Meet the Team : Rob Masson

Meet The Team Mondays - Head of Operations Rob Masson
Meet The Team Mondays – Head of Operations Rob Masson

We’d like to introduce you to a member of our team every Monday. This week we’re talking to Head of Operations Rob Masson.

Name:

Rob Masson

 

Role:

Head of Operations – Basically I get to do the paperwork.. 😉

 

About:

I am a Software Architect and co-founder of NeoCrux.  I have been an avid boardgamer, role-playing gamer and computer gamer since I was a kid.  Over the past couple of years I have been working on gaming projects to align my passion with my work focus.

 

What’s your favorite thing about GalaCollider? :

Honestly it is two things.  The first is the thrill of watching a new concept take shape and become a reality.  The second is the team.  There are so many awesome people working on this project and I am thrilled to be involved with them!

 

What inspires you? :

I am really inspired by books and movies.  I am an avid Sci-Fi reader and have been enjoying books about man’s adventures to the stars for years.  I love epic storylines like Dune and Foundation and I think GalaCollider has so many of those large epic elements to it!

 

What is your current gaming obsession?: Sid Meiers Beyond Earth for sure.  Plus I just restarted the StarCraft II Campaign.  For physical board games I am playing a lot of Deus and we just played Eclipse recently and I have to say how much I love that game!

Icons: a work in progress

GalaCollider features icons which appear on the HUD and on the cards. They represent resources available to the player and are an important element of the game.

When designing icons there’s a lot to consider. They need to be clear. They need to represent an idea in a way that can be interpreted by a diverse range of users. They need to stand out from other elements of the game, yet still fit with the over all style. They need to work on a variety of devices. But above all, they must enhance your experience of the game.

Sometimes things are quick to create, other times you just can’t quite seem to get it right. Our icons have gone through several revisions and we are still not there yet with something that looks good, fits our design and meets all the necessary requirements.

Here are the different versions we have made over time:

 

Version 1:

This is the clean, zero shading version. Exact shapes would need refinement but this was the original concept:

icons_v2

 

 

Version 2:

Version 1 pushed in a more “primary shape” direction, with some faded edges:

icons_v1

The conclusion from this was that the icons were too symbolic and would get confused with other colors and shapes in the game.

 

 

Version 3:

This version goes in an iconic direction. These are just placeholders and would need to be re-drawn:

icons_v3

These were now potentially too complex and so we then went to:

 

 

Version 4:

Back to more symbolic but now a symbol that hints at an icon. Somewhere between flat and rendered. Note that the lighting is a little different on the left than the right as part of our experimentation.
icons_v6

However version 4 was lacking “punch” and the icons were too dull and lost, especially at smaller sizes.

 

 

Version 5:

So then version 5: This is the same as the previous version except now with lighting effects from the center of the icons. the first 3 on the left were also cleaned up with thicker lines so that they would retain their shapes on smaller devices (phone screens, tablets etc.)

icons_v5

This looks decent but the colors in particular were not entirely fitting with the artwork and the rest of the style. However this was the “most final” of the icons we had produced as part of this process.

 

 

Version 6:

In a flash of inspiration, or folly… A completely different direction was the latest “let’s think this over again” approach. This is incredibly rough, and these images are just quick “place holders”, but the idea would be to have some sort of drawn icon with the numbers on top of them:

icons_v4

Similar to what Duel of Champions does for their three resources:

Meaning that we would draw icons and then render them in such a way that the number can be on-top of it in white. So you have to “imagine” the rock and the gear drawn to actually look like proper icons (similar to how well the above Duel of Champion icons look).

Considerations:

Simple Icons with a glow.

What makes this complicated is that the icons need to look good not only on the screen as part of the GUI but also when viewed on the top-left edge of one of our cards. We also need to show enough of the artwork on the left-edge of the card that you can see which card it is, by its artwork, without having to always click the card to see it.

As you ca see here, version 5 has nice symbols but the values of each of the resources need to go next to the icon instead of over the top of it, and that means it eats up more horizontal space. It also means that we end up with a lot of color on our cards and this break the coherency and mood of the artwork. (which is part of the reason I threw together version 6 quickly with the rendered icon look).

 

 

Next steps?

