My frequent distinction in what these games "are" is that they're combat systems. Doesn't matter if you're fighting a trash mob alone or a bunch of people trying to down a boss in a raid. The idea is to use your skills to take the target's HP to zero and then reap the rewards of that kill.
The beauty of all this, however, is that there are myriad ways to influence our combat potential that may wind up actually being more fun than the combat itself for some, as well as what to do with rewards. I think we can at least admit XIV tried to be more ambitious about its crafting game with the class devotions, but in the end, it still succumbed to the raider mentality of gear ceilings. Nonetheless, crafting is still a process requiring material acquisition. You could trade, be it manually or via AH. You could gather, be it via nodes or mob kills. There's not exactly a right way to be a crafter, only what winds up more efficient as people discover the best sources for materials, rarity, and eventual demand of end products.
When partaking of those various aspects, feature creep can easily take root. Already making gear? Why not furniture for housing systems? Or parts for airships? Digging around or killing mobs and find treasure maps? Such things may not seem immediately relevant to the core combat system, but what they do provide is variety and distraction to the point where they could be built into stronger co-objectives if they were given more perceived importance with the shackles of ceilings removed.
So, while I certainly have high aspirations for providing greater individuality to players within these games, all of this is really before you get into the nitty gritty of actual combat mechanics, skill balancing, who gets access to what, how you learn things, and so on. If one doesn't have interest in all of those things, that's absolutely fine. The people who enjoy farming can do it for the crafters who don't like to, creating that supply and demand backbone that becomes the synergy of a world that tries to live and breathe.
To run with my own analogy, MMOs are basically at the phase of life as portrayed in Westworld. The Hosts are simply coded to never win regardless of how stupid a guest behaves. When you carry that premise to the futility of the MMO open world these days, then you just see a bunch of areas that never really change, that players have no real need to defend locations/people/resources, where foes aren't intelligently aggressive, and so on. Not every single location needs to be a war zone, mind you, but the correct attempts to provide variety and randomization would further synergize with that living nature I noted above.
Put bluntly, we need a world that lets us write and tell the stories. Call it a fusion of sandbox and theme park, whatever, but this hard-line rigidity needs to stop. Otherwise, we're going to hit a point where if you just up and removed the world, crafting, and all that in place of dungeon/raid lobbies, you'd seriously have people who wouldn't know the difference. And we're supposed to just bend over, smile, and accept that fate? Nah. If there's one other constant I apply to these games, it's not that they're just primarily combat engines, but also that they can and should evolve. We don't aspire for hand-outs. We don't aspire for carries. We simply aspire for things to do that actually make sense for the worlds we're already in. Basebowl this is not.