Tobold also asked:
I wonder how a MMORPG would look like if the developers *first* designed the crafting system, trade, and the player economy. And *then* designed the adventuring system around that.I would answer this question very quickly: look at Star Wars: Galaxies (SWG).
For all intents and purposes, SWG was designed with the crafting and player economy in mind first and foremost and the adventuring gameplay added later. Combat was not even added to the alpha or beta phases of SWG until near the end and come release (and all the long years since), the adventure gameplay of SWG was terrible.
The funny thing is; SWG got the crafting and economy right! However, with the combat being so terrible and adventuring being nothing more than running across randomly generated terrain until the game spawned something for the player to interact with, SWG fell apart. Eventually the infamous NGE (aka New Game Experience) hit and SWG sits to this day as a pile of "what ifs".
Tobold asks the right question, but may have overlooked one of the prime examples that the market has already churned out. With the SWG example in mind, what we need to really ask is: I wonder what a MMOG would look like if the developers designed the crafting system, trade, and the player economy AND the adventuring system at the same time AND with the same goals in mind.
IMHO, it would probably look like Minecraft with a story mode, but that is a completely separate discussion.