Update #20 - The Factory

When designing AoD non-urban (i.e. secondary) locations we wanted to show a desolate, dying world, but as is often the case with low budget games it’s hard to tell the difference between a desolate world and ‘empty maps’ with a single point of interest.

We’re always eager to learn from our mistakes plus the Ship shouldn’t be desolate, so today we’ll demonstrate a new and improved approach to location design using the Factory as an example.

A bit of history:

As you probably know by now, the Ship isn’t a state of the art colony vessel but a retrofitted interplanetary freighter (in the best traditions of Mayflower) with cargo holds big enough to fit entire districts. Cargo Hold #2 was split into two miles-long areas running in parallel: the Factory and the Hydroponics.

The Factory is an industrial area dedicated to the learning of skills the current generation of colonists would never use to pass them down to the descendants of their descendants who would one day claim the new world as their own.  

Before the Mutiny, a rail system running high above the factories would deliver citizens to the dismal warehouses and facilities where they spent their working days. Unsurprisingly, the Factory was where the revolt had started, quickly spreading to the rest of the Ship. The war that followed gutted the Factory: the train overpass was blown up to prevent reinforcements from pouring in; the factories and warehouses were looted and stripped for parts, the local Environment Control system had to be shut down.

Within a few decades, the Factory had been mostly abandoned until growing trade between the Pit (Cargo Hold #3) and the Habitat (formerly known as Cargo Hold #1) breathed new life into it, turning it into a new Silk Road.

Until Jonas set up a camp in Cargo Hold #3 (which eventually grew into a container town known as the Pit), a few traders cautiously making their way through the ruins of the Factory attracted no attention, but as the camp grew into a town, trade grew into a steady stream of goods flowing in both directions.

With the train overpass lying in ruins, slow moving traders carrying valuable relics of the past looted in the Wasteland quickly became the target of gunmen eager to relieve the traders from their cargo and lives. The traders responded by hiring armed escorts, which forced the gunmen to form gangs and fight both the mercenaries and rival gangs until only two gangs remained: the Black Hand and the Detroit City gang.

One of the mercenary outfits, Thy Brother’s Keepers, that used to offer protection services in the Wasteland saw a great business opportunity and promptly moved their operations into the Factory. There, the Keepers established what became known as the Toll Road, offering a safe passage to the Habitat for an exorbitant fee.

Design:

You start the game in the Pit ('born and raised'). You can explore the nearby area but when you’re ready (or have a reason) to visit the Habitat, your options are:

1. Pay the fee and enjoy a scenic 'high above the ground' trip through the Factory, occasionally interrupted by different events to remind you that it's not a walk in the park. Those who played Dungeon Rats know how we handled the vertical aspect (as you climb up, you can see the area you explored earlier down below), so you’ll see the entire level from above.

2. Brave the dangers and climb down into the unknown, most likely to your untimely death:

  • Sneak through the level - infiltrator
  • Fight your way through the level - fighter
  • Exterminate the vermin; comes with two optional (meaning tough as nails) fights if you decide to clear both gang bases - combat specialist
  • Fight/Sneak past 'patrols', then inquire about employment opportunities (bonus points if you created a lot of vacancies) - fighter/talker or infiltrator/talker


3. You can also *try* to get into the Habitat via the Hydroponics but that’s a different story that puts an emphasis on an entirely different skillset (explorer) and gear.

Needless to say, the very fact that there is a toll road suggests that attempting to cross the Factory on your own is a bad idea. If most players would be able to do that regardless of their builds, it would damage the setting’s integrity so this option should be reserved for 25% of the players (1 in 4) and the difficulty will reflect that.

Wiping out both gangs is an epic feat reserved only for the natural born killers among you (1 in 10 players ). The first base is hard to enter but easy to leave. The second base is easy to enter (just take the elevator), but hard to leave so forget about attacking and falling back. You’ll have to be able to switch tactics on the fly and have good offensive and defensive gear and tactics.

The reward will be well worth it – the gangs have been preying on traders for a while and have accumulated quite a few relics.

If you decide to leave the gangs alone and come back later, be advised that both gangs will grow, both in number and firepower. It’s not level scaling as it won’t be tied to your level/skills but to the passage of time via ‘chapters’.

Using AoD’s mine as an example, assuming you could come back later after visiting Maadoran, you’d find the outpost reinforced by more soldiers and proper watchtowers, regardless of your skill level. Basically, a logical progression with proper consequences for both action* and inaction that doesn’t force you to watch the clock.

* the Keepers might not be too happy about you putting them out of business ; The Detroit City gang has ties to one of Habitat’s factions, so wiping out both gangs will be an action of an anarchist that doesn’t care about the established order, not of a hero vanquishing evil wherever he/she goes.

There will be a few side quests in the area, available to those who can explore the area (rescue & escort, retrieve a stash, breaking & entering, etc). Nothing random or generic. Retrieving a stash is an optional solution to another quest, rescue & escort will open up several quests later on (think Miltiades), breaking & entering will make you a legend and cause more trouble down the road than you can handle.

To sum up:

  • all 16 areas are interconnected (access points and local groups), nothing exists in vacuum, meaning consequences ahoy;
  • initial access to all, deeper access to specialists, your mileage will vary, no character will be able to access all content and fully explore every area;
  • some areas will favor combat specialists, other areas will favor infiltrators or diplomats, just like you can’t solve ALL problems with diplomacy, you won’t be able to solve all problems by going on a killing spree;
  • there will be reasons to specialize in combat because there will be fights that will require “maximum effort”, such fights will offer you optional challenge (and great rewards) and will never be mandatory;
  • multiple points of interest, focus on exploration, blocked/hard to get into areas accessible via combat, stealth, diplomacy;


And finally some concept art (some new, some old for people who are just joining us) to illustrate this update:


^ the Wasteland


^ the Factory, ground level


^ the Toll Road


^ the Toll Road, the final stretch


^ the Black Hand


^ the Detroit City gang