I've had long conversations with friends about designing an MMO that would address all of our concerns. In this post, I'm going to describe "World of Fogecraft", a hypothetical MMO that we can use as a backdrop for more discussions. While we will focus on issues concerning MMOs, it will also apply to all types of RPGs (pen & paper and computer).
To provide a base level for the discussion, World of Fogecraft, abbreviated WoF, will implement a fantasy setting similar to old school D&D. Its perfectly valid to assume that standard archetypes will be present: fighters, magic users, priests, and rogues. Mobs will run the gamut from normal animals (wolves, bears, etc.) to humanoids (orcs and kobolds) to undead (skeletons and zombies) to all sorts of fantastic creatures, up to and including dragons.
The world will consist of three different zones: Capital City, Dinglewood, and The Borderlands. Capital City is an area much like Stormwind in WoW (or Waterdeep or Greyhawk City in AD&D). It is a large city that provides a base area where characters go to train, buy supplies, etc. Dinglewood is an introductory area that is mostly civilized (think Elwynn Forest or the Dalelands). It has several farms, mines, woods, and a small village. Most of the quests will revolve around securing areas from predators (like wolves) or stopping incursions of bandits/kobolds. The Borderlands is located on the edge of civilization. The only settlement is a Keep, with monsters patrolling beyond its walls.
I plan to expand the discussion to include all aspects of the world, including questing, classes, rewards, and so on. Please feel free to comment on or question any of the assumptions. And if there is a particular aspect of the game that hasn't been mentioned here, I can always add a post to kick off that discussion.