Tempo heating

Wow it’s been quite the last few weeks.

Creative writing

We hired a new creative writer / production assistant, Amy Ballinger, who I’m sure you will read more from in the weeks/months to come, is going to be handling everything that has to do with the lore of our game. Right now she is reviewing the existing giant creative soup and turning into a coherent back-story with far better defined alien factions.

In addition to working out the world and factions, Amy is also going to provide creative guidance for our future illustrators. If all goes well this week with the core lore writing, we should be in a good position to begin the hiring process the following one.

Coding continues

On the programming front, Chris continues to slam out feature revisions at an accelerating pace. Our game will be ready for our first “test party” later this month where we will gather investors and close friends to try our first build and give us some live feedback.

The “minimum” game should be “functionally” done by the end of this month which means that Chris can then switch his focus to coding all the main game menus (the first screens you see before you create and join a game). I put quotes around these things because the “minimum” game is the smallest feature set I can see us going live with and still having a playable game, and I say “functional” because the game is still coded right now without all the beautiful graphics that our designers are making. Integrating the design into the formless code will come later in a second-pass iteration.

Board of Directors

On the company front, 3 people whom we approached to be on our board have accepted. Our board is not yet finalized (we may still add another name or two) but we already have such a great group of people now working with us, it is really a privilege to have their wisdom on our side.

Next steps

Workload for me has been getting quite high already, Rob’s working hard and I’ve hit over 20 hours of work spinning our various plates. Among other solutions we are working to add testing and production assistance as soon as possible to help reduce our increasing loads.

Here is a total list of everyone we are looking to add to our team either immediately, or within the next 3 months. Let us know if you or someone you know might be interested!

  • Producer
  • Assistant producer
  • Test manager
  • Alpha Tester / QA Tester
  • Character Illustrators
  • 3D modeler for ships and planets
  • 3D Animations and UI effects specialist
  • Sound designer / composer
  • Graphic Designer for icons and asset production
  • Unity3D C# Developer (senior or mid-level)

Till next time, space-out.

 

 

 

Out from the Shadows

You know the thing about finding a great partner is that you want to work with someone with similar interests but yet with different skill sets.  It is an interesting mix that can be very hard to accomplish!

GalaCollider and the company we have formed to create and manage the project is a tale of finding that tough mix.  Sebastian and I met at a Game Convention which led to a number of discussions that became a partnership.  Sebastian has already told that tale form his perspective and I will endeavor to do the same in my next post.

This post however is just a quick Hello…  and a promise of more to come.  This adventure is exciting and challenging and cool and well…  I will be telling you all about it but first..   a brief introduction.

I am Rob, a Southern California transplant from Boston, MA who actually transplanted there form Eastern Canada.  I work in the Tech Industry and am an avid gamer.  My role in the project has been largely helping to build out the infrastructure of our company.  It is the unglamorous but important stuff that has to happen so that the organization can actually move ahead and get stuff done.  Beyond that it is also about helping to create a way for us to realize a vision. Sebastian and I share a vision about what kind of company we would like to create.  We share a frustration that so many designers cannot get their visions realized and that we would like to change that.

We think great game designs need a place to take root.  We want to create that place where great ideas and the people that have them can find people to help them nurture and realize those ideas.  We want to be able to help those ideas see the light of day and bring delight to the people that get to share them.

GalaCollider is one of those amazing ideas.  I cannot wait until you see the final product because as I see the elements come together I get goosebumps…

Sources of inspiration

If you are trying to make a great game you probably need to take a look at a lot of other great games.

Here are some of the others that have inspired GalaCollider, and why we like them.

Masters of Orion II™

Masters of Orion II, Wikipedia

orion2_start2This is a classic, oh the enjoyment. I remember staying up many nights until dawn, and then somehow going to school the next day and not failing my classes. This game is a general source of strong inspiration into the 4X genre as a whole.

From MOO2 we are taking the general principles of expansion, conflict, adaptation, arms-racing, customization, exploration, intelligence and the “4X space theme” itself.

Starbase Orion™

http://www.chimerasw.com/starbaseorion/

screen1Starbase Orion is a great port that captures a lot of the feeling of MOO2 to portable devices.

