Large-Scale Real-Time Strategy (RTS) for the iPad & iPhone 

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Closed Beta

Galactic Conflict is already a great game but in order to make it even better, I need your help. Basically, I need qualified RTS gamers to play the game before release and help me improve it before release. If you want to participate in the Galactic Conflict closed beta, there are few rules to consider.

Test Goals

Obviously, any test is about finding bugs and fix them. However, during the beta, my interest is beyond simple bug hunting only. Basically, I have the following goals in mind:

Campaign Difficulty Curve
The story mode missions may be too hard, too easy, or the difficulty curve may need adjustments (i.e. a later mission may be easier than an earlier one or there’s an all too sudden increase in difficulty). I don’t really feel like totally redoing the campaign but certain adjustments are certainly necessary.
Multiplayer Performance
It is hard testing multiplayer alone. You really need multiple people from all over the world with varying network conditions play each other for a realistic scenario. While it is good to test in the lab with Network Conditioners or with a friend in another town, nothing beats the real thing.
Faction Balance
With two different factions being part of the game, it is important to find out if one got an decisive edge over the other. This is commonly what people refer to as “the balance”.
Overpowered/Underpowered Units
There’s 26 different ship types in the game and ideally, I want all of them to be useful. Obviously, you’ll always build your strategy around a few key units and other units will only be support (e.g. it doesn’t make sense to spam scouts), but ideally, all units should serve a purpose in certain situations. If some units don’t make an appearance, then something may be wrong about them (or about the units that are given the preference).
Strategic Depth
In any game, there are strong build orders and outright stupid build orders, but if the game forces you into one single build order to stand a chance, then there’s a problem with strategic depth. It should be possible to use different builds without outright losing right there.
Pace
The pace of the game is also key to a nice experience. Obviously, this is a very subjective matter. What is too fast for one may be boring for another. However, tampering with metal/crystal income per second or research/building/unit build times can dramatically change the whole gameplay around.
Cheese
Cheese commonly refers to cheap strategies that can win you the game by exploiting some game design elements that allow a quick win. It is different from cheating in that those game elements are part of the game. Still, cheese is often a frustrating element in any RTS. An example of cheesing would be building a force of ships that are powerful against planets, then just ignore the enemy fleet and destroy all planets winning the game faster than the fleet can be owned.

Design Goals

Design goals are how the game is designed. In any RTS there’s some intended design and emergent design. Emergent design is what suddenly becomes possible even though the designer didn’t intend it. Emergent design is not always bad (actually it can be real good), but it can be a problem.

Rushing, Booming, Teching & Turtling
Rushing
Rushing generally refers to building a lot of early units and overwhelm the enemy before he or she can assemble a considerable force or research the desired tech.
Let’s put it straight. Rushing is an integral part of the design of the game. However, if all games end in rushing only and the one getting the upper hand is the winner, then we have a problem. Rushing should be a viable counter to a hard boomer or hard techer but not a necessity.
Booming
Booming means investing a lot into your economny hoping to later crush your enemy. There’s nothing wrong with booming as long as you can punish a hard boomer for being too greedy.
Teching
Teching means getting to higher tech faster than your opponent hoping to crush him with end-game units. Here, the same applies than for booming. Teching should be possible at a certain risk and hard teching can get you killed (usually by rushing or booming). Due to the way the tech trees work in Galactic Conflict, it is possible to bypass ship classes directly heading for end-game units. However, if this proves to be viable in the game, then the design is flawed. I’m not saying there needs to be a linear progression in tech (actually that would be bad too) but directly jumping to late game units should get you owned.
Turtling
Turtling means sitting at your base and going full defense (often static D) hoping your opponents wears down his forces at your D and you can counter-attack and win. A game that favors turtling often results in drawn out games. While some enjoy drawn-out games, I want the typical game to be shorter and definitely not last an hour or so. That having said, I don’t think turtling is viable in the game or should be. The only static D in the game (turrets) is pretty effective against fighters but falls quickly to higher class ships and then the only thing that can save your planets is building ships on your own.
Unit Viability

As a clear design goal, I want all units to be useful thoroughout the whole game. That means, there obviously are tier 1 units (i.e. fighter class ships) but they will remain useful for the whole duration of the game. Of course, ships that require more tech to be researched and resources to build will be more powerful but early units shall not be useless in the end game.

Ship Roles

I can’t 100% predict how ships are going to be used because people are very creative when it comes to strategies (which is good). However, I do have an intended role for each ship class in mind. I’m not saying that I know how the game is “meant to be played” but as a game designer, I certainly must have a clear idea. There’s always some special ships in each faction that play special roles and don’t fall into this category but generally, the following design criteria apply.

