Sven Co-op style campaigns in NS2
Although I do not believe that single-player campaigns are really what NS2 needs right now (or ever), I do
believe that NS2 could benefit from "campaign-lite" styled map series. In other words, maps could progress in the same manner as they did in Sven Co-op (a HL1 mod) in a plain linear path, or by context (explained below). For those of you who do not know what Sven Co-op is, it was a HL1 modification which featured multiple-map (including eventually the HL1 and Opposing Force story lines) "campaigns" that multiple players could play through. Applied to NS2, this could be as simple as a 3-part map series where 3 different sections of a space station are fought over in linear order.
However, because both teams are human players, I believe that the campaigns should
contain contextual map changes
. Contextual map changes could be as simple as changing to map example_2A if the aliens win, and example_2B if the marines win, but could be made open to the mapper, enabling complex, non-linear campaign paths. Using such a method could allow for dynamic campaigns that would require multiple passes through in order to experience every map, as well as allow players to join in on a campaign already in progress (if they really want to) and still get the full NS2 experience.
Other ideas I have are:
1. Small-group creation through steam friends or in-game players, allowing friends to progress through the campaign together
2. Ready room maps, where groups of players can form and "sign up" for different missions (MMO-like campaigns)
3. Replacement AI that fills up empty slots on servers in order to allow for full game-like experience. In addition, smaller maps (instances) could be made where small groups of players can diverge from the main campaign to run an instance together against / with AI.
4. NPCs, including "bosses" and other characters for the ready room maps
5. Custom game modes, defined by mappers. Ex: capture objectives, annihilate the other team (restricted number of respawns), etc.
6. Opening / closing cinematic videos played during map loading / ready room time
1. Networking for the ready room maps: should they run on dedicated servers, then pass the players (or groups) off to other servers? Instances could be run on the "group leader's" computer, but what about normal NS2 games?
2. AI... As far as I've seen, nothing major has been developed on this front
3. NPCs will take a LOT of time, more than I'm sure anyone could or is willing to give. However, the code scaffolding to make them possible could be created by those willing to dedicate the time to modeling, scripting, and all the other necessities of such characters.
1. Allow mappers to create detailed, highly complex campaigns with the least amount of coding.
2. Provide the same ol' NS2 experience we have come to love by allowing users to join in any part of the campaign and play.
As for myself, I am a professional programmer for a bioinformatics lab at a college, and am attempting to push myself into an AI graduate program there as well (developing a complete AI for NS2, including commander mode, might be a project I will be working on very, very soon; if so, I will integrate that project into this one). I've been digging through much of the Lua code and playing around with a few things, but I haven't had the time to really sit down and get serious.
In order to get Contextual Map Changes to work, all that really has to be done is modify an existing map entity / create a new one (or define by the server, a la server map rotations) that allows for the declaration of what map to change to after certain conditions are met (i.e. when aliens / marines win). All the other ideas can be seen as "enhancements" to NS2 campaigns. Then it's just a matter of watching how mappers make use of the new system.
NS2 multiplayer (and possibly singleplayer with a good enough AI) campaigns can be created by allowing mappers (or servers) to set up what maps to change to under certain conditions, such as team win / lose, time limits, resource caps, etc.