Stranded Factory Encounter Notes
Two major goals for Stranded Factory's combat encounters were to make them balanced and create the feeling of a battle-like scenario.
Balancing enemy encounters in Stranded Factory was a real challenge because instead of giving players one or two allies I gave them eight. The goal for balancing was to spawn the right amount of enemies to challenge the player with eight lightly armed stranded allies.
Encounters were created by combining different enemy types and numbers of enemies from the three emergence holes. The combination of varying enemy types created fun combat encounters by forcing players to switch tactics against different enemies. Through repeated play-testing the numbers of enemies and combination of enemy types were refined into balanced encounters.
There is only one brief occasion where Gears of War throws the player into a battle-like scenario with more than three allies fighting against a horde of enemies. So it was a true learning experience when I gave players eight allies to fight alongside in Stranded Factory.
The stranded were implemented to assist the player in combat encounters, not to complete the level for them. I tested the balance of the stranded by allowing them to fight the enemy encounters for me. Depending on how long the stranded were able to survive told me how balanced they were for the level. This balancing process wasn't only determined by the number of allies, but also the type of weapons they were equipped with.
The stranded were lightly equipped with basic weapons like the Hammerburst or Snub pistol to reduce their effectiveness in combat. Only the stranded squad leader was equipped with a Lancer assault rifle.
Upstairs Enemy Waves
When enemy locusts spawned from the emergence holes they mostly stayed on the first floor. Players could easily go upon the second floor and have a height advantage over the enemy for the duration of the level. To make combat encounters more interesting and to counteract a player from exploiting the height advantage, I spawned enemies on the second floor.
At the start of the second and third enemy wave, three enemies would spawn in a small closed off second story room. A Matinee sequence would play to simulate the door being kicked down and the enemies would enter the level via the second floor. These "ambushes" brought more interests to the level's already chaotic combat encounters. (See Kismet Notes for more details)