I could use this opening paragraph to rant about the sorry state of RPG innovation and demand that developers and publishers put a little more creative thought into their stories and gameplay mechanics, but we've all seen that before at least a hundred times. Instead, I will save those developers and publishers some time and give them a nice list of five RPGs I demand to have in my hands by 2008.
Grand Theft Auto RPG. Some people hate the Grand Theft Auto series because of its extreme violence. Others love the Grand Theft Auto series because of its extreme violence. Me, I just like looking for hidden packages. Grand Theft Auto already has nearly all of the elements of an RPG anyway: strong storylines, vast gameplay worlds, lengthy gameplay chock full of side quests, weapon and armor collecting, and vehicles for travel by land, air, and sea. Just throw in a few battle system elements from Parasite Eve or Final Fantasy 12, et voila! Instant RPG!
A painfully realistic RPG experience. How painfully realistic? I'm talking world maps that can't be traversed on foot in 20 seconds, characters who have to stop and go to the bathroom, fighters who lose HP when they attack because their hands hurt from mercilessly punching an enemy, and NPCs who look at you weird when you try to talk to them or enter their houses uninvited. Pretend a bunch of my friends and I were transported to a magical RPG world; we can't just sleep in an inn for one night to heal all of our mortal wounds. Sure, such realism in an RPG would be a little extreme, but it would be different and maybe I would stop yelling at the television screen when enemy attacks hit 80% of the time because my characters don't have enough sense to step three feet to the left when a giant sword is coming toward them.
A kite-flying RPG. Imagine this. The final battle of an 80-hour RPG. The hero faces off against a nearly omnipotent opponent. They stare each other down as they prepare to fight with the fate of the world at stake. They grasp their weapons, pull them from their holsters ... and everyone watches in awe as their kites take flight high above the battlefield! Which combatant will emerge victorious from this epic contest of kite-flying skills? Or perhaps the duelists go at it with their mystical origami-crafting abilities or their incredibly honed fashion senses. Whatever the tools of the heroes and villains may be, let's try something radically new in a battle system that doesn't involve swords, shields, or playing cards.
An RPG with only permanent bad endings. Every single RPG has something that can be considered a "happy" ending, though it may also have bad endings which unfold based on the actions of the player. A few RPGs really do only have bad endings ... until the sequel comes along and makes everything better again. Well I say that's enough of that. Kill the hero, her sidekicks, the cute-as-a-button girl who lives down the street, and every other living thing on the planet and keep it that way. Let the bad guy win and stay the winner! Close the door to anything resembling a sequel that could somehow reverse the utter annihilation. And just to be safe, put "Infinity" at the end of the game's title because you couldn't just add one to the game number and make it a sequel.
An RPG with ALL OF THE ABOVE. Who in their right mind would not play a car-stealing, kite-flying, pee-every-three-hours role-playing game where the player loses in the end? Honestly, every RPGamer in the word would pick this one up just to tell their friends and family they've played a car-stealing, kite-flying, yadda yadda yadda RPG. I mean, I can already see in my mind the 100+ replies every RPGamer forum post about this game would get.
"Oh yeah, I almost beat him with that triple-axle into a jump stall [authentic kite-flying lingo, folks!] except my character is narcoleptic and fell asleep in the middle of the battle and so her kite fell into the ocean."
"I stole a minivan from a shop owner in Town A but it still took me three hours to drive to Town B 200 miles away."
"I can't believe they killed that cute little girl who lived down the street and her puppy and her hamster and her mailman and her..."