I get asked this often when I bring up the subject of a game where your characters have full advancement 24/7 whether one is online or off. It seems that these people think that beating on they keyboard as long and as often as possible is the only reason people play in MMOGs.
You might claim that's an unfair statement, that what people really enjoy is advancing their characters through some kind of effort, and that's the fundamental reason to play. I contend that we're not talking about "effort" in any meaningful sense, we're just talking about time. Your character only progresses in relationship to how much time you put into it. The "effort" is really just in coming up with excuses to miss work, bail on school, and ignore relationships in order to keep your rear in the chair and in front of the screen.
Yet, many people who play MMOGs don't have much time, and they certainly don't have the kind of time necessary to significantly advance their characters. There are a lot more people who don't play MMOGs at all because they don't have anywhere near enough time to even bother; they might have a 3-4 hours a week to devote to sitting in front of the computer and focusing on a game. Why should they play at all?
Should the MMOG industry just ignore them, and continue focusing only on those who are willing and capable of devoting virtually all of the entertainment time to one medium, which demands their complete attention for very long spans of time if they are going to do anything at all? Or should they create a game that offers a value that no other medium can provide: 24/7 participation regardless of how much time you can physically devote to sitting in front of your screen.
To me, this is one of the most baffling things about the industry; this is the perfect medium to offer these time-starved people an incredible entertainment value. Full 24/7 participation in an online, persistent world regardless of how much time they can allot, in large single-sitting increments, to do nothing but stare at the screen and bang on the keyboard. This is the only medium that I can think of that can offer hobbyist-quality participation and reward to those with little time (at a time) to invest. MMOGs have the capacity to offer the perfect, best entertainment value to time-starved, active people on the go, and people that love to multifunction and get bored easily.
Imagine firing up an account and creating a character. Immediately upon entry, your character is set at a default of training in overall physical/mental conditioning, which increases base stats. You can then set a long term goal for advancement and log out. You can do this for each of your stable of characters. For now, you're done. Then, while at work and goofing off some (but certainly not being able to actually "play" a traditional MMOG), you log in and check on your character stats and start investigating the skill/talent/profession/attribute trees. Each skill,talent, profession and attribute is well-described both in what they add to your character by themselves, and in how they can affect other skills, talents, professions and attributes.
You decide that one character needs to be a leader so you can play more than one character at once when you log in. So, you set a long term leadership path for your character. You're going to need game money, so you find professions to train in for a couple of other characters, professions that make sense to accomplish your overall goal for your "family" of characters.
While you are riding a taxi home, eating lunch or waiting in an office, you log into your character management system via your Iphone or Ipad. You investigate some more of the various skill, talent, profession and attribute trees and find out that a leader with cross-training down the profession tree in city-state service, can gain access for himself and anyone in his group to various government facilities - including the government forge, alchemy lab, etc. Or, if your leader has in his group someone trained in such service, they can do the same. Since you want access to the forge for your blacksmith in training (and don't want to have to build your own forge), you get set one of your characters to advance in city-state service.
So, after a few days of character management, you have a few hours to sit down and log in. Note: your character cannot be "working" for game money at their profession when you log in, so your character advancement switches to whatever default line of advancement you have set (if your character was "working" before you logged in). You find quests that have arrived in your mailbox that are specific to each of your characters' specific areas of advancement. These quests result in the achievement of various items corresponding to your areas of advancement, and which guide you into and through the aspects of the game in which your character is advancing. You meet NPCs, find places, learn lore, develop a reputation in certain factions, make NPC friendships and establish relationships.
What is there to do in a game where character advancement doesn't have to be earned by sitting in front of your screen pounding on keys? Why, anything you want, anything the developers can imagine, anything you can imagine, anything but doing the same things over and over and over just to move an experience bar or put gold in your bank account. And the part-time, time-starved player can manage and have fun with their online "family" of characters even if they can only do so in small increments and can't even log in to the game for long periods of time.
I can understand that to those who have the time and focused attention to invest, they want their playstyle rewarded. We already have many such games. But, how about those who just don't have the time and patience necessary to pound an experience bar upward, keystroke by keystroke? This medium offers the perfect opportunity, through technology, to give those people a rewarding, fun, and addictive entertainment experience - if MMOG developers would just get unstuck from the idea that advancing and excelling in an MMOG must ... be ... work.