On Thursday I’m going to launch a new game app called Starship Captain: Adventure In Alpha Sector (link coming Thursday). It will be the biggest app I’ve released so far.
Starship Captain is a space adventure game. You travel from planet to planet trading goods, running missions and attacking and plundering other ships.
I built it from scratch starting a few months ago. But the game has a little more history than that. It is actually the fourth incarnation of a game I first built in December, 1995.
I called that first game Space Pirate. I built it as one of my first web-based games just after launching my first site. It was a single-player game developed in Macromedia Director that required the Shockwave plug-in. At the time, it was a unique way to distribute games.
About a year later, I decided to re-write the game from scratch, creating Space Pirate 2. I added many improvements, including a little bit of multi-player capability.
My effort paid off when a company approached me and bought the game. With the money, I put a down-payment on my first house and seeded my company’s bank account.
Five years later, my non-compete agreement expired and I delved back into the genre with a new game called Rebel Dawn. This game had better graphics and even more multi-player capability.
But by now there were many online multiple worlds, some with 3D graphics and 9-figure budgets. Rebel Dawn couldn’t compete. It was also a bad time for web-based games as web advertising was at a low and web-based game sites started popping up everywhere. Plus, the game had some overhead: a custom multi-user server that I had to host and maintain on my own. After a few years of success as a game, but failure as a revenue stream, I shut it down.
Starship Captain is my return to this type of game. But this time it is an iPad app. The revenue model is also quite different as the game is free to download and has no ads. Instead, hyperspace jumps from planet to planet take time, and you can purchase “crystals” to speed up those waits. It is basically trading time for money in the same way that games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga do.
Starship Captain is also bigger than Space Pirate or Rebel Dawn in terms of features. Instead of a turn-based simple combat system, the game has arcade-like battles. There are fields of asteroids you can explore and mine. There are also short stories told through mission text, mostly at spaceport bars.
But there is no multiplayer aspect. I’m not a big fan of multiplayer myself. It is difficult to implement and hard to maintain. So there’s no multiplayer anything in Starship Captain.
I’ll be facing this week in a state of anxious excitement. Will enough people like the game? Will the revenue model work?
If it fails to make any money, then it isn’t so bad. I simply don’t need to update the game. If it succeeds and brings in enough revenue, I can work on updates and new versions. But my biggest fear is that it falls somewhere in between — it makes too much money to just ignore it, but not enough to have it make sense for me to spend more time on it. That’s a problem I seem to face a lot with my sites and games.
But focusing on the positive, I would love for Starship Captain to become a success and to be able to focus most of my attention on a single game. I could probably update and improve the game as fast as Apple could approve new versions in the App Store. I could also roll over money made from the game into more artwork. That means it could become something really special in the space of six months or a year.