Ah, the Great App Store Pricing Debate. For years people have been arguing over the cost of mobile games. What constitutes “too much?” Where’s the line when it comes to free-to-play monetization techniques? Should developers have deep discounts and temporary giveaways? Should consumers simply expect everything to go on sale and wait accordingly?
The recent Dungeon Keeper debacle is a good example of this. Gamers and critics alike have railed against it for using various monetization techniques and associating itself with the classic PC strategy series, and many point to it as an unpleasant indication of where the video game industry (especially mobile) is headed. It’s an issue that’s almost as complicated as the initial Freemium vs. Premium debate; so let’s take a closer look at everything and try to make sense of it all.
Galaxy on Fire – Alliances and its developer, Fishlabs, have been through quite the tumult over the past few months. Fishlabs went through financial trouble and was eventually acquired by publisher Deep Silver, a rising force in the gaming industry known for publishing Saints Row IV and the Dead Island series. Throughout it all, Galaxy on Fire- Alliances has been chugging along: beta tested and released among these turbulent times, the game is now available worldwide and just received a big content update. Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director at Deep Silver Fishlabs took the time to answer some questions about the game’s unique approach and development.
148Apps: Alliances seems to start up a lot slower than what many free-to-play games do: it has a very lengthy and involved tutorial, and doesn’t get into the bulk of the game for some time. Was this a purposeful design decision?
Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director at Deep Silver Fishlabs
Kai Hitzer (KH): Yes, that decision has been made on purpose. If you want it to be, Galaxy on Fire – Alliances can be a very complex game that really sucks you in and offers you a multitude of differing options and possibilities. But at the same time it also allows for a less challenging gaming experience for players who don’t want to get into the matter too deeply, but prefer to focus on the core features and basic actions only. No matter which way of playing you prefer, you always have to know your stuff and that’s why we settled for a rather lengthy and extensive tutorial. Once you’ve performed all the tasks asked for by your Personal Assistant, you will not only be familiar with the most basic gameplay mechanisms, but you will also have earned enough credits and experience points to be well prepared for the transition from your save home instance to the PVP space.
The save home system, which can neither be seen nor attacked by other players, constitutes another important element of the starting phase of Galaxy on Fire – Alliances. To make sure that all players have enough time to become acquainted with the game, we’ve made sure that everyone’s got a secure resort from where they can plan and execute their operations at whatever pace they prefer. Once you’ve mastered the first couple of steps successfully and feel well-prepared for the next round, all you need to do is open up your jump gate and start your endeavors in the “real” galaxy. But even then you will not abandon your home system, but you will still keep it so that you can continue to build it up and use it as the centre of your dealings and ventures.
148Apps: Alliances, with its complexity, feels very targeted to a core gamer audience. Did you feel like this segment was being underserved on iOS? KH: As a company that’s always been eager to bring truly immersive gaming experiences to mobile – in terms of graphics as well as in regard to the depth of gameplay – we have been catering to a rather hardcore-oriented user base for years. And Galaxy on Fire – Alliances makes no exception here. We’ve always said that we wanted to show with GOFA that it is indeed possible to bring free-to-play and hardcore gameplay in accordance with one another. And we still stand by this claim as much as we did when we first proclaimed it.
With mobile devices becoming more and more powerful and capable month after month, we believe that the number of people who want to play demanding core games on their smartphones or tablets will continue to grow constantly. When you’ve got a device with you 24/7 that’s capable of running apps in current-gen console quality, why would you want to use it only to play titles that look and feel like browser or flash games from 10 years ago? Don’t get me wrong, pretty much everyone here at Fishlabs is totally enjoying their occasional dose of casual games as well, but we still believe that there’s more to the mobile platform than just endless runners, match-3s, and physics games.
148Apps: How casual-friendly do you consider this game to be, if at all? KH: As said earlier, one of the beauties of Galaxy on Fire – Alliances lies in the fact that the players can decide for themselves how they want to play it. If they’re looking for a challenging, deeply engrossing hardcore gaming experience, they can join an ambitious alliance (or even form their own alliance) and closely interact with others to constantly widen their reach and fortify their dominion. When you choose to play the game like this, you will be able to coordinate large-scale attacks with dozens of fellow players, command backup troops to secure strategically important positions, carry out feint assaults to throw your enemies’ defense line off balance and actively participate in a vivid community of aspiring star base commanders.
But if you want play a bit more light-hearted and easy-going, you can also stay in your private instance a little longer and then, when you leave it, colonize a couple of planets outside of the areas of war and conflict. There you should be able to progress in a relaxed but steady manner and build up your empire without much interference from pushy players or hostile alliances. So at the end of the day, it’ll be entirely up to you – you can spend 10 hours a day, 10 minutes a day, or anything in between playing Galaxy on Fire – Alliances and you’ll always experience meaningful gaming sessions and make reasonable progress.
