Podcast Interview: The Design Behind the IPhone Game Galcon, the IGF Mobile Innovation in Game Design WinnerPosted by chromacoders on Thursday May 21, 2009 Under iPhone Game Development
Phil talks about developing Galcon, a real-time strategy game for the IPhone and the IGF Mobile Innovation in Game Design winner
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Or listen to it here…
Interviewer: I’m at the IGF Mobile Competition and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Phil: I’m Phil Hassey.
Interviewer: What kind of game did you work on?
Phil: This game is called Galcon. It’s a Real Time strategy game where you conquer a galaxy in five minutes.
Interviewer: So, it won the Innovation and Mobile Game Design. What makes it innovative and how did you go about that innovation?
Phil: I’ve actually renamed the game, Galcon, which is based on a game called Flight to Conquest from an old Texmo game from back in the 80′s. I’ve remade it several times now. It’s pretty much just the same turn-based game it originally was, but about three years ago there was a 48 hour game development competition where the theme for that competition was swarms.
So, I figured, well maybe I’ll just try to make it more of a Real Time strategy game and have swarms of these triangle ships go from planet to planet. I prototyped the original desktop version in 48 hours. That’s how the innovation, I think, came in.
Interviewer: When you do these competitions, do you have a technique or a process for doing innovative stuff? Is it mainly just trying to pump out a game in 24 hours and sometimes a good idea comes out of it?
Phil: Yeah, I think a lot of it is you are just pressed into using a theme you wouldn’t normally think of, and so you just have to be a bit more creative. If you sit down and make whatever game, it’s really easy to just fall back and be, well I’m just going to make another exact clone of this. But when you have this extra constraint of a theme, you have to figure out how to work that theme.
Interviewer: So, it’s all about constraints then, just arbitrary constraints that might inspire some kind of different design.
Phil: That tends to help me build a lot of innovation because before I started doing game competitions which I started doing about five or six years ago, all the games that I made and I’ve been making games for about 20 years now. All the ones that I made were pretty much identical clones of older games. Once I got into these game contests with these time and theme constraints, I found that it was a lot easier to come up with creative game ideas.
Interviewer: What inspired you to get involved in these game competitions or these development theme competitions or time competitions?
Phil: I just read about it on a game development site that sort of linked me over to the Ludum Dare competition, and I figured, well I’ll give it a try this weekend.
Interviewer: How do you like the Ludum Dare competition? Do you still participate in it?
Phil: Yeah, it’s actually my favorite one. Right now, I sort of manage that competition with a couple of guys. Actually, one of the other idea mobile guys who did the game, Smiles, is the other guy who pretty much helps manage that competition and how it is.
Interviewer: Nice. So, you use constraints. Now, you wanted to develop something for the iPhone. What inspired doing it for the iPhone instead of the PC?
Phil: About a year ago I was at Python which is the Python Software Developers Convention. At that conference a lot of the Python people are fans of the desktop emerging because it was written in Python and Pygame. A guy there had an iPhone, and he was sort of showing me. He was like, you’ve really got to get Galcon on this because it would be great. A couple of months later when Apple opened up for developers signing up, I just got the game together.
Interviewer: Did you develop it that in Objective-C or was it Python or was there some kind of…
Phil: I pretty much did the whole game in C, actually.
Interviewer: What were some of the challenges that you encountered as you developed this game?
Phil: I think some of the challenges was doing a little bit of Objective-C that I had to do in just figuring out some of those things. One of the more interesting challenges was working with the Touch interface. It works perfectly for this game, but it took me quite a while to figure out how to get it to work perfectly. It’s very similar to a mouse but there’s a lot of different constraints that make it a lot different, like Touch spaces have to be much bigger because you can’t just click on an individual pixel, for sure.
Interviewer: How did you then go about addressing that? Was it just constant iteration or testing or did you do play testing?
Phil: Yeah, a lot of play testing. Actually, I think the best bit of play testing I did was I had my father-in-law who doesn