One of the rarely mentioned, but incredibly important, aspects of MMO game development is updating the game. When someone does certain aspects of updating very well, it highlights the importance of it. What I’m talking about at the moment is update agility — responding to real, game altering issues in a timely manner.
I always felt the EverQuest II team was quite good at it. When something major needed fixing, it would be addressed quickly and generally hotfixed in. The team would recognize real issues (as reported by players, team members in the game, and data generated by the game), then address them quickly.
I call it update agility because it requires a team and its update schedule to be very responsive and… agile (able to fix things and change directions quickly).
The latest example of this is with Warhammer Online. Mythic has been addressing the real issues with WAR as quickly as they can without making too many sweeping changes. Some examples: improving the scenario queue process, working to address realm imbalance, increasing quest experience rewards in T3+, making open-world RvR more desirable by increasing XP gain, combating spammers, and others.
Other companies have been less swift (read: slow) about their updates *glances in the direction of an MMO with 11 million subscribers*. I hope more developers learn by example and work on their update agility; I like seeing major issues addressed quickly, because I’m a player, too.