One thing that really bothers me in City of Heroes is the static groups of enemies that stand at certain locations around map. When I first started playing CoX, I was running along in the streets of Paragon City with my level 1 hero and I saw a lady's handbag being stolen by some thugs. I instantly jumped in, defeated the thugs and saved the handbag. The lady thanked me and I went on my way feeling as though I had done a good deed. A short time later, I was running past the same location and I saw exactly the same crime happening again???
This is where the realism dramatically dropped out for me...
I decided to just watch and see what would happen to the lady and her handbag if I stood by and did nothing. Well, the handbag snatching animation continued over and over and over and over...
After that point, I decided not to bother helping the citizens of Paragon City, since it obviously didn't matter.
Now for my idea about micro events. Let just say there are 200 micro events per map. One of them could be the lady and her handbag. The server knows that you haven't completed this event before, and so it auto spawns it slightly ahead of your path. You are running along, and you hear a scream:
"Help me! He stole my handbag!!"
You choose to stop and help by apprehending the criminal and returning the handbag. The lady thanks you, and you get a small reward (an event token or something). The event is classified as complete and you never see it again. If you choose not to help, the criminal gets away and the lady weeps. You receive no reward, but you don't get penalised for not helping. The server remembers that you haven't completed the micro event and thus puts it back into the pool of random events that could occur in your path.
With micro events, the player would essentially be given a new experience in the persistent world each time and in different locations to everyone else. The event would be relative to your level. This would make the gaming world seem as though it belongs to you, but at the same time everyone else. If you are in a group when a micro event triggers, the event difficulty would scale. In the case of our handbag snatcher, he could have a bunch of pals around the corner waiting. The event would be completed for all players that participated.
Although I'm sure such a system would be rather complex to implement in an MMO, I think it would add that extra touch of realism, making the persistent world ever so slightly better. It would also make questing feel more sporadic and less static.