Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Tolga Ozuygur of Overdose Caffeine talks massive online mobile battles with Pocket Fleet, out for iOS, Android and browsers.
What's your game called and what's it about?
It's called Pocket Fleet. It is a real-time multiplayer online battle game designed for mobile that takes place in an intergalactic conflict between three races. And it's free-to-play.
What's the coolest aspect of Pocket Fleet?
It is very hard to define that, because I think the coolest thing about this game is a weird feeling. It's something like, when you first enter the game without much expectation, you launch from your mother ship and find yourself in a battlefield filled with mad players tearing each other apart with a plethora of high-tech weaponry in outer space. Just at that split second before you get hit by a positron missile and blow up for the first time, you pause and say to yourself, "What the hell am I doing here?"
In my opinion, that specific feeling is the coolest thing about this game.
What were the major challenges bringing a MOBA to mobile devices?
Pocket Fleet is not a classic MOBA; it is a space-themed multiplayer shooter. This is a new genre, and by definition it fits perfectly to the main structure of a MOBA game.
The biggest problem was the multiplayer structure. It had to be designed with the limitations of mobile networks in mind, like 3G connections where you pay for the amount of data transfer you do in most countries. It had to be optimized in a way to transfer the minimum amount of data and still provide a nice fast, real-time experience. Because, I mean, even though the ideal way to play this game is to play it on Wi-Fi, being able to play it on the go with a mobile network is one of the coolest things about it. We've used fast compression methods to make this possible. But still, it is a good practice to watch your bandwidth.
The next problem was of course the performance of the game. In a multiplayer real-time battle game, everyone should be able to run it at a similar performance for a nice experience.
What inspired you to make Pocket Fleet?
It is quite a new type of game, kind of a mixture of multiple elements. Let me try to break it down: At Overdose Caffeine we love shooter games. I mean, it's 2013 and we still play on Vectrex. And I enjoy multiplayer battle games; I don't want to give any specific name (it's Battlefield). Also, as a big Battlestar Galactica fan, the idea of a space battle between fleets gives me the chills.
We have our own multiplayer game engine called Coffee Pack that we have used on a couple of other games of ours. As you can see, the outcome, Pocket Fleet, was inevitable.
What's the difference between Mother Fleet and Pocket Fleet?
Mother Fleet is the name of the setting/story we have designed. It also is the name of the MMORTS we will release. In Mother Fleet you build your fleet and control it on the battlefield within a RTS structure. In Pocket Fleet you are a fighter pilot in one of those fleets.
Explain how Poket Fleet's cross-platform play works.
It is available on any computer with a Flash-compatible web browser. The game is cross-platform and you can log in from any of these platforms with a single account. The players from iOS, Android and web battle together in the same rooms.
But, I must say that the game is designed for mobile at the first place and I suggest you to try it on your Android or iOS device instead of web. It just doesn't feel right to control your ship with the keyboard, but that's me. Some of our players prefer keyboard controls over the accelerometer/on-screen combo.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
We would love to! But sadly we have this incurable disease called cubiclephobia. We now have a nice office flat with no rooms or cubicles and we're very comfortable in it.
How did you form Overdose Caffeine?
We have a quite interesting team here. I actually am an illusionist by profession, but I have been programming games since I was a kid. Ozalp, our art director, is an extraordinary graphic designer with a very unique style. And our server-side programmer Cem is a biomedical systems engineer. He is the rational mind of our team. I met with Ozalp when we were working on multimedia projects in an agency. In the meanwhile we were building robotic projects with Cem. Somehow things clicked and here we are.
I still do magic gigs once in a while. Jess, pick a card, any card.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
Sell Pocket Fleet in one sentence:
Don't play Pocket Fleet if you have epilepsy.
The next project is Mother Fleet.
But at the moment we are focused on Pocket Fleet. We are mostly working on the graphical aspects of the game. Our target for this game was to make it work even on the low-end mobile devices, and that really tied our hands about the graphical technologies we can use. We had to build everything from scratch. At the moment you will notice that the ships look pretty much 2D, even though the game is running on a 3D structure.
In the last couple of weeks, we have developed an awesome, optimized way to introduce 3D perspective and movement to the fighter ships without affecting the performance. We will release an update this week including that feature and the game will look much more polished than it is now.
Long-term, we have plans of adding bigger features to the game, such as a giant, conquerable, hexagonal space map where every real-time battle will end up by conquering a star system for your race. With features like this we plan to pull the players deeper to the story of this intergalactic battle and provide a more challenging experience.