My Favorite Week: 2015 Edition

Next week is GDC, and it’s going to be my craziest one yet, which is saying something. I’m doing a bunch of interviews about the release of Offworld. I’ll be trying to catch up with all the people in the industry I only get to see once a year. I’m going to be doing five new Designer Notes podcasts, with Bruce Shelley, Chris Avellone, Jamie Cheng, Nels Anderson, and George Fan. Finally, I am on a panel late Thursday afternoon on Early Access games, with which I now have direct experience. Hope to see you all there!

A Thousand Voices: Open Game Development

Soren Johnson  |  Founder, Mohawk Games
Chris Avellone  |  Creative Director, Obsidian Entertainment
Jamie Cheng  |  Founder, Kei Entertainment
Adrian Goya  |  Co-Founder, Squad
Colin Campbell  |  Senior Reporter, Polygon
Location:  Room 306, South Hall
Date:  Thursday, March 5
Time:  5:30pm – 6:30pm
Format: Session
Track: Programming

Description

With the advent of Kickstarter and Early Access, many teams are now developing their games in the open, providing beta, alpha, and even prototype builds to any player willing to buy in early. In this panel, four game developers who have direct experience with open development will share their experiences with this method.How often should the players be updated to the current version? How best to communicate changes and new features to players? How does the team filter the waves of online feedback? What happens when players express displeasure over a change? How important is it to remind players about what is still missing from the game? How do the project leads ensure that feedback from the players is heard and valued while making sure that the developers can still do their jobs? Once a game has been publicly available for so long, how to ensure that the actual release is still an important event?

Takeaway

Open development is a powerful tool for making better games, by breaking teams out of the feedback vacuum that leads to wasted time and misguided features. Developers don’t have to release games while holding their breath anymore.

Intended Audience

Anyone interested in how open development could improve their own games would benefit from the hard-won experience of these four panelists.

Today’s the Day!

Today, Offworld Trading Company launches on Steam Early Access! You can buy the game now at http://store.steampowered.com/app/271240. If you want to take a look at the game, we posted a number of videos on our YouTube channel, and I’ve embedded a single-player game below with my commentary.

Also, if you’d like to hear my thoughts on the game’s design, listen to these podcasts from the last month:

Podcast: Henrik Fahraeus (with Jon Shafer)

In this episode, Soren interviews Henrik Fahraeus, who is a Game Director at Paradox Interactive, where he has worked on the Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron series. Also sitting in on the interview is Jon Shafer, lead designer of Civilization 5 and currently at work on his independent strategy game At the Gates. They discuss whether the Civ and EU games live in alternate dimension, whether provinces are better than hexes, and why it’s bad to have too many sons.

Games Discussed: Lords of Midnight, Seven Cities of Gold, Europa Universalis series, Hearts of Iron series, Crusader Kings series, Civilization series

idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/henrik-fahraeus

 

This Game Kills Fascists

Last night, Frank Lantz posted “Parley”, in which he attempted to clarify, defend, and rework a previously highly-criticized post on Gamasutra, which in turn attempted to clarify, defend, and rework a previously highly-criticized post on TwitLonger. In other words, Frank is is stuck in a cycle that, judging from the first two comment on his post, is not going to end anytime soon.

Reading “Parley” hurt, for a few reasons. First, I think very highly of Frank and his work (indeed, I did a podcast interview with him just last month), so it is tough watching him deal with the anger and heat that his posts generated, which in his words, “made me flinch at how much offense I had caused.” Second, I am very sympathetic to almost everything Frank wrote, including his oft-repeated line that “Everywhere *we* look we see pretend worlds and childish make-believe, imaginary dragons, badly written dialogue and unskippable cutscenes in which angry mannequins gesture awkwardly at each other.” Indeed, I wrote Game Developer articles with titles like “Theme is Not Meaning” and “Should Games Have Stories?” so it’s not very hard to figure out where to place me within the tired and undead narrative-vs-mechanics debate. Finally, it’s very clear that Frank’s pieces are, at their core, an attempt to take back the value of games-as-systems from the group-that-will-not-be-named (or, to use Frank’s words, “philistines”) who like to use it as a blunt instrument:

I don’t want my ideas to provide cover or support to ignorance and aesthetic & cultural conservatism, and I don’t want to be associated with anti-progressive ideas.

