Rather than pre-designed weapons in games, wouldn't it be cool if the game would "evolve" new weapons based on your style of gameplay (or, in an MMO, the entire player base's gameplay)? Well, that's basically what's being done by a team from the University of Central Florida, using "genetic algorithms." This programming technique has many ramifications to the future of gaming from procedural content generation standpoint.
The application of this concept can be found in the apparently-free MMO "Galactic Arms Race," described by the team as, basically, a "space Diablo."
Here's a link to the Galactic Arms Race homepage, with many cool screenshots:
And here's a link to a facinating interview with Kenneth Stanley describing the "genetic algorithm" technique in detail:
I don't mind seeing AI and procedural generation for stuff like this. It seems far fetched to think it'd ever work for coming up with stories, characters, or dialog, though. That's usually where this stuff starts to get flaky in a hurry, and you realize you're just playing with a number cruncher rather than anything with an artistic intent behind it. At some point, I like to find an object or a chest and know that it's there because somebody wanted it to be there, not just because some algorithm randomly placed it. That's one of many reasons I prefer Baldur's Gate to Diablo.
A lot of the charm of Elite and games like it wore off when I realized what was really going on. There's a point where having 10 planets is better than 10 million if it's just going to be procedurally generated. No matter how good the algorithm may be, it can't substitute for human creativity and artistic vision.
That said, you could always argue that humans came up with the algorithm, so maybe that shows the same creativity and so on that sitting down to design each level or skill tree would. I certainly see some merit to that argument. My only problem is that once you start having random quests and the like, it gets to be tedious and utterly pointless. It loses whatever charm and character it might have had.
One of my dream games would be a strategy game in which each soldier or crewman had a unique personality and backstory. So, there would be no generic units. At any time you could stop the action and click on each soldier to get a full description of his or her backstory, etc. I want them to not only look unique but also move a little differently, etc. If that person died, it would feel really bad because they'd seem more like real people than just AI-driven clones.