148Apps: By making a game that’s complex – at least compared to many of the successful free-to-play games out there – were there any changes to the free-to-play and monetization structure that you felt had to be made because many core gamers are so vocal against free-to-play games, especially on mobile? KH: Personally, I don’t think that F2P mechanics themselves bug the core players, but rather the bad implementation of said mechanics. A lot of games still focus on monetization first and gameplay second. For us, those two aspects have always been on par and we’ve tried our best to bring them in accordance with one another. There’s no denying that we have to sell in-app purchases at one point or another in order for GOFA to become a success. But at the same time, we also want the game to be fully accessible and fun to play regardless of the amount of money you invest.
The formula’s simple: on the one hand, players should be able to undergo a challenging, engrossing, and exciting gaming experience even if they never buy a single in-app purchase in Alliances. But on the other hand, they should also not become invincible overnight just because they spent a hundred or even a thousand dollars on credit packs and limit extenders. Therefore, we’ve set various rules and regulations that make sure that paying customers can indeed proceed faster than non-paying customers, but only to certain a extent. The general rule of thumb is that two non-paying players, who team up and support each in their attacks and defenses, will always be able to stand up to one heavy spender.
148Apps: What did the beta test help you change about the game to make it better? Were there any significant changes that you saw? KH: Listening to our fans has always been at the heart of our efforts, and the closed beta has been of tremendous help for us, providing tons of useful and insightful user feedback over the months. From update to update, Galaxy on Fire – Alliances has gone through dozens of severe changes in all crucial areas, such as game design, balancing, usability, and performance. By evaluating data from the closed beta, we’ve not only been able to fine-tune important aspects such as structure building times, commander level-ups, and mission rewards, but we’ve also been inspired to add all-new features such as carrier names, leaderboards, and structure take-overs. And, of course, the closed beta has also helped us to locate and fix quite a lot of bugs and other issues as well.
Posted by Rob Rich on February 19th, 2014 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Space diplomacy (not really) MMO Galaxy on Fire – Alliances has just received balancing and performance tweaks, bug fixes, and a bunch of new features in its latest “Space Travelers” update.
You can find the rather large list of improvements and added features below. Some of the most notable changes include new technologies to research, new challenges to complete in order to earn more experience and resources, an increase in the structure level cap from 10 to 20, shorter travel times in your home system, and the ability to see your carriers and their flight paths on the star map.
Galaxy on Fire – Alliances is available on the App Store for free.
• Star map: Trace the positions and travel routes of your carriers directly on the star map
• Achievements: Take on various new challenges and collect additional XP
• Techs: Research new technologies to gain powerful advantages (Ground battle, Bomb defense and Ship production)
• Ground battles: Leverage one of the new techs to gain an additional ground battle bonus. In exchange, the planetary defense will no longer support you ground troops anymore but only boost your ships
• Structure levels: Upgrade your buildings to level 20 (incl. adjusted costs, resource capacities, requirements and effect parameters for structures, techs and units)
• Alliance administration: Find available alliances more easily (at the beginning of the game) an join them without the hurdle of a double confirmation
• Travel Times: Make use of the adjusted travel times in your home system to reach your “inner” planets much faster than before
• Tutorial: Learn the game’s basics quicker by means of an improved tutorial
• Intro: Check out the intro sequence with German subtitles
• Planet icon: Tap the planet icon to be directed to the planet action menu and the arrow on the right to get straight to the planet view screen
• Options: Switch the game options back to default whenever you’re in need of a reset
• Performance: Enjoy the game with improved server stability and better overall performance
Posted by Andrew Stevens on October 29th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Sports Car Challenge 2 from Fishlabs offers 14 super cars for players to race with in three game modes. Car brands include Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Volkswagen. It’s time to unleash the speed to gain a spot at the top of the global leaderboards, along with earning rewards from a number of challenges.
There are five tracks for players to learn as they drive along in Time Trial, Slalom, and Braking game modes. The game is free-to-play, so race on over to the App Store and check it out!
Posted by Andrew Stevens on October 28th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Galaxy on Fire 2 HD is celebrating its heritage of shooting things up in space by discounting the price of its in-app purchases. The game is free to download, but features two add-on content packs that can be purchased at 50% off. Users can also go crazy on credits by purchasing 10,000,000 credits for only $24.99. Make sure to check it out soon as the sale ends on Sunday, November 3rd.
