Journals

DEV DIARY: Campaign Overview

Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 By Zultar327

Recently the “The Patron and the Patriot” DLC was released for Offworld Trading Company. This DLC focuses on revamping the OTC campaign, specifically aiming to add story elements and new game mechanics focused on increasing replayability.

But before we get into the DLC we need to discuss what the campaign actually is, so that’s what we’ll be doing today.

 

Offworld was designed for quick, competitive games. Companies rise and fall in a matter of minutes, and most matches finish within half an hour. While this certainly is in line with the modern fast-paced RTS experience many players crave, it often does not match up well with those who want to spend time developing their company carefully and thoughtfully over time.

Enter the OTC campaign. In this mode players are able to select one of seven CEOs, each with unique specializations and abilities. You can play as a respected scientist, a robot seeking world domination, or a simple capitalist who want to turn one dollar into one hundred.

Reni Campaign Splash

No matter who you select you’ll be facing a grueling seven week challenge. Each week players will compete with two to three other CEOs, all of them trying to make a profit while aiding in the development of local government sponsored colonies. Whoever proves themselves the most valuable (most profitable) is awarded lucrative contracts, while everyone else is left with lesser subsidies relative to their performance in the region.

Campaign Mission Review

As the weeks go on and players turn their profit they are given opportunities to reinvest in the business, acquiring additional engineers for their production, specialists to handle advanced buildings, or unique abilities such as patents. They can even visit the black market and store a few nasty surprises for the competition in the coming weeks.

Campaign Hire

After a few growth come the elimination rounds, where CEOs who have not been able prove their worth through either victory or steady, strong performance will start being removed from the competition. Once the competition has been whittled down to four the final round begins, and colony growth is no longer the goal. Instead players compete in one last skirmish-style match, aiming to buyout their opponents directly. Whoever succeeds here will have proven themselves the dominant force on Mars, and will be rewarded a well-earned monopoly.

 

Despite the strength of the campaign Mohawk saw more that could be added to it, and we’ll start talking about those changes and why they were made next week.


The Patron and The Patriot DLC

Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 By Draginol

otc_thepandp_page-background

Greetings!

We’re releasing the biggest DLC for Offworld Trading Company yet today.  It adds a lot of new content and is, btw, only $4.99.


The Campaign

The Patron and the Patriot is a DLC pack focused on enhancing the single player campaign mode within Offworld Trading Company.

The campaign mode that shipped with the base game operates like a competitive tournament that lasts for seven games. There are nine characters to play, each with their own set of perks. While playing games, your character earns new perks through victory bonuses, events, and via accumulating income that can be spent on perks of your choice. Your strategy applies not just to each individual game, but to your character's perk progression, which lets you tailor your strengths and weaknesses for use in later games to be played. Elimination rounds begin at game three, removing the weakest competitor from the tournament each week, until only four remain to compete in the finale, where stock buyouts eliminate the rest, leaving a sole survivor with a monopoly over all of Mars.

Upon this foundation, we have crafted enhancements designed to improve Breadth, Depth, and Immersion for campaign players who purchase The Patron and the Patriot.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_10Day_Campaign (1)

FEATURES

  • Colony Class - Each colony now specializes in one area of the economy, altering local market conditions in a variety of ways.
  • Campaign Length - The campaign tournament can now last for 4, 7, or 10 games. Each length comes with its own balance tweaks and gameplay subtleties.
  • Wholesale Orders game mode - Not all colonies want you to build habitats and work modules for them. Now some instead want your company to supply a variety of wholesale goods.
  • Two new Characters - New CEOs with new gameplay perks.
  • Story-Driven Campaigns - Six interactive short stories about life on Mars, available to experience through playing the new characters on each different length of campaign.
  • New Staffing Perks & New Achievements

 

Breadth

New Colony Classes

Early colonies on Mars had to be self-sufficient. They consisted only of generic habitat modules, which consume life support resources (and drive up prices on these resources), and workplace modules, which consume certain industrial resources.

