Mostly to try out this "trackback" thing, I'm going to comment on Damion's Monday Design question on a franchise superhero MMO here:
As it stands, the MMO's I've played do a pretty piss-poor job of making you believe you're in another world. CoH cocks it up with the zillions of superheroes with stupid names running all over the place; WoW cocks it up with the queues in front of respawning quest characters. Why not just accept that it's cocked up and let everybody be whoever?
But what I'd personally like to see is you get rid of the MM in your MMO and have instanced Manhattans with only a hundred, hundred-fifty tops, superheros each. You'd still get a lot of competition for Wolverine and Spider-Man, to be sure, and maybe you could resolve that on the aforementioned ladder system, but what really excites me about the idea is that if you break your social groups up into guild-sized chunks you increase the likelihood of social bonds forming among the players, and you eliminate the feeling that "everybody's super." Because...when everybody's super, no one is.
On the guild-sized chunks thing - you'd want to subdivide even further than that. There was some study I can't find a reference to right now where they compared a dorm hall of 60 people to a dorm hall that had been partitioned into groups of 15 - the people in the partitioned dorm were more likely to form friendships with other students in the dorm. I could imagine an MMO where when you first get dumped in you're only exposed to a handful of other people, and thus more likely to form some friendships with strangers, because it's not this overwhelming seething mass.