Select Game Category
GAME OF THE MONTHView game
GAME OF THE YEARView game
Charlie on Interstellar War
Dive with us into the world of Interstellar War, guided by Charlie.
Who is Charlie?
Certainly, my love of gaming and computers started early on, back at school during the early 2000s when dial-up was king, the hay days of Flash games and RuneScape was hot on the scene. Being relatively young and naive back then, I played various games and dabbled with the basics of Flash/HTML.
Fast forward some ten+ years, and I’ve gone from dabbling to an experienced and qualified software engineer/technical lead with experience primarily in the software as a service industry, building platforms for various businesses/sectors by day and building Interstellar-War by night.
Games that stick with me would have to be the likes of the Interstellar War (more on this later), but the original made a significant impression and led me onto games like RuneScape and later Eve-Online. These days, however, you’ll find me mostly playing games like Satisfactory, Captain of Industry and Anno1800.
How would you describe Interstellar War?
Interstellar War is an open beta text-based and turn-based space exploration/conquest game set in your browser. You can take control of over 200 unique ships, capture and build upon over 800 planets and play a real part in entirely player-controlled governments where progression and respect are earned and not a given.
There are around 600 verified/active users and around 3.000 registered. Players can communicate in the game (via text chat) or via our Discord.
Success in Interstellar War isn’t necessarily about who has the biggest ship or most of the galaxy captured… well, I lied, sort of; those are fun stats and arguably important, but there is always a bigger ship and bigger fleet to conquer the galaxy. Instead of the respect of your faction and perhaps a chance to be elected to the council or even lead … now that’s an accolade!
If politics isn’t your game, not to worry. PVP, PVE, manufacturing, building and industry all play an important part in Interstellar War. From hunting down space worms and pirates, missions, building up and managing your planetary bases to manufacturing ships/items to sell/trade, there is always a lot to do.
For those usually dissuaded by the idea of a turn-based game, we’re a little different. Turns last 15 seconds, with movement, weapons, and repair happening in tandem with each turn. You’ll be thankful for those 15 seconds during the heat of combat, just long enough to set your heart racing before your ship's reactor becomes critical!
How did Interstellar War start for you?
For me, Interstellar-War (fleet battles) started ten years ago when I was a player in the early 2000s. It was built by a team of three (two devs and a community manager) who worked on other software daily. It was based loosely on a board game they enjoyed. The game was around only for a couple of years but built a significant community before sadly ending due to cost (those were different times) and changes in circumstances.
Leaving left behind a rather torn but unbroken community that, even to this day, has remained in touch, with friendships both online/offline spanning over a decade, all patiently waiting for any glimmer of hope. Sadly, dashed when the domain lapsed, it was now just a memory…
Until… the domain was renewed in early 2015, and on an off chance I happened to check in, sadly, this early attempt to start over failed. Still, with renewed enthusiasm, I stepped forward. I took the helm in rebuilding as much of the original game from scratch based on the fond memories of the past with support/leftover screenshots and graphical assets the community had held onto all these years.
Today, this is the Interstellar Wars you see. Refined and improved with the help and patience of the community, we hope to have paid homage to the original, with everything the community loved, whilst being a standalone and unique pushing forward from where things left off and paving a different path.
How big is the team
We’re a small team of three, two of us from the UK and one from the US. All players and members of the original game’s community have stepped in/up to bring the game and community back together.
I’m the only developer and lead things up whilst Rob helps to coordinate game design/balance, having had some previous experience developing tabletop board games and John manages the community/runs various community events.
We’re a bit of a rag-tag team but have known each other for some time now and tend to bounce ideas back and forth between us whilst involving the community as much as possible, as we’re very much learning as we go on this one!
This usually results in the words most developers hate to hear: “so you can just build that right?” so far, at least, save a few sleepless evenings, we’ve managed to keep building things out without any real roadblocks.
Do you do everything yourself?
As I’m the sole developer, all the development goes through me; although sometimes arduous, it has helped us move quickly as it negates the need for much of the usual development overhead, meetings, code review, merges and management that surrounds the typical day job of being a developer.
