I'm just frustrated. There's an implicit submission in this "it's only natural" line of reasoning.
MMOs may come from an amateur game design culture, but why in the face of professional backing do our expectations remain the same?* I'm sick of writing carte blanche for companies that damned well know better.
Agreed, but there's a reason behind it. Game makers make games that will SELL. In order to sell games, they have to make them easy enough for any idiot to use, yet complex enough for the power gamers to enjoy. What happens is you get a not-so-happy medium somewhere in the middle.
What you see as "amateur" game design, isn't amateur at all. They simply try to build a game that will be played by the biggest possible audience. A good deal of that audience is amateur (casual) players.
There's a difference between optimization existing, and undermining meaningful choice. I know that sounds contrary to logic. "If there's a 'best DPS build', everyone would want to play it, and therefore it undermines choice". But we know from experience that isn't true. There are more people who ignore the flavor of the month than those who submit to it. We're more complicated than a greater or less than sign.
We know its possibly somewhat untrue. The power gamers out there will try and break the system. They'll find what they think is the optimal build. The players between casual- and power-gamers will copy this to a "T".
This brings us to the casual player. They may do there own thing for a while. But if they don't get into groups often enough or, just in general, can't get what they want out of the game they'll either quit or conform.
The player who truly does his own thing to meet his own goals is fairly rare. When was the last time you saw a Mnk/Whm seriously looking for an exp party? Dunes? Qufim, maybe? There's a REASON this kind of behavior stops so early: The player can't do what he wants to do with that set up.
Caia paints a very different picture from you.
Making most options viable and largely equal is exactly the sort of thing a person should expect from a professional game company with nearly 5 years of production time. A few builds, so overly much more effective even the public shuns you like a lepar if you don't conform is not the normal result of this. Your average player isn't a forum goer, much less a min/maxer, much less an elitist. If they know of such things it's distantly, the resulting difference so minute they can't be assed to care beyond beating chests and pointing fingers.
By definition, they can't be equal. We can quibble over what "mostly equal" means, but I don't think it matters. There will be X builds which the player base says are good to use for doing thing Y. Doesn't matter if people look on the forums or not. They'll know either through seeing good builds do well, seeing bad builds do poorly, or hearing it from their guild/linkshell/party members/shouts in New Jeuno. People will learn what is and isn't a "good build".
For all those people expecting a world of different variation on possible combinations of abilities and powers, it just ain't gonna happen. At least not so far as being able to party effectively. A lot of people had the same perception going into FFXI (I sure did). Everyone found that only a select few setups were "allowed" for parties.
WoW -- Zaia -- Dragonmaw -- Mage 80 BABY! Alchemy 450
Also... Hunter 62, Rogue 52, Warrior 66, Warlock 43, Death Knight 70, Shaman Who Cares? ;)
FFXI -- Caia -- Retired/Deleted -- Blm 75, Alchemy 97
Pandimonium server - Rank 10 - Bastok
Zaela Rdm -- 35, Alchemy 45 -- Forced into retirement because I didn't have the right kind of credit card. Hope it was worth 18 bucks a month, SE.