When harvesting resources in games, I like to spend my time gathering things that are interesting and valuable. This means I don't like to gather grass, stones, pebbles, etc.
In AEO you will not have to gather materials that are boring and common. For example, you will not have to build a stone axe. You will not have to gather grass. You will have to find computer parts for a motor controller needed to build a metal milling machine.
Everything will not be completely built though and you will have to harvest and gather rare materials in order to build the composites. For example, you may find yourself digging in a long-abandoned mine to extract a rare material needed to craft something exotic.
One thing that always annoys me about most MMOs is that everything is available everywhere either locally or via a global "auction house." While having an auction house may make things convenient, it definitely defeats a feeling of being anywhere in particular.
In AEO, this will not be the case. You will find items that relate to their location. For example, a certain mineral may only be available in areas where it is mined. Of course, entrepreneurial players may buy the mineral locally and sell it in remote parts of the world for a profit, but it will only come from certain places of origin.
This video shows a small test I recorded of a mutant dog running across a desert landscape. Of course things will look better once the game is operational, but for now I'm trying to get the movement across hills, slopes, etc. working naturally. It's coming along though!
In the game I am working on you will have entire ecosystems. Gone are the days of random spawners. With SpatialOS you will have real lifecycles. For example, mutant dogs will eat mutant flies which in turn allows them to poo. Mutant flies will lay eggs in the poo, hatching more mutual flies! The cycle of life will go on. Of course, players can mess with the cycle but there will be safeguards in place. But... genocide is possible!
In this shot you can see two mutant dogs chasing after a giant fly for a snack!