Feedback, Comments praise and whatever. Apologies for the length and rambling.
So I’ve been playing Offworld Trading Company for over a year now. It’s hard to believe its already been that long. First things first, the developers, Soren Johnson et al. have done a fantastic job creating and improving the game that has held my interest for over a year. I’m thrilled to have been part of the feedback process and look forward to continuing to help going forward. Thanks Mohawk Games!
The game has improved drastically over time since the game was first released to Founders. The Mars terrain and building art work and animation is looking great. The UI has improved significantly, although there is definitely room for improvement. I eagerly await the release of new UI that has been mentioned a few times. The presentation of information has become substantially clearer over time, however due to the massive amount of information; it’s not always the clearest.
Most importantly, the game is fun. It’s been fun from the very first Founders Prototype, and I look forward to getting some more matches in.
Competitive Play – Competitive play has for the most part, been an awful lot of fun. I really enjoyed the 1v1 tournaments that Leyla hosted. The level of play was very good for those and many of the matches were very close. The matches were fun to both play and watch largely because of efforts.
That said, the current implementation of “competitive play” leaves an awful lot to be desired, partially attributable to the low player base, partially due to the format and rule sets. I am under the impression that a more robust Multiplayer system is in the works and that the current set-up is a placeholder. The multiplayer interface really needs to get added for the game to take a step forward at this point. Until it does, players are stuck with the current system.
Not to dwell too long on things that are known and under improvement or can't be controlled and that I haven’t used too frequently, the quick match system takes too long to find matches, at least when I’m trying to play. One Friday I spent far more time waiting (and cleaning my house) than actually playing the matches. Then the matches haven’t really been overly fair. Oh well, that would improve with more play and players.
The 1v1 rule set leaves a lot to be desired from a competitive standpoint. I love competitive play, and have a background starcraft and poker and chess (nothing super high level though).
Random events should be limited to the pre-founding stage: Map generation, Black market items, etc. From there, the randomness should stop, and it should left be up to the player’s skill to determine the outcome. Most of the action happens in short bursts upon increasing colony size, and there is no way to foresee coming randomness. As such, the players are generally forced to eat the consequences of the randomness for better or for worse, since it’s not really practical to transition. Switching buildings costs resources and often a player doesn’t have the funds to even make that transition, or worse, the player doesn’t have the claims to even make that transition. For example, it is not really practical switch from wind to solar or vice versa because it both costs resources and the map tiles are rarely suitable to both. If one player built solar, and the other went wind, the benefits are doubled. Not good as it has a significant impact on the players’ cash flows. Even “adapting” in such a situation is a lost cause as the other player benefits immediately. As such, the random events end up just being a detriment or benefit to the players, depending on where they stand. If the weather events need to stay, there should at least be a forecast showing the probability of either solar flares or dust storms a few hours/days out. We can do both now and we’ve never sent a human to mars.
Auctions are ok, although aggravating at times. Rushing a patent and having it get auctioned off right when you are about to obtain it can cause serious problems. Ideally, I’d like to see patent auctions removed from the choices since they have such an impact. Fortunately, both players at least get the option to bid and win the auctions and can react mostly equally to the auction.
Scanning Phase – See below. Extremely long and rehashing.
I’d also like to see the game start at midnight. There are several buildings (solar, food, condensers) that rely on sunlight, and it would be a nice improvement if the game started at night, to allow for the later founding players (delay in founding, plus build times) to be able to have all, or at least, most of the day of production on those buildings.
Since I haven’t played too many games under the 1v1quickmatch system, I don’t remember all the settings exactly. So I’ll leave that feedback as it is. I am happy that competitive matchmaking is coming along, I do think that the fair competitive aspects needs to be nailed down sooner than later and that these issues should be addressed.
The black market needs some work. The added options were nice. The decision for beta 5 remain to be seen. I dislike the claims on the black market, more so in larger FFA’s than in 1v1’s since the cost is cheaper. In nearly ever ffa with 6+ players, the first 4 or 5 black market items go immediately to purchase claims. This suggests something is wrong with the claim value and possibly the claim limit at the start. 1 claim increases the current claims by 25-33% as well as the final claim maximum. I suspect just granting players 1 extra claim at the start (or when the last player founds or after X time to prevent the 1st founder from claiming everything) and removing the black market claims would improve black market dynamics. This would force more player interaction in the early part of the game, since you would run into situations such as: player 1 uses adrenaline boost. Player 2 can then use his own AB at higher cost, or EMP/power surge the boosted buildings. In my opinion, this is more interesting as player interaction starts sooner. Games without claims seem to have gone better.
Overall, I get the impression that the resource pricing is in a decent state, at least for FFA’s. Perhaps blue can expound on the 1v1 prices J There are several variable starting strategies available. I think it could be improved. I’d like going water/food/o2+fuel to be viable options to get started along with going power and the steel/alum openings to allow for even more variability, but I don’t think its quite there yet. The resource prices don’t quite support selling production entirely to buy everything necessary to upgrade (steel + alum), so you run into a bind. Part of this is compounded by the next level buildings requiring those same materials to build, so even if you can pull off the materials to upgrade, you then get stuck since you have to also buy more steel to build most buildings.
