Apparently almost every MMO to name in the last years features quests taken from NPCs: As far as i know World of Warcraft was the first one to make extensive use of them. The staff must have played Dark Age of Camelot and noticed how terrible levelling was, and i agree, i played it, couldn't stomach it, i left. Today, if you ask for a game without quests, you will hear one reply: then what, never-end grind? That's Camelot's spirit of the past talking. DAOC is one heck of a trauma.
This is to me an infantilized point of view; because it's black and white, and especially because it's how people's minds turn when they cease thinking, our betters(the puppeteers) somehow effectively manage to make people stop thinking outside the box. This is the effect of post-modern society, control.
But some can still do that. There are games with assassinate/collect/deliver etc. driven quests, there's daoc where there's no quests and one simply bashes at mob over and over just to get experience pts, and there's a MMO where "killing" 100 boars makes sense and it's a funny, social, active, dynamic experience.
Because if outside your character's village there's a problem with snakes and rats over-population, or bandits attacking, or someone in need of protection, or thieves, or vampires in the underground, you don't need an NPC to tell you, and it doesn't have to be a begin-end geomterical vector, with a short story, and before and after it there's... darkness... No, sir, nu-hu, reality is not geometry, there's no A to B time-line, there's a past-present-future sense that "all humans share", there's dynamicity, progression. The character may know, someway(a poster hanging at the city hall, a monitor-terminal, a dynamic visual from above, ), of the outpost's condition, in supplies, men, medicines, safety, crime, invasions, etc..
Where is the difference? The character still farms and collects stuff, no? It is in how the area responds. The village thrives or decays. What happens? The player is aware of the economical and political situation of the area; He co-operates with players; He affects the environment; He has a coherent reason to do stuff, soon he won't even call it farm, he will call it killing. He will start giving these actions real life names, not meta-names. When you've exterminated most of the snakes the village will be snake-free for the next day and you'll see the difference in the environment, when you've assassinated conspirators, the city will be ruled soundly. The player doesn't need to be told what to do, he can figure it out, and in one stroke, re-establish a connection with players, with the world, with human-shared temporal progression, with economy, even with geography. In "timeless", or out-of-phase tasks, the player seems to be stolen, kidnapped from everything, he's secluded in his personal world, he's like in a single-player game, he's more of a ghost than a person living in a massively populated on-going world. This has got to stop. This is the reason why people are wondering why they pay to play these games. It's the reason why they say "this game would work wonders as single player". Every game is turning F2P. The genre is dying. I repeat, this-has got-to stop.
P.s. Cripes, i didn't even see there were 2 more articles about grinding... the first one especially makes a similar point with mine: but it's not enough to go "this is poor design grind but grind can be good if it's well designed". You gotta make examples, because "good and bad design" doesn't mean anything.