I want to make a Massively Multiplayer Real Time Strategy Game. Well, not so much massively as highly. I’m thinking around 100 players. I’m particularly interested in command structure: you have an RTS where every soldier is controlled by a real person, and then formally there are units of soldiers with a Sergeant, and a Commander for the whole battle.

Traditionally, I think many game designers have hoped that at least the sergeant level would emerge if you gave teams free communication, but that rarely happens in practice. So what happens if you formalize it? Let’s go pie-in-the-sky for a moment and assume that we have a good traditional action game and a good traditional RTS game. How would the player flow go?

You can start a new game as a commander (against another commander), and as commander you can take control of one soldier. You have a one on one game. More people may join the game as sergeants, and once there are a certain number of those, as privates. It would have to allow joining mid-game, because organizing a game of this size would be impossible.

Given that I’m interested in fairly large-scale games with these dynamics, there would have to be some way to encourage people not to be commanders at first. As long as the action element is solid, and it would have to be, you could play one on one and small team games to build up your rank. At certain times you would be promoted and be able to join as a sergeant with, say, four privates at your disposal. Some time after that, you may start a game as a commander. Sadly, this would probably limit the “commander” gameplay to a small subset of people. But that kind of makes sense; if fifty people are going to trust their time to you, they have to think they can trust you. So only ladder leaders may be commanders (it would be amazing encouragement to “grind” through the lower levels—grind used loosely, it would still be damn fun).

The commander would have an RTS-like view of the map with very limited information about the opponent displayed. Soldiers don’t appear on radar; spotted units would probably appear as indiscriminate dots, relying on the soldiers themselves to verbally report to their commander identifications of the units. Of course, the commander would know all the positions of his troops. Essentially, I want to encourage communication—human interaction—to play well. The commander would know by the interface that he had to communicate, because it would be impossible to lead an army without doing so. Perhaps orders should be typed (or, heck, spoken) rather than click-actioned. Maybe click actions for the common ones.

Aaaanyway, back to reality. Soylent doesn’t have the resources to pull off a merger of those two traditional styles. What kind of game would capture the essence of this type of thing, but that I could write alone or with Namaste in a couple of weeks?

I keep thinking 2D, because 2D is so much easier to make look decent and way easier to code for. But there still needs to be a very long learning curve; there must be a distinction between good soldiers and great soldiers, else the idea would be lost. I think we need 3D. I want to use some existing FPS engine, but I don’t really want to mod an FPS, because (1) I want the gameplay to be unique, and (2) tweaking an FPS’s gameplay isn’t something that is interesting to me, because I’m not a huge fan of the FPS genre. The main reason I want the gameplay to be unique is because, again, I’m not a huge fan of FPS’s. It could also change the social mentality of the game, because so many people play FPS’s where they think and act for themselves, and now it’s best for them to follow orders and carry them out as best as possible. I guess it isn’t too different from single player FPS in that respect.

Maybe I could even take something like bzFlag and adapt it to suit this. bzFlag’s controls suck so much though. But it might be salvagable; it is a decent engine, already with networking support, and it’s open source. And it already has a decent community, which we could draw on. And it already has leaderboards (with well-known, respected leaders), where we could get commanders.

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