There's been a really obvious trend in RPGs (particularly with MMOs) where the combat is becoming increasingly central to the game experience. And I think it's incredibly important for the health of the gaming industry and the genre that it stops. I know quite a few gamers who would happily play games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect without any combat at all, because they aren't in it for the fighting, they're in it for the story, the characters, the world, etc.
And look at the success of the Walking Dead games. They don't really include "combat" in any traditional sense, but they're wildly popular.
The thing is, combat is so easy. It takes so much less creativity to design and implement a combat system than other systems. People expect a combat system, but they don't necessarily expect anything else, so it feels like you get to skip out on all the work.
Thing is, that's how you end up with a huge list of MMOs that all seem like essentially the same game, with various degrees of polish, set in different worlds. And the worst part is that this wouldn't even be so bad if the developers would stop spending most of their time focusing solely on combat. They need to push out dungeons and warzones and raids (etc.) as fast as they can, because it's the only thing they're realistically selling. They need to keep their players invested in THEIR combat system, because there are so many others people could jump ship to. And, let's face it, combat is rarely what MMOs do well.
In my opinion, we NEED designers to return to looking at the big picture. Right now, in WoW, just about every system (besides pet battles and the farm) is about improving your combat capability. You craft to get the combat-related buffs. You farm rep because you need combat-related buffs. Etc.
Why not create an MMO where crafting is deep, intricate, and interesting. Why not allow for a large diversity of crafts, from furniture-making to horse-breeding to blacksmithing? Why not allow for a lot of cross-craft material requirements? Why not implement player housing and allow for people to visit? Why not implement a politics system that allows for players to work up the social ladder of a city, to gain more influence, or even run for mayoralty? Why not have zones that are run by NPCs, but also have zones where players vie for control (as in, the leader actually controls the laws of the region, can hire guard NPCs to patrol and enforce their laws).
And combine this with an established list of quests like you see in WoW, TOR, etc. and add an additional system like Skyrim's radiant quests to keep things interesting.
I'm convinced there's a huge market for this sort of MMO, for the same reason social games do incredibly well. EVE is essentially this, with a space setting and spreadsheet-like system. As a capusleer in EVE, you can literally do just about anything. Every single item in the game can be crafted, from the smallest spaceships to space stations. And it's fairly easy to dabble in everything. But there's a HUGE diversity of playstyles. Some players run (or take part in) shipping businesses. Many primarily focus in business or industry. There are tons of miners, plenty of militia members, pirates, explorers, etc.
And the reason it works is because they let the players generate the content, which frees them up to work on many, many other projects.
Frankly, I love the idea of working my way up the social ladder of Stormwind to get the ear of some high-ranking politician, all the while operating a crime syndicate from behind the scenes, but also running a perfectly respectable
front company as a gryphon-breeder that sells luxury mounts at very fair prices. I'd also, of course, be a big patron of the arts and sponsor archaelogical digs throughout Azeroth to try and uncover ancient sculptures. And if a few of the finer treasures end up on the black market...
The best part is that it means there would be actual interaction between the players who wanted to go out into the field and those who would want to stay behind. You could be a warrior, hire yourself out as a mercenary or freelance miner, and also try and build a name in an underground brawling ring.
Note: Part of why EVE's system works is because items and ships are destroyed nonstop there, which filters currency and goods out of the economy at a quick rate. And because all resources need to be gathered to generate them (and even the most common ores are needed in huge amounts), it works well. This would need to hold true for fantasy MMO as well. If nothing could ever be destroyed, it would only be so long until no one had any reason to care anymore. Of course, it also means that your progress wasn't measured in ilvl, which would be awesome, imo.
Anyways, you all are horrible, @#%^ed up people