Posted by Jeff Scott on November 21st, 2012 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Galaxy on Fire 2 is one of the very best space simulation games. In our review, we found:
With over 100 different space stations to explore and four different races to interact with, Galaxy on Fire 2 will take you much longer to complete than the 10 hours that FISHLABS promises. It’s almost impossible to resist the urge to play all the side missions that you can while buying all the latest and greatest tech that the universe has to offer. Other than a few issues, there really isn’t a more complete space game in the App Store. If you’re a fan of the genre or just enjoy a good game every once in awhile, be sure to pick up Galaxy on Fire 2 today.
And it’s available for free for the first time ever. Grab it!
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on October 31st, 2012 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Fishlabs has dropped the price of the HD and SD version of their gorgeous space shooter, Galaxy on Fire 2, to the low low price of $0.99. If you haven’t picked this game up, yet, now is a fantastic opportunity to do so. Galaxy on Fire 2 HD works on iPhone 5, iPod touch 5G, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and the new iPad, while those with older iOS devices can play Galaxy on Fire 2 SD with ease. It’s the same game, just a smaller file size footprint. The sale lasts through November 4, 2012.
The developer is also having a contest to win in-game credits: simply comment on their blog post to win the following credit packs:
It isn’t much of a surprise to see that Galaxy on Fire 2, one of the App Store’s most notable space adventures, is going to be getting a second in-game add-on pack. Let’s face it, the game is excellent and the added content from Valkyrie was more than welcome. FishLabs deciding to follow it up with a second batch of new things was only natural. Thus we have (or will have, really) Supernova.
Supernova is set to pick up right after the events of Valkyrie. Keith is taking it easy at the Deep Science space station, but it’s not long before another galactic peril makes itself known. The entire Mido sector suddenly finds itself threatened with annihilation as a supernova “of unknown origin” appears. Keith being Keith, he decides to get involved. The entire adventure is said to last “at least twice as long” as the previous add-on, with promises of 10 hours of gameplay, new mission types, more ships and more story.
Dates and pricing aren’t available at the moment, but it’s probably safe to assume it’ll cost about as much as Valkyrie ($4.99) and will be out sometime in the second quarter of this year. Be sure to keep a look out for release blurbs.
As a remake of the original version, Galaxy on Fire 2: HD offers a high definition experience made especially for the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2. With beautiful graphics and unique gameplay, this is a great title that offers hours of good 'ol fashioned space shooting and adventure.
With the iPhone 4S having recently been released, and sporting a spiffy new A5 chip, Fishlabs has seen fit to take advantage of the new hardware. Galaxy on Fire 2 HD, a universal app for the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, features graphics updated to run on the A5 devices. All the models and textures have been remade for maximum visual fidelity that Fishlabs claims is “console-quality” with new backgrounds, enhanced effects, and other magic used to make the game look as good as it possibly can for the latest and greatest in iOS technology.
Far from just being updated in the graphics department, the game now supports OpenFeint and iCloud for cloud-based saving; the latter can even be used to synchronize progress with the previous iOS release along with the Mac version. CEO of Fishlabs Entertainment, Michael Schaede, says that “this is a truly revolutionary concept, because the gamers of the post-PC era want to be able to play their favourite games anywhere and anytime.” As well, the cloud-based synchronization will work with the upcoming Valkyrie HD add-on set to release in the first quarter of 2012.
Rather popular snowboarding game, Snowboard Hero, has had its first update and it’s a bit of a big one.
The main new additions come in the form of two new characters, Monica and Kurt, as well as two new tracks in the form of Death Ridge and Ice God’s realm. There’s also the inclusion of 24 extra events and 12 new achievements to boot too!
Smaller bonuses come in the form of new and unique ‘Uberboards’ for each character which sets all stats such as speed, agility, boost and jump to the maximum number. Players can also purchase more credits via an in-app purchase so as to buy new equipment and more tricks within the item shop.
It’s a pretty impressive first update for a game that was already respectable enough to gain 3.5 stars from us when Phillip reviewed it in April.
The update is available now for all existing owners, otherwise Snowboard Hero is priced at $4.99.
Galaxy on Fire 2 fans: the moment you’ve been waiting for is here. Fishlabs has released the anticipated update for Galaxy on Fire 2, titled Valkyrie, on the iTunes App Store.
The content updated adds a brand new storyline to the game, picking up right where the original game left off. What’s more, the update brings improved warships with smarter and more powerful weaponry. Examples of new weapons include guided missiles and automatic turrets that fire upon enemies on their own. The update also adds a variety of new equipment, such as emergency shields, time delays, enemy signatures and repair robots.
The expansion also adds a black market trading system where you can acquire illicit goods, such as weapons and equipment. In Valkyrie, you can also buy your own space station, where you can dock your ships, and stow any valuable goods you like.
