We've got a crowdfunded project with many many rpg veterans chipping in. I'm ready for some innovation and experiments. Here are some features of my imaginary, perfect 'Project Eternity', add your own below!
Spells/abilities regenerate instead of becoming unavailable after use until the party rests. The party acts at 100% efficiency when well rested, but gradually becomes more vulnerable and loses effectiveness in all skills when tired. Spells not only cost mana, but tire casters independently. The same holds true for physical skills without consuming mana. The party can rest anywhere to regain up to e.g. 50% efficiency, but can only recuperate to 100% in designated resting areas.
As a tactical asset, it can spy, explore, steal, poison, play tricks etc. either on enemies/neutrals or companions. It's got character (I always thought Morte was a good familiar, if overpowered as a fighter.)
It's not an ugly beetle.
Regular people share parts of a huge knowledge pool. Besides the traditional dialogue window, a kind of "google autocomplete searchbox" displays possible questions relating to the key words typed in.
E.g. "Mr. X" would permit the questions: "What do you know about Mr. X?", "Where does Mr. X live?", etc.
Some painful, some impossible, and some to be proud of
Example: "You paid dearly for doing the right thing. As a child slave, you decide to help a friend avoid punishment. You get caught and your hand is chopped off in retribution. Later on, you can't use bows and 2h-weapons. Furthermore, the wound is a stigma of a caught and convicted petty thief."
In the later game, those friends' actions have special significance to the player, and create immersion. If later on a magic liquid metal hand that restores lost abilities, can shapeshift and execute killmoves happens to be found, it'll be enjoyed all the more.
On the other hand, any injury can be avoided by not helping the friend in the first place.
Not paying attention makes it easy to inadvertently go down the wrong path. You want to be a good guy? Be prepared to swallow rage and forsake the satisfaction of vengeance. Vigilante killings are recognized as such by society. It's not easy to be just, and almost impossible to entirely avoid being manipulated. Prudent choices such as "bringing someone in" instead of killing them outright are available. It's impossible to succeed every time, and players are confronted with moments of intense frustration.
An immersion breaker in modern games is the relentless pace. Not in Project Eternity. Here it is important to pay attention to the dialogue. Little is gained by following quest markers or checking objectives. Facts are recorded, but the player jots down his/her own conclusions in the journal next to them, and chooses his/her plan of action
. The minimap is not a substitute for looking at where you are going, players need to familiarize themselves with the game world. Help is readily available by talking to people, but the right questions need to be asked. Superior solutions to quests apparent only with understanding and immersion are available next to regular endings.
The player is placed in a wondrous place, and is not all that powerful nor important. He/She isn't able to battle everything, and might need to run from a conflict without ever having a chance of besting an opponent. In PST the lady of pain set a great mood. Beating everything into submission does not solve anything, nor does it even seem a worthy endeavor.
Philosophy is fun and fascinating. Kierkegaard and Hobbes inspire fascinating dark characters whose dispositions and actions give a special flair to this RPG. There is no arch enemy, per se, the player develops a philosophy he/she needs to see through.
The trade-off for tactical mastery in turn based combat is the static feel. Especially during unchallenging encounters, parties approach each other, find the right distance, stop, and lose health until one dies.
Not in Project Eternity. To start with, enemies have hit boxes which can be individually targeted.
Moreover, terrain, obstacles, distance, position and stance are integrated as tactical elements. Attacks and spells can knock targets around.
More action oriented players such as myself appreciate timed active actions (block, parry, riposte/counter, chain...), although these are optional in the game menu.
Both classic rpg lovers and action oriented gamers appreciate differentiated combat stages, where party characters dynamically adjust their standard attack according to distance. Long range, mid range, and melee. A melee character needs to consider how to approach through a debuff focused mid range without penalty (by fog, evasion, cover, long range stun/knockdown...), thus making the "approach and hack" tactic less feasible.
Different armors equal different strengths and weaknesses. Weapon changes during combat are quick and necessary. Semi-scripted melee and spell combos bring joy to all (thief hamstrings an opponent from behind, fighter bashes his head in)
During the last years games have opened up a lot in this respect. We saw more LBGT friendly interaction, and a lot more skin. Since all bases are covered in Project Eternity, a large cast of characters is needed. Most characters are regular boring heterosexuals, not that much interested in sex in any case, because immersion doesn't permit otherwise.
A true romance (and with good reason not everyone wants to go there) seeps out of the confines of dialogue. Combat changes, as do expectations from partner and party. Interaction is more frequent and natural. A darker side of romance is the power to influence/manipulate/control one's partner, and some evil bastards take advantage of that.
A Fallout approach is chosen in lieu of fixed classes. It's possible to pick up formerly unknown skills during the story which are not included in a skill tree/pool, and different types of equipment have unique actions.
Whatever wishes stay unfulfilled, a toolset brings them to life. Modders not only add or change content, they change gameplay, fix bugs and update graphics. A toolset for a game is the gift that keeps on giving. (Check out the oblivion/skyrim/fallout3/falloutnv nexus if you haven't already, it is insane what these people deliver)