Stranded Factory Design Notes
Stranded Factory was a challenge given to myself with the hope of improving my skills at creating an interesting factory environment with high quality aesthetics and fun gameplay. The main unique gameplay feature I wanted to experiment with was allowing the player to activate hazardous environment objects to help eliminate enemies in combat situations. (See more details on Hazard Notes)
Every barrel, crate and machine part was placed with the care of maintaining good level flow so players could easily navigate around the environment. The level's props created a visually appealing space that also accentuated the paths through the level. (See more details on Visual Notes)
Throughout the Gears of War campaign there are a few instances where players could activate an environmental hazard object by shooting it. But those few times were always used to eliminate difficult enemies while in a precarious situations. This led me on a quest to discover if environmental hazards could be used to seal emergence holes in common combat scenarios. (See more details on Hazard Notes)
First I choose factory objects that would be plausible as hazards within an abandoned factory. Next I placed these objects conveniently over emergence holes to easily and quickly seal them. Then I setup visual scripts in Kismet to make the hazards function properly depending on the current level state. Finally I repeatedly playtested and made needed adjustments to the hazards based on my playtest results.
Another of my major design goals was to simulate more of a battle-like atmosphere rather than a series of small gunfights. Many combat encounters in Gears of War have been small tactical fights with the player having a few companions to help fight against a few enemies. This level used friendly NPCs and enemy locusts to make a few small fights feel more like a chaotic battle. (See details on Encounter Notes)
I gave the player six lightly armed Stranded allies for assistance and three balanced waves of various locust enemy types. With the addition of a second floor and a complex cover network, Stranded Factory's encounters gave a new feel to the traditional Gears of War tactical combat gameplay.