Something the other day just reminded me of one of my far out, really expensive game ideas... I don't foresee having the budget to pull it off any time soon but I figured it might be interesting to talk about it. One of my disdains in virtual worlds these days is with the over-use of mechanic "vending machine NPCs". One answer you hear a lot is "build better NPCs", which is an interesting choice but pits you head to head with the Turing Test every day. I prefer the idea of as much as possible using real people. The King you hear about in the town? An actual player with "duties" and "responsibilities" befitting a King. The crazy cat lady that gives you those weird quests into the Dark and Damp Dungeon of Doom? Sometimes it's anyone who is bored and wants to try a hand at giving a few cryptic clues and laughing at the corpses of idiot adventurers that failed to heed the warnings...
So one of my ideas was to build "the ultimate sci-fi military throw down"... Invite a bunch of the leading military sci-fi writers to pitch ideas for cool weapons technology, interesting battle scenarios, world building, timelines, etc, then build a virtual world around it as sort of the "military sci-fi author's playground set". Throw in everything but the kitchen sink: twitch FPS mode, leadership-based RTS modes, everything. Then tell a drawn out campaign with it... Here's the fun part, I'd be very interested in putting the writer's themselves in the early leadership openings (Generals, Admirals, whatnot). If the military sci-fi leaders had virtual armies at their command, whose strategy would reign supreme? It could be the Iron Chef of Military Battles. Who do you think would win? David Ringo? Eric Flint? David Drake? Harry Turtledove? Someone else? How many readers would relish the chance to try their hard-earned Starcraft/Halo skills against a favorite author?
Considering Baen seems to be publishing, what, 75% (95%?) of the military sci-fi these days it might not even be that hard to get an interesting assortment of authors. I love the idea of including in the compensation package the ability for each author to have the full rights to novelize the game. (Include in the EULA the player's waiver for the author's to use their actions in novels... to "tape" their battles to study...) Would they become "historians" of battles that they themselves help enact? Given the tools to do so, would they explore and prototype battles before putting them on paper? Would it add "realism" (or at least continuity of battle)? Would the author's continue their online battles in the books? (Wouldn't it be neat for such point of view feuds with books potentially on the same subject (such as opposing sides of some example Battle of Omicron Persei 8) with author's choosing partisan sides and defending them in their own work? I have to admit, I'd relish such a neat chance for interesting cross-book pollination.) Would people actually bother buying and reading tales of battles they fought in or otherwise saw unfold "first hand"?
Anyway, just a small glimpse into the ideas in my head. This would be a very neat thing to do should I magically get a multi-million dollar investment.