Our game will actually be very different in play style than either MOO2 or Starbase Orion. These key differences will become a lot more clear when I look at other games like StarCraft II, so let me talk about that game next.

 StarCraft II™

http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/

611he05az8LStarCraft II, now this is a great game. StarCraft is a bit too heavy on the real-time click-rate for me to be any good, but the gameplay strategy itself is phenomenal. There is a lot of positive things I can say about this game, but instead let me focus on the aspects of StarCraft that our game will be incorporating to some degree.

First of all StarCraft is a fairly fast game. Both sides build up and make important early game economic-military decisions. Scouting is pivotal to any serious player’s success. Failure to gather enough intelligence leads to quick defeats. Scouting will also help you to determine what types of units to build and which higher-level tech to develop in an ever incrementing technological arms-race.

Here are typical questions you might ask yourself in a game:

  • Economy vs. Military: Do I power up for a late game economy or focus on immediate aggression?
  • Fog of war: Where is my opponent and what are they doing? Can I sneak up on them?
  • Weapon types: What is the best unit to use to beat the types of units my opponent has built?

GalaCollider’s game play will attempt to recreate these questions, but in a 4X turn based format. Our build up phase will be fairly short (compared to traditional 4X games) followed by a tense mid game where each side vies for dominance. The majority of existing 4X games do not emphasize strongly the importance of scouting, we want to turn that around. In GalaCollider scouting will be as paramount as it is in a game of StarCraft II. It will help you to know which technologies to develop and if you should be focusing on a military buildup or economic superiority. Conversely you can also use fog of war, and counter-spying to fool and outsmart your opponent.

I absolutely love the asymmetry of the races in StarCraft and this is something we hope to re-create in GalaCollider.

Might and Magic: Duel of Champions™

https://www.duelofchampions.com/

might-and-magic-duel-of-champions-002This game got me hooked good for quite a while. If you are looking for a tactical card game with more than just simple lane interactions, look no further.

What struck me about this game was how it managed to make what is effectively a complex card game and turn it into something relatively easy to grasp. The digital automation that tracks all of your stat changes, temporary effects, modifying health values as well as 10 resource types is beautifully executed.

In terms of the game’s actual dynamics, there is a great level of tension. Every turn feels like it could be your last. Reversals are common. Each advance you make on the board requires an answer from the opponent. Conversely if one side takes a big enough lead, it thankfully doesn’t take long for the game to reach closure.

For the deep strategy game we are making, Duel of Champions provides strong examples of both good UI and tense game play.

War of Omens™

http://play.warofomens.com

CaptureCaptainListrataWar of Omens I stumbled into randomly one day and it got me playing solidly for about a month. This is a deck builder like Ascension except with a big difference: each player creates their own 10 piles of cards to buy from.

I will admit, I like the idea of using deck building in card games. It is a fairly fashionable to incorporate this mechanic in modern games. Like anything that is fashionable however, it tends to be utilized in many games in a somewhat forced fashion. “Let’s add deck building, cause it is cool!” — I can almost hear someone saying in my ear.

This game however got it right, deck building is the essence. It then goes beyond simple deck building with a good handful of innovative ideas it branches out of.

Before I discovered this game I was already planning on incorporating some deck building as an in-game mechanic, War of Omens struck me as a great implementation of such a mechanic, and did it with a most excellent UI experience.

Every number, icon, card flip and attack is complimented with supporting hand-loved animations. There is a lot to admire in the experience one obtains.

SolForge™

http://solforgegame.com/

solforgestonebladeSolForge, now this is a game with a solid KickStarter campaign. And an impressive list of endorsers / contributors to boot. Everyone I know was “talking about SolForge”.

Besides the kickstarter itself, which oozes oodles of insight into what makes a great product, SolForge has a great card leveling system that has opened up a lot of design space to create multiple versions of cards that “progress” as you play.

More recently they added a draft system that is superb in that it incorporates an intelligent system where high-picks are filtered out from subsequent packs. Tournaments are a-synchronous, meaning you don’t need to find and play opponents in a fixed duration of time. Perfect for casual mobile devide play.

Hearthstone™

http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/

ss1-medHearthstone is Blizzard’s foray into the tablet card game arena. In typical Blizzard fashion they aim to produce polished gems in genres that are already established, but not necessarily fully defined.

