"If the success of a subscription-based MMO is measured by the number of people paying a monthly fee, how does that impact game design decisions?" asks Colin Johanson, Guild Wars 2 lead content developer. As ArenaNet's subscription-free MMORPG isn't motivated by "the need to create mechanics that keep people playing as long as possible," he claims, design is led by a simple question: "Is this fun?"
In a blog post, Johanson says that subscription MMOs "run the risk of sacrificing quality to get as much content in as possible to fill that time." This often manifests as grinding for levels and items, repeating daily quests, having to organise huge raids, and generic kill/collect quests.
In Guild Wars 2, though, content is geared around having fun rather than swallowing time. The rarest items merely offer a new look rather than better stats, dungeons can have multiple paths and random events, players don't compete for resources nodes, quest difficulty scales to match the number of players, and heaps of such little touches. "Is this fun?" is a question still asked constantly at this stage of development, he says.
Do read the full post, as it's awfully interesting. Clearly he's talking up his own product but in a world of direfully dreary MMOs, it's nice to hear about good, clean, honest fun.