I've been playing console games these past couple of days, the traitor to my PC that I am, and have been enjoying L.A. Noire. The open world aspect of it reminded me heavily of the days of playing Grand Theft Auto 3. It was in playing this game and reminiscing that I realized what type of gameplay I was currently missing.
I wanted to explore. I wanted to be given a setting, and though I'd have a goal and everything, but also be rewarded for going off the main path and just exploring, finding the nooks and crannies in the landscape. Find a hidden path up a mountain to see a fantastic view, or wander off the trail in the forest to find a hidden sanctuary. It's these kinds of little touches that I think makes a world more believable and more enjoyable. Anyone who played GTA3 remembers the hidden packages all over the cityscape. To have the option to just wander around where you please and be rewarded for it is something I'd like to see more of.
Now, this is not to say current MMO's don't have thing that resemble this. DCUO has those tokens hidden about the city that give you lore points, race challenges, and landmarks from the comics. I think it's a fantastic implementation, as most of these things can be collected right out the gate just by wandering around with your travel powers. A good number of them are scattered about questing areas though, and you can collect them just by looking around while questing. WoW has little easter eggs hidden about as well. My favorite spot is in Duskwood, the small creepy monument near the border of Duskwood and STV. There is no explanation for the area; no quests lead there, no dedication to anyone, nothing.
I enjoy these little touches. Sometimes the best spots are the ones where you can make your own story, rather than follow someone else's.
As a side note, I've done free trials for SWG on multiple occasions and enjoyed it, but not enough to subscribe. But oddly enough, this is one of the more bittersweet game closings I've ever read about. Players and Devs are seeing the end of an era, the end of a lot of connections and memories they've created, and the sadness around it shows. I really feel for all of them, and hope they can find a place to reunite and make new memories.