Hearthstone has positioned itself as the go-to card game, it has a light, approachable feeling and just the right amount of game-play pressure. Each action your opponent takes creates sufficient tension that you will need to produce a response.

They have a great slow grind process in place for new players. Their draft queue is also free of “early loss depression” because your run only ends after 3 losses rather than being the sum of your record over a fixed number of games.

Take away points: Approachable, progressive curve for new players, pleasant, strong draft system.

Tyrant Unleashed™

http://www.kongregate.com/games/synapticon/tyrant-unleashed-web

hqdefaultYou might be really surprised to see this game here among the others mentioned, but don’t be fooled. This game has some really great ideas and good story-hook implementations.

I really love that the game is always changing your focus. One week you are doing a raid, another you are playing with a group of 50 friends against other guilds, the next week you are doing a solo campaign. This focus-rotation keeps the game engaging and fresh far longer than it could otherwise.

There is a strong community component, you make friends, you coordinate your moves, you jump in when someone else needs you. These “soft aspects” of the game add a whole new level.

In terms of game play, I really like their symbolic language. I’ve seen this trend in a lot of modern board games, perhaps Tournay being one of the more extreme cases. And while symbology can go too far, I believe this game has hit it right on the nail. With 3 icons and 2 numbers I know immediately what sort of card I am looking at.

The store in Tyrant Unleashed is active, there are daily deals, packs that rotate for a few days and specials that can last weeks or months. GalaCollider is absolutely not going to be a pay-to-win sort of game, which TU clearly is, but there is still something positive to be said for making the shop itself an exciting place… what deal am I going to see today?

League of Legends™

http://na.leagueoflegends.com/

5ocah“Pay to win” makes for a good segway into another game: League of Legends. I really like how this company has positioned their product. It is F2P with a stellar revenue. They provide you all you need when you “free to play” to enjoy the game. If you spend money it widens your options but doesn’t make you directly stronger.

The argument often cited here is: more options provides more opportunities for you to counter / adapt to your opponents; provided you are also skilled and trained in those new options.

GalaCollider and League of Legends are not the exact same kind of game; one is an expandable card game, the other is a team builder, but never the less we can probably learn lots about fostering a healthy F2P game economy from our friends behind: League of Legends.

Android: Netrunner™

http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=207

pic1415148Ah Netrunner. I have a soft spot here. The asymmetry, the theme, the bluffing… many things I love.

This game has an excellent player community. There are always new videos popping up, custom cards being made, jokes, fan art, fan websites, you name it. It is a sign of a great game when such a community joins the ride.

From the perspective of our project, Netrunner as a game gives the players great tools to play the bluffing game. Are you going to be flatlined?

I really like how wide and thematic the design space is. Each set comes with a great theme and the mechanics of the game are sufficiently complex enough, that the design territory for the game is vast.

Each faction is very well themed and has unique play styles, much like the races in StarCraft are asymmetric.

Packs and deluxe boxes are built into cycles and supported by press releases and spoilers that generate healthy excitement.

Video production of spectated games is excellent, comparable to some degree to spectated games of StarCraft.

Finally I like their deck building system, whose influence rules open up a huge play space to the creative deck builder to maneuver inside of.

 

Art, Finding Direction

Lorcan was working on the 3D interface and Chris was completing our first Alpha build in parallel. I still had a giant list of prospect artists but none had worked out thus far as a hire to fill in the supporting game UI needs, I wasn’t getting any luck. I found some artists who were clearly talented but would need close guidance, or there were language barriers, or they were not responsive enough or…

Like anything that takes time to resolve, you learn along the way. What came to the surface was that I really needed to find someone who could be our next right-arm on the project. The design area of this project is quite a large undertaking with a substantial team. The right person was not only going to be a stylistic match with Lorcan, but was also going to be someone with whom I could chat/talk easily while being able to set forth an over-arching style in place. If the stars aligned I’d find someone with Art Direction skills who could help to off-load eventually some of the work I would otherwise be doing while coordinating the specific details across our growing creative team.

