Computer RPGs, of which I am an avid consumer (being a portly metallurgist, shunted by standardized testing [thank you very much, Karl Pearson] into an inferior education and thus into a meaningless metallurgical-type job, managed by humorless Messrs. Prudhommes without any real interest in science fiction--by which I mean writers like Niven, Pournelle, and Bear [true gods]--and are too interested in their aerobicized, callipygian, and tanned wives to discuss non-metallurgical manners), tend to be excessively linear.
There's been much hand-wringing about this in the CRPG literature. Creating an environment populated with real humans and assigning a degree of control over that environment is one thing, certainly. It's a start, is what I'm trying to say. But how about something different, something like:
You begin your day in your cuticle at your large industrial manufacturing concern. You aren't told this directly, but a Half-Life style intro lets you in on the secrets (it'd be very anti-confluential). You are clipped into the wastebasket. The adventure then begins.
The other cuticle-dwellers (a conscious bacterium--it's best to skim on the details) are hatching a plan about contact with other cuticle-dwelling civilizations. Some of the others are autonmous agents; some are merely on-line players (you'll never know). There's been a Strugatsky-style jettison, and there's some strange objects around the world. You, the cuticle-dwellers, must find them. By moving from cuticle-to-cuticle across the world.
This will depend on finding those who like to chew on their cuticles, or other peoples'. There's a greek term for this, which the designers of the game can look up.
I envision an action-based interface that modulates. Some parts will be text adventure, some will be RTS, some will like that marble game.
More, as I'm inspired by the divine afflatus.
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