We all know that character progression is an integral part of today's mmorpg's. Some would go as far as saying that a game can't be an mmo without having it. But this time, I wonder what would remain if someone would make a game like an mmorpg, only without the character progression. No levels, you get access to all available gear right from the start, you can choose all the skills you want at character creation. What would be the advantages? the disadvantages? the possibilities?
First of all, it would completely eliminate the grind. Everything the players would do, would be because they want to do it, not because they get some nice xp or loot. I see a lot of people on this site demanding to eliminate the grind, and I think this is the only way to truly remove it.
Everyone could play together with anyone they like. There would be no more stratisfaction. No more level restrictions on grouping, no more "you must at least be level x to enter region y", no more "that guy beats me because he's higher level". It would set all players on an equal ground for both PvE and PvP.
Actual player skill and teamwork would be required to succesfully run through the hardest PvE instances and to beat the enemy in PvP. You don't win anymore because you're high leveled or have better gear. You win because you've played better or have more knowledge of the game.
But what would players do in this game if they can't improve their character? Well, virtually anything. Players would be able to pursue their own goals, not the ones the developers have set for them. Players could participate in faction vs. faction warfare. Players could gather materials and craft dispensable items like potions or bombs. Players could enter dark dungeons to kill monsters and steal their treasure to enrich themselves. Players could earn money as a trader. Players could just explore the world and look for adventure. And the list goes on. Everything that players can do in a normal mmorpg, would be possible, only the motivation would be different.
So what are the disadvantages? Many wouldn't play for a very long time, they could go very fast through all the content since it's all available from the start. Players without a goal will eventually get bored and quit. I think a solution could be to implement a system like the Ryzom Ring, where players could create their own content. We can all see how player-created content worked in Warcraft III (there was, and still is a large mapping community for Warcraft III). Take this to the world of mmo's and let the players create missions for their friends and arenas to fight their enemies.
So, do you think it is possible to remove character progression for mmo's and still create a fun and lasting game? Let me know what you think of it.