Probably the reason there were no replies the first day was because Thanksgiving.
Ahh I totally forgot about that because most people in the UK (that i know of) do not celebrate thanksgiving so that theory totally slipped my mind! haha
Yeah, approximately 2/3 of Gamedev's posters are in the US so a lot of us were in turkey comas or on the highway or at the house of parents who live in the stone age with no wifi, lol.
I'm interested in designing this kind of hybrid RPG. I'd probably describe it more like "interactive story core + sandboxy customization peripherals" rather than j+western. Skyrim is a pretty good place to start, but so is WoW, if you consider things like the starting quest chains per race that do some character development, and the core quest chains for each class where you unlock abilities of that class, another bit of character development. Other MMOs may have core quest chains per profession or faction that the player chooses to join during the course of the game, corresponding to the Stormcloak vs. Imperials quests in Skyrim.
I'd consider my WildWright MMO design and my + collaboraters' Xenallure single-player RPG design to both be this kind of hybrid. And the older single-player RPG concept Gimmie Those Wings, though it has less sandbox/crafting elements.
Although i'd probably describe it to be an interactive story core + Sandbox customization peripherals myself. I wouldn't want to take this concept down a MMO path, since MMO's are quite lazy in a sense that most people don't play it for the story and secondly MMO's take a long time to complete. Don't get me wrong, games in general take a considerable while to finish but MMO's are just not ''up my alley'' to create. Even though i've played quite a few of them. (Tera, Aion and WoW - The other's are just copycats to WoW)
I want to take my story into a more serious territory and immerse players into the game for the story rather than the quests and other things to do. That's why my concept right now requires heavy decision trees etc. Because my core element is the STORY then the GAMEPLAY.
Although it doesn't mean i won't put any effort into GAMEPLAY. I want my gameplay to be a fun aspect as you enjoy the story obviously.
I agree that it's more practical to want to make a single-player game than an MMO. I just personally love MMOs and find them an irresistible challenge to design. But single-player RPGs are interesting to design also.
I think, if you want the core element of your game to be the story, you need to find a core story concept before you worry too much about the details of what exact features should or shouldn't be in your hybrid blend of gameplay. What is your game going to be about? Is there a mystery beneath the surface of the world or explaining the initial surprising events of the story and subsequent discoveries of new abilities and goals that become available to attempt throughout the game? Is there a buildungsroman dynamic where an initially young, poor, uneducated, or etc. person gains skills, wealth, possessions, and social standing including romance? Those are usually the two things I start with. Some games go more for fighting a great evil, getting revenge, retrieving something that has been stolen, escaping imminent danger from persistent bad guys, etc.