It's exactly this. Innovation is only good if it solves a problem the genre has (or didn't know it had). But difference for the sake of difference and expecting that will produce a WoW-killer is like throwing a dart blindfolded while going for a bullseye surrounded by killer beehives. FFXIV 1.0 lost its way because it simply forgot about the player experience being the most important aspect. The industry has evolved tremendously since the days of EQ, so offering a game that completely ignored the last decade of MMOdom was pure madness.
I'd like to point out that there are valid reasons for wanting and seeking innovation. The MMO genre is well established at this point and a lot of the conventions have gotten a bit stale. There are usually good reasons why they have become the conventions, and changing them just for the sake of change is likely to result in a worse game, but a game developer isn't worth much if he or she isn't at least looking for ways to shake things up in ways that are as effective or ideally more effective than the convention.
One example of this is questing. I find myself barely doing side quests in FFXIV, and ignoring guildleves as much as possible because frankly they're the same boring concepts I've come to expect from 5 years of playing WoW specifically and MMOs in general for 15+. Seeing yet another filler quest from an NPC with an exclamation point over his head does not excite or compel me. I really enjoy the story and even the class quests, but that's because I'm generally getting to see a decent narrative with cut scenes and character development, and getting some nice abilities as rewards. They don't feel like filler.
FFXIV had a huge opportunity (and may still have one) with guild leves. The original concept with guild leves seemed to suggest that they would be somewhat modular, that you would sort of earn the ability to customize your goals, group sizes, and rewards more as you went on. You can KIND of do this now by choosing the level of the leve and choosing from a list for each hub, but you're inevitably going to repeat the same leves a lot, and maybe never find the one that fits exactly what you're in the mood for. IF they could ever revisit the leve system and really make it crackle and pop, that's the kind of innovation that would add a lot of value to the genre.
Similarly, I'd love to know if there was an underlying reason for the armory system. What were the imagined advantages of tying class to weapon directly? Is this something they did differently just for the sake of being diferent, or is there some emergent depth or compelling gameplay that's going to justify what otherwise seems like a narrow design decision? I felt like the job system in FFXI was very different than anything that's ever been done in MMOs before or since (although Rift probably comes closest to duplicating it). That's innovation for the sake of better and novel gameplay, and I love it. I don't love the armory system (though I do love being able to play every class on one character). Is this a system they could develop further to differentiate ARR in a very positive way? I'd love to find out.
Questing is boring whether it has the exclamation mark or not in just about every mmo. Because the norm is for developers to make 1000s of quests for the sake of content versus making them fun but not as numerous. Here's what I would like to see from quests.
Keep in mind an npc tracker would be needed to let players know their current whereabouts and intricacies.
Note: Quests should be able to be grouped and be scaled appropriately with the number of members.
1.Dynamic npcs(NPCs with changing requirements,objectives,motives, moods, beliefs, and daily activities)
The framework for how to make more dynamic npcs exist already if a developer would just look at other games and sponge up a bit of here and there to form a cohesive package from the whole.
Npc dialogue and player choices- Elder Scrolls and Bioware rpgs
Npc mood and beliefs- Xenoblade Chronicles Heart to hearts and Final Fantasy X jecht spheres
Npc daily activities- Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy IX active time events
Npc perception of the world- Bioware rpgs and Guild Wars 2
Npc quest interactions/travels with you- Basically any rpg including FFXI Prishe
Npc motives- Instead of just wanting something from the particular quests have that be a work towards something bigger
Rather than fall into the trend of kill this, gather this, fed-ex this. Let there be interactions consisting of more than trade or consume.
Cid asks you to gather some things to fix a magitek. You do whatever that entails, but rather than it end there with a cs or text box saying complete. How about actually helping fix it with dynamic hotbars to simulate maintenance activities. Context sensitive dynamic hotbars without resorting to QTE. Why stop there actually pilot one with dynamic controls!
They had a good concept of having cards with different virtues. The problem was that all the duties were mostly the same regardless of which leves you grabbed. What if the word guildleve meant different content per leve. On the fly access to varied content at by linking them you could weave a story with your party? I am not going to link the pics of guildleves images.
Ambition- Political or financial activities effecting company or city state ranking(National PvP or PvE content)
Benevolence- Helping a player or npc with charity to win affection.(Helping with a quest for npcs or players well being)
Candor- Doing duties for a king or a nation's leader.(Assassination, sabotage, scouting, coercing enemies to your nation's side, PvP or PvE)
I could go on and list activities for every guildleve with different goals and gameplay but that's Se's job if they pursued it.
The gist is guildleves would just be a springboard for jumping to a unique activity.