Not for any planned game as of yet, but I've been hitting up a few MMORPG's recently including my first, Everquest as well as reading various posts here on MMO design.
One of the main draws of an RPG I believe is a sense of reward and progress ... doing what the game wants you to do rewards you with some form of 'experience points' which make your character stronger, tougher. As well as earning money to buy new and better equipment (or being rewarded with equipment itself). Part of this reward is being able to venture further afield and fight deadly monsters.
Personally I feel this falls down when you bring the 'MMO' part to the party. Friends can out level you and you wont be able to play with them in the newest dungeon because your to weak ... or on the flipside your waiting for your friends to progress to join you. Than there is the idea of PVP, the more powerful player can run around ganking weaker ones with little threat from them.
So I suppose what I'm looking for is a 'Have your cake and eat it to' solution. Is there a form of progression that keeps players at least on an even footing while stilling letting them feel like they are progressing? So at level 5 you can play with your level 15 buddy and both have a fun and exciting time without certain threat of death due to being low level. Or that ten or so level 1's CAN fight off a level 30 player.
The other topic that comes to mind that can dampen fun is PVP ... either you have it and a few ruin it for everyone because all they do is gank the helpless singing trololololo all the way or PVP is removed because of this leaving those who legitimately want to have proper battles with other players out to dry. So wondered if there was a middle ground, fighting territorial battles for power and glory is promoted while "pwning n00b3" who are happily making elf cookies is punished?
I guess this is a very old horse of a topic, but I wanted to see what people thought these days on it? Can you have open world game, PVP, mechanically rewarding RPG gameplay and level player footing? Or is this the unreachable dream?