Let me start by pointing out the obvious problem we are suffering. Massive power creep. The only way to keep players playing is to offer ever more powerful items for them to farm. That is obviously very very bad. So I present my proposal. The obvious solution.
DDO is an MMO, and so we have more or less accepted that the gear grinding power treadmill is a necessary part of the experience. But it does not have to be.
Problem #1: The Quest Shelf Life
Quests spend a very short time as an income generating asset. People run the quest to grab the shiny, and then the content "dies". Newer quests come out and the old shiny is obsolete.
But it doesn't die. It remains on the game. It thereafter becomes a money sucking liability. It becomes a haven for bugs. It becomes another consideration when making patches, overhauls, balance issues. Will it be compatible with Titan Awakes? Even though nobody ever runs it anymore, you still have to waste time and energy taking that raid into account for any kind of gameplay change.
Problem #2: The Build Extinction
Builds are dying as well. The power creep renders many builds, races, classes, and even roles obsolete. So now unused races and classes become liabilities as well. Will it be compatible with Elf Paladins? Nobody plays those, but you still need to spend the resources to make sure it doesn't crash the game whenever you create new content.
You need to embrace your inner artist. Your job is not to create endless items to farm. Your job is to create an immersive entertainment that draws us away from our equally grindy daily work. Stop thinking quests and start thinking amusement park. Create content players will want to appreciate time and again. In other words, acquire assets that remain assets regardless of future uber leet gear.
Lets start with some simple things.
***Lordsmarch Hide and Seek Challenge***
The back of Lordsmarch plaza has been littered with petrified adventurers since the medusa attack. You have been tasked with locating and restoring 11 stone allies from among the wreckage.
30 NPC statues are randomly placed throughout the area.
Players 2-12 are given 1 use trinkets of Flesh to Stone.
Players 2-12 are given 1 minute to find a good hiding spot and then stone themselves.
Player 1 is given a wand with 16 charges of Stone to Flesh.
Player 1 has to locate and restore all 11 stone allies before time runs out.
Replicas of the players are placed at the front of the map to remind Player 1 of what the other players look like stoned.
Costs: 1 Astral Shard per player or 1000 platinum and 1 hour timer per player or 100 Astral Shards for permanent unlock
Implementation: The area can be done initially as a copy of Lordsmarch Plaza. Raid party enters a new instance with a countdown timer and one player talks to the Time Kobold and blinded for 1 minute. Yes, we are recycling as many resources as humanly possible for the Proof of Concept. Statues will be randomly generated player races and genders. That's pretty much it.
Risk: Maybe 100 hours of work.
Benefit: Giving something to do besides endless gear grind. Slowly recoup costs 1 Astral Shard at a time, may take a few years but will also help DDO live longer.
***Marketplace Connect Four Arena***
A traveling circus from afar has brought with them a new game that has become very popular. The game is won when one player creates a line of 4 kobolds on the platform.
Costs: 250 Plat per game or 100 Astral Shards for permanent unlock.
Own a private residence accessable from any guild ship portal or teleporter. Anything from a small and functional base of operations to a full private castles. Fill it with decorative furniture or permanent guild shrines. Hire your own butler, or succubus, or kobolds. Invite your buddies over. Will yours have a moat? A place to store all your pets at the same time? A gallery of trophies?
Costs: Turbine Points, or Shard Exchange, or Raid loot
Notice what they all have in common? These are among the myriad of ways you can create content that keeps your players engaged without needing a +11 Widget of Game Breaking. Don't force yourself into a box where you MUST continually make tougher raids with endlessly more broken gear.
Power creep is bad for the players, bad for the devs, and bad for Turbine's money grubbing overlords over at Warner Brothers.
The answer is DDO Rise of the Casuals. Because even powergamers want to just goof off sometimes.