I had been using Behance, Deviant and Shadowness heavily but started to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Not much came up from using Indie gamer forums and websites. I knew there were some great artists on Dribbble but their search features were limited unless you became a premium member. I checked the price for the membership, was about $20 for the year and decided it might be worth it. So I slid my virtual credit card and got the portfolios of about 30 artists common to Southern and Northern California that matched my keywords.

From this new pool of candidates I found an artist by the name of Drew Hoffman who seemed to fit the bill. He had strong UI examples that looked like they could make a good fit with Lorcan’s work, and had experience in Art Direction too. Drew seemed interested in the game we were developing, we had a few calls over the course of a couple weeks and right before Christmas 2014 he was hired and brought on board as our 3rd Contractor / Contributor.

One of the first activities Drew undertook was setting up a mood board for the game’s style and artistic elements. I’ll leave you with these two links to our Pinterest boards:

GalaCollider inspirationsScreen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.07.06 PM

GalaCollider Geometry

Creative hiring process begins

With funding secured to build up our game for a kickstarter we moved our attention towards all of the necessary creative components we would require for the game. Our game needs quite a large creative team to make it happen, some of the roles we knew we would need included:

  • Art Direction
  • Interface / UX design
  • Card template design
  • Logo design
  • Logo animations (cinematics)
  • Icons
  • 3D modeling
  • 3D animations
  • Sound design and composition
  • Character illustration (Concept artwork)

And anywhere from a half a dozen to a dozen or more contributing artists of various technical and creative styles.

I started by compiling a very large spreadsheet with different artists in it, I was mainly looking for someone to start of with who could work on the game’s UI. We want a minimum viable product and getting the game itself to look as good as possible is a part of that.

I spent many dozens of hours looking at portfolios. I think there is a lot of pressure here around the recruiting process, picking the right people will make it or break it. We want our game to be amazing, and that means finding stars in the sky you can hire, but still afford with your limited budget…

As it turned out I actually found quality artists who had more of a TV and film background first, before I was able to secure the right fit for a UI artist. Out of several such artists I narrowed the list down to two candidates, interviewed both and eventually settled on Lorcan O’Shanahan:

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.20.00 PM

 

Rob, Chris and I all really appreciated his experience on major TV and Film projects and thought that his quality of work would make for a great fit on our planetary UI interface.

Lorcan was added to the project sometime around November and has been creating various cinematic animations and 3D concept models for the UI ever since. We can’t wait to show you some of his work a bit closer to our kickstarter because it is really looking phenomenal!

With Lorcan on-board one puzzle piece was completed but I still needed to find someone now to work on the general UI and all of the other game screen components. The hunt continued onwards to build that perfect star-team.

 

 

 

Fundraising scales up ambitions

Happy holidays everyone! In today’s dev-blog post I’ll talk a bit more about the fundraising side of things. Not sure if that’s the best topic for the holidays, but maybe it is if you imagine the funding helps to create presents under a tree!

With Rob, Chris and myself on board we now moved in earnest to creating a presentation and an overall plan. We did budgetary planning when we decided to code GalaCollider and we knew that we would need funds to get our product developed enough to reach a kicksarter. In our experience and observation, a successful game kickstarter will show you finished artwork for a part of the game, but not necessarily all of it. We also felt that we needed to go into a kickstarter with a game that could be Beta-ready within 3 months of a successful campaign.

Planning for success.
Planning for success.

This meant that we needed to hit a kickstarter with a game that would be fairly close to done, mechanically, but could still have a lot of artwork missing. What artwork it did have though, needed to reflect the quality of the finished product.

We evaluated that the game-play needed to be done iteratively. We should be building from a “minimum viable product” and then iterate feature sets on top of this until we had something that we could release. It is critical that we code the game in such an order that we can go live even if the kickstarter isn’t successful or raises less funds than we would like it to. Additional features can always be added on after release or as time goes on.

In terms of quality, we really want to hit the ball out of the park. Top visual artists, top coders, top game play. There is no reason to not aim for the best game here we can possibly produce.

When we put this all together we came up with our pre-funding goal. We needed immediate cash to hire the quality players we required to present a solid product in the kickstarter.

We had several talks about how to attract and reward early investors. Rob put together some great slides, we created an FAQ document and the necessary paperwork.

