I've been looking at Offworld Trading Company for a while since I heard that it was based on Mule which was one of my favourite childhood games. However I wanted to have a true multi-player experience so with my birthday coming up I decided to organise a good old fashioned LAN party. I made all my friends get a copy of OTC a couple of weeks before the big day, we all trained up and set aside a whole day to play.
Here are my impressions and experiences from the lead up and the event itself.
Firstly the game is great, absolutely fantastic. We found it to be very dynamic with no game being the same. Over the course of the day no one strategy won out, everybody involved got a win under their belt and every faction also got a win. The gameplay had a great feel of a contemplative RTS that doesn't rely on reflexes (we're not getting any younger) and a fast paced board game.
My friends and I are seasoned gamers however we found the initial learning curve quite steep especially because the game does a few things that go against established conventions of the RTS genre. For example I found the first thing people wanted to do is build, build, build.. what no more claims?!?! How do I get more?
I think the tutorial needs to not only to teach players how to play but to explain the new mechanics, more like a guided experience with a lot of popup tips.
This is a claim.
But be warned - you can only build with a claim and have a limited amount so make wise choices!
Looks like you need to start gathering resources. Place an iron mine.
Now you have iron you need to make it into steel. Place a steel mill.
Looks like you've run out of claims. Upgrade to get more.
Wow, you're doing great! Now continue playing to finish the level.
I think that kind of tutorial will go a long way to acclimatising new players with the nuances of this unique experience.
During play we found that it would have been helpful for certain shortcuts to be made more readily accessible, namely the placing of an empty claim and the selling of all goods you own. Once these shortcuts were made known to the players we used them constantly, however there is no in game representation of these functions. I would suggest that both of these functions have a graphic counterpart and the tooltip for said element have the shortcut described.
For placing a empty claim I would suggest putting a button under the claim counter similar to where the pay debt button which appears when you have debt. This button would have a tool tip highlighting the C shortcut.
Similarly I would put a “Sell All” button at the bottom of the UI. Perhaps next to the upgrade button, again with the tooltip highlighting the shortcut.
I found that the Pirate Auction description was quite vague and couldn't find anywhere else in the game that described how the pirates exactly work. I suggest adding more detail to the auction text.
The colours for players are quite clear however when different players buildings are placed close to each other the distinction becomes less obvious. At one point during the day another player and I both had expansive colonies and we happen to place right next to each other. We were red and orange and the bases quickly turned into a real cluster dance.
I would suggest that, like in many RTS games, the models for buildings are the same but the colouring of the buildings are different for each player, matching their colour. For example a red player's factory would have a red roof while a blue player's factory would have a blue roof. Another example would be the centre square of the electronic factory could change colour based on the player colour.
Although place holder audio in present throughout the whole game and is likely to change for the final build, I would like to see the phrases “Pirates! I hate those filthy bandits” and “Offworld shipment launched, look at all the money!” kept in the game. These I feel are now part of the games identity and should be in the final game (as well as on t-shirts).
It would nice to have the final cheque value of being bought out to be linked to your final stock price. A difference in that figure gives more trash talking opportunities.
Overall I really enjoy playing Offworld Trading Company. I feel that the game is genre defining and look forward to playing the final build.
Thanks and keep up the great work and
“Get your assets to mars” (that should be a t-shirt too )