And now for something completely different...
I actually planned a full-fledged single-player campaign for Stainless, before I came to my senses and downgraded it to a much simpler multiplayer game. However, I'm still considering a short (2-4 hours) campaign. What I have in mind is similar to Valve's strategy with Left 4 Dead: a short, highly replayable campaign designed for 2-4 players. With one catch: the players are fighting against each other.
With my limited marketing and branding skills, I have dubbed my idea an "anti-cooperative campaign". It would be best with 1v1 or 2v2, but regardless of the player count, the computer would balance the teams by bestowing various power-ups. Which means, if I ever add an online component beyond LAN, matchmaking would be unnecessary.
The big question is, if the teams are somewhat even and neither team makes any significant progress, how does the story advance? Obviously we need a special kind of story.
There are lots of great story-lines for a lot of great games, but rarely do they intertwine with gameplay. They are tools designed to motivate players and introduce the next level (the Halo series comes to mind). The story may be rich, and the gameplay fun, but they rarely affect each other. When the story advances, the player thinks "Oh goody! Unlocked gear, new enemies, and fresh eye-candy!"
I'm not going to try and solve the problem of detached story-lines. Rather, I'll take advantage of the fact that no one seems to mind them. :)
So we have two teams playing against each other. I imagine a story that would make both teams feel like they are in the right, and portray their enemies as bloodthirsty barbarians. Perhaps their superiors are feeding them propaganda to increase their battle effectiveness. Over time, informed by cut scenes or another plot exposition tool, players would see through the propaganda, join together, and usurp their commanders. Maybe it changes from "anti-cooperative" to a cooperative campaign. Maybe they find out they were both under the same sadistic commander, and all four players defeat him in a final boss battle. Just a few possibilities. :)
Anyway, I've been thinking about the story-and-game-design side of things. With the core engine relatively stable right now, it's time to start thinking ahead about the game design. Who knows? If I do come up with a small story in writing, I might post it here in episodic tidbits. Stay tuned!