Things I'd love to see more of in video games today:
- Interactive conversation. Let me talk to NPCs, even if it's in a very conventional way. Dialogue trees are okay as long as I can be engaged in meaningful conversational exchanges with NPCs.
- Functional spaces. A house you could live in, not a movie set or dressed up tunnel. Bathrooms, kitchens, fire exits, storage closets. Apartment buildings filled with apartments, not painted-on doors lining the halls.
- Mundane places. Malls, gas stations, diners, houses, apartments, cafes, hotels, shops, offices.
- Living worlds. Places currently in use, populated with non-hostile NPCs. Not derelict, destroyed and empty ruins. Places filled with living people going about their daily business. Friendly, happy people being nice to you. Not dead worlds, where the only actors are the player and things that want to kill the player.
- NPC Mentors. NPCs who know what they're doing better than the player does and will lead the player through the world, adding life to the gameworld and giving the player an example to follow. Better than the old disembodied voice in the ear. Good recent examples: GUN's tutorial level featuring a hunting trip with your Pa; Call of Duty 4's Pripyat level featuring Capt. MacMillan as your mentor.
- Real-world clocks. Animal Crossing knew what time and date it was in the player's world, setting the events in your virtual town by the real-world clock. Day turned to night in your Animal Crossing town just as it did in your own living room; when you visited your town the next day, things had changed while you were away. Lends the gameworld a feeling of realness by implying that it keeps going even when you're not playing. Makes play of the game part of your everyday life in a low-impact way over the long term. Why haven't any other non-MMO games seized on this?
- Hand-scale interactions. Let me grab and turn doorknobs, pick up items, interact with computers, write & draw on paper, zip zippers and button buttons, slide open drawers, and perform other hand-scale tasks manually with full interactivity. Good recent examples: pulling and twisting the controls of Samus's ship in Metroid Prime 3; picking up items in Crysis; interacting with computer screens in Doom 3; most all the interactivity of Penumbra: Black Plague.