A common complaint about current MMORPG's is that they reward time spent in game and not skill. There is an essential truth in this but the question has to be asked what can be done about this.
An often heard suggestion, especially from the online FPS crowd is to raise the amount of twitch so that their FPS skills can finally be used in these types of games.
It sounds sensible but their is a fundemental flaw with this reasoning. Basic online FPS games already have a hell of time of handling a small group of players. Just how are you going to provide a lag free enviroment for thousands of players? Current games already have enoug difficulty with lag and warping, would you really want to play a game like this if twitch type skills were essential?
The problems of twitch gaming are already self evident in current games. The "they are in the walls" bugs from everquest 2 and the "cannot see enemy" bugs from WoW. These are simply the result of trying to create a massive free form 3D world.
What I mean by this is that you and the AI can essentially move anywhere you want except were the collesion detection comes into effect to simulate walls. So, the game frequently gets it wrong because movement code and the collesion code are not always in sync.
So what would happen to a MMORPG that does away with this free form 3D and instead attempts a different approach.
Say a game world that is presented similar to games like Jagged Alliance and X-Com: Apocalypse.
I name the last one especially because it is semi-realtime. Imagine these games but with you in control of a single character.
Rather then directly controling the movement of your avatar you select her destination and the AI then attempts to move there. Just for movement alone this gets rid of a shitload of problems.
First there is lag affecting rendering. Your computer can easily compute the path and then execute it, it would only have to send the requested destination to the server. The server offcourse performs the same calculations and updates it world data accordingly. ONLY if an error is detected, because the client has made an error in its calculations for whatever reason, does the server need to send the proper path calculation to the client. In theory, this would save a shitload of data transmission and in high lag situation still allow the player to move smoothly as long as nothing is in his path.
There is another advantage, with no need to hold down the walk key AND steer with the mouse at the same time, the player is free to do other things, like type in the chatbox.
But an even simpler result is this. All of sudden Jagged Alliance style interactions with the enviroment become possible. Players leap or climb over fences, pull themselves up ledges or swing down from lampposts.
In combat this too has an advantege. Gone would be the days of two 3D characters standing meters apart going through their unconncected animations. Instead you would finally be able to line the avatars up and have proper interaction going on. No more standing in the middle of that huge dragon, no more swinging widely over the head of a dwarf yet still doing damage.