Well, I'm still playing EQ2. Yeah, I railed against quest-driven gameplay lately, but in EQ2 I've just been logging in on occasion to go on a raid or to plow through old dungeons (not necessarily doing quests) with low level alts. So it's been entertaining enough to keep me subscribing. But not enough to keep my eye from wandering.
I've also been spending what little time I have in various fantasy MMORPG marketing ploys, er, I mean "betas." Aion is one I can name, any other I can't. But my opinion is the same: WoW. WoW. I mean, WoW, it's amazing just how blatant some games can get with their influences.
Seriously people, no one is going to switch from the king of the hill to your WoW clone no matter what you might think of the incremental innovation you tacked on to it. Especially since the #1 WoW clone on the market is FREE. Let me spell that for you: $ ... 0. That's what you are competing against if you go against WoW.
Either a) make your game free, or b) differentiate yourself somehow. Suggestion: start with the UI and the quest driven gameplay. Even if your game suddenly becomes super awesome and innovative at level 50, if I look at levels 1-5 and think: this looks JUST like World of Warcraft, I'm not going to play! Even the people who like WoW aren't going to play, because they already have WoW.
So I guess 2009 is a wash in the fantasy MMO department. Hopefully 2010 will bring us some great betas... followed by great releases. These are the games I'm looking forward to:
Guild Wars 2 -- The first game was incredible. Take its game mechanics and the core design that worked and add a more "worldly" feel to it so it feels more like a "real" MMO and it would be heaven.
Heroes of Telara -- A game where they are focusing on the technology and on the ability to deliver changing world content on the fly. Sounds like the developers there intend to deliver some real innovation instead of a simple WoW clone. Imagine a world where the focus is on fighting a threat that, when defeated, WILL NEVER HAPPEN APPEAR AGAIN. Instead of doing quests that will sit there and wait for the next guy to come along. That's beautiful.
Final Fantasy XIV -- The devs are talking and they say it won't have levels or experience??? That sounds too good to be true. The story based missions in Final Fantasy XI were incredible though sparse. The only flaw with the game was the interminable grind. But clearly there has to be SOME kind of progression system. Still, it's clear it won't be WoW without your traditional Diku ding, and that's a good thing.