The effects of selected physical and biological factors on the early development of a subtidal invertebrate assemblage were examined at an offshore oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel (California, USA). The effects of date, year, length, and depth of submersion were investigated by replacing sets of ceramic tiles with new tiles at frequencies of 2, 4, 6, 12, and 24 months at three depths (6, 12, and 18 m) over a period of 24 months. The effects of existing colonists and depth were explored in a second experiment by removing selected early colonists from ceramic tiles deployed at the same three depths over a period of 12 months. More than 40 invertebrate taxa from seven phyla colonized the tiles. Colonial tunicates and encrusting bryozoans appeared early in the successional sequence (∼2 months), in cover ranging from <5% to 80% and from <5% to 55%, respectively. Tubiculous amphipods, barnacles, and sponges could also appear early, but in low cover (<20%). Composition of the assemblage changed over time with barnacles, sponges, and mussels becoming the principal space holders on tiles submerged for 24 months. When potential competitors were removed monthly, variation in the cover of dominant taxa (i.e., bryozoans, amphipods, barnacles) was maintained to 12 months, suggesting that other factors, such as larval availability or post-settlement mortality, were responsible for these patterns. Development of this assemblage appeared to fit a pattern of early succession that was largely predictable in terms of the composition and sequence of occurrence of dominant taxa, but variable in rate of development, depending on date of submersion, year, and depth.