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Laying the groundwork for Galcon 2

Developer Phil Hassey kicked off our meeting at last week's GDC by showing me a necklace and a fridge magnet set both based on his oft-remade game Galcon, just two of the different rewards in the Kickstarter that recently raised him over $25,000 for development. Hassey has remade Galcon quite a few times during his years of development (including for a few popular iOS versions), but Galcon 2 promises to be his biggest work yet. Not only will it bring multiplayer to the title, but Hassey has a whole bunch of wild ideas about how far the gameplay can go.

The basic idea of Galcon is that you have a series of planets on your screen, and you can drag your finger from one to another to send ships to attack. Make sure you control more ships on that planet than anyone else, and you own it, with the eventual goal being to take over the whole screen. But that simple gameplay has spun off into dozens of variations for Hassey. Armed with his Kickstarter money (not to mention the extremely dedicated fanbase that comes along with a successful Kickstarter), Hassey has turned Galcon into an engine, essentially. He's created a mod system that allows anyone with the tools to dive in and tweak the Galcon ruleset as they see fit, and this has brought about lots and lots of interesting new twists on the old Galcon gameplay.

For one thing, Hassey was able to remake all of the previous Galcon modes with his mod tools as mods, so all of the different modes from Galcon Fusion (including Stealth, where ships can be invisible, and Assassin, where a round of different players each needs to take out just one other target at a time) are already ready to go for Galcon 2. Plus, he's passed off the mod tools to his alpha testers, and they've made some really incredible stuff already, including a map of Earth you can play Galcon on (by sending ships around to different cities), and other ideas like dual Galcon (where two players can play on the same screen), and a turn-based variant.

All of these mods are already up and running, and while Hassey hasn't optomized any of it, he and his community have basically built an infinite Galcon machine. When the game finally does come out on iOS, Hassey will be able to take the best of both his and users' mods, and update the game with them as he sees fit, which means he'll have an endlessly replayable, ever-evolving Galcon title.

Currently, the graphics on the game are fairly basic, with simple shapes for ships and planets alike. But Hassey's also working on making those look better -- the fridge magnets, in fact, are the first colorful signs that planets will each have their own colors, renders and flavors. Hassey says he plans to work more on getting the world of the game to look just as impressive as the mechanics running behind it already are.

And then, says Hassey, he has even bigger plans. He told me that he envisions not just a multiplayer game, but essentially a Galcon universe, with a galaxy of stars in various clusters, each of which makes up a multiplayer Galcon map. Guild functionality is already something he's working on, so the idea is that players could form up in clans, and then battle across this virtual map, earning victory points to conquer stars in each constellation. In this game, players could have different classes (with different abilities like invisible ships or faster moves), and would have to work together to try and take over the whole galaxy together.

It's a wild idea, but Hassey says he's never been more excited about development. Working with the Kickstarter community has given him no shortage of excitement and creativity, and the sky is the limit on what this game could eventually become. It's hard to say when we'll see the "final" version of Galcon 2, but maybe there doesn't need to be one. Hassey says he's released seven different beta builds since January, and that's the current plan for the game going forward: just to keep feeding his Kickstarter backers new game content and see what they do with it. Whenever the game does officially arrive, it's sure to be very impressive indeed.



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Developer Phil Hassey kicked off our meeting at last week's GDC by showing me a necklace and a fridge magnet set both based on his...