Additionally, I have a bit of a problem with power at the moment. I think it is more related to the consumption of certain buildings than the resource elasticity. The steel factory is the 1st one I want to address. As much as I hate “buffing” steel at the start and incentivizing building steel even more, I believe that the current -.3 power/steel is a too high. In typical games, it doesn’t take long for power to spike high and the scientific colonies feed the power producers while racking up large debt. I like the power robot option, but assuming a normal power price of 40, that’s still a $12 power conversion cost for 1 steel. That seems awfully high in my mind, and the power consumption on steel should be dropped. This would also help narrow the gap on extremely good scavenger spawns, since they both don’t consume much power until producing fuel or glass, and 2x3high or better carbon + high aluminum lends itself directly to rapid upgrading and throwing down geothermal plants.
The other one is dry ice condensers which are .4 power also have the same problem. Even though they only work during the day and have a huge output, they aren’t that viable at that power cost. You’re going to rack up huge debt early if you make them on top of the added risk to sabotage, which makes an alternative opening in certain situations non-viable.
The developers have been communicative for the most part. However, I would like to see a development manifesto on what the future plans are and where the game is going. I don’t expect an exact timeline or significant detail, but another game developer did this through the alpha/beta process by listing every single feature that was intended to be added and then having it check off or not and it was very useful to gauge how things were going as well as point new players to since it can be burdensome to catch up on everything that has been posted. It would be nice to have somewhere to point that things are intended than “oh I saw X and Y posted by one of the devs somewhere” Several things in my post allude to vague things that are supposedly in development although its been a while since I've heard or read as such.
Anyway, I think the game is fantastic, tons of fun, and on the right track, and unfortunately I’m posting this right after a patch hits. If I come up with anything additional while playing Ill add to this. Thanks for reading.
* Scanning. I know this has been said, but I want to cover it again. The scanning phase needs to be dropped for competitive play. In 1v1 play, the map is small and the resources tend to be limited. Often there are only a couple tiles with a resource scattered around the map. The reveal map mode is much preferable as it gives both the players an equal (loading times not-withstanding) opportunity to read and assess the map, and determine how much founding location is worth, through both distances to preferred resources and other factors. It leaves the skill in the hands of the players instead of turning founding into a guessing game
The problem with the scanning phase is that, despite being familiar with the tendencies of each of the map types, it’s still very easy to miss the resource locations by a tile. When there are say, 3 aluminum tiles on the map, it’s easy to scan a huge majority of the map, and still not find them. The resource indicators are nice, but there are still gaps under the fog of war. Even knowing that certain maps have a disposition for the resources to found along the edges and corner, it’s easy to miss the resources. On 1v1, the resources are scarce, so finding them to make an informed decision is luck based, and less a determination of value. The scanning phase ends up being just an annoyance and a hindrance to uncover information to make decisions. The elation from finding a good spot is unlikely due to no incentive to found in a bad spot. Then the subsequent map reveal generally only results in irritation over resources being discovered in odd places that had known would have resulted in a different decision. Making decisions based on bad information ends up being more frustrating than anything.
The contrary argument is that you can scan the entire map and only make a decision afterwards, and that the founding during scanning is a risk based decision with less risk the closer to complete information as possible, but I’m not a fan due to the lack of satisfaction and high amount of dissatisfaction from the process.
The problem relates to the following issue. In a 1v1 there are either 1 viable founding location, 2 viable founding locations or multiple.
Assume 1 location: Anyone who has played long enough knows what kind of start is viable or not. If there’s 1 viable location, which is always a possibility, you have to grab it and take it, otherwise you lose automatically. Going through the scanning phase has no cost to taking that location. Whoever finds it first wins. Having only 1 viable starting location is terrible for competitive play because there’s nothing interesting about the situation, either playing or watching.
Therefore, there always needs to be 2+ viable starting locations for a 1v1 match, at which point, scanning mostly becomes moot because both players will find something to work with eventually. The variation comes into the approximate value between 2 starting locations. However, due to scanning phase, the selection of the location is based more on luck finding the first location or spending time to find the second location and see if it’s marginally better or not. Each player has a value preference and takes the first location depending on if it meets minimum criteria or not. I don’t find the dynamic that interesting, since it’s an either take the spot if it meet certain criteria or find the other.
The beauty of the reveal map mode is that the player that ends up in the better location incurs some additional cost to offset the added value of that location. This automatically addresses the imbalance in starting locations because both players have the option to effectively bid on the premium spot by absorbing debt for the difference. An example is that I much prefer scientific to scavenger, so I will gladly accept extra debt to play the scientific location over scavenger location. I find this interaction superior since I tend to scan the map, decide my top 2/3 locations and then hover over a start location while hoping I get it at the right price.