If there’s one thing that I miss about being on the ground in Singapore (as opposed to being in the mountain ranges of North Norway), it’s the off –chance of meeting up with local game developers and catching up with their progress. Given the accelerated pace of the industry in Singapore, it’s always interesting to hear rumors of a bigwig publisher looking in to set up shop, new projects in the works, or simply lamenting on the vagaries that surround their work.
While it’s true that the local scene is peppered predominantly by small studios focusing on casual games and mobile game development in the recent past, things are also on the upswing. Mikoishi is finally heading into the DS platform, Ksatria Gameworks is still plugging away on that ambitious adaptation of Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf gamebooks for the PC, Koei Singapore developed Romance of the Three Kingdoms Online gets its Japan release early 2008, and LucasArts Singapore goes full swing into developing handheld games based on the upcoming Clone Wars franchise.
Pretty good for a young industry, don’t you think? But if there’s one defining moment that marks the coming of age for Singapore game development, I’ll have to point you to this amazing achievement by one lone individual, Sean “th15” Chan, whose independently produced, tactical strategy game “Battleships Forever” is now immortalized as a finalist in Main Category of the 10th annual Independent Games Festival (taking place in San Francisco in 2008) for the Design Innovation Award - the first-ever Singaporean to receive this accolade.
Capital cruisers duking it out in Battleships Forever
It’s a well-deserved nomination too because Battleships Forever is nothing short of an indie gaming gem, and if you really think about, a monumental task for a solo developer. While most indie games tend to err on the side of the whimsy and the experimental, Battleships Forever is a blistering sci-fi themed strategy game that’s not short on ambition and innovation. To wit, it takes the idea of capital class cruisers and fighters battling it out in space a la Homeworld, but in a stroke of design genius, flattens the playing field in 2-D, with ships represented in vector graphics, looking very much as they would in plan elevation viewpoint.
While the element of resource management is left out completely, the focus on maneuvering your ships in battle and optimizing the best firing arcs on the weapons systems and defensive shields of your ships makes for a tense gaming experience. After all, even established indie developers such as Jonathan Mak (of Everyday Shooter fame) have gone as far as to say "I did play Battleships Forever. That game... man, I needed a roll of toilet paper next to me while playing it. It's like, a teenage boy's wet dream.."
Wet dreams aside, Battleships Forever marks an important milestone for the local game development scene. Where previous examples of growth that I’d cited earlier is determined principally on capital gain, an independent game developer is motivated entirely by passion to his craft, something that only the rarest of individual can muster. If Sean “th15” Chan could achieve what he did, and put Singapore on the map, it could very well inspire other to follow suit. And perhaps by then, the commercial games industry would be ready for more of such individuals to achieve greater heights, and we would finally be vocally proclaiming the fact that Singapore ,really is a global games hub.
But for now, I’d highly recommend giving Battleships Forever a go (it’s a free download), and give it’s creator his deserved kudos for the work, or better yet, that and a charitable donation to his 2008 IGF trip.
Highly recommended. After coming off playing an oldie but goodie classic like MechCommander 2, this game was right in the vein of that. Istead of needing to deal with full RTS elements, you get to go right to the best part: Assembling a fleet, and blowing stuff up.
Add in the ability to make your own fleets, and even use them in the stdnard game modes (Albeit in an "Unofficial" unscored mode, so as to keep the scoreboard for legal scores), as well as a fully fleshed out "Sandbox" mode to create your own scenarios, and you have a big time burner on your hands.
And the best part really is: It's far from finished. And it's already *this* good.
If you guys like the style of this game, but aren't too keen on its tactical edge, check out Warning Forever, which this is (sorta) based on. It's like a Shadow of the Colossus, with endless boss battles that evolve based on how you defeated the previous one.