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Interview with Apezone Games

Hi Andrew, good to hear from you and of your news fresh from the development lab at Apezone! Can you give us an overview of "Starship Kingdom"
Why thanks David, nice to share this virtual space with you again. It's a turn-based strategy game, where you play one of two noble houses trying to take control of a divided star kingdom and become the next star king. Most of the stars have declared their independents from the star kingdom. These "Indies" are always played by a computer player. The Indies will only attack to take back any stars that were once independent. A player can use this knowledge to set up safe areas. The kicker is that if one house is winning by a lot, the "Indies" *may* decide to join the losing side in order to prolong the war. All of a sudden those safe areas aren't so safe anymore and the losing player will have acquired all the Indies technology as well. This makes for a harried ending when it happens. The game takes place on a star map, where you decide where to deploy your starships, what stars to attack and which to defend. Battles take place in 3D and look pretty cool. Did I mention that I love space combat? Each turn you may get new starships to place on the star map. There are 3 types of starships in the game. The type of starships you get will depend on what kind of starship-producing stars you hold. Each star can produce 1/3 of a specific type of starship. You need to have 3 matching starship-producing stars to get one starship of that type each turn. The more starship-producing triplets you have, the more starships you get each turn. You also get credits for conquering new stars. You can spend these credits on buying new starships, buying fleet upgrades or trying to improve your starship production. If you increase your starship production to the next level then you get more starships for the same price, plus you also get one Supernova bomb. Supernova bombs are used to clear out large defending fleets without any loses on your side.

How long has Starship Kingdom been in development and, Can Starship Kingdom be compared to any other game(s)?
I started the game in January 2006, so almost one year. Funny, I found this entry in my logs: 27/01/05 ~How about a simple Risk in Space type game. Looks like I got the idea a couple of years ago. Sadly, I had been working on a balloon game that I ended up canning. Who says its easy being a lone Indie game developer? I think the above log entry gives that away. I wanted to take the classic game of Risk, put it in space, and add something special to it. It's a formula that worked with my previous game, Battleship Chess. Battleship Chess married the simple, fun gameplay of the classic game of Battleship with the strategic gameplay of chess.

Going head-to-head. A small portion of the star-system map.

Does this game offer multiplayer support?
Yes, it was one of the biggest things I wanted to do with the game. My previous game, Battleship Chess, was my first multiplayer game. It suffered from the fact that players had to enter their IP addresses and hope that a router wouldn't mess up the connection for them. As it turns out, a lot of people have home routers now. I wanted to make Starship Kingdom easy to play online. So the game includes an in-game online game room, where you can start a new game or join someone else's game with just a few clicks. All without having to enter any IP addresses or worry about routers, as the game uses the apezone.com server to host games. This has the added benefit that players can quit Starship Kingdom and resume their online game at a later time. Think of it like play-by-email but without the hassle of email.

When will Starship Kingdom be released, and where can it be purchased?
The full version (version 1.1) was released on January 10, 2007. It comes after releasing the version 1.0 demo on December 27, 2006. I figured I could find and fix more bugs as well as tweak and add more levels. Lucky for me, it was more the latter. The game costs $19.95 or $14.95 if you buy more than one apezone game. The full version adds 25 maps to play on (13 small, 12 big) and tweaks the starting conditions a bit to make it more challenging. It also offers a musical intro and more background graphics. The version 1.1 demo is more generous than the first as it adds a large map to play on. I've decided to go back to offering more generous demos, rather than the rather lame industrial standard 1-hour demos, as I feel that demos should give something to everybody. This means that there is a free multiplayer game out there for people to play that also has a bunch of challenging computer players to play against in single-player mode. Something for everyone.

There are many "space battle" games available via the internet- what sets Starship Kingdom apart from others?
Starship Kingdom is a Risk variant. So if you like playing Risk then you'll probably like playing Starship Kingdom. I also like to throw in my own unique twists, hopefully, something people will also like. All that being said, games take people out of their normal humdrum life and throw them into something more exciting. Hopefully, Starship Kingdom will allow someone to get their quick fix of starship conquest between their next work assignment or putting out the garbage. ;)

Starship Kingdom comes with a built-in level editor/maker. Will Apezone maintain an active community level download site?
Yes, while I haven't completely thought it out, I intend on taking all user-created levels, checking them, and posting them on the apezone.com website. How automated I make it is still to be determined. They have to at least be checked to see if they are valid. On top of that, it gives me the chance of creating new maps and posting them myself.

What type of gamers is Starship Kingdom directed to?
Since my first game, Starships Unlimited, I've tried to find a better balance of in-depth strategy and casual fun. This game is meant for people who enjoy a challenging strategy game but don't have the time to play the more epic ones. It gives them this without having to (hopefully) sacrifice too much on eye-candy.

Are you working on any other titles or are there plans in the works?
Yes, after I finish my chores around the house (been neglecting the big stuff), I'll start work on my next game. It will deal with trying to build railroads. It won't be a simulator-type game that we've seen many times before. Instead, you'll have to do a bunch of stuff so as to hopefully be rewarded with a working railroad. I guess you'll work your way towards becoming something of a railroad tycoon (fingers crossed). This game will strictly be a single-player game. Need a break from the multiplayer headaches. ;)

Any last thoughts for gamers out there?
Ah, a soap-box moment! :) Remember the 80:20 rule (or is it the 90:10 rule)? While 80% of the games out there are crap, it's all relative! My 80% will be different from yours. The people who put their hearts and souls into their games don't write crap games. Whether you like them or not is another question. It's all about the love ...

Starship Kingdom Mini-Review
After spending several hours (just how many hours are too many?) with Starship Kingdom I've come away with many things to write about. The first thing I must mention is: Somebody got it right! By this I mean that I've run into a couple of other indie "Risk in Space" variants and I've found they either move really fast (which detracts from strategic elements) or are so abstract that the fact the game is in space is irrelevant, meaning, what is represented could just as well be islands in an ocean somewhere. I found that this game has an excellent mix of fleet-based strategy (deployment, attack, building/research, and fortification) and allows the player the opportunity to watch his/her fleet go head-to-head with opposing forces (the big pay-off for all of the strategic thinking). This is a WYSWYG strategic space battle game that allows the player to choose among various opposing AI styles or allows one to go toe-to-toe with humans. In summary, I walked away from Starship Kingdom with a sense of satisfaction because finally, finally a good strategy game has been made for those whom lead busy lives. Definitely give this demo a workout.

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Published on 16 Jan 2007
Written by David Simpkins

The Love Symphony