It may be difficult to imagine, what with every developer requesting crowdfunding and publishers keen on implementing as many microtransactions in their games as possible, but just over a decade ago video game development as a hobby was much more commonplace. Designers such as Ben Librojo were the pioneers of early browser based games, initially designed in Java, with releases such as Tank Hunter and Orbital Defense. One of the more ambitious of these early projects was a game titled “Space: Glory Through Conquest”.
Space: GTC was a 4X space game designed by Coldfire Studios and was run entirely in the browser with a few hundred other players. To play, users would sign up for a ‘Galaxy’ and then would pick one of ten races to lead. Each race varied in the strength of their economy and military. Some races, like the gelatinous Oomari, in exchange for below average stats had unique abilities such as faster ship travel which they would share with allies. Once the Galaxy was filled with the required amount of players, each user would receive an email notifying them that the Galaxy would start in 24 hours. Gameplay was turn based, with all actions being updated every tick (in Space this was every hour, in Squadron of Light it is every ten minutes). Players would have to colonise and conquer nearby planets while forming alliances with neighbours over a period that could last months.
A few years after the game was sold to Zero Sum Games, the domain of Space: Glory Through Conquest went down. This included not only the game but also the manual and forums. Although the remaining fanbase migrated to a small Facebook group, after several months of no clear updates or progress it is safe to assume the game has become vapourware. Half-hearted reproductions of the game have been attempted, but have generally been unsuccessful. A single player version called ‘Stardrive‘ was commercially released by Zero Sum Games, but has lost support since the developer has decided to work on a sequel rather than implement features that were promised. Daniel DiCicco, the owner of Zero Sum Games responded to queries that Space has:
Got nothin’ to do with me. The only game I ever made is Stardrive and I have nothing to do with any other games or dev studios.
With the fate of Space unknown, a fan of the original, Diyan Sotev, has gone back to the series’ roots and created Squadron of Light; which is once again browser based and entirely centered around multiplayer.
Combat in Space: GTC and Squadron of Light is based around star ships, of which there were eleven – ranging from scouts to weapon platforms. A unique aspect of the game was that each ship had to be individually designed in improving its attributes including: weapons (beam/missile/fighters), engines, hull, shield, sensors and stealth systems. The more improvements added to a ship design the more expensive it becomes to produce. Additionally heavier class of ships could have more improvements while smaller ships had a base boost to engines and stealth. Since a planet could only produce one ship at a time, careful management of the starfleet was necessary to make the most of each ship.
Design was rather simplistic, the only graphics being a map with sprites of planets, above which were colour coded names. These were blue for owned planets, green for allies, yellow for neutrals, white for planets you can’t attack due to having a non-aggression pacts, red indicating an ongoing conflict around that planet and grey for unowned planets. The remaining majority of the game took place through text based tabs which included diplomacy, planet building and ship design. The Galaxy was determined as finished when only 25 players remained, or the top 5 alliances controlled 2500 planets between themselves. Galaxy survivors were awarded star trophies that would be tied to their account, visible to other players in future games as proof of their accomplishment.
Squadron of Light is currently in open beta and a work in progress with features from the original (namely the different races) scheduled for release soon. Hopefully Diyan Sotev heeds the cautionary tale of his predecessor and will take steps to prevent the spiritual successor of Space from suffering the same fate.