My issue with this is that more times than not SOMETHING in the offworld is highly priced thus making offworlds important every game no matter what. You have all those resources available that can be viable and there's bound to be something you can launch off for big profits. The extra claims combined with the easily affordable offworlds is too much to overcome. The map isn't always kind to founding scavenger to keep expansive in check. The game shouldn't be designed around someone having to black market someone to keep them honest.
Just to recap for the sake of discussion expansive gets:
- cheaper offworld construction (arguably the strongest "special building" right now)
- the ability to take in more resources initially by founding over top a huge area of something
- faster blimps (or trucks or spaceships or whatever you'd like to call them!) for quicker access to remote resources
- faster access to the best resources on the map (both because of the faster claim movement and the sheer number of claims they have)
At this point you have to assume offworlds are going to be good. If you're wrong and they're terrible expansive HQ's still have enough advantages in sheer amount of territory to make up the difference and still win. It's an even greater advantage if they found last and buy cheap claims on the BM. More claims = more triangles = more efficiency.
In the comparison of hacker array vs offworlds (arguably the 2 strongest special buildings right now imo) offworlds are stronger hands down. Hacker arrays can easily be defeated via spy to find out what they're hacking. A spy will only let you know where the offworld is but you can't capitalize on the knowledge unless you shut it down. As long as expansive has an advantage in setting up offworlds it will continue to be dominant over other HQ's.
Something should be highly priced offworld so that offworlds are consistantly a viable option. Offworlds are not the problem. I think we have hit a design disagreement here, I want every special building to be viable. It makes sense that certain things can be more or less viable depending on the situation, and we both want some variation in what people can consider viable, but there's 2 ways to solve this issue. Either make the most viable option less viable, nerfing it, or making the lesser viable options more viable, buffing them. If you nerf something, you slow down the game. If you buff somethign, you either keep the speed the same or speed it up. This game does not want slowing down again. I also disaree with your belief that the game shouldn't be designed around the black maret. It always has been, and it's something that shoudl be designed around. If you don't design around complex features within the game that only higher level players use, then your balancing for the lesser players, and not the stronger players. The game shouldn't get more imbalanced the better you get, it should get mroe balanced.
Offworlds are a FOO strategy, that means they're easy to do and difficult to beat. All good games inherantly have a FOO strategy, such as call of duty having the grenade launcher, or Starcraft having the 4 gate. FOO strategies allow newer players to not get hopelessly pumelled into the ground by more experienced ones, raising the fun factor for everyone. You remove the FOO strategy, you remove the new blood. That does nto mean FOO strategies are never too powerful, but they do require more effort in the part of the opponent to counter than a normal strategy. Even if you have to put in more effort, in theory a FOO strategy can still be beaten everytime because you know exactly how to beat it. The problem is we cannot always coutner this FOO strategy anymore, even though we used to.
Stop thinking about just beta 5 and think about all the patches that have ever existed, take design idea's and knowledge we've learned from them all, and apply that knowledge to solve the problem. Identify where it went wrong. Here's where it went wrong: Engineering labs have been recently nerfed, and that nerf lifted a veil, showing us that this game does not ahve as solid foudnatiosn as we originalyl thought. The new black market has erroded a ton of this foundation, and it needs fixing. I still believe the black market needs to have a balance, a certain amount of offensive, defensive and a few wild cards. We do not currently have that consistency.
Think as well, what else changed. In beta 4, the black market was bugged. Power surge, EMP, nanovirus and adrenaline boost were always available. This improved consistency, improved our solid foundations. We fix that, and suddenly we haven't got ways of dealing with this FOO strategy anymore. We have no more counter-play.
Finally, let's look at a third thing changed, scientific got their research times put to normal speed. That was in resonse to beta 4's over-powered engineering labs, but now that they're nerfed scientific have a lot of trouble surviving with the introduction of pirates, magnetic storms and their late-game strategy of out-teching does not always work anymore. It still can work, I beat Zultar with it today, but it's mcuh harder to do. All of these issues errode the foundation of the game, and some of them at least need to be put back. Fixing the problem by applying a band-aid solution of nerfing the offworlds will not fix the foundations, it will just make the game worse in general, especially if mohawk decide to add even more new things.