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"There Isn't Really A Game Quite Like It," Civ 4 Designer Says About His Next Title

Soren Johnson and Mohawk Games release first gameplay trailer for Offworld Trading Company, and reveal plans to launch on Steam Early Access next month.

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Civilization IV designer Soren Johnson and his new studio, Mohawk Games, on Wednesday released the first gameplay trailer for Offworld Trading Company, their new "economic RTS" for PC.

In addition, the developer revealed plans to launch the game through Steam Early Access on February 12 for $40. Offworld Trading Company already saw a limited beta testing phase through its Founders Program, but Mohawk is aiming to welcome many more players on Steam.

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The Early Access version of Offworld Trading Company lets players compete head-to-head or in free-for-all matches. You can also try out the game's single-player campaign.

Haven't heard of Offworld Trading Company? Johnson and Mohawk are calling it an "economic RTS" because it doesn't really fit into other, traditional molds of the genre. "There isn't really a game quite like it," Offworld told GameSpot in a recent interview.

Offworld, set on Mars, is described as "economic" because, instead of offering just two or three resources like you might find in other RTS titles, it has more than a dozen. In addition, there are no units--only buildings that transform resources of one type into those of another.

At the heart of Offworld is its player-driven, free-market economy. Players can buy and sell resources and materials at their own discretion; but only the most cunning--and potentially cutthroat--capitalists will claim victory by claiming all stock to end a match.

Offworld's player-driven economy is the game's main differentiating factor against other RTS games such as Starcraft, guaranteeing that every match is unique and boosting its replayability factor..

"You don't build units to go attack the other player," Johnson explains. "Instead, you claim resources and choose different types of buildings, and buy or sell stuff on the open market. And you might sabotage other players, but the ultimate goal of the game is to buy them out legitimately through the stock market."

"There isn't really a game quite like it" -- Johnson

For these reasons, Offworld will be highly replayable, Johnson contends. Whereas games like Starcraft have pre-set maps, and victory often comes down to pure execution, Offworld matches will reward players for being flexible and making an array of strategic decisions.

"There is this aspect that there's never one perfect strategy because the game sort of balances itself," he said. "It's impossible for there ever to be a set strategy. If you do X, Y, and Z, and you execute it perfectly, you're going to win the game. That's just not possible in Offworld. The only way to win is by adapting to the market and what other people are doing."

Steam Early Access has drawn some level of controversy regarding the level of completeness of titles published through the service. While Johnson freely admits that Offworld is an unfinished product, he says the gameplay itself is pretty much finished, or, at least by his own definition it's finished.

"I'd say the gameplay is 100 percent complete--only in the sense that there isn't something that I have yet to implement; that I want to implement," he said. "It will become less than 100 percent complete once I see how people play the game. And what is wrong with it and what assumptions I made that didn't work out. But it's impossible to know that until you release a game, which is why Early Access is so cool."

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Offworld will support single-player and multiplayer at launch on Steam Early Access, but a matchmaking service and leagues are coming later. The game will be published by Stardock, which is building its own service that will be used to run the multiplayer component of Offworld and other Stardock games, Johnson said.

In terms of graphics, Johnson explained that only four of the game's total 20 buildings have final art right now. "There's a lot of stuff that has not been done yet," he said. In the sound department, what you'll hear in the game is mostly only prototype sound, Johnson explained, going on to say that there also won't be music in the Steam Early Access version. That's coming later.

"To me, this [releasing on Early Access] is part of the process; finding out what's wrong with your game," Johnson said.

Overall, Johnson said his hope for Offworld's release on Steam Early Access is that the player-base jumps "by an order of magnitude" so that he's able to get meaningful feedback to fix and tweak the game ahead of its final, full release.

Finally, I asked Johnson if he thought Offworld had any eSports potential. While he said he's excited about the possibility, he made it clear that it's not something Mohawk Games has any immediate plans for.

"Well, I hope so. It's a great, competitive game; it doesn't take too long so I think it could fit that format well," Johnson said about Offworld's eSports possibilities. "It's something I sort of daydream about more than I plan for because I want to make sure that we get the core game right as opposed to planning too far ahead. I'd love to see really high level, competitive play for the game."

You can buy Offworld Trading Company today through Stardock's website for the limited-time price of $36. Going forward, Johnson and Mohawk Games plan to live-stream playtests and engage with the community through the developer's Twitch channel every Thursday at 12 Noon Pacific.

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