiding, but doesn't want to deal with a system set up by and run by inept managers. Who would?
In short, get players back in the game and reduce as much external administration as possible. Make it fun to raid, rather than a second job, and you'll help kill the stigma attached to "hardcore raiding" that alienates so many potential subscribers.
FOCUS: What features do you want from your next gen MMORPG that will keep the game fun and not turn it into a job?