A slide from our current presentation.

Several friends and family members adopted early and we not only met but exceeded our initial funding goals. Go back a month or two to October/November 2014 and we already had a tree “bursting with presents”, so to speak. Hopefully this time next year we will be talking about a whole new kind of holiday special. With funds in place Rob and I could now start expanding the team with all the bright-star visual artists we so desired!

It’s been so awesome to get such great support and a high vote of confidence from a good dozen+ group of people. We wouldn’t be here building the best game we can, if it wasn’t for the stellar support of our friends and family members. Thank you and happy holidays!

Let’s smash a couple galaxies together to make a game.

When the concept for this game was being developed, I thought a little bit about the back-story, and what kinds of stories existed in games of the same genre. One thing that troubled me, was that we always assume things start from zero when you start a 4X game. I wondered if there was a way to set context between multiple games where you expand. Could there be a start from zero, multiple times, over several games that are played and still linked together into a bigger over-arching campaign?

Starting from zero occurs under different kinds of circumstances. It could be your very first expansive growth: “The rise of your virgin empire”. This makes sense in some cases, but probably not all and you can only do this once. There isn’t any potential in this back-story for a game-to-game connected storyline.

Phases of galaxy collision and later merge.
Phases of galaxy collision and later merge.

If one thinks about it though, a rise from “zero” can happen under many other circumstances. It could be a rise after a revolution, or a giant disaster which crumbles the existing power structures at hand, or a long progressive degradation of the current super-power(s). Serious turbulent periods can even be caused by new technology appearing in the world, forcing a giant arms race, new war, and a redistribution of power (or self annihilation?). Any “redistribution of power” event makes for a good new start for the next zero-point game.

At first I considered the potential that star systems would be moving in this game, so you would have a fluid map, where individual turns were more like years and the board-state would fluctuate accordingly, thus emphasizing such events. While this is still a possibility that could be explored during our early player-testing, the more important part here was that I wanted more than just an anonymous growth from a repeating zero point, over-and-over every time you play, without explanation.

The idea came about to look at celestial major events, and in particular galaxy collisions. While galaxy collisions are very rare and occur over very long periods of time, the idea struck that such events could be fairly cinematic, lead to interesting board-states, and also explain a certain degree of why some empires might be rebuilding.

You have to imagine in this case, a stable situation with one or more empires dominating a galaxy. Followed by a period of uncertainty as two galaxies intersect. The collapse of a stable state follows, and then arises a new empire built upon the ancient ruins of their formers: racing to dominate the “new” galaxy. Many millennia after empires collapse their long-lost ancestors, divided among the stars: rebuild and expand.

One could also imagine, that the entire universe is filled with alien races. Spread across and separated between multiple galaxies, with common heritage, and the repeating story where each time a disaster, upheaval, or collapse occurs: a new expansion takes place; a new struggle for dominance. This could explain perfectly how you, as a player, might be running several games one after the other, but still connected to each other over time.

Supernova or other destructive forces could also be the catalyst that triggers a new "zero-point" race for dominance.
Supernova or other destructive forces could also be the catalyst that triggers a new “zero-point” race for dominance.

Galaxy collisions didn’t need to explain each and every single situation where re-expansion is necessary. But it helps to extend the possible scenarios behind such situations, and was an easy pivot point to anchor a name; it is also a fairly unique concept, which can’t hurt when you are working initially to develop a unique “world-setting” to build from.

We started with the name: Galaxy Collider and then GalaCollider. Gala was a prefix from a game I’m sure many of you have played called Galaga. And who doesn’t like historical references? “GalaCollider” has a nice ring to it, and may very well stick to be the name of this game to the end.

 

Two steps forward, lightning strikes back

Miroslav was our game’s sole C# Unity programmer at the time, this is now around June of 2014. Before starting the work Miroslav acknowledged that he didn’t have experience making a game of this level of complexity but he assured us he was capable of doing it. To be sure things were going well, I wanted another more experienced developer to review the current code. Miroslav himself also expressed that he would appreciate us adding a more senior person to the team, so that he could ask questions and get guidance.

