Fran Avilés

Deep Rock Galactic

Combat and Systems Design

— PROJECT NAME

Deep Rock Galactic


— ROLE

Game Design


— DATE

2016 – 2020

Deep Rock Galactic is a 4 players co-op shooter in which players explore procedurally generated and completely destructible cave systems. With a class-based structure and a great variety of weapons and enemies, it has a deep combat system that manages to engage players for hundreds of hours.

Deep Rock Galactic combines an atmospheric and exciting setting with a relaxed and often humorous tone that has allowed it to build a wholesome community.

The game has launched on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, reaching more than 3 million copies sold and more than 10 million total players. It has 97% positive reviews on Steam and a 85 score on Metacritic. It's still developed to this day.

DEVELOPMENT

I joined Ghost Ship Games when Deep Rock Galactic was at the beginning of its development. I took part on the design of its core foundations all the way up to its successful release and post-launch support with new content.

After so many years, I got to work on almost every aspect of the design of the game: combat, progression, economy, level design, UI,…

LEVEL & MISSION DESIGN

My first task in the project was to define the rules and logic behind the cave system and to do the level design for the different pieces that are combined in the procedural generation. Mission length, pace, scale, random items,… are many of the aspects that were considered during this phase.

COMBAT, ENEMIES & WEAPONS

The combat in Deep Rock Galactic is a combination of wave shooting with arena-like encounters. Players have to deal with randomized waves of sometimes hundreds of enemies. However, among the initially perceived chaos, there're many systems that try to incentivize tactics like target prioritization and in which the behaviour of enemies, attacks and skills are consistent and well-communicated to reward those who want to engage at a deeper level.

Enemies were conceived considering what they would do to the player, the actions the players will have to perform to defeat them (with emphasis on combat feel and pace), and how they would interact with the existing enemy units.


UPGRADES & PROGRESSION

The meaningful combat was meant to make the game as replayable as possible, but it was also necessary to support a complex upgrade system that expands across many hours of gameplay and for which we had to build many mechanics like temperature, stun, toxicity, weak points, armour, damage types, and many others.


Not having a traditional story-based campaign, progression in Deep Rock Galactic revolves around systems. I worked on the design of weapons and gear upgrades, a system that procedurally generates endless missions and quests for the players, and the balance of the economy that connects all those systems.

A significant challenge for the project has been the self-imposed constraint of not dividing the userbase by giving too much power to veteran players while still rewarding them meaningfully. We decided on a system that mostly allows the player for more options and customization over time instead of more powerful gear. This has been very well received and we believe it has contributed to the creation of a very friendly community.