Designing Scenarios

Hey everyone! My name’s Michael and I predominantly do work on the development team for Gala Collider. Specifically, most of what I do affects the single player experience in the game. I’m a current Game Design student at NYU, and love pretty much any game I can get my hands on. I have a special place in my heart for 4X games though.

This is my first time working on a project the size of Gala Collider, so I’ve tried to get involved with anything I can get my hands on since I started working with the team. For this post, I’ll go over what I’ve been doing for the tutorials and single player scenarios.

My first experience with doing level design for Gala Collider began with making a test level for our VFX designer, Yuriy. Yuriy recently did an overhaul of all the weapon effects. However, in order to see how the weapons would look in game, Yuriy would need to use a scenario designed specifically for him. All other previously made scenarios didn’t include every weapon type that we needed, and even so a standard scenario would be too convoluted for the kind of testing necessary. The scenario itself had to be solely based around immediate combat, that way it could be repeated and analyzed multiple times.

Yuriy sent me the above graphic describing how he wanted the scenario to look. To further expedite the process, I made six scenarios each built around the six weapon mechanics we wished to test. Because combat occurs in a specific order, doing this was much more efficient for Yuriy to see how his weapons looked. Additionally, this gave me great exposure to how the map editor worked. I would later take the skills developed from making this test level to the scenario I ended up making.

The other scenario I was tasked with making was to be the first mission players interacted with after playing through the tutorial. In fact, the tutorial was probably the part of Gala Collider I studied most to see what exactly I should be teaching players through gameplay. After all, the scenario should reinforce what was just taught in a way that feels intuitive and, above all, exciting. The writing team provided me with a framework for what the level should be about, and from there I got to work.

My initial intentions with regards to level design were to separate the player and AI spaces by a single point in the center. This would allow for players to build up their fleet and strategize, while still being unfamiliar with what lies just beyond the stars. As the player explores more and more territory closer to the enemy core, they would come in contact with more threatening enemies. These enemies would introduce new players to what they would later see as they played more of the game, but in a concentrated dose. Eventually, when they reach the core, they’ll be presented with their greatest challenge yet before their triumphant victory.

After making the initial skeleton of the map, the team  reviewed it to see what can be changed to give the map more direction. In my case, the level was much too difficult at the offset for players to engage with any of the AI ships. However, it was equally possible to play a defensive game and wait for a star victory to end the match early. Ironically enough, the design I had in mind had the inverse effect on players than I had hoped. 

The combination of constant enemy aggression mixed with the ease of victory that came with a defensive strategy created an immediate player strategy. Eventually however we came up with a rather ingenious methodology to get around this problem. Because star victories were dependent on the total ratio of sectors present, spawning inaccessible sectors raised the total star count necessary to win. Without changing much about the core functionality of the level, an entirely different player behavior could be developed by incentivizing a certain strategy over another.

Once this scenario is completed, I’ll be well on my way to adjusting the other maps of the scenarios. Previously, all maps had to be mirrored on either side in the map editor. Now, however, the placement of sectors can be totally organic. This gives me a lot of room to play with the rest of the scenarios! Designing scenarios for Gala Collider has been an undeniably interesting experience for me, so I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback in our open Alpha!