Skill-based is naff. Classes are the juice of games- you look at TF2 and the classes there, you look at the classic Final Fantasy Tactics, and you look at DnD itself. Its the juice, its the gameplay variation, its the replay value.
But hold on- this doesn't mean I'm a pure fan of classes and levels..
I mean lets be honest this current mmorpg style is naff:
(1)Your new friend starts the game and you got to start a new level 1 character and abandon your other one to play with him.
(2) You got to travel halfway across the world to get to predestignated uh.. 40-49 area.
(3) How you can can no longer go to your favourite dungeons- like Deadmines as they're obsoleted.
Q)So whats my solution? Whats my ideal mmorpg style..?
Ok first we look at the beauty of Guild Wars. A nice low level cap. That chance to grow into your character so to speak. And 20 is a nice cap.
Q)And what do you do after hitting 20 if you have no more levels?
Ok most of the game will be aimed at level 20. How will characters progress? Well we now look at Everquest and it's alternate advancement system.
A picture here of it: http://mmohut.com/wp-content/gallery/everquest/everquest-alternative-advancement.jpg
You still earn exp, and you use that exp to advance your character, earn new abilities, or upgrade existing abilities.
Most of the content will be aimed at this end level cap as I say but there will be differing difficulties.
For instance. You'd have grade A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H dungeons. Grade A being the easiest. Grade A where you could group with your friend new to the game Johnny while still progressing your character, and maybe acquiring rare items of the dungeon. (Incidentally not only can you just group with your friend Johnny, but as anyone can group with anyone you're not waiting around to get a group. Nor are you buggering around with cross-servers with people you're never going to see again.)
But also again to make it more skill-based. Some skills may automatically go up- like a rank of firebolt instead of lame 'grinding' outs. And skills/abilities are quest-based- maybe depending on loots from a dungeon etc.
Lastly PvP also works with this. Any person can fight any person without silly artificial level blocks.