I have come to realize that I am an enthusiastic Explorer but often a prickly Achiever. I am most fond of exploring gameplay, rather than being visually stimulated by whatever the new zone is. Most MMOs gate the Explorer content behind Achieving, which works fine at lower levels when things go quickly, and then becomes really annoying as you proceed.
Gating new powers behind levels: fine, good way to let people get used to a few before hitting them with everything. Games average two per level to one every other level, then slow down. Eventually, you might get one every four levels, and that one is an upgraded version of an existing power. Meanwhile, leveling goes from twice a night to every few days. Instead of trying a few toy every thirty minutes to an hour, I am trying a new toy every week or two. That is when a grind can become really annoying.
Anything blocking me from my new Exploration is going to be annoying. This is why I keep harping on the twelve-minute horse rides: that is a barrier in the Achiever content (finish Books x-y) that is gating my new Exploration. Double-block, great.
This is when farming becomes really annoying. If you want to fight the Watcher, you need at least 5/6 radiance. That means an average of 30 runs through the instances on hard mode, and for every character who gets it in fewer than 30, someone must run more to get theirs (or keep running them after getting the radiance piece). Let’s average group quality and dungeon difficulty and say a hard mode run takes 90 minutes. Six dungeons, so 9 hours of content, and getting to 6/6 will have you spending 54 hours repeating those 9 hours. You read gaming blogs, so you probably play more than 10 hours a week, but even a pretty hardcore player will be doing nothing but running those for two weeks. And this ignores time to get the group together, prep between them, failing hard mode, etc. And this is one of the better systems around, because the dungeons are interesting and only moderately long, and someone is guaranteed to get a The Good Drop if you complete it.
So this is potentially upsetting. Run the quest a few hundred times to unlock the only interesting content in Book 7? I don’t mind repeating the quest, especially since one can be done in a few minutes. But if our Tuesday night group were to log on and find the flag at 100/600? I guess we’re changing our plans, because we need a few hundred other people to grind those quests before we can get in. Wow, we’re blocked by a server-wide achievement grind. And how about that new raid I helped unlock? 20,000 server-wide turn-ins, and it was closed before most of us ever saw it.
Feel free to insert your own examples of “you must do X for Y hours before you are allowed to see anything new / do what you want.” And remember, for those not playing multi-hour sessions every night, that translates to days and weeks of barrier. If you have an hour to play tonight and want to work on Volume Two, Book One, you are not going to be thrilled to spend 24 minutes on a horse from Echad Dunann to Rivendell and back. Unlock the swift travel route? Great, that means completing 40 quests, almost all of Eregion. You can set your map to one side or the other, but you are spending those 12 minutes eventually, riding to the next place you want to set your map.
Your game should not insert 15 minutes of repetitive, dull, or not-fun space between units of fun, especially if the fun units take less than 15 minutes to consume. MMOs are great for time per dollar spent, but I frequently wonder how much of that time is entertainment as opposed to dead space and digger wasps.