Much of the content in Valkyrie exists because players asked for it.
“We’ve received an incredible amount of praise and constructive criticism from players all over the world,’ says Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs Entertainment. “The Vossk warrior tribe is particularly popular, and fans will be pleased to learn that there are now more of their ships to fly. But we’re also particularly proud of the design of the new Deep Science ships that, together with the new solar systems and unique graphical special effects, give the game a whole new look. Meeting the frequent request of our long-time fans, we’ve even re-released three classic spaceships from the first game as a free extra.”
Currently, Galaxy on Fire 2 is one of the highest rated games on the App Store, with an average rating of 4.8 stars.
The update is now available on the iTunes App Store. You can download the update for $4.99.
German developer Fishlabs are no rookies to the world of portable game development. Founded way back in 2004, the team has developed for a number of mobile platforms with the iPhone being their most recent target. Back in October of last year, they released their original sci-fi shooter, Galaxy on Fire, to middling reviews from 148Apps.com.
With such mediocre review scores it would hard to justify a sequel, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging them one bit. Yesterday they let news slip that not only was Galaxy on Fire 2 on the way, but it would be playable in a beta form at GamesCon next week in Cologne Germany. The game was also christened with an official-ish release window of sometime in October.
Developers over at FISHLABS announced today that Rally Master Pro, the $2.99 iPhone racing game, will be coming to the iPad by the “end of September” with a price tag not yet known.
“The Rally Master Pro graphics have been elevated to the iPad level and offer unparalleled racing pleasure” writes FISHLABS. “The sophisticated driving physics, which individually calculates each wheel according to the weather and the corresponding driving characteristics, along with the customisable controls, creates the perfect illusion of a real hard-core rally.”
The application will feature 27 rally courses, a co-pilot offering directions (we’d take them), interactive replays and a 3D damage model that “provides information about the condition of the car at any time.” Rally times can be uploaded and compared to with friends and players from around the world.
There’ll also be an arcade gameplay mode if you’re in the mood for some quick racing, with a ghost function allowing you to see your fastest lap as you race. The game won’t be universal, but iPad only, making use of the generous A4 processor that has now found its way into the iPhone 4.
All in all, FISHLABS have generated more than 24 million downloads from all their games for the iPhone. Here’s hoping the iPad editions will be just as good.
iShoot developer reveals screenshots of second game
Ethan Nicholas, the developer of the Worms-like game iShoot, was one of the early App Store success stories. After making reportedly over $800,000 in five months, Nicholas quit his day job to devote himself full-time to developing games. Nicholas will hope to avoid becoming a one-hit-wonder with his follow-up game. Recently, he tweeted pictures of the upcoming game, and though no other information is known, it appears to be a free-roaming hunting game. Good luck Ethan!
My newest addiction
Every once and a while, a simple game in the vein of Doodle Jump will grab me and inexplicably become a new addiction. Right now, that game is Canabalt. Canabalt is a super stylish game in which to escape from aliens, your hero runs along rooftops. All you control, with simple taps, is when your character jumps. Though it lacks online leaderboards, there is twitter bragging and it’s definitely got that “just one more try” appeal. There’s also a free online flash version.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-10-02 :: Category: Games
Wii award winner “Groovin’ Blocks” arrives in the App Store
On the heals of the announcement that the fantastic Wii-ware game World of Goo was coming to the iPhone, Groovin’ Block, a Wii port, snuck onto the App Store. Groovin’ Blocks is a match 3 Tetris variant with a twist – blocks dropped in beat with the music rack up a multiplier and sometimes unleash powerups. While Gamespot loved the Wii version, the iPhone iteration seems mediocre so far. In any case, you can judge for yourself with a free lite version.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-10-24 :: Category: Games :: Puzzle
This week’s upcoming app that looks freakin’ sweet:
Rally Master Pro is one of the best-known and most impressive mobile games of all time, and now it’s being adapted for the iPhone by Fishlabs. Expect Rally Master Pro sometime in November. Until then, enjoy the official trailer:
This week’s sign of the apocalypse:
Tony Romo successfully completed an entire NFL game without a single turnover. This is UNHEARD of.
App of the Week
Earthworm Jim is a classic game that most have heard of, with great action-platforming gameplay and humor in spades. Gameloft has lovingly adapted it to the iPhone with superb graphics remastering. While the controls aren’t great, Gameloft did the best they could, and the controls aren’t a deal breaker. Grooooovy!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted April 30th, 2009 by Chris Hall Our Rating: :: STALE
Galaxy On Fire is a perfectly playable game, but suffers from general blandness. Everything in the game, except the good commerce system, seems like it had been done before, making this game unfortunately seem like a trip into extreme mediocrity.