Via Syp over at BioBreak:
“How many times will a developer promise me that my decisions will impact the world before I actually see it?”
~ KvanCetre @ Massively
... when the world itself is designed to be the game, with player participation a secondary consideration.
What I mean by this is first design a world, populated with whatever is in that world, and design it such that those things are determined by the other things in the world. Make the world a dynamic model, even absent of players. Design and develop the world such that, even if no players ever logged in, the fates and fortunes of the world inhabitants will ebb and flow.
Now, add players. (Then fix all the bits that get broken by adding players).
Contrast this with what you've likely seen a few times now: design a world as a static landscape, add players, and then add mechanisms for players to affect that world. The design of such a world is entirely player centric - without players exploring their personal destinies (aka "consuming content") the world effectively ceases to exist.