The golden rule isn't really "not WoW", I just don't have zero interest in clone games. WoW is a pretty good game and I don't think it's so wrong to take inspiration from it, but I don't want to play a game I've already played in a new skin.
I'm confused. Your biggest complaint with SWTOR and (sight-unseen) with ARR is that it's too much like WoW, but now you're saying that it's ok to use WoW's elements.
It wouldn't be a themepark World of Warcraft game where you're on rails all the time moving from quest set to quest set where you have to play almost exactly like the developer intended.
Ok first off, every theme park-style MMO isn't World of Warcraft. Those two terms are not equivalent. Second, are you aware this is Final Fantasy? One of the most on-rails RPG series in the history of gaming?
I would probably put a big focus on exploration and rewarding player curiosity, with lots of easter eggs for the players to find (little hidden camps, secret quests, secret monsters, etc.) and trophies for finding that stuff. There would be easy to use grouping tools.
Like Rift? And SWTOR? Both of those games had exploration elements and rewarded you for doing them. Rift had its artifact system as well as achievements for doing goofy things like jumping off waterfalls and not dying. SWTOR had its datacrons which usually involved elaborate jumping puzzles and careful maneuvering across environments. Guild Wars 2 had vistas which usually required climbing up a wall or completing a jumping puzzle. And WoW has the easiest-to-use grouping tool I've ever seen.
I would have a seamless open world, no zones (which break immersion).
Not really possible with the PS3, but on the subject of zone boundaries breaking immersion... FFXI had them, I never felt like my immersion was broken in that game. And that was with some pretty stark zone contrasts. This seems like a red herring to me.
I think it would be cool if you got to make some choices throughout the story which made you feel like you had some impact, even if it didn't necessarily change the outcome (I'm thinking of The Walking Dead).
Also, I would probably try to make the nations much more distinct from each other than they are currently. I mean, if one nation was supposed to be a bunch of savage pirates, one more spiritual (I think that's what Gridania is supposed to be?), one more rich, there would need to be a lot of elements in the environment to drive those ideas home.
That's every faction-based game ever made.
For combat, I would go with building up TP to unleash devastating attacks.
Warriors in WoW and every combo-point based class ever.
I don't think FFXI's combat was bad on a technical level, it just needed to be more fast paced and have cooler graphics.
I'm sorry, did ARR not have ENOUGH particle effects for you?
While it's certainly possible to do fast-pased combat with resource building and burning, it's hardly original, and it's not everyone's cup of tea either.
it just seemed like an unnecessary jab at the end.
It was. But you were so dead set against ARR having anything to do with WoW, that I thought I'd mention it to remind you of that rule in your response. You did not succeed.
The information is all public at this point.
Let me just say that I don't think you're necessarily wrong in that people are probably not going to take a strict WoW-clone very seriously. But I'd also like to say that you have no basis for stating that that's what ARR is. So maybe don't rush to judgement quite so quickly and declare that the sky is falling.
Furthermore, just because an MMO uses modern game design concepts, does not make it a clone of every game that came before it that pioneered those concepts. If they can be used in interesting ways and make a fun game, I'm interested, and I'm probably not the only one. I'd also like to remind you what happened the last time SE set out to make changes for the sake of making changes. It did not go well.