At some point during the transition from MMORPG to just MMO, the ability to create a ‘gimped’ character was removed. In UO you could hit the skill cap and have a horrible character. In AC you could spend all your point in the run skill and create the fastest gimp in the game. Even in EVE, it’s possible to train skills that won’t help you much, and your 20 million skill point pilot could be less effective in combat/mining/industry as someone with 3 million points, although since you can always train more, in EVE it’s not permanent damage. In WoW at 80 every mage is exactly the same save talent points, and those can be reset at will. Same deal in WAR, resets are cheap and it comes down to how you use those skills rather than what skills you have.
DDO, being a bit ‘old school’, allows you to create a gimp character. A horribly, horribly gimp character that only a reroll will fix. No amount of tweaking or ability respecs are going to save your 6 strength fighter, sorry. Even things as simple as picking spells or what feats you start with are critical, and due to how DDO is structured (all group-based instances), you can’t easily grind past tougher content to out-level it like you could in other games, nor do equal-level NPCs just roll over and die from auto-attacks like they do in more traditional games.
So the ability to create a gimp character makes an MMO awesome, is that my point? Yes, but not exactly. If you are able to make a gimp character, it also means you can make a highly specialized or more custom-tailored character as well. The reason you can make a gimp is because you have choices that actually matter, which is the same reason you can make something better or “better for you”. If you go check the DDO class forums, you will see various builds, but each one comes with the disclaimer of “this is the intent behind this build, I want to be able to do X Y Z”. If you check the Elitist Jerks rogue forum, the topic revolves around one thing and one thing only, dps, and even that comes down to ‘get top tier raid gear, allocate talents here, and use this hotbar rotation’. Ever rogue in WoW can, theoretically, achieve this, regardless of any choices you made prior to hitting 80, which sums up exactly how little control you really have over what you do or the impact it has.
It’s the ‘safer’ way to design, but it also robs the players of a chance to create a more customized character, and that is a huge pillar of RPG design. Not only do you play the hero, but it’s YOUR hero, so when things go well you feel just a little bit more connect and responsible for it. To go back to WoW, your raiding guild beat raid boss X because you brought so many warriors/rogues/mages/priests, and we all know each of those characters was more or less ‘the same’ as every other raiding guild before and after. This is why stories of how YOUR guild killed Onyxia are boring, because my guild killed her the exact same way you did, using the same ‘heroes’, give or take a dps character or two. So while the ability to better customize your character won’t make the Onyxia encounter super unique (you would still need fire resist gear, a tank, some healers, dps), at least the guy tanking her might succeed/fail because of the decisions he made at level 1, or 10, or 50, rather than because his clone meet the strict pre-reqs for success. With more character attachment, you develop more game attachment, and that’s what MMOs (even the RPG kind) are all about.