Rapid colonization of the planet opens up opportunities for colonies to specialize, creating an interdependent web of trading partners amid a more sophisticated Martian economy. Now in addition to generic Habitat and Workplace modules, many colonies have customized module types, which consume different resources than the default types (driving up prices on a different set of commodities) and even in some cases producing resources (which actually drives prices down on those commodities). Custom module types require different materials for construction, which affects games where the colony desires companies to build more domes for them.

We have added 17 classes of colonies in The Patron and the Patriot. These now provide a wide field of localized market conditions, which you as player must anticipate and manage in order to succeed. There are also gameplay tweaks associated with each colony class, including local price controls on commodities produced by the colony and special rules unique to each class that may affect cost or availability of gameplay options.

 

Campaign Length

Changing the number of games played in the tournament affects perk progression. Since perks are the skeleton that gives shape to the body of a campaign, the new campaign lengths offer new opportunities for player strategy.

The shorter campaign length provides fewer opportunities to gain perks before the finale, so starting capital is increased. Players (and their AI opponents!) have the opportunity to make multiple staffing hires before the first game is played, allowing for a "jump right in" strategic experience that pays dividends quickly. With fewer elimination rounds, the number of opponents is reduced and opponents per game is reduced as well. There are fewer levels from which to choose, though, which may require you to play some more difficult scenarios.

The longer campaign length grants more opportunities for progression, but starts with a lot less cash to spend on perks and does not let you make permanent hires for the first couple of weeks. You must decide whether to spend heavily on temporary perks in the early going or try to save toward bigger purchases later. Any income earned from the early games will carry on longer, so this is no easy choice to make. Every game in the early going will pit you against three of your rivals, making for busier and more difficult games. There is more opportunity to recover from a bad game, though, and still press on toward ultimate victory. Near the end of the tournament, you must face more formidable opponents, who themselves have accumulated a high amount of perk progression and pose more threat to you.

 

Adding Depth

Game Modes: Colony Build vs Wholesale Orders

In Colony Build mode, you know what you're up against: need lots of Aluminum to build habitat domes and at least one construction resource for building workplace modules. In The Patron and the Patriot, colony class may affect which modules are available to construct, which can vary the resources you will need to provide. (Penal colonies, for instance, use Carbon instead of Aluminum for constructing their Prison modules.) So even for Colony Build mode, your company will need to become more versatile.

Wholesale Orders mode offers a much more dynamic challenge. The colony may request any of the commodity types. You will need to invest less cash than it takes to construct domes in Colony Build mode, but your material investments will be greater. The size of the orders grows throughout the game, requiring an ever-steeper resource cost. Some order types may be fixed, where the colony will want ever-larger orders for the same commodity. Other orders may be dynamic, where a randomly-chosen resource type will be needed for each successive order filled. Even the number of columns that will be fixed or dynamic changes from one game to the next, requiring your strategy to adapt to the individual market conditions of each game played.

Greater depth of strategy will be needed to succeed in this new, more dynamic Martian economy.

New Characters

In his youth, Doctor Mikhail Nekrasov discovered transparent aluminum, the first clear metal suitable for use in construction. Today he is rich beyond measure, but Mikhail is slowly losing his battle with ALS. A crime committed against him lured him to Mars. Fate may be what keeps him there.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_Character_ColonyOrders (1)

Dr. Nekrasov holds the patent for Transparent Aluminum, which permits him to substitute aluminum for glass in construction. As an indie developer, he can construct any HQ type. His company's mining, steel-making, and geothermal capabilities are unmatched, but his specializations leave weakness in other areas.

Manuel Valencia was the brightest star in a young group of investors helping to rebuild the global economy. His firm, Icarus Investments, was responsible for establishing Santiago as the financial center of South America. A failed gamble on his biggest trade cost Icarus a quarter of its assets. Clients fled and the firm was forced to shut its doors. Seeking a fresh start, Manuel has accepted an offer from Paulo Rubini to join Seneca and come to Mars.