For the most part, as the decision was made early on to work this way, having started with just myself and John, it was clear things needed to be different, so the game was built as a platform with the means to change almost all aspects of the game built in.
Luckily this meant that as Rob joined us later, all the tools needed were available to add new content, change the existing and combine/reshape the game's mechanics within a UI without requiring any development work.
This has worked well for us, but it's not without drawbacks, as work can be two-fold, both building the feature for the game and the tools to manage it. For simple features, this is fine, but lacking like-minded and experienced developers to discuss more complex issues can be frustrating.
We couldn’t do it without the community, though, who have/do also help with everything from modelling, testing, artwork, and generally being awesome!
What makes Interstellar War unique?
The community. Given that the game is centred around conflict, where the players can explore, capture and occupy planets, starbases and entire regions of the galaxy, there is very little narrative but the one the players create. Putting the community centre stage.
New players quickly discover nothing in Interstellar War happens in a vacuum (Ironically). With the players themselves electing and governing their factions, everything in the game is driven by and managed by the community. Everything from declaring wars, outlawing rouges and day-to-day life can change just as quickly as territorial borders.
Fortunately, allies one week can be enemies the next and vice versa, things are always shifting, and different personalities can quickly influence the outcomes… softly softly or send in the troops, you decide, but you best be prepared.
Any big issues?
During our early days, it was managing expectations and issues that could arise from personality differences and the nature of the development. There was a great deal of excitement and emotion when we relaunched the game, which led to some notable clashes where bugs/features where/weren’t being used correctly.
At the time and in hindsight, we should have, in a way, hit the pause button on things as resolving issues took time, but (even as a limited team), we should have intervened sooner. Our concern at that time was not to deprive those who had done nothing wrong.
This taught us a great deal and did result in positive change, having since published and strictly enforced a set of community guidelines to tackle those that cause problems vs necessitating wider action. Still, it is something we would have liked to avoid.
In terms of managing expectations, we’ve all played alphas and betas, knowing things will change and there will be issues and unfair advantages/disadvantages from time to time. As we were relatively new to balancing and weren’t sure ourselves, we may have been too easily drawn into the usual debates. It did work out in the end but the journey to get where we are now was a touch fraught and better upfront design or experience would have gone a long way.
What is the hardest part of being an admin?
Deciding when the game/feature is “good enough” or where we can’t do something (yet) is certainly up there. As a passion/side project, the game evolves as time allows, and we often have big ideas as we learn new ways to do things/skills. Whilst most might have resources to tackle and a diverse set of roles and skills involved in game development, we’re just three friends with limited finances and a shared passion, and thus, it isn’t as easy to access skilled help (or find volunteers), leaving us spread thinly even down to trading code for crayons to mock up/design ship graphics/ui’s etc.
Any funny stories to share?
Hmm… that one time we decided we wanted to cause an all-out war… but the community wouldn’t oblige if they might lose their hard-fought current territories/assets. So, instead, we published a series of news-based community announcements for a “special time slip anomaly” that made it clear through the magic of news/propaganda that whilst the timeslip was ongoing, all their actions wouldn’t count, and time would reset itself.
This was dev for “backup the database, let them cause chaos and hit restore when we’re done” … I think we got away with that community event or “feature” so long as no one finds this… ever…
Any future plans?
Certainly, the game development has focused on the core combat mechanics for some time, but we’re shifting focus now to add more dynamic and passive content to the game to help build out the universe. We’ve just finished a major release of a mission-building tool to allow missions to be built quickly without code.
There is a new UI coming to facilitate these changes, but once its lands (soon), we’re looking to:
- Add new missions weekly/monthly.
- Add dynamic events such as wormholes, aggressive spawns, encounters or new systems.
- Add a global market (markets are currently localised).
- Allow ship customisation.
- Improve crafting with more recipes.
More updates are always posted in our discord/on the homepage.
All the best, Charlie
Check out Interstellar War, if you got intrigued.