Fighters
First of all, fighter class ships generally are dispensable low-cost units that are spammable. In the early game, care must be taken that spamming fighter class ships is neither a game winner, a true necessity nor a useless endeavour. There must be a middle line. Fighters are also designed to be a metal sink.
Corvettes
Corvettes generally are support ships for fighters (some special corvettes like missile corvettes are an exception). I don’t see corvettes as simply “the better fighter”. That’s the reason why they provide auras for fighters. Corvettes and fighters have synergies so a combo of the two should be superior to a corvette mass. Corvettes are also supply-inefficient and arguably cost-inefficient for this very reason.
Frigates
Frigates are the workhorse of the fleet. They are (somewhat) spammable for a warship. Even though they are a bigger ship, they are not extremely sturdy but low build times make up for that. Frigates are crystal sinks.
Capital Ships
Capital ships are end-game units. They should be impressive and non-spammable. They are also designed to be very cost-effective in both, resources and supply, and able to end a stalemate game (like end-game units should). That means, capitals can quickly raze planets and fleets alike and they can take a punishment. Capitals have high tech requirements and once the tech is researched are limited by limited production facilities and high build time. That means, you can’t spam them but those you can get out are great. I see them as the “omg, he has a XXX.” unit. Still, capitals are not invincible, lack of support means they quickly fall to a flock of bombers or a larger frigate force.

Tester Requirements

In order to achieve the above test goals and verify the design goals, there are certain requirements for the beta testers. Due to limitations imposed by Apple, only a low number of devices are allowed to run apps that did not origin from the App Store (i.e. beta or development builds). Therefore, I need to be a bit picky about who to onboard.

Please only apply if you meet the following criteria:

RTS Background
You should have at least some basic RTS background. If you don’t know what an RTS is or have never played one, then you will have a hard time providing valuable feedback.
Willing to play Multiplayer
RTS games are all about multiplayer competition. Also, many of the test goals require multiplayer games. You should be willing to play against other beta testers, including the need to hook up with them. Note that there are not enough players in beta to just go online and play a game. You need to communicate with other beta testers to find times convenient for you. If you have a RL buddy or are part of an RTS clan, all the better.
You are willing to play the game for the whole beta phase and send feedback
The goal of the beta is not to have a sneak preview of the game but to help tweak it for maximum fun. This can’t be done by firing it up once, play a Skirmish game and then abandon it.
You have an iPad 2, the New iPad (iPad 3) or the iPad Retina (iPad 4).
You need to have at least an iPad 2 to participate. The iPad 1 is not supported. Other platforms are planned but the test focus is on the iPad.
Onboarding on TestFlightApp.com
In order to participate, you need to create an account on TestFlightApp.com and register your device. All beta builds will be distributed via TestFlightApp and your feedback and game activity will also be sent there. If you are not yet on TestFlightApp, no biggy, just browse to testflightapp.com from your iPad and sign up. You can then join the Bitmen Studios test team at http://tflig.ht/g9Hvf3

Feedback Rules

Like I already said, it is important to provide feedback. Please send all comments to beta@bitmen-studios.com. We encourage you to give as much feedback as possible because we are really eager to hear all opinions. However, there’s a few rules to obey:

Write full, comprehensive sentences, in case you send feedback over testflightapp, include your name so I can get back to you.
Terrans are imba. The game sux. I just lost to the same shit. Those comments don’t really help. Try to carefully explain what you want to report back.
Balance Feedback shall be based on Multiplayer Games not Skirmish
The AI plays a pretty standard game and you beating it easily or getting owned by it only tells something about your skill against the AI and not much about the game itself. Balancing shall be about how good the game is in Multiplayer.

Provide constructive criticism
Insulting, badmouthing and other bad behavior doesn’t help. I’m ultimately responsible for balance changes and bug fixes. Please understand that time’s limited and opinions may differ.
Don’t try to turn Galactic Conflict into a totally different Game
During beta tests for other games, I had people report back that the game is fine except they want a totally different game. That’s not going to happen. Galactic Conflict is an RTS, it is not a 4X game or Space Shooter. There’s no point in trying to ask for a total overhaul. You are not sitting in the spaceship in a 3D view and flying around yourself, you are building up, managing and commanding a space empire. I’m also not making the game exactly like your fav game goes here.
New Ship Types or Factions
There are currently two races in the game with each having 13 different ship types. In the first release, there are no plans to add another faction or even more ships. This is reserved for future expansions.

How to Apply as a Beta Tester?

If you think you’d be a good candidate for beta testing Galactic Conflict, please send your application to beta@bitmen-studios.com. Please include the following information:

  • Your previous RTS game experience.
  • Why you think you are a good candidate to join the beta.
  • The email address you used for registering on TestFlightApp (if you haven’t registered yet, do so beforehand).
  • The country/timezone you are from.

I’ll then get in contact with you and if you qualify, you’ll get an invite to the BitmenStudios Team on TestFlightApp. Looking forward to test and balance the game with you! Let’s make this great!

© Bitmen Studios