Oh icons, how you scorn us. At this point we could go back to version 1 and just refine that simple, iconic flat look, similar to what you see in other games like:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.11.15 PM
Starships by Sid Meier

Or we could tweak our version 5 further to make it work on the cards without eating up so much room.

Simple Icons with a glow.

Or we could develop icons like Duel of Champions did.

Or some fourth or fifth option we haven’t thought of yet?

Feedback

So we’d like your feedback, not just on our designs (as shown above) but also about games you play where you like (or even dislike) the icons. What appeals to you? What’s important to you? Did we make any versions here that you like more than others?

Thank you!

 

 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/generated/323388124

Card artwork: draft version revealed

Greetings, today we share with you some of our card-art in progress along with some of our first licensed pieces by Cloud Quinot. These cards are not final-final so there could still be some big changes made to them (and the cards themselves may change or even be replaced while we do testing!). There are many different types of cards in the game, below we are sharing a first template for Developments (Planetary Structures).

We can’t wait to show other card templates, like Spaceships! But those will have to wait a little longer because the artwork that goes on them is directly linked to the 3D models that will go in the game, and our 3D modeling work is not as far along as our illustrations are.

If you want to learn more about this game, check out our general info page.

Development: Mech-Tech

Solaren-Dev-Mech_Tech
Planetary Development card. Artwork by Cloud Quinot.

This development is tech-level 2 which, you can tell by the fact it has two yellow stripes on the bottom-left of the card. It costs various resources to play, which are the numbers on the top-left edge. On the lower half of the card we read that it improves your military power on all your friendly sectors (makes them harder to be invaded) and increases the victory point value of the sector where it is built by 2 (the yellow hex number on the lower-left).

The double-blue numbers indicate its structural value: how much beating it can take from being bombed by enemies, before it is destroyed. The top-right of the card is a placeholder where our alien race’s icon will go, to indicate which faction this is from.

 

 

 

Development: Shipyard

Draft shipyard. Artwork by Darkcloud.
Another Development card. Artwork by Cloud Quinot.

In contrast this card is tech-level 1 because it has only one yellow stripe on the bottom-left. The cost to play it is higher but only in one resource. On the bottom we can see that building it on a world will not only give me 2 victory points but also increase that planet’s military standing force by 1 (the red fist in the bottom left).

The card text is simple but significant: this sector now has the capability of producing ships. Unlike the Mech-Tech research production facility, the Shipyard has a lower structural value of 2 instead of 4 and is more vulnerable to enemy attacks.

 

 

 

 

 

Feedback?

What do you think of our card templates? Do you like how they look? Are there changes you would make to them to improve their appearance?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you!

 

Photo credit: http://darkcloud013.deviantart.com/art/Mech-p-405722704 Copyright NeoCrux Ltd. All rights reserved.

About page now up

It was about time to write about

It’s probably overdue to have an about page up. I’ve written a general high-level summary describing the game we are creating. Details about each aspect of this will be further detailed on this blog as the weeks follows.

As mentioned at the bottom of the About page, we are also working on a website with, among other things, a forum. Once our product webpage is up this blog will become a sub-part of it where we can continue to blog about our development processes, share what we learn and engage you directly into the creative process.

Team building

In other news, we just hired like 4 people and commissioned 2 artists in the last 10 days! We are growing very fast and up to about 16 people right now (granted not everyone is all active at the same time).

That said we are still looking for more people to add to our team, here is a short list of the positions we are still looking to fill:

  1. Producer / Project manager
  2. Graphic designer
  3. Logo designer
  4. Motion graphics
  5. 3D UI animator
  6. 3D modeler (game assets and/or high-rez rendering)
  7. Test manager / Play-test coordinator
  8. PR / Marketer

Interested? Shoot us a mail on the contact page.

Coming up soon should be some more details into our UI and card templates.

Introducing our Directors

Hi everyone, today it is with great enthusiasm that I unveil our Board of Directors. We are very fortunate to have such great people guiding our new company! Not everyone on this list has started yet on the board, but all things remaining equal, by April our board should be fully operational with the following members:

Skaff Elias

Skaff-EliasOwner of Three Donkeys and Computer Game Consultant.

(George) Skaff Elias was one of the original playtesters for Magic: The Gathering and helped edit the early Magic sets. Richard Garfield got him to start working for Wizards of the Coast around 1993. He has held such positions as Magic Brand Manager and Senior Vice President of Magic R&D.