Rob did a bunch of pre-screening and narrowed it down to about 3 developers. Then out of the blue a guy name Chris Kirby applied to review Miroslav’s code and just blew out of the water (with his extensive experience) everyone else that we had been considering.

At pretty much the same time we were finalizing everything with Chris, Miroslav disapeared, missed a delivery goal and couldn’t be reached for days.

He then finally resurfaced to tell me that lightning(!) had struck his house and fried his computer, router, phone and more.

lightning-comp
Too much of anything, in this case Electricity, is a bad thing.

Miroslav expressed to me that this set back was huge and that he wasn’t sure anymore if he could continue to freelance on our project. After some consideration and discussion I offered to advance payment to Miroslav to help him buy new hardware. He refused this. Miroslav informed me that he may be available again in a few weeks/months but he was uncertain.

Chris was added to the GIT repository and performed his initial code audit of the work that Miroslav had done. By the time Miroslav contacted me again we had completed not only the code audit but assigned to Chris the task of refactoring and furthering the development of the game. Miroslav’s last communication to us was to tell us that he would no longer be available.

It was sad to lose Miroslav, but Rob and I were both incredibly happy with the work quality and awesome character of Chris.

Planning and serious development for Alpha-1, the first release of GalaCollider now began.

 

One adventure leads to another

Programming was now underway and as it turns out, multiple projects were happening in parallel now: four to be exact.

Miroslav in Serbia was coding GalaCollider, I was continuing to program a side scrolling platform game in Corona SDK with Lua and sprite/levelhelper that I started a year or two prior (but still hadn’t finished), a card game of mine: The Black Rose was about to be run on kickstarter, and a friend / co-designer of mine named Jeremy White here in Santa Barbara (Author of games like: Enemy Coast Ahead) was co-designing with me a new abstract-strategy civil war game to present at the upcoming GMT West event in Hanford, California.

On the road to GMT

gmt-logo_pdcsqsTwo cars full of game designers went on the road from Santa Barbara to Hanford for a weekend of fun and to show off our various prototypes. Every Saturday morning at GMT West Gene makes a speech in which he gives an update on various products, market trends and the future goals of GMT. Gene gave the floor to a man named Robert Masson who did a general shout-out to all present to see if anyone would be available to help with an iOS project being done in Lua.

I approached Rob and mentioned I might be able to help with the creation or editing of the visual assets and programming in Lua. We had a good conversation, he rode his motorbike back to LA and when I got back home in Santa Barbara we followed up with several calls over a few weeks and discussed his various prospects. It turned out that I didn’t end up coming aboard these prospects, due to reasons related to financial viability.

I threw out a fishing rod and mentioned to Rob that I was working on two digital games and that I was ultimately looking for the opportunity to transition into starting my own game design agency. Would Rob be interested in partnering with me to start a company? Could Rob be GalaCollider’s ticket to take this game from a “bedroom project” to the big-time?

Partnership discussions

esports
eSports is quite a serious affair.

Rob looked like a great person to partner with, he was focused and interested in the business / marketing side of things and could help to take care of things like: contracts, lawyers, incorporating, accounting etc. but also had a great network on the marketing side of things. Rob mentioned on several occasions his connections to people working for Disney, the Apple App Store, eSports and potential investors.

This seemed like a great match for me, Rob was interested in dealing with all the aspects of running an agency that I found to be less interesting (the accounting, paper work, legal stuff etc.), which meant that I could potentially focus more on the creative, coordination and direction aspects instead.

We had several conversations that spanned several weeks. We looked at the current progress we had achieved on GalaCollider and my solo-Lua project, and also reviewed some of my other digital game concepts (that were still just pen-and-paper ideas). Rob brought an early investor to meet with me in Santa Barbara, who was awesome enough to immediately sign-up to make perpetual financial contributions towards building capital for our projects.

Ultimately we decided to focus on GalaCollider first, even though it was probably the most ambitious project of the final three we considered. Rob and I did our gentleman’s handshake, and new business venture had begun!

…Why we decided to develop GalaCollider first, will have to be the subject of another post.

