Introducing Offworld Trading Company

UPDATE 01/28/2015: Offworld Trading Company has been revealed! Check out the official website for screenshots, video, and tons of details.

For a game about corporations and colonization, Offworld Trading Company has always been a very personal game for me, a game I have wanted to make since before joining the industry. I am most drawn to games that make me think and adapt and change; Offworld does that better than any game I have ever played.

We have called Offworld Trading Company an “economic RTS” – what do we mean by that? First of all, Offworld fits the format of a classic real-time strategy game like StarCraft or Age of Empires II, meaning that the game supports up to 8 players, can be played in less than an hour, and is intensely competitive. Offworld is economic because, instead of the two or three resources found in a traditional RTS, our game has thirteen different types. Indeed, the game has no units to fight with at all, only buildings that turn resources of one type into those of another.

In Offworld, the player’s most important weapon is money, not guns.

The setting is Mars, and each player controls a corporation trying to claim, develop, and exploit its own bit of alien soil. The game starts with an exploration phase, during which players decide where to found their colonies based on nearby resources and buildable plots of land. Next, players use their limited number of claims to start extracting these resources – maybe an ice condenser right here to get water, or maybe a metal mine over there for iron? Extra claims can be used to create factories that turn these base resources into something more valuable. A hydrolysis farm could turn water into food while an electrolysis reactor will split water into oxygen and fuel. Most importantly, players only start with a few claims, meaning that they can’t produce everything.

Instead, every resource can be bought or sold on the open market, with prices fluctuating according to what the players do. If everyone decides not to build farms and just buy food, the price will go up. Instead, if they all sell, the price will go down. Thus, the key to success is predicting which resources will go up in price and which ones will go down. Buy low, sell high, and do it first.

What makes Offworld special is that each game is unique. Random maps create a different combination of resources each time, meaning the market will change naturally to reflect this unique distribution. What happens when a map has very little water? Or when iron is everywhere? Unlike RTS games with well-known build orders that eventually become rote, Offworld has no “best” resource. If the community thinks that oxygen is the most lucrative resource, then these players will all flood the market, driving the price down, and the winner will be busy producing something else.

Offworld Trading Company contains much, much more – auctions, espionage, sabotage, patents, stocks, even pirates – but the core of the game is how this free market system coupled with random maps creates a game that never gets old. We’ve been playing Offworld internally for months and months now, and it continually surprises us. We want to get the game into your hands as soon as possible, so we will share the roadmap for turning our prototype into a polished final product.

Today, we launch our website and begin taking pre-orders. Everyone who buys the Elite Edition pre-order will get access to our playable prototype this Fall. We are excited to share Offworld with our community so that we can start to learn from you. The game still has plenty of room to grow – an economic RTS is a great fit for a dynamic campaign, for example – and we don’t want to grow it in a vacuum. Offworld Trading Company is a unique game, and its story starts now.

Also, hexes.