Single-Player RPGs Do It Better When...

Aside from working on the very promising indie RPG Frayed Knights, Jay "Rampant Coyote" Barnson is probably familiar to some of our readers for writing his opinions on CRPGs and the gaming industry fairly often, and he has done so again, partly in reply to an opinion expressed by Matt Barton on role-playing game stories. In his piece, Jay expounds his thoughts on stories and player agency and details what, in his opinion, single-player role-playing game can do better than MMOs. Here's a sampling:
But what can single-player games do so much better?

'¢ Really make you feel like the hero of your own story.
'¢ Play a group of adventurers
'¢ Turn based & tactical combat. Sure, this is possible in an MMO, but even fans of turn-based lose patience waiting for others to finish their turns. Tactics are possible in MMOs, particularly if you are raiding, but are pretty uncommon on a smaller scale. And the tactics are often not much more complicated than planning who is going to DoT and who is going to spam heals.
'¢ Puzzles! Particularly of the adventure-game-ish variety. Actually any kind of single-use content. In an MMO, designers must usually avoid any kind of content that can be (solved) once and ignored forever after that. It's a terrible waste of resources.
'¢ Interactivity: The player can make a serious, lasting impacts on the world.
'¢ Shorter, more intense experiences. Yes, I'm calling this a good thing. Not that I don't love epic huge games. But in an MMO, the game NEEDS to command the player's participation for as long as possible, to maximize revenue over the long haul. So they HAVE to kick things out into a big, long grind with massive time-sinks to keep people progressing (slowly). Single-player games can instead be shorter, more intense games that don't have to be padded out with grinding and filler.
'¢ Game-Breaking Imbalanced FUN! In Ultima V, acquisition of the magic carpet really (broke) the challenge of much of the game. I think that was deliberate. You aren't competing with other players, and don't have to worry about (fairness,) so what if something breaks the pattern of the game? In an MMO, this is a cardinal sin. In a single-player game, it can be key. It's important to shake up the gameplay once in a while and change (some of) the rules . especially to the player's advantage.