There once was a boy that would visit his cousins and see them play an amazing-looking space flight dogfighting game. The boy and his cousins grew up. The boy, now a man with a cool, proper beard, went online and got improved graphics and other assets for the now open-source game he saw his cousins play. And it’s awesome.
FreeSpace 2, for those of you wondering. I really enjoy how the story treats the player not as the savior of the universe and the chosen one and all that stuff, but as just another pilot in a big epic story. It feels much more realistic, those briefings not asking me to kindly accept the quest of killing create x, but telling me my mission is to destroy all Shivan ships while following a certain attack plan. And sometimes the attack plan fails.
But it could be so much bigger. Epic…er. What if I wouldn’t know what missions await me upon replaying the game? What if the failure to defend a supply ship leads to a significantly different situation later on. Say there’s two missions involving supply ships to the construction of a new huge ship. Fail those missions, and the huge ship will not be fully equipped when going into battle. Maybe it won’t be called into the same battles it otherwise would have been. Say both missions go off without a hitch, both supply ships reach their destination. Then we have a ginormous badass ship impacting the story.
I’m still waiting for a game with a story so modular it’s unpredictable and with so many different story-changing parameters it’s practically always new. Take a game of Civ, for example. Make it a meta-game, with individual battles being the gameplay for us players while the computer runs the meta-game. We fight in different terrains against different forces. The game moves the story from battle to battle. Through these individual battles, escort missions, protection duties, recon missions, etc. we change the course of the game. Terrain, technology, units, things are different every time. Attack a city, defend a city, attack a resource, defend a resource, attack their units, defend ours…
Even without a modular meta-game you can still have branching storylines depending on the outcome of key missions. Maybe the FreeSpace mod community has got something like this. The game is open source, it’s possible they’ve made it possible. Which would be awesome.