Uncertain times followed

Each year at GenCon they have a meet-up for game designers organized by the Game Designer’s Guild, and in this particular year game designers were showing off prototypes to publishers. Emerson and I had a great conversation, and I showed him several of my game prototypes. While our discussions didn’t result in any publication so far, we did decide at the time to try and come up with a game idea together. He knew I had worked as the lead game designer for ShadowEra and suggested we try and design one together. I had just gone through this process with another card game called: Spell Battles and I knew from experience how difficult it is to fund and release a card game and was therefore a bit hesitant.

Spell Battles, another CCG I designed that has yet to find a publisher.
Spell Battles, another card game I designed that has yet to find a publisher.

Nevertheless, we proceeded. After a couple hour-long Skype calls we had the basis for a sci-fi card game with 4X elements, GalaCollider was born. Sadly as these first couple weeks continued Emerson had less and less time, and was unable to really contribute. We talked at the time about staggering development over several years, or finding another programmer who could assist, neither which option seemed to be be panning out.

As far as I could tell, it looked like this game may never really move further, and be “just another game” that ends up being on paper and never actually becoming a product.

One of the people I had been play testing with though, had a friend who lived to offshore in Serbia. He said that he would have time and the ability to begin coding the game, and for a very good price.

Emerson wasn’t really a big fan of this, and it was around about this time that Emerson decided to step off fully from the project. After some back-and-forth Emerson told me that he felt it had become more my game than his, since I had put in considerably more time than him, and retracted all his rights and responsibilities.

serbiaI always prefer working on a project as a team rather than solo, and it seems to be a bit of a pattern I’m trying to break, that sometimes I end up having to go alone on something that was begun as a team endeavor…

On the one hand I didn’t want to end up alone, but on the other it seemed kind of natural to take up this opportunity and to see how far the coder from Serbia could take it.

I checked with my playtesters and they all felt it was a solid enough concept to be worth the risk and time to move along further, so I went for it.

I had a few calls with Miroslav, the new programmer from Serbia, and it seemed like things could indeed move forward. I wasn’t sure where this would take me, but I did know that he felt it was a relatively easy game to code, and that we could indeed have a working Alpha product within about six months. This seemed encouraging.

And thus it was that programming began.

Core gameplay development

The main game underwent about 12 major revisions over the course of several months of print-and-play playtesting. I live in Santa Barbara and here there is actually a great little community of avid gamers and fellow game designers. 3 people helped playtest the game in this early phase. These people ranged from sci-fi board game lovers of Twilight Emperium, Eclipse, and Android: Netrunner to digital players of Masters of Orion II, StarCraft II and Sins of a Solar Empire.

At the time I was also reading several design methodology books. Game Mechanics, Advanced Game Design by Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans provided really great processes for building up a functional and emergent economic system and goes in great depth into Machinations as a form of system design.

Early Design Challenges

One of the initial challenges I faced was the natural tendency to want to stack ships together in the same sector to have an overwhelming force. This I resolved by imposing command limits on the size of your fleet that you are able to have in one sector.

Another challenge was getting the rate of expansion right. The early game rapid growth and mid to late game phases have to happen at the right speed with the right amount of friction. Machinations proved to be a valuable mental model to work through and apply various accelerators and friction coefficients.

Machination example from Starcraft II.
Machination example from Starcraft II

Tweaks to your home system’s start economy, map size and colonization rate provided the necessary early rate of expansion required to produce the desired game length. A friction coefficient was then added to the colonization cost to impose difficult mid to late game decisions regarding the desire to continue your expansion vs. paying for other costs ranging from combat attack-defense and alternative economic, political and strategic avenues.

If you are seriously into game designing I definitely recommend the three books found in the above image. They took a lot of what I might have known intuitively and transferred it into a conscious domain with a wider array of tools.

The three books cited above are:

Our project begins

Greetings and welcome to the first post of this new developer blog!

GalaCollider paper testing

Please join us as we explore the making of a new game tentatively titled: GalaCollider. Design of the game began in mid 2013 with early concept development and then several iterations of paper-tests. Since this game is inherently a turn-based game, it had to work as a physical game first. As a paper game we couldn’t fully test fog of war rules, but the heart of the game’s phases, combat systems and economy are all available systems we could refine and explore.

So what is GalaCollider? Galaxy Collider, or GalaCollider for short is a Unity 3D sci-fi turn based strategy game. Players use cards to play.