In this weekly blog post I want to showcase some of the locations you and your team will be visiting in Rogue Angels. I will share my thought process, my level design approach, and final decisions that made it into the game, while of course keeping it spoiler-free :)
Illustrators: Original planet designs by Gabriel Barbabianca and Matthew Attard. Maps by Przemek Kozłowski.
Let us together take a peek behind the scenes of the Rogue Angels maps :)
As you may already know, the Rogue Angels' adventure takes place in the Burning Suns universe, in which a lot of worlds have already been established through lore, novels, and the original 4X game of the same name. This means that I had to balance visiting both new and old, and make sure the representation of the worlds fit with the original ideas and concepts.
Now, a lot of this is mostly based on my own thoughts on consistency and world-building, like what I described in one of my previous posts, but I believe it is important to stick to one vision, even if players will rarely get to see this depth.
Story > Goal > LOCATION > Mission Design
When I am building on or adding to the Rogue Angels' narrative, it is important for me that I always follow this design process:
During the mission design I often go back and revisit some of the level design choices, to adjust walls, room sizes, or entry points.
While the process above ensures that I prioritize according to the story and not let it suffer from me having "cool or interesting" ideas of level designs. It does not mean that I do not go on wild map design sprees :D
These are great for emptying your mind and a fun exercise in how to keep things interesting. Like I have mentioned in previous posts, it is very important that Rogue Angels continues to feel fresh, also after 30 plays.
With that said, there are loads of maps you will not get to see, as they cannot serve the primary purpose of driving the story and the characters forward.
Level Design VS Mission Design
As mentioned earlier I place level design above my mission design. This might seem counterintuitive, as you can imagine designing the level around your specific mission needs might seem more logical. The reason I do level design first, is that I want to place restrictions on my mission structure, and make sure events, enemies, situations unfold within a framework, instead of just adjusting my framework for my ideas.
This is not foolproof, and I sometimes have to go back and adjust the level accordingly. But what it does provide, is a more focused approach to how things evolve and how I work the limitations into interesting dilemmas. How can the mission structure be placed within this environment?
In practice - This means that mission structures often end up being very diverse, so players will not know if a mission will last 2, 3, 4, or 5 segments. The level design does not give away a clear structure, and the mission structure does not dictate that you will necessarily visit every spot on a map.
Design space vs rules
Another point worth noting is that maps follow the simple universal rules of the Rogue Angels combat system, allowing aesthetics and artistic freedom to roam underneath a highlighted user interface.
In short: Character may enter/leave squares with visible center dots on. Line of sight and movement can be achieved from dot to dot and is only blocked by red lines.
On top of that players may encounter 1-3 deviations/additions to these rules, which are explained on the accompanying and would be only visible page of the campaign book.
In other words I want thematic and cool looking maps for players to explore, while not being bogged down in rules and special edge cases.
The maps in Rogue Angels will all be part of an A3-sized map book, which will make it a breeze to set up and take down during play. Like every other design decision made for Rogue Angels, I try to work with as simple an approach as possible, to allow more time for enjoyment instead of administration.
The downside to a map book like this is the static nature of each map. However, this can be altered a bit by providing some map-changing tiles like crumbling walls, blocked entrances, and movable objects. Combining this with different setups and goals from various mission layouts and updates, and you still have lots of options to play around with.
Thanks a lot for reading - I hope you got some inspiration out of it too :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about the maps, worlds, and what you perhaps would like to see more of? Any places I should remember to visit in the Rogue Angels stories?
In case you want to check out 400 more pieces of artwork from this universe - Check out the Burning Suns Artbook here.
Thank you for the encouragement and support :)
Best regards Emil