Manny maintains good relations with many of his former clients. Some are willing to bet on his rise from the ashes, allowing him to maintain a strong bond rating and pay only half the cost (compared to others) for financing his short term debts. Manny has set up a Core Sampling division, which provides him one Core Sample perk per level of his local Headquarters. He has no staffing specializations, instead maintaining a versatile footing, from which he relies on his Core Samples to turn the resource tide in his favor at each colony.

 

Increasing Immersion

Story-Driven Campaigns

Six short stories have been written about life on Mars during the era of colonial expansion and economic diversification. The new colony class environment serves as the backdrop for these stories, while a fleet of colony ships sent from Earth to Mars during the optimum travel window (when the planets are near each other) explains why there will be a flurry of intense competition over the new colonies, which will culminate at a final game played at the last colony founded by the fleet.

The stories are driven in part by the player's choices. Interactivity is indirect: you will not face forks in the road where you choose the direct outcome of a story. Instead, the subplots and details of each story will mold themselves around the games that you play: your level selections, opponents faced, staffing perks, and victory or defeat in your games. You will journey with your character through playing the games, immersing yourself in life on Mars as you apply your strategies and struggle to obtain victory.

Patron_and_the_Patriot_Pirates (1)

Play the new CEOs to experience the stories. Each CEO has one story tied to each of the three campaign lengths, so you will need to win each campaign length twice (once for each new CEO) to experience all six stories to completion.

Replays of a story may yield new details not previously experienced, as different subplots or sections of background information are triggered by different player choices and game outcomes.

 

About the Designer

Bob Thomas, designer of The Patron and the Patriot, worked previously with lead designer Soren Johnson on Sid Meier's Civilization IV and other projects. Bob specializes in matters of game balance and replayability and has a background in writing. This talent set was well matched to the task of enhancing the campaign experience for our players.

 

The home page is www.offworldgame.com.  The Offworld Trading Co. Steam page is: http://store.steampowered.com/app/271240/.

 

Let us know what you think.


DEV DIARY: Black Market

Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 By Zultar327

Continuing the look back through OTC’s development, today we’ll be focusing on the Black Market.

The Black Market is a very familiar mechanic to anyone who’s played OTC for more than a couple hours. This is the tool that player’s have to directly and immediately interact with their opponents, by blowing up their key structures, disabling large sections of their headquarters, or sweeping all of their resources out of the sky. That’s why it might be surprising to learn that the Black Market wasn’t not initially part of Offworld’s design at all.

In fact, the Black Market originally was created because one playtester commented that “It would be cool if I could sabotage the other players’ buildings.” And from that thought, the Black Market came alive. And now that the idea was had, the iteration began.

And iterations there were. Some items have admittedly stayed relatively stagnant. The EMP shuts down a large area of stuff. Bribing a claim gives you an extra claim. Others have changed in dramatic ways. Pirates (I hate those filthy bandits) have gone through at least half a dozen versions in playable releases, varying in function (stealing vs exploding), form (ships vs a giant cannon), availability (auctions only vs Black Market tray), efficacy (200 units vs 100 units stolen), and consistency (%chance to steal vs cooldown).

Yet other items have shifted in other ways, with the ever popular Power Surge being a key example. Power surges were one frustrating area of randomness for players, specifically the way that they interacted with Goon Squads could be annoying. A Power Surge is placed on a tile then “bounces” to another adjacent tile. This used to be a completely random bounce, and if the surge hit a Goon Squaded tile (a “bad bounce”) the surge would stop immediately and reveal the Goons. These days the surge will not run into a Goon Squad until it has no other choice, significantly reducing the randomness of a Power Surge.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, is a change to the Black Market itself rather than the items it contains. Previously the Black Market was a constant set of seven items (and even before that a set of six). There were plenty of ideas for Black Market items that could be added, but if they were just thrown in with the others the design space would simply become too crowded. So when additional, more complicated tools were added (hologram, spy) a system was implemented to select a random group of Black Market items for each match. This allowed for the new items to be added, and increased the variance of a game of OTC in a way that was manageable and interesting for the players.

There’s plenty more to say on the history of the Black Market, and if you’re interested in finding out more I encourage you to take a look at Soren’s own musings on the subject, available here: http://www.designer-notes.com/?p=1127.


