In my last post I sketched out a crafting system that allowed players to purchase mods that correlated to learned skills where they could not only generate entirely new content for the game (such as, new weapons, armor, hairstyles, clothes, animations, etc), but then sell those creations to other players for in-game money or real-world money.
In this system, a player could become quite famous simply for their unique artistic and/or design skill, and actually make money for it. This moves the game beyond simply a game, but also provides a means for someone to "set up shop" and market their particular creative skills in the game.
First, in EVE-like fashion, a player might set their character on a skill-learning path towards becoming a master blacksmith. After achieving master blacksmith level they can of course craft all the house-designed in-game appropriate weapons or armor suits, depending on their speciality. However, at the master level they also have the option of buying (with real cash or a huge sum of in-game money) a blacksmithing mod (represented in-game as a shop or kiosk interface) that allows the player to design and construct weapons or armor (or other items) using a deep customization interface.
One can, while offline, design a sword, specifiying materials (even magical or special materials that offer stat bonuses) and structure. Such materials, size, weight, power, etc. will of course correspond to limitations on who can effectively use the sword. All of this would be made apparent in the design process. All of the materials and parameters of the sword will form an identifying schematic that identifies that sword with those particular attributes.
At this point the craftsman can "formalize" their design, which checks to see if anyone has trademarked that particular sword formula, and has the opportunity to trademark their work, a system that checks to see if any other sword has been trademarked using that same formula; if not , then for a fee the sword can be trademarked. This sends a message to the crafting system that disallows the formalization of any sword formula that infringes on the trademarked model. Note that only the original developer of any sword formula can trademark that formula, but he doesn't have to; if he doesn't trademark it, then the formula is "open", meaning that others can copy it (formalize the same design), but cannot trademark it.
In this same way all manner of unique, player generated game content will flourish that will add incredible lateral depth well beyond what any team of company developers could hope to deliver.