After thinking about life simulation games online (e.g., Wurm Online), I realised that one of the fundamental problems with online RPGs in general is that a player has no sense of what exactly s/he's getting into before jumping into the game. Players who join MORPGs typically have a character concept in mind based on what they've picked up from the website or what looks the coolest in the character creation system. However, if the game tends towards life simulation instead of adventure/fantasy (e.g., Hedgerow Hall), it is possible that the character that a player chose can prove uncompetitive at best or totally unviable at worst.
This got me to thinking: what if a player could join the game and explore the game world as a sort of "tourist" in order to check things out? As a tourist, the character would be unable to attack anyone and would have nothing of value, but could still be attacked (esp. by monsters). The goal is two-fold:
1) Playing as a tourist allows the player to survey the existing establishments in the game and see what industries are lacking. Casual conversations with the game's residents would also serve to let the player know what's in demand and what isn't.
2) The player gets a "wolfing tutorial" of sorts which puts him into real danger and warns him/her to stick to the safer areas. As the player ventures around and explores, s/he'll inevitably discover the areas that are most dangerous (the hard way) and will thus be able to measure the most settled areas versus the frontier areas.
The ultimate goal after learning these two pieces of information is to be able to design a character that would be more able to conduct a profitable business for a service that is in demand in the game.
Everyone in Hedgerow Hall wanted to be a smith, and because of this the smith occupation was balanced towards being more difficult (so the better smiths would turn a profit) when in essence the real problem was the overabundance of smith characters (too much supply, not enough demand).
If characters could go into a game in advance and see what exactly they might be able to play as, the play experience could be that much more fun.