DEV DIARY: Taking Stock

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 By Zultar327

For those who don’t know, Offworld Trading Company came to Early Access on Steam back in February 2015. Immediately developers and community started working together to make the game the best it could be. Part of this process was making sure the community always had a good idea of what was coming next to OTC. Ever since release almost 6 months ago, finding information about what’s on the horizon has become more difficult for our players. The primary goal of this diary will be to make sure players know what we have to tell them about what’s coming next to Offworld.

[[..]]

For today though, we’re going to start taking a look back at how we got where we are today. There are plenty of features that are now core to OTC that have either changed significantly since the Early Access launch, or simply didn’t exist at the time.

Likely the most impactful change to Offworld since its EA launch was to how stock itself was handled. This won’t be a comprehensive overview of how stock has evolved, but we’ll hit a few of the key moments in the process.

Players today will be quite familiar with how stock works, as you can’t finish a game without acquiring all your opponents shares. But for a basic recap, someone is purchased if all other players together acquire a majority of their stock, but the defending player may purchase their own stock, and if they have five the player can no longer be acquired by a majority. They must be completely purchased (and each stock owned at a doubled price). If the player is purchased with either of these methods, they become a “subsidiary” (an AI takes over for them and starts feeding money to the company’s owners based on number of stocks owned.

That doesn’t even cover everything that’s going on, and it’s already pretty complicated.

Things used to be a lot simpler. In fact, at the start of early access stock was very straightforward. Open stock on any player could be bought at market value. If no open stock was available on any given player, that player’s shares could be purchased in one block at double the cost, refunding anyone who owned stock in that player that stock’s value. This granted direct control of the HQ to the purchasing player, normally doubling a player’s potential the moment the first purchase was made.

As might be expected, this led to a combination of issues involving snowballing if someone got an easy purchase (or just got lucky in picking up that one last share), and standoffs in the late game where no one would buy anyone else out, knowing that granting their opponents a large pile of cash for their shares wasn’t worth the extra production.

So stock changed. There were a few iterations on stock through EA, with likely the biggest shifts being the arrival of the Destroy Buyout and Majority Buyout options.

Destroy Buyout changed the rules so that a purchased player was effectively deleted from the map and their purchaser was awarded additional claims, as well as priority on any tiles owned by the player they acquired.

Majority Buyout is likely pretty obvious, with this mode enabled only six shares were needed to knock someone out, rather than the ten required up to this point.

Together these were very drastic changes to how a game of OTC was won, but it turned out that both the middle and late stages of the game were improved by changing the formula. Suddenly in the mid game there was a severe risk of losing if you didn’t play with a bit of caution, and toward the end players wouldn’t snowball ahead of the competition with a purchase. It turns out it’s also a lot easier to simply expand your own empire by a few tiles rather than trying to manage multiple headquarters at once as you make acquisitions in the late game.

Together, Majority and Destroy Buyout evolved into the stock system as it exists today, a bit complicated, but certainly much improved from where we were a year and a half ago.


Ceres Initiative DLC

Posted on Monday, August 22, 2016 By Island Dog

Originally posted by Soren Johnson on the Mohawk Games blog.

 

Today, we released the Ceres Initiative DLC, which is a entirely new location to play Offworld, with new terrain and even a new resource tree.

The rule changes are the following:

  • Resources diminish over time (a High resource tile becomes Medium and then Low)
  • Uranium is a new resource (it’s a metal, like Iron and Aluminum, so it is produced by with the Metal Mine)
  • New building: Nuclear Plants, which converts Uranium and Water into Power
  • New terrain: Salts, which boosts Farm production by 50%
  • New terrain: Caves, which gives mines, quarries, and pumps access to resources in adjacent tiles
  • New patent: Liquid Batteries, which allows Solar Condensers to work at night
  • Water Ice can be found on all maps
  • Days are shorter (9 hours), so buildings turn on and off more frequently, and debt can accumulate faster
  • No Wind Turbines, Geothermal Plant, Dust Storms, or Superconductor
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