[This is the final post in a 4-part series describing Skylight. This post describes Skylight’s multiplayer. Read about the gameplay, ships, and campaignmode in previous posts!]
Multiplayer is a famously tricky problem for indie games. First of all, it’s technically challenging to implement. This was solved by the efforts of the talented Alex Ferbrache, who handled the network programming for Skylight, and who did a fantastic job getting it ready for launch. But there’s also a design problem: how do you make sure the multiplayer is sufficiently active? If you have a premium, real-time multiplayer indie game (like, say, Tactera), what are the chances that someone else is online looking for a match at the same moment as you? Outside of launch weekends and prearranged appointments, it’s not very likely.
Skylight, luckily, is a turn-based game. Even better, it’s free to download! That means that A) the total population of players likely to be much larger, and B) it’s not necessary to be online at the same time as your opponent. I haven’t launched this kind of game before, but I believe it solves the problem entirely, and I’m hoping to see a very active multiplayer scene!
Skylight’s multiplayer is entirely asynchronous. You can log in and enter your fleet’s orders whenever it’s convenient for you, and your opponent can do the same. Once both of your orders have been submitted, you’ll get to see that round of combat play out, and then the process repeats. (If you do happen to be online at the same time as your opponent, you can stay online and play the game in real-time, with no need to log out between rounds.)
You can also have multiple games running at once. Your opponents might not take turns as often as you do, but if you have a stronger appetite for multiplayer, you can just start new games and play several of them in parallel.
There are two ways to find an opponent: you can either choose a random match (in which you’re paired with a random stranger), or you can invite a friend to play against you. If you’re playing the free version of Skylight, you can only start a random match if you have no ongoing games, so you’re incentivized to either unlock the game or get your friends to download it too.
In the end, this is still a pretty bare-bones indie approach to multiplayer, and there are a lot of features that I’d eventually like to add. For example, it would be great to have some sort of notification when it’s your turn, or to have some sort of player rankings and skill-based matchmaking, or to be able to replay a turn (or the whole game) after the fact. Depending on how popular the multiplayer turns out to be, I might be able to add some of these features later on.
Skylight is launching tomorrow. I’ll see you online! And be warned: if you get matched against EMcNeill, you’re in trouble.