I started with OTC last March, now I'm back playing and I thought I'd offer some observations from a new/not-so-new perspective.
The game looks fantastic and the animations are on point. I read through the beta updates, checked the forums, played through the tutorial, then hit the skirmish. 3 AI, medium, random, standard.
Dat AI doe. "Improved AI" is a lol understatement. Much more difficult to pull out a win. I thought the tutorial felt light in the information presented and didn't scale to match the AI. Some mechanics had to be discovered before being addressed by the robot guide. I felt that it could be condensed with a basic outlay of building placement perks, overview of black market items by animations, and then off to an semi easy map with resource distribution to fit each HQ type.
The updates have definitely made each HQ more nuanced, with founding center stage and incredibly critical. The "insta-claim" mechanic can make or break you when resources are scarce vice the old way where it was a claims race. Not sure if I like it or not. No way to recover from a bad click, compared with the old cancel claim before the building landed. Losing 30% of your production capacity due to an inadvertent mistake with no way to correct is basically a game ender. I read about returning claims in the forum post by Blues, but it wasn't addressed in the tutorial, and have yet to figure it out.
The AI is so good (perhaps a little too good) at stomping and claiming resources that when one founds, you can find yourself in a lost cause 30 seconds into a game with no way to recover. I've seen resource distribution mentioned in the forums before and I'll echo it, not really wanting to beat a dead horse with feast or famine. IMO, making a resource scarce for a monopoly run should be in some way balanced a little better that a player who chooses to NOT take on debilitating debt can still found and have a fighting chance. I don't profess to know the answer... but that AI goes for the jugular every time. Makes for a damned steep learning curve, possibly too steep for brand new players.
I've also noted that the AI chooses robo close to 60% of the time (if not more), with several matches seeing all 3 AIs choose robo regardless of resource distribution. I presume that a skirmish -v- AI represents the (multiplayer) game in a vacuum where a true balance would be demonstrated. My assumption being that the AI will play with an optimum strategy to learn from. If the AI chooses a power robo expand in <20 seconds a disproportionate amount of time... it tells me that that specific strategy (HQ perks) could be considered OP. In my skirmishing, I've found that you don't take on ~35K for even a semi-optimal spot, the AI has you beat; and you know it. Or if you wait till say 0-5k debt... you're the last, and down by at least an upgrade. Thats fast. To have an AI that upgrades on par with, if not faster than, the very best players of the game like Cubit... That kind of beat down gets old. CEO level I would expect it, but Manager? I can eek out a win perhaps 1/7. I've never won a game that I hadn't massively upgraded production with the E-lab. It feels like you are forced to use secondary buildings to win.
Auctions. The AI seems to put on clown shoes from time to time. 36k for a mule on a resource rich map mid game? Most auctions end appropriately valued (claim 18-30k--sabotage 10-20k), but occasionally the AIs will not bid on an auction until I do. Then its off to the races. If none of the AIs show no interest in an auction down to 1 second on the timer, why would ALL AIs then get into a bidding war pushing it up to 30k+ once the human begins bidding? Its demonstrating contradictory behavior when no one bids, then I bid and get out at 14K and they keep going to 28-32k.
I don't know if this is a bug. Lets say I've bought 6 shares of myself and an AI has the other 4 (7/3 - 5/3/2). If I buy that player out, I'll get x of my shares -1. With the 1 available for purchase again. Its happened every time. Is there something I'm missing?
Campaign. Hella tough. I'll hit on resource generation here. If you MUST choose a CEO/HQ, even with low resources, there's got be some kind of minimum available for basic upgrade needs of the HQ you are locked into that cant be shanghaied by this demon of an AI. Through several attempts I found my campaign completely derailed by low aluminum or low iron being either stomped or unavailable due to found protection. Protection on the only patch of necessary upgrade resources sets you back so far that its neigh impossible to recover. And if you get unlucky with your scanning... the week is lost before it began. One can't continually buy into an upgrade and expect to progress successfully. Either that... or I suck at campaign mode. Probably the latter.
Found protection countdown timer on all the resource tiles looks cluttered, its distracting, and makes it difficult to tell the difference between low and medium (especially aluminum) tiles. Perhaps something like a thick outline, 80% transparent, greyish ghost like mat that covers the footprint of protection with one bigger number bottom-centered counting down would be better and clean up the look. Resource coloration versus background has proven problematic for me. Given that initial founding is THAT important to the game now, debt timer is fast... I think that the less you have players say to themselves "Doh! Dammit... didn't see that" the happier they will be.
Couple things in the campaign that I've noticed. When hovering over geothermal plant in the labor screen, it says +1.0 to power. Geos are +2, yes? When, purchasing habitats, labs, whatever... the base cost does not display the zeros following the comma. On the last Sol, if you are not in first place... buyout certificate? Despite the read through that says you are not buying other corps? If I choose to exit the campaign before the follow-on option screen (sell engineer/acquire goon) the splash will still pop up and I have to make a selection and then click exit again.
Pleasure domes... kind of a mystery to me now with placement versus return. I've seen them set at HQs make more than ones placed near the colony. Speaking of- great addition to the colony nodes that give bonuses. Forces a player to make a simple, but hard decision. All star move.
I like the summary spreadsheet at the end of the game, but some kind of background for the numbers to stand on would help immensely. If you've just finished on an ice/dry ice map, one can hardly make anything out.
My final point is about off-world prices. I'll bet dollars to pesos giving you 3-1 that food,fuel, or oxygen has a 90% chance of having the highest price for shipping. Making water THE resource for late game. Its been this way since I first started playing. But why don't the offworld market prices react to the shipments? 3 players repeatedly launching food should have a noticeable effect on the price. I understand that there must be a way to end the game with evenly matched players. However, I think that an offworld market price that reacts to shipments when the market is getting flooded would make the late game more interesting for players to have to react to. I dont know if this would make nanotech OP; but it would force players (who realize by HQ4 that the game will go deep into the paint) to make some decisions about claim placement and usage.
Thanks for a great original experience with this game. Looking forward to hammering some release day noobs.