@ hobbes (sorry for the offtopic nature): a story is good but i favour more of a tournament type story IE a squad from each planet is hurled into warp and end up fighting each other in a never ending battle to the death across a wide range of terrains and stuff.This leaves the door open for all kinds of weapons and terrains. like quake3 arena where your men are sent to a far off place to fight and once over , both teams men are revived and sent back to the hub for more. Also explains why your men always come back in each game nicely. The fact that aliens and humans can work togeather seems to destroy the whole "im alien and i hate all humsn" idea. Perhaps a new topic to discuss stories would be a good idea.
I agree with your description of the setting for the battles, since it replicates the already existing matches, i.e., players connect, fight, etc.
However, I think that both systems can co-exist, with the arena type for single matches, and a story that serves to introduce the different factions and that would be the basis of campaign (geoscape) mode. However, my main difficulty right now is what exactly will the setting be: on one hand, if it's too generic and merely describes factions, weapons, etc., then the players wont get that much involved emotionally (like it happened on X-COM where you were fighting the alien invasion); but on the other side, if you create an universe, where the factions have motives and strategic objectives (discover technology to upgrade weapons, etc.) and there's an actual end to the game, then it would have to be related to the design of such a campaign mode, which hasn't gone further than the Geoscape Demo.
Therefore, my idea right now is to create a basic plot that can be used for several types of matches, either on space or Earth, and only between humans or including aliens as well. The point is to have a game universe that allows for the current and future weapons/units/terrains to be added without having to set specific objectives and just seeing how it goes from here. Later, if the strategic mode is included, then it would be required for this plot to have certain objectives for each faction, in order to win.
This is where the idea of 'first contact' sets in. The basic premise is that mankind has begun exploring the stars and starts to make contact with alien civilizations. But, instead of finding a 'brotherhood of galactic civilizations' or 'an alien invasion', it discovers that the galaxy is instead filled with intrigue, with some civilizations being more agressive than others. There isn't an immediate and ultimate threat to Earth, instead there are big guys and small guys and mankind is just the newest kid on the block. At the same time, Earth is hardly unified, so there will be competing human factions as well.
I think this will allow for a diversity of situations: human countries or corporations can be fighting one another, or you can have a alien race completely bend on destroying humans. And later, specific objectives can be added for the strategic mode.
Any comments on this?