He was one of the designers for various Magic sets, including Antiquities (March 1994), Fallen Empires (November 1994), and Ice Age (June 1995). Skaff also worked on the development team of numerous sets including the first core set of Magic (for which he also designed some cards), and others like Legends (June 1994). Skaff was the primary architect of the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour which distributes millions of dollars in prize and scholarship money.

Skaff has consulted on various computer games and other projects for Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He received a bachelor of arts in physics from Princeton University and was studying for a PhD in mathematics at University of Pennsylvania before leaving to help start Wizards of the Coast. He is an adjunct professor of game design at the University of Washington.

Please note that GalaCollider is in no way associated with Three Donkeys or Wizards of the Coast, nor do the views of Skaff in any way represent Three Donkeys or Wizards of the Coast.

Nick Peck

Senior Manager of Audio Operations at Disney Publishing Worldwide

Nick Peck is an Audio Director/Sound Designer/Composer with a long list of apps, films and video games under his belt. His previous positions include Audio Director of Underground Development, an Activision company, Sound Supervisor at Lucasarts Entertainment Company, and Game Sound Supervisor at Skywalker Sound. He has also ran his own freelance audio production business, Perceptive Sound Design, for many years.

Nick has experience sound crafting on motion pictures and video games, including among many others: Star Wars: Battlefront and Being John Malkovich.

Nick is currently the senior manager of audio operations for Disney Publishing, where he runs an audio department that handles sound design, music composition, and dialog casting/recording/editing. They have released a plethora of award-winning iOS apps, for franchises including Wreck-It Ralph, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Brave, Up, Toy Story, Cars, Cinderella, Tangled, and many more. Nick consistently has had one or more apps in the top ten in the entertainment and education categories simultaneously.

Nick lectures on the audio arts in California, Japan, and Canada, and has taught courses in audio production at Diablo Valley College. He has contributed to audio magazines and websites for the last decade, including Electronic Musician and Gearwire.

Please note that GalaCollider is in no way associated with Disney, nor do the views of Nick in any way represent the Walt Disney Company.

Stephan Brissaud

Stephan-BrissaudChief Operation Officer at IELLO.

Stephan created and opened the US Branch of IELLO, a fast growing publisher, possibly best known for releasing King of Tokyo from Richard Garfield.

Stephan heads the manufacturing and distribution of their games and selects which new games they will distribute in the USA and connected territories.

Prior to opening IELLO’s US branch, Stephan worked a total of 24 years in the game industry. Including sales manager / partner for WorldWise imports, VP of sales and marketing for Asmodee US, and Event manager / senior buyer for Wizards of the Coast.

Please note that GalaCollider is in no way associated with IELLO, nor do the views of Stephan in any way represent the IELLO Company.

Terry Coleman

Terry-ColemanTerry Coleman has nearly two decades of experience in creating and publishing digital games. During that time, he has designed, produced or developed on nearly every platform imaginable, from PC and Mac to handheld, online and next-generation consoles – in fact, Terry’s been around so long that he even has a Dreamcast game to his credit.

Over the years, he has worked at a variety of companies, including giants such as EA Sports, Mattel and Sierra Online, as well as smaller indie publishers like Lolapps, VPG, and Daring Play.

Some of the best-known titles he has worked on include MVP Baseball, FIFA World Cup, and several versions of the best-selling Chessmaster franchise. Terry’s latest project, Traveller Ascension: Imperial Warrant, was successfully funded on Kickstarter, and is scheduled to ship later in 2015.

 

 

Photo credit: Laurence Simon

Seeking community manager

We are looking still for many people to add to our team, but I thought I would highlight the community manager / promotions / public relations position today specifically. We are now about 4 months away from completing our Alpha and about 6 months away from our kickstarter. We’ve learned and know that a successful kickstarter is in part dependent on having enough interested followers to support it.

March marks the beginning of us starting to really share what we are working on. We’ve begun to spoil some of our UI designs and our most recent test-party results post went into changes we will be implementing in our game play. Over the next weeks we will show more and more.

Ultimately we are building this game for you, we want it to be a wonderful world you enjoy exploring and will continue to enjoy for years to come. GalaCollider is going to be a game where we not only listen to the community (balance, development suggestions, card design) but where community and personal results actually influence and shape the unfolding story.

