I have been playing (too much) Mass Effect when it hit me: There are finally enough buttons on modern consoles to pull off an idea I have had since the NES system.
I think I may spend a little bit of time fleshing it out but I want to at least get a brief synopsis posted. While Mass Effect does a beautiful job combining elements of a true RPG game and aspects of a FPS with combat, I have an idea of how to expand upon it a bit for the more Sword & Sorcery genre.
The idea is tied mainly to the concept of spellcasting and making it more of a process than a one-button macro with built-in calculations for failure/damage/range. Most RPG games have various casting tied to a button or rollout menu to select spell and then optional targeting information. What I envision is a more direct control system that requires combinations of input for a successful cast. Think of your 10-Hit Combos or Cheat Code sequences utilized in a more gameplay fashion.
Example: PC Spellcaster has just found a scroll that details the semantic and verbal requirements to cast an offensive spell. If scribed correctly into his roll-out spellbook, he can select to cast it at any given time (granted he has the necessary material component, mana, or whatever control would be set in place). Upon selection, the spellbook menu is put away and a combination of Button/Analog stick/D-Pad commands appears on-screen for the player to successfully complete. This sequence represents whatever individual runes/moves/words that the caster must execute in order.
More difficult spells would of course require more involved sequences, and the speed and accuracy of input would tie directly into the success of the spell, the effect, as well as the range. Concentration would come into play as events like taking damage, being distracted, etc could adversely effect the 'casting process' and thus disrupting the spell.
In this system, there would still be the opportunity to have certain spells tied to a one-button execution as these would likely take the form of 'Quick Cast' selections (similar to PnP rules) which were essentially a macro of casting components completed ahead of time and stored as potential arcane energy to be released on command.
Scrolls would also have their place as they would be easier to use having most of the required components covered by their scribing. Thus a player could either opt to scribe the scroll to their spellbook (menu) for later attempts (aka the long way) or use the scrolls as a one-shot cast where the scroll would be sacrificed as the material component.
Like I said, I have had this idea kicking around since the release of the original Nintendo, however I felt the input controls at the time were far too limited for this to be done successfully (That and I didn't want fireball tied to up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start).
I will probably run with this idea a ways and develop at least the conceptual gameplay and storyline elements. Naturally this would have to be a low-magic setting so the discovery of new magic and combinations would be a supplemental reward system of its own. I would also like to incorporate the need to research certain arcane aspects and the possibility of stumbling across or creating spell combinations that may not be documented elsewhere in the gameworld.
Now I know the chances of a company like Bioware or Obsidian or Big Developer Incorporated swooping along and saying "Hey man, we dig it! Wanna, y'know, help us develop it?" are slim to none. That likely won't deter me from the creation process as this is the kind of thing (conceptual game design) I have been wasting* my time with since grade school (for me, the Atari days). I think it's a rather novel concept that should be explored.
If this has been done somewhere else, please let me know so I don't fall under the impression that I just invented the wheel. Always a kick in the pants when you find out an idea you've had for years got picked up and done by someone else because you were too busy sitting on your hands. For me, it's a long list: Photosensitive Contact Lenses, Solar Panel Roof Shingles, etc etc.
* It's not a waste if it gives you creative outlet and keeps you out of the pub. That's what I tell my wife anyway.
Sands of Solvheil Series
Design Document for Sands of Solvheil I: The Ruins of Kazatharis
Design Document for Sands of Solvheil II: Beneath the Hearleforne
Design Document for Sands of Solvheil III: Crusaders of Shalihir