I loved that game Robot Battle. Not the remote control robots, but the one where you wrote code and your robot followed that as its fighting algorithm. I think the code writing piece might have been offputting to some, and multiplayer stuff was in its infancy.
And I loved the 3d chess game they
played in star wars, with little monsters duking it out.
Recently I watched this video (linked) of a dude fighting a monster. This monster has lots of moves. I like the one where it chews him up and spits him out.
This scheme is for a block programming code, like Garageband or Scratch. The code would govern monster moves and appearance. Allowed power / moves / durability would increase with level. I have this idea that modular monsters could be animated using a large preset library of modifiable bits.
Some monsters would come with the game. You could look at their code and learn. You could start with one and tweak it. Some monsters would be submitted by users who might or might not allow code to be seen. Fight records of user submitted monsters would be tracked.
Gamers for whom the joy is battle could fight monsters like the guy in this video.
Others would feel parental delight in seeing their creations trounce actual players and the creations of others.