We are looking for someone to help speak on our behalf to the community at large, and get the word out. “Friendly, empathic, engaging and plugged in” would be some keywords that come to mind.

Contact us if you think you might be that person.


 

Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brennanmoore/2446669822
 

First Alpha test result

Test results, as promised from our first test session of our Alpha 3.7 build.

It was a fun road trip down to LA, our writer Amy got to meet Rob and we all got to meet and talk with: Mick our video editor. Chris delivered last minute by fixing code items and drinking tea so that he could stay up late from his home in the UK to battle us in California.

Alpha3.7 build, with temporary graphics and no design implemented yet. Here we see a player getting started.
Alpha3.7 build, with temporary graphics and no design implemented yet. Here we see a player getting started.

Improving the gameplay

The laptop party resulted in about a dozen or two items ranging from bugs to playability concerns and card pool suggestions. I was really pleased to hear that the general consensus was that the game has a lot of potential and the testers felt it was very unique.

Feedback that related to usability or bugs were easy items to deal with.

We did notice that my test-decks need some tweaking to make your demo-cards more straight forward and cheaper to promote faster play (less big expensive cards and more cheaper ones). Changes to cards, stats, abilities and deck compositions are all very easy to accomplish.

A bigger concern though was that I noticed that the turn phases were a bit unintuitive for players. It doesn’t help that as an early Alpha you don’t have a tutorial or help-overlays in the game yet, but it is also even better when one doesn’t need help text to understand how things work. Up until this point we had conveniently split our turns into four phases that magically matched the 4-terms associated with 4X: eXpand, eXploit, eXplore and eXterminate. In eXpand you would colonize and invade, in eXploit you would gain resources from current and any new sectors your acquired, during eXplore you moved and built things and in eXterminate you resolved battles in sectors that are contested.

Our decision was to reduce this down from 4 to just 2 phases: the “move” and “battle” phases. Right now we don’t have a fancy name for them anymore, but that is less important than the gameplay. Invasion and colonization simply happen during the move phase with a single extra rule that makes it so that colonization and invasion can only happen if you start your turn already in the sector. The exploit is removed entirely and instead is just an “invisible” resource collection phase that now happens at the start of your turn.

Coding wise this has some impact on us, but not much. In fact in the week since the test event we have already implemented this fix in Alpha 4.01.

A much bigger problem we noticed was the increased turn length we observed when playing the game digitally instead of as a physical card game. This surprised me a little since digital games take care of all our housekeeping. I noticed that the increased “down time” waiting to take your turn came from a few contributing factors:

  1. In a physical game you banter and talk while the other person plays and you can observe where they are looking and their general activity,
  2. Somehow drawing, remembering, playing and discarding cards seems to go faster when the game is physical than digital. This is partly UI related but it may still remain a factor for newer players or because of the need to fit a lot of information on a small iPad screen.

If the game is already slow as a 2-player game it will only get worse in a 3+ player game. Granted some UI work will improve this, like being able to camera-track enemy moves so you can see what they are doing where, but the scalability of sequential turns would still be a problem with larger games.

We had already considered many months ago the possibility of moving from sequential to simultaneous turns, but we decided at the time to delay this until later on as a potential “side path”, pending budget or a strong need from testing.

That time had now come, and for the future of the game’s potential as a multi-player game the priority definitely increased substantially to explore simultaneous actions now, rather than later.

Gladly we are still in a very early Alpha release, so there is no better time to switch from a sequential turn sequence to a simultaneous one. The new architecture will permit both players to plan moves and build things at the same time and then once they submit, the server will play back all moves and actions each player did in order. Areas with conflict will then generate battles, players with ships / planetary structures located in the same areas as each other will get the opportunity to fire shots at each other (or activate special abilities) and then once everyone has picked their targets a grand space opera of blasting ships will then camera-roll.

This means now that Alpha-4 will likely be split into two, with the first part of it dealing with the turn refactoring and the second part of it being the original intent of adding in our mid-game technology-research mechanics. Alpha-4A and 4B doesn’t quite ring so instead we will push the technology feature-set to Alpha5.

All in all our timeline still looks solid with this change to hit our end of June soft deadline of Alpha development. Chris has been interviewing a dozen or so Unity C# programmers, with an extra set of hands the workload should become even easier to manage.