This is my first MMO and I found it because of the calendar art pages that were circulating last year. It wasn't even the titillating nature of the game -I had no idea about that. Just liked the art.
Found out there was a game attached to it and that I could play it within my own abilities and within what my PC could handle, and ended up playing my first MMO ever. That was 8 months ago. I am currently the head for two different guilds and manage to have fun with the game nearly every day. I've made friends in game who helped me through a nasty crisis last summer, just by giving me an outlet and a refuge from the real world chaos.
The sexy aspect that is the game's notorious point fades after a while. It's not actually as in your face as some of the videos make it look and the only players who get really fixated on that are the brand new ones. Most of them get over it after a while, or they quit. Those of us who have been there a long time don't really notice it any more. I play as a girl because I am fine being a guy in real life. It seems fine to me to game as a fantasy, same as if it was a troll or something equally impossible. What's the difference?
The game is not perfect. Early on, gold-trading was more or less tolerated so early players were able amass huge wealth for not much cash. Buying gold is now banned but the gold purchased before is still in play. This means the early players basically dominate everybody else because they can afford to buy the best gear which they resell primarily to their own levels. This leaves everybody else at something of a disadvantage.
The game has a mix of quests and PvP but the game all but says PvP is the purpose. The game wants you to spend money to compete on the battlefield. The questing is mostly just a way to gain basic skills and level up to a point. And then you are expected to be good enough to go kill other players. If you don't want to kill players, you can continue grinding out repeat quests but it's boring and slow. And eventually, you will have to go PvP. Surprisingly, this game seems to attract a lot of first-time MMO players who don't want to do PvP. It's fine to kill a monster but different to take on somebody with the power to kill you.
One problem with the game is that leveling up starts easy and happens fast. Literally, you can level from 1 to 10 in about half an hour. And new players get hooked on that easy leveling. 10 to 20 takes hours, probably over several days for most people. 20-25 is going to take days, easy. And slower and longer after that. My first level 30 character took a month of playing every day just to do level 30 alone.
This huge increase in difficulty and time starts becoming apparently around level 20 which is also when the supply of quests starts to run out before the level ends. Once players realize they have to grind, and that they will have to do a LOT of it, well, it tends to burn players like crazy. The attrition rate is probably around 90% at level 20. Net result is that only the good, or patient, or determined players hang on after that which is again what the game wants. Those top players represent another brick wall for new players who do manage to come up. You will be facing players who can eat you for dinner, and will do so.
From the game's perspective this is fine. The top players have an incentive to keep spending money to maintain their status. Perhaps a lot of money. It doesn't matter financially if hundreds of free-players drop out for every one player dropping hundreds of dollars a month.
I do pay to play. Spent money tonight on virtual warehouse space to store my game goods. Go me.