** In response to a post at levelsave.com: http://levelsave.com/2011/12/pathfinder-online-announced/ **
The complaint with my early experience in 4th Ed D&D isn't necessarily with the system itself, but with the way the particular games at the Living Forgotten Realms nights in which I played were handled. The management team in Toronto for the LFR campaign is great, but some of the DMs are not. There is a policy that encourages players to rotate through DM duties every certain number of games. This leads to very player-driven sessions, a lot of looking up rules, and a ~lot~ of new DMs. This is a failing when trying to run story-driven modules, but not as much when running battle-driven modules.
This isn't an isolated problem, as I've seen the same kind of thing happen in other publisher-produced living campaigns outside of Toronto. I'm getting the impression that it's a living campaign problem more than anything. This may be why all of the modules in Forgotten Realms are so battle-heavy, with a story that ushers the next encounter, rather than explores the universe in which it is set.
That being said, the 4th Ed. D&D ruleset is definitely battle-oriented. The non-combat skills have been simplified so that rolling to tie a knot and rolling to hunt are based on the same skill. Whereas each segment of combat is accounted for, detail is high, there is "flavour text" for abilities that last less that two seconds. DMs and players can change that about their game, by adding complexity or by building highly detailed backgrounds with the DM. Roleplay doesn't need a bunch of attributes attached to it, ideally players should be able to choose to play out the role of their character verbally without any use of statistics whatsoever. Personally, I love that. Having a bare-bones character like you might in the 1st edition: Six statistics, a name, and a class. That's the ideal game for me. Combat in these games is driven in the same way, there is a stat that you are rolling against to "attack" and that's it. It's up to you to say if you are swinging from the chandelier and trying to upset the table that the Bullywug is standing on by throwing daggers at his feet and making him dance. (A lot of DEX tests on that one, yes?) There isn't any "Chandelier Barrage" ability which requires a unique formula to figure out damage for and might stun on a critical hit.
The 3rd edition, which is a medium complexity system, is also not for me. When I say I returned to "older systems," I didn't mean the third, I meant the first. I've been playing Labyrinth Lord for a while now, and I'm really enjoying the open-endedness of it. This game is perfect for me, and it's so simple to play and run that you can group more and more people together at the table. Taking on some of the older modules that required 8-12 characters to complete is an amazing experience. The table-talk around the game with that many players tends to be a lot of fun as well. This can't really happen with the 4th edition since battle tends to take so long that table-talk is discouraged. Making the game less and less social with each passing session.
This returns to the root of the discussion, MMO socialization. It is very true that MMOs don't tend to produce social buterflies, but there is a lot of socialization that happens in EVE Online. Joining a leading faction was actually a little much as far as my social threshold is concerned. I ended up just grouping with small squads to take down some other enemy-faction small squads. It was a lot of fun and a ~lot~ of socializing. This is why I have such high hopes for Pathfinder Online. There is a game developer who is interested in creating a sandbox, open-world MMO coupled with people who have been directly involved in an MMO which succeeded in doing just that.