For some reason, I'm in a bright and sun shiny mood. The car is "working as intended" more or less, and pretty soon I'll once again be able to do stuff out in our kitchen area without feeling like an invader. So all of this good will has spilled over onto my thoughts on Blizzard, and I thought I'd say something somewhat hopeful about their next MMO.
My hope is, it'll be the Starcraft to WoW's Warcraft 1/2. However, don't misunderstand, I'm not saying I hope it's a Starcraft MMO. Rather, that it will be the strong variation in principles that a team is willing to stick to, as Starcraft was.
For those who never got a chance to play Warcraft 1, the two sides were rather disgustingly similar. The core game play was still tons of fun, don't get me wrong, but many times it felt like you were playing a recolor army with a whopping 3 different units from your opponent. Warcraft 2 wasn't quite so bad, but the storyline campaign wound up being literally interchangeable between the races. In the end, it often seemed like the core underlying lesson from game play and story is "we're not so different after all!"
Starcraft was different. It had three races, for starters, and even more each of them was fundamentally different from the ground up. The zerg were so iconic in their role of massed units who are individually worthless, it's even bled over into a more common gaming vernacular and isn't uncommon to be heard used by people who probably don't even know what Starcraft is. The Terrans were masters of bread and butter units and tactics, with the siege tanks and nukes to keep them in a sort of "heavy artillery" role. And of course the Protoss with expensive warriors that are pound for pound better than their counterparts, and the only race to have shields giving them a huge boost to defenses.
I'm not going to say this was completely new at the time, I'm pretty sure other people had been using three armies with balancing traits before. However, within their own games, it was a total shift away from Warcraft. The Zerg were not misunderstood, the rise of a formerly human leader didn't calm them into noble savages. Zerg just spread, it was what they did, and it was certain death to anything in their way. The Protoss aren't humans by another name, they have a totally different history, culture and technology. Their war with the zerg however left them ready to go to any length, including purging entire worlds that they considered too far gone. And the Humans are almost always magnificent bastards, but still a diverse bunch with a metric ton of internal division and quarreling.
And when they released their expansion... they kept within the correct feel of each faction while expanding tactical options. The Lurkers provided, somewhat ironically, anti zerg defense to the zerg as well as a mobile defense strategy that formerly would have been exceedingly difficult. The Toss gained access to units that had formerly only been available in storyline, invisible super attackers with paper thin armor that melded together to form a mind controlling sorcerer type. Both fit within the flavor quite well, and each added it's own unique spin on general combat situations. The medic increased the defense of a standard marine squad, while allowing them to stim more often, making them significantly stronger attackers, but also providing an Achilles' heal to the formation and still keeping them rather weak against concentrated damage.
From here it isn't too hard to extrapolate how this could be related in MMO form. Mostly it just means that there needs to be no overlapping classes between races, and each race's classes need to be internally consistent. I was thinking of inelegantly demonstrating a possibility using WoW's classes, but after lining them all up separately they still made more or less equivalent groups.
So let's consider something along these lines:
Heavy defense warriors
Not much healing, mostly self heals
DPS heavy, but almost entirely made of paper
A HoT based healing class, who is also made of paper
Burst damage heavy, mostly ranged types
A standard healer with some medium armoring
I'm not saying this would be a perfect MMO, or my perfect MMO. I just think it would be really nice to see Blizzard do something along those lines again. Also, I think it would be a lot of fun to get back into a PvP system where the combatants were honest to god different from each other. Tactics would need to be worked out on the fly based on who you're fighting. The emphasis would also return largely to tactics, as certain races would be completely decimated if they tried to zerg, while others are probably just going to get picked off one by one if they don't work together.