You've all covered basically what I would feel makes an RPG. So I don't want to get into that. However, I do want to get into the topic Mike brought up with the Jennifer Helper interview. An option to skip the combat in a video game, more specifically an RPG, is a ridiculous notion. Like Tom, Joey, and Jason were saying, if you just want a story, go get a movie or read a book. Plain and simple point is that if you're not willing to 'play' the game then you don't really want to play a game. You want to WATCH a story with engaging characters and a deep involved plot unfold in front of you. You want a movie.
Part of a good RPG is that you get immersed in the world of the characters. You have to be put in some of the same situations as them, and feel like you're dealing with some of the same hardships as they are. The character your controlling doesn't just coast through life from the beginning of their adventure only to find themselves victorious over whatever they're trying to overcome. They have to battle their way through a hostile world, for the most part, becoming stronger with each victory, until they are ultimately strong enough to take on whatever foe they need to face. So the battles and other game play mechanics serve as another level of immersion for the game.
Also, the developers do not consider themselves a movie complany. It's not in their mission statement to give you a game with almost no gameplay, and one which is PURELY story driven. Your point of wanting to go through the game this way is another way of saying, you want to fly through it and get the full extent of the story. I'm sorry, but if you don't want to devote 40 hours to a game, then RPGs aren't for you. You want an engaging story that you can get through in a few hours? Go watch a movie! There's plenty of movies with epic stories out there. Want something longer with a more engaging and complex story? Go read a book! If you're looking for something light on gameplay and heavy on story, this is the wrong medium, and I don't feel that should change.
Let's say we take this to the extreme, and a mainstream RPG is released with a game-mode option which skips battles. Essentially what you have is a game that goes like this:
2:Run to NPC 1, who will give you a piece of the story
3:Instead of a battle you get a cutscene of a battle, followed by the next plot point
4:You have to travel to the next NPC to get to the next plot point
5:Repeat from step 2
That sounds pretty boring IMO. You could argue that you leave in the ability to upgrade your characters and purchase new items, but I could argue that I've done that and it gets boring fast. I've used cheat codes to give me all the items, level my character to the max, or anything else that makes the combat a breeze. Every game I've done that with, I've abandoned because it got really boring. It didn't feel like I was actually acomplishing anything or that I was getting invested in the characters as much.
I don't believe that you can have a Video Game that is simply Story, and have it hold your attention as much as one where you have to fight the battles. The Immersion will suffer because you're removing the evidence of a struggle the characters must go through. Developers would not see the point of making an interactive movie, devoid of most gameplay mechanics they most likely feel makes the industry what it is. Finally, I feel that excluding the gameplay would make for a very boring experience that most gamers would give up on before the end.