I've been around on the 'net a long time. MMOs, as they are today, weren't even around when I started. The closest were the few basic graphical MUDs on AOL, CServe, etc.
I don't even remember when my MUDding career began. (For the new-to-the-net folks, MUDs are like graphical MMORPGs, but in text instead.) It was some point in the early 90's. I started on Northern Ligts, an Aber. Aber-type MUDs are quest-oriented. Similar to an MMO, you have preprogrammed zones with certain quests. Kill a lich and demon to save a dying forest, etc. It was more puzzle/detail based; to get to the demon, for example, you had to find a diamond and put it in a certain pedestal with a diamond-shaped hole. Once you got past it, you'd have another clue that you'd have to drop it in order to get further on, etc.
My tastes didn't stop there. I liked Diku/Circle/Merc/etc. too- hack and slash, usually. All sorts of varieties... all text... and all free.
The first MMO I was a real part of was Earth & Beyond. I helped beta-test it, from the early beginnings (their first stress test had something like 1000-5000 players, who all got a t-shirt). I liked it, it was interesting... kinda like Wing Commander/Privateer but in MMO form.
I couldn't justify the $15/mo though, having spent several years paying nothing for enjoyment of MUDs for free. So, I played it until beta was done, and went on my way.
I swiped a copy of Dark Age of Camelot from work, tried it, and was thoroughly unimpressed. Didn't make it through the free trial.
I beta-tested a few other MMOs, but nothing much caught my eye until Auto Assault. It was a mix of the freedom of E&B, with automotive mayhem (like Twisted Metal, etc). Again, early(ish) beta tester. Took some deciding, but eventually convinced myself that $60 + $15/mo was worth it, and pre-ordered. Bought a 6-month subscription off the ba when it went live.
I justified the $15/mo as a cost I could handle, since I din't go to movies, didn't buy games, etc., that often. It was cheaper, like usual, with the multi-month plans (I think $12/mo?). I had a lot of fun- even took 2nd place in a tourney (1st won a trip to E3, but we got to fight the devs on the big-screens remotely), made some friends, etc.
As time went on, though, I realized why I'm not a MMO player. 'Casual' and 'MMO' don't belong next to each other. First, some more back-story:
It started with the E3 Tourney. When we placed in the E3 tourney, we didn't know it. We'd thought we'd lost, so we went to blow off steam by killin' stuff and leveling. After some confusion with placement, we found out we were able to paly at E3, but because the tourney was for level 30 chars only, we needed to get new characters up to that level. We had a week and a half or so to do it, and the trip wasn't the easiest. It became a chore, not fun as before. We did make it (with some effort, convincing words from one of the NCSoft devs, and a little bit of 'resource mismanagement'), and had fun in the tourney... but the four of us took a break afterwards. (And thus the path starts....)
When I returned to the game, as my mid-30s main char, I went back to my usual playing style. It was fun again... joined and was pretty involved in a clan, felt like I was getting somewhere, etc. Saw the end-game in sight after a few months, and eventually made it w/ help from friends.
That's where things started to turn even more. I was doing a good bit of PVM in the non-PVP section of Ground Zero (there's two instances, pick PVP or non-PVP instance). I'd get bored and hop on in the mornings and do some light PVP. I was a support class, so I'd suck in PVP on my own, but the realization became more nad more apparent. I'm at month 4 or so, and there've been people at 80 for 3 months... and living the game 24/7 for those 3 months. Even as the strongest of 3 factions, I wasn't much in the way of opposition. I didn't have the time invested to get the best items/stats; I didn't want to invest that kind of time.
As things went on, a few more updates came in. Therein lies the biggest problem. The game, like most MMOs, was full of min/max'ers, who were pretty vocal on the boards and the ones always sitting on the game 24/7. Changes went in that affected PVP, especially towards balancing these players; however, these same skills are the same things used in PVM... so, nerfs come in and new things get added for PVP/PVM challenges for the hardcore players. Casual gamers, like myself, are left in the dust.
I cancelled my sub after the 6-month stint. I resub'ed for a month now, but the few months I was away made the gap even bigger. I enjoyed myself again, as a distraction from the MUD I admin... but I don't foresee me going back to MMOs any time soon. Such a shame- great concepts, great interaction... but things get topheavy, and it hurts everyone else.