Over the past 10-12 years, games have been advancing and being accepted more and more as a legitimate artform and story telling device, in the same way a movie or a book is. This has mostly been led by RPGs, although through the years we've seen other games start to take on the idea of moral dilemas and interactive storytelling - look at Heavy Rain as an example. In fact, one of the few genres where it has kind of been lacking (or taken longer to catch up) has been in the MMORPG genre.
So I started thinking, could an MMORPG start incorporating some of the feature we take for granted in singleplayer RPGs? Rather than the "get quest, kill x number of things, hand in quest" formula, could we start seeing multiple ways to complete a quest? Could there be moral choices to be made, with an outcome that will affect both you as a player (emotional involvement) and your character (rewards/penalties).
Old School "Choose Your Next Move" Stories
Very challenging topic (which may be why there are only two replies so far, but challenges are GOOD). I have been thinking about this all week in between studying for my electricity exam (physics second semester, oh boy...) and decided that what this question reminds me the most of is those stories where you would read the passage, and then choose your next "move". It would have part of the story, and then at the bottom "If you wish to follow John to the boat and go fishing, turn to page 5...if you want to run away screaming, turn to page 6..." Part of the fun was that you couldn't "go back" on your choice. You had to finish the story to the end. If you made a certain "bad" choice, you either got killed and had to start over or you suffered dire consequences.
But I want both quest rewards, not just one...
As far as applying this to WoW...well, we already see it to some extent in quest rewards. Have you ever wanted both rewards that a quest offered, but were only able to choose one? Once you do, you cannot go back and get the other one. You can't reverse your choice. You are forever stuck with that item. Sometimes, we see quests like the Kharazan ring, or the Ashen Verdict ring, where you can pay money to have your ring "reforged" for you. This is much more understandable than going back to Farmer Saldean and saying, "by the way, I don't like these [Harvester's Pants]. Any chance you could hook me up with the [Harvester's Robe] instead? I don't think he'd be too happy.
Environment Phasing and Reputation Greetings
Right now there aren't too many irreversible, major choices in the game that can affect your character, but I'll give a few of the examples that DO exist. First, we have environmental phasing. Once you do the quests, you've phased yourself into the next "time period" and things have changed. People have died, moved, and new NPCs are around with new quests. The terrain may have changed (although I don't know if we have terrain phasing in the game yet. I think just NPCs, quests, and some environmental factors. You can't undo these changes once they happen. You also cannot undo places you have discovered/explored.
We also have reputations. Once you are exalted with the Kirin Tor, they greet you in Dalaran and say how nice it is to see you, and what an honor it is to have you back in Dalaran. These things help immerse you in the world and also make you feel appreciated and that your hard work was worth it. Also, we have "choose one and not the other" faction pairs like The Oracles/Frenzyheart and The Aldor/Scryer. You may not be exalted with both at one time, but you can be neutral with both. Once you choose a side, the other side begins to hate you. You cannot interact with the other side (they become hostile to you and attack you if you get too close/are in an area controlled by them). You can change these choices, although it is by far easier to change from Frenzyheart to Oracles and vice versa than it is to change from Aldor to Scryer.
More Storytelling via Choices
I'd like to see a little more...adaptation when it comes to your choices in WoW. By adaptation, I mean I want the game to recognize the choice I made and change a few things in the environment around me, whether it is the lines that NPCs say, the emotes they do, perhaps even future quests that I am offered. I know some people would possibly complain about this but if it were implemented on a large scale from 1 to max level, then you could potentially have many different paths to choose from after you've finished one character. Already you hear about people discovering new areas or new quests on their alts. What if this step were taken even further? You are given choices when replying to NPCs. If you choose the rude reply, the NPCs begin to no longer say things to you when you pass by. Their option texts are shorter and more curt. They begin to treat you as you treat them. Perhaps you have a flexible reputation bar (on a 1-10 or 1-100 scale). As you reply with friendlier lines, they move your bar back to 10 and you gain access to certain foods/perks. But then, who would be rude in the first place? Perhaps for RP reasons. You could always RP that your character is disliked in Stormwind, and cannot step foot in the city without rude remarks said toward them, but what if it were really true? (Granted, I'm not sure who would actually WANT that to happen...)
What if you are a max level cook, and exalted with Stormwind? Perhaps there are some special Stormwind Braised Pork Chops that you can cook that turn you into a 'Citizen of Stormwind' or another cosmetic appearance. This could extend to all the cities, other factions, etc. You could have access to a certain kind of cheese from Trias' Cheese (for RP fun)...
"Here, my dear, try some of THIS cheese...it is a very rare cheese only bestowed to the best chefs who are held in high regard in Stormwind..."
Oh the possibilities are endless. Or a tailoring pattern for a special dress.
There could also be clubs, societies, where you could turn in a certain number of an item (herbs, leather, beer, wine, etc.) and gain access to a certain tailoring pattern or cooking recipe after say, 50 turn ins. Yes that's a high number, but if it were a pretty blue beret with a flower, you'd better believe that people would work toward it. This is also another idea for RP...working toward your standing within the Stormwind Master Tailor Society...or the Old Town Cooking Club...for the recipe for those yummy and delicious Minature Strawberry Shortcakes...
What ideas do you have for more intricate and or personalized touches in WoW? What choices could there be that could lead to personalization of the game on so many levels?