Galaxy on Fire: Alliances will help build on the fictional universe developer Fishlabs Entertainment has already established with past games, CEO and co-founder Michael Schade told Polygon.
Schade demoed an iOS version of the game at GDC. Unlike previous entries in the series, Alliances is a strategy-based, resource management spin-off that Schade calls "the next step" in the series. Fishlabs has built upon many of the assets from Galaxy on Fire 2, giving the team a chance to branch out from their previous creation, rather than totally start anew.
"There's always the risk that people will say, 'well, that's not space combat anymore. I'm not flying the ship myself," Schade said. "True. At the same time, we say 'well, but you have the chance to play with your friends in this setting.' You can conquer planets. We have a completely different gameplay mechanic. It's a different genre, still in the same setting."
"Every kind of player type — the killers, the achievers, the explorers — they have the representation and rank."
Alliances is about building resources and conquering new worlds often with friends at your side. With touch controls, players can direct ships as they please and allot different responsibilities for resource management. Experience is gathered through various missions, which can then be doled out to talents such as combat, defending and mining. The game is meant to appeal to many types of gamers by allowing them to choose their style.
"Every kind of player type — the killers, the achievers, the explorers — they have the representation and rank within the alliance," Schade said.
With alliances in place, players can call for help when attacking new systems. They can also take a vote on which solar systems to attack or leave alone. Once the vote is cast, the action automatically happens. Part of makes Alliances so exciting, Schade said, is synchronizing attacks with friends and helping one another out.
"It really is vital to work with others," Schade said. "We wanted to make it easy to play with each other and have the benefit of an alliance and add depth to the multiplayer game experience."
Before an attack, players can pick a command ship and load it with fighters. Battles are watchable in a 3D rendering unique to each encounter.
"[It's] not pure eye candy," Schade said of the game's battles, which are meant to add more personal experience to gameplay. "[The 3D viewer] randomizes the battle, but it's always exactly the planet you're fighting for — the visual representation and everything. Everything is generated on the fly [so you can swap views easily]. Every fight will look different."
Although selling a development team on a free-to-play title was no easy task, Schade believes that a freemium model is "the way to go" on a title such as Galaxy on Fire: Alliances.
"You need to make sure that as many people as possible can play it," Schade said. "That it's free, that is has no barrier ... The game mechanics in a free-to-play game make it reasonable that you can spend more money, where in a paid game it's very hard to have gameplay mechanics that allow you to spend more money than the initial purchase price."
Fishlabs is hoping to launch the game in September, or at least no later than Christmas. By the time Alliances launches, it will have been in development almost two years, and the team plans to continue updating. Eventually, Schade said, people will want to spend money on it.
"If you bring great quality to the platform, if you don't rip off and play tricks, it can be a premium game experience even though the business model is free," Schade said.