Mike Tipul has been working in game development for many years, having worked as a mission/game designer on various console titles. He recently decided to leave his position with an unnamed game publisher to pursue indie game development. He has also been a part of the Shacknews community since 2001, starting off under the name Flawless Cowboy before adopting the username Rampancy. He recently revealed his first project to the Shack community, a flight simulator called Enemy Starfighter.
"Enemy Starfighter is about being the commander and flight lead of a covert fleet sent into hostile star systems during the systematic conquest of the known universe," said Tipul. "Strikes you plan may involve anything from kidnapping a scientist at a research facility to taking out an enemy capital ship undergoing repairs. You're this grizzled commander on the bridge of a carrier, deep in space, planning your next move. Once you're done planning that next move, you jump into your starfighter and execute it, along with your fleet, which stays with you between missions. The combat and planning phases should only take a few minutes and you'll run this cycle several times over the course of a campaign."
Tipul describes the start of Enemy Starfighter's campaign, saying that the player's fleet will start out with a couple of units--consisting of fighters and commandos. Players issue orders on where and where their allies should show up over the course of battle. More units are acquired throughout the game when commandos hijack more or players performs well in issued missions.
Each mission is structured with a soft time limit. After that time expires, the enemy's main fleet and flagship will arrive and start laying waste to player units. Though there isn't much time to act, players still need to lay out effective defenses. For example, a backwater mining facility may not have heavy defenses laid out, but the nearby enemy fighters still need to be engaged, otherwise they'll turn their focus to the commando transport and take it out before the commandos can complete their objective.
Enemies will eventually become wise to player strategies. Tipul notes that later missions will see enemies adding defensive turrets, which will require players to adjust their fleets accordingly and cue their commandos to arrive later. Tipul compares the mission layout in Enemy Starfighter to that of the XCOM series, as player actions will determine what missions are available later in the campaign.
As far as specific units, Tipul has a number of different ones that he's hoping to add to the game as development moves forward. "I am looking forward to making even more types of fighters and medium-sized ships for you to shoot at and giving them interesting defenses to boot," he said. "I'm talking weapons like energy nets or EMP blasts that put you in a spin if you get too close. There are a lot of possibilities here and I can't wait to try many of them out and see what sticks.
"These classes of ships are really the stars of the show, so they need to be fun to fight and have a good impact on the mission you planned out, he said. "I'm also really excited about adding special units like electronic warfare frigates that you can use to jam enemy targets. Funny enough, I am still finding roles for large capital ships outside of being space cops. I have a few blocked out in the game, but doing something interesting and meaningful with a 3km wall of low-poly steel and firepower is surprisingly challenging in a fighter game. I will figure something out!"
Tipul is already looking to make some changes based on the feedback he's received from the Shacknews community. "I saw who posted in space sim threads and sent many of those people videos and builds and asked for feedback," he said. "The Shack does not hold back when it doesn't like something and I love that. Criticism is far more useful than applause."
Tipul hopes to have Enemy Starfighter ready for 2013, but openly admits that the game is very much a work in progress. "What I have so far is a prototype, meaning that while a lot of it is functional, it's pretty spartan. Everything that's there has been created to test some underlying system, and now that I'm through that I phase I can start focusing more on building content and polishing it. I need to make it look better, sound better, and play better. All the answers aren't there but that's part of the fun."