I can feel Frank’s frustration that he is arguing with the people with whom he agrees while he is ignored by the people with whom he disagrees.

And yet…

There is a Miguel Sicart quote in Frank’s piece which jumps out and slaps me in the face:

For proceduralists, games have meanings that are prior to the act of playing the game, and somewhat determine the meaning of the game; there is an essence to any game, and that essence is to be found in the rules. In words of The Dialectic of Enlightenment: “For enlightenment is as totalitarian as any system […] for enlightenment the process is always decided from the start” (Adorno and Horkheimer, 2010, p. 24). Much like Enlightenment, then, proceduralism is a determinist, perhaps even totalitarian approach to play; an approach that defines the action prior to its existence, and denies the importance of anything that was not determined before the act of play, in the system design of the game. [source]

I feel these words in my bones because I live them every day as a designer. In games, the worlds player inhabit are, by definition, limited, arbitrary, and artificial. The rules become the air the players breath, the water they drink, and the food they eat. For example, the brilliant Papers Please! created player empathy for an immigration officer – an immigration officer working for an oppressive, dystopian government, no less – by putting morally gray choices within the context of the character’s need to just do his job so that his family can eat and just stay warm.

I have always found the endless public debate on the theoretical dangers of video game violence to be endlessly bemusing because it misses the true danger of video games by a mile. Video game are dangerous, but not because they might inspire players to imitate the well-armed protagonists in absurd, fictional situations. Saying that what makes video games dangerous is that they might make the player violent is a bit like saying that what makes Mein Kampf dangerous is that the reader might write a terrible autobiography. A game’s ruleset is dangerous because, in Sicart’s words, it “defines the action prior to its existence, and denies the importance of anything that was not determined before the act of play, in the system design of the game.”

In other words, games make us all fascists and communists; anarchists and tycoons; kleptocrats and ascetics, so we better hope that games are not as powerful as we once dreamed they might be.

And yet…

What makes our totalitarian game rules so slippery is that often the dynamics that emerge from these rules are actually at odds with the beliefs of their creators. For example, Will Wright, an atheist, began making Spore as a game about evolution but somehow eventually shipped a game about intelligent design. Monopoly started life as The Landlord’s Game, a board game meant to teach about the evils of capitalist landlords, who unfortunately ended up being a lot of fun to play. In his 2014 GDC talk on The Novelist, Kent Hudson described a poignant moment of crisis in the game’s development when he realized that the game’s rules had evolved into something that said the exact opposite of his own beliefs about marriage and parenthood. Basically, the death-of-the-author folks should have put down their Proust and gone down to the basement to see what video games their kids were playing.

In college, my dream was to make games about history, that made the past real in ways books never could. Thus, I started my career with my absolute dream job when I joined Firaxis to work on Civ 3. Five years later, when I shipped Civ 4, my old dream was dead (although, to be fair, a new one had started). Civilization was supposed to be a game about history but – despite my best efforts – many of the lessons it taught were somehow the opposite of what I actually believed: that revolutionary change could be controlled, that the orientation of a society flowed directly from its leader, that history was a story of continual, upward progress, and that “upward progress” could even be defined.

Games slip away from their designers because water finds a crack. The problem, so to speak, is the players, who quickly understand games far better than their designers ever could. Players are endlessly inventive, reworking forgotten chinks in the rules into dominant strategies, turning an AI’s predictable patterns against itself, and modding games into something almost unrecognizable to the original creators.

If games are about anything, they are about the futile effort of designers to create totalitarian worlds while players gleefully slip through their fingers.

And yet…

I am still hard at work, trying to build new cages for players to break. My new game, Offworld Trading Company, is set on Mars, but it is not about Mars. It is an economic game, but considering my understanding of economics can be summed up as “buy for a dollar, sell for two,” I can’t really claim the game is about economics. Instead, the game is about understanding that there is never one right choice, that success depends on seeing the world clearly, without prejