No, I'm not writing a new Spice Girls song.
I was reading this blog the other day... I wrote such a long reply to it I thought I'd copy-paste it and blog about it myself, since it's a great idea!
Basically, it was suggested that each class should have multiple primary roles open to it (eg, being a tank or a healer). You choose one before a battle begins, and that locks out the abilities of the other to preserve balance. This seems like an awesome idea. Why hasn't anybody done it before?
Well just today I discovered that they have! The new Rune-Keeper class in LotRO does just this. It seems that the more you use damage skills with this class, the better your damage skills become, and new damage skills become available - however, healing skills become progressively further blocked to you.
Conversely, the more you heal, the better your heals become, but the more blocked off your damage skills are.
So, the class is able to choose between being a healer, or a nuker (a "glass cannon" style thing)... But not both at the same time. It's also just as powerful at healing as the other primary healing class (Minstrel), and does crazy damage as a nuker (apparently). Pretty neat.
My vote: include such a mechanic in every future MMO, for every class - let everyone have 2 wildly different roles to choose from. That way when forming a group, the odds are much much better that all necessary roles are fulfilled.
Consider now a Guild Wars Random Arena match. This is a 4v4 game where you are randomly paired with a team of 3 other people. Basically what happens in most games is, one team was lucky enough to get a healer and a couple of people who can do damage (and invariably one noob who couldn't find his ass in the dark with a map and a flashlight), and the other team was not. Guess which team wins?
But in a system where you can alternate between 2 widely different roles within the same class type, people would be able to sort out who should be what before the match starts. To make this somewhat idiot-proof, before entering Random Arenas each person would vote 1-2 as to which spec they'd prefer to be. The game could then assess each person's potential roles and chosen preferences and compare it to a pre-programmed set of rules... something like
1) Get a healer if one is possible, no matter what preference any potential healers nominated it
2) If 2 healers are possible, choose the one that put the healer class as the highest preference
3) If there's a tie, choose one at random
4) Next fill the role of the melee, etc
Of course, people would be free to disable one of the preferences if they really didn't like/ didn't feel like being a particular spec.
This pairing/preferences concept could be used not just in Random Arenas, but in pretty much every PvE and PvP area of every game, every time a group is formed up. Group leaders could disable "auto roll select" of course.