I personally have never used bots, macroing or multiboxing, but while playing MMORPGs I'm normally on autopilot. The game is more like a graphical theme thrown over a yahoo chatroom. Why? Because I don't have to give my full attention to what's happening on the screen. Every now and again I may have to click over to a different mob and initiate attack or spam a skill button, but I'm more entertained by the conversations in the chat box than the life and death struggle my character is having with "large radioactive undead rat" #3475. When conversation in game, mostly spent discussing banal internet drivel rather than situations arising from gameplay, is more entertaining than the game itself then there's a problem.
MMORPGs are boring. Not a constructive statement but it'll serve as a sketchy thesis. After endless hours of playing MMORPGs, I can't think of a more repetitive and monotonous way to pass the time. Yes, other genres have you doing the same things over and over again. The difference is that other genres require either a physical or strategic component that creates variation. Let's expand on that.
Tetris has both physical and strategic components. The strategic component comes from five different shaped blocks that fall from the top of the screen and you have to fit them together like a puzzle. When you fill a whole row, that section of the well is emptied, giving you more room. The strategic element of the game is complemented by the fact that you can see the next block that's going to fall after the current one lands. The physical component is introduced by the speed at which the blocks fall increasing over time. So you're repeating the same action over and over again, but the pieces vary and the speed ramps up with every block dropped into the well. This means that you have to pay full attention to what you're doing or the well fills to the top and you lose.
An MMORPG has neither a physical nor strategic component. You see a mob, you click on a mob, you wait for awhile and the mob dies. In rare cases, you my decide to press a few hotkeys for abilities or health / mana pots, but the pace is consistent and doesn't require any level of dexterity. Strategy is also a non-factor since you are always grossly overpowering your enemies. If an enemy is too difficult for you to defeat, you just go one-hit easy mobs until you level up a couple of times, and / or get enough money for better gear, and then go back to kill your original target. If you're already at the level cap you go and get more players to take down the big baddy you're trying to farm.
All the gameplay in MMORPGs is divided between combat and crafting, both of which have all the interactivity of a slot machine. Okay that wasn't fair, combat and crafting have slightly more interactivity than a slot machine since you're allowed to stack the odds in your favor before doing anything. In the case of crafting, you simply have to wait for success since you have nothing to lose but time.
This lack of involvement is then compounded by an experience system that's designed to monopolize your time. You get a quest to collect five wolf tails, go kill wolves until five of them drop "wolf tail" items and go back to the quest vendor for a reward of some kind. Twenty levels later: You get a quest to collect fifty giant space hamster teeth, go kill giant space hamsters until fifty of them drop "giant space hamster teeth" items and go back to the quest vendor for a reward of some kind. The difficulty is the same. The fights are exactly the same. The only difference is the number snipes you have to hunt and the amount of time you need to invest in order to upgrade your character's stats and gear. A time investment that increases exponentially with each level I might add.
What's that? You say that your character gains new abilities and the monsters become harder to fight? Bullshit. Killing the generic level 1 wumpus is just as easy as killing the generic level 60 wumpus. Don't believe me? Go search for "bots" with the title of any given MMORPG. If that's a little too unsavory for you, search for "macros" with the title of any given MMORPG.
Keep in mind that these macros and bots were not made by hardcore or professional programmers. These were hacked together by everyday people that played these games enough to know the content by rote. You can tell me about how a person that bought a level 60 character with all epic gear doesn't know how to play that build, but you can't tell me that it takes the hundreds of hours that you spend grinding to the end cap and acquiring epic gear in order to learn how to play.
None of this is really new. Most of these problems go all the way back to the MUDs of old. Like modern MMORPGs, MUds had macros, bots, and multiplayers. Many of the more common macros were eventually made into MUD features in the same way that early MMORPG macros have become standard UI. The most glaring example in MUDs is the 'wimpy' setting. With this command, you can set the number of hitpoints at which your character will flee from combat. So if HP dips lower than say... 30% then your character runs away to safety. With macroing, you can set it up so that the character will automatically quaff health pots at certain HP levels. The fact that many players, to this day, feel the need to automate a considerable amount of the gameplay is a pretty good indication that there is a serious flaw in the game design.
Botting and macroing also served a different role altogether. Macroing and botting made it easy for one player to control a whole party of characters instead of just one. Multiplaying, Multiboxing in MMORPG terms, is frowned upon but not despised to the same degree as botting or RMT. Those that object to multiplay / boxing are under the impression that the practice is largely to give the multiplayer's main an unfair advantage in regards to progression. I subscribe to a different school of thought that believes multiplayers are just trying to make the game interesting. Managing an entire party singlehandedly is more difficult, by an order of magnitude, than managing one character. Even so, the fact that players have to go to this kind of extreme just to make the game interesting is another red flag that MMORPGs are lackluster games.
You know, looking back on all my previous entries, I notice that very few of them focus on MMORPGs entirely. I guess part of that has to do with the fact that I don't play MMORPGs that often. Another part is the fact that I see more potential in the genre than actual results. But the number one reason why I haven't written about MMORPGs is that I just don't like them very much.
I've wrestled with the why of that last statement for quite some time now. I played pen and paper RPGs. I like single player RPgs. I like multiplayer RPGs such as Diablo 2 and Neverwinter Nights. I even enjoy Rogue-likes, and it takes a special kind of nerd to truely appreciate that sub-genre of RPG. Ultimately, it all boils down to MMORPGs not requiring the same level of involvement that the previously mentioned styles of RPG require. Hell, even without bots or macros, many MMORPG players admit to doing other things while they play.
Could you honestly do the dishes or cook while playing KOTOR? How about Dragon Quest VIII? Baldur's Gate? Of course you couldn't. You would have to pause the game or wait for your turn during combat or something. A good game engages you the entire time you're playing. MMORPGs, by and large, are not good games.