MMOs like EverQuest II can’t help but include a loot chase. While EQ2 offers many different styles of gameplay from crafting to decorating to soloing, those players who elect to group or raid find themselves on the loot treadmill and want to be able to point to forward progress. In recent years, the EQ2 team have scattered a few best-in-slot items throughout the content so that crafters and soloers get some “Whoa!” items. Still, most Progression items come from extremely difficult content that requires substantial coordination. There’ll always be that one ridiculously difficult heroic zone. There’s always that Wing 3 of raid content. With Terrors of Thalumbra as well as Altar of Malice (after some post-launch tuning), the heroic content has been made accessible so that more people get to enjoy it. But as with any organized sport, the tolerances between success and failure shrink the higher you go into more challenging fare.
I don’t envy game developers who are forced to create enough content to last a year. What has concerned me about Ethereal runes, Ethereal weapons, Mythicals, and Ancients is that they are acquired almost entirely based on the luck of the dice roll, not player skill or effort. It saps the sense of accomplishment when you say “This item took me 374 heroic runs!” after the person next to you says “I got it the first time through. Now what?”