In a message to its community, Mohawk Games have announced that their upcoming real time strategy/business simulation/very exciting-looking title ‘Offworld Trading Company’ will be making its way to Steam’s Early Access program, after having been in the hands of fans for some time through Mohawk’s own “Founder’s Program”, in which the earliest of adopters (from when the game was less of an actual game and more of an idea) got some hands-on time with the game, helping Mohawk improve the game. Offworld Trading Company is being published by Stardock.
In an attempt to explain the game, Soren Johnson (the lead of the small studio, who has previously worked at Firaxis, coding the entire AI for Civilization 3, and acting as Lead Designer on Civilization 4) had this to say:
Although I have worked on Offworld Trading Company for over a year now, I still struggle to know how to first describe the game. It’s a game about making money. It’s a game about colonizing Mars. It’s a real-time strategy game, but you don’t control units or directly attack other players. It feels like a board game but one which could never exist outside of a computer. Ultimately, it’s all of these things and yet something else too: a strategy game full of simple and familiar elements that are combined in a way never before tried.
What makes Offworld special is that each playthrough is entirely unique. The randomly-generated terrain and resources ensure that each map is a new game board that rewards certain play styles. Further, the best players will adapt to how their opponents play:
Perhaps everyone else builds powerful Geothermal Plants, ensuring that the power market will always be over-supplied? Just skip power entirely and jump ahead into more lucrative resources like chemicals and glass.
Spot a market inefficiency, such as the price of water edging above the price of food? Turn off your farms, start selling the excess water instead, buy food directly at the lower price, and pocket the difference.
Someone claims the only remaining source of aluminum on the map? You can patent Slant Drilling and build a mine on an adjacent tile, trigger a fake aluminum surplus to buy some up when the price drops, or just hire pirates to steal from the blimps on their way to the player’s headquarters.
Soren Johnson had this to say about the Early Access release, and the usefulness of the program itself:
I was very excited when I first learned about Steam’s Early Access program because it provides the infrastructure for making games the way I believe they should be made, by connecting developers and players as early as possible. I speak from experience; with Civilization 3, we had no player feedback outside of Firaxis and our publisher’s testing department, which led to some poorly-tuned mechanics and simply bad ideas in the initial release. Afterwards, I spent months and months digging through the forums, developing direct contact with the game’s most outspoken critics, and reworking the core design through a series of major patches. Eventually, we were happy with the final product, but I wish we had that feedback beforewe released the game instead of afterwards. Determined to fix that problem for Civ 4, we launch a private testing program by inviting notable members of the Civ community to start playing the game over a year and a half before release. Our ability to act early on the feedback these players provided was the primary reason that Civ 4 received universal acclaim upon release.
Thus, Early Access is a tremendous tool for small developers like Mohawk who want to learn more about their games without worrying about the infrastructure, maintenance, or distribution required to execute a widespread public beta program. To be clear, we are not launching Offworld on Early Access for financial reasons; we have enough money already to fund us through our planned release date early next year. We are going to Early Access because we are serious about making the best strategy game of the year, and the only way to do so is to find out what is wrong with our gameright now when there is still time to do something about it.
Offworld Trading Company will be releasing on Steam Early Access on the 12th of February for everyone to check out, and help affect the process of development. You can also learn more about Offworld Trading Company on the official website.