As a Dad who has little time to game anymore, I have been finding myself spending less time in my favorite hobby. Granted, family life is far more important than all the virtual accomplishments in every imaginary world put together, but I'd like the think it's possible to design a game that's Dad (and Mom) friendly that would still be attractive to younger players who still have all the time in the world.
These are a few of the features I'd like to see in a future MMORPG.
1) Henchmen -- It is good for a game to encourage grouping, but it's even better to give us alternatives. I want a game that allows casual players to play without grouping when they desire. These don't need to be mutually exclusive goals. Guild Wars style henchmen are great because they allow solo players to tackle almost all of the missions in game, but they are nowhere near as effective as fellow human players. Therefore, we have an incentive to group when we have time, and a way to play the game when we don't.
Henchmen are a superior alternative to soloable mobs because solo mobs are generally too easy. Since the mob has to be designed so weak that a priest with little damage output can kill it, with damage output that a wizard can handle, and because when fighting a single player, positionals and tanking aren't utilized, solo players don't learn their class roles, and don't take on a challenge. What I would prefer to see is for solo (and small group) players to take on the SAME content that groups do, using NPCs to flesh out the needed class roles. That way, even if we are playing alone, we are still playing our class role, and the encounters can be designed so that you have to use certain skills to defeat them; if that skill (such as a charm, snare, etc.) isn't available to the player, they can hire henchmen who have it.
2) Open Grouping -- This is probably the best feature in Warhammer Online. Allow people to group with other players, and take advantage of the multiplayer nature of the gameplay, WITHOUT forcing us to sit around all day screaming LFM for specific roles and levels and gear checks.
3) Pause Button For Solo Instances -- YES! I want to pause the freaking world. Not the main world where everyone else is, obviously that wouldn't work, but if I'm in an instance all by myself, why NOT have the ability to temporarily pause the action? Of course, chat channels, and all the other multiplayer activity would still go on, but I should be able to stop those pathing mobs from wandering for a moment while I take care of the baby, or take a bio break, or answer the phone.
While you couldn't pause any shared world zone where you play with other players, the ability to do so in solo instances (which is where most time constrained players would be) would add greatly to the game's accessibility without making it any less immersive or ruining the gameplay for other players (other accessibility options like the ability to become temporarily immune or logging off quickly without a countdown timer, could be abused to trivialize the game, or to grief players on PVP servers.)
4) Persistent Instances -- I love how you can log off for the night in many EverQuest II zones and come back the next day to finish the instance. All the dead mobs stay dead, all the triggers stay triggered. Let's make that more commonplace in the genre!
5) Real Time Advancement -- Eve Online does this, and while of course the most hardcore players will still dominate, the real time advancement can help keep the gap somewhat narrower so casual/time-constrained players can still make decent contributions in the game.
6) Turn-Based Mini-Games -- Instead of crafting like in EverQuest II where you actively have to spam buttons to ensure a good result, have turn based mini-games that are more like card games. I want gameplay that is challenging but still possible to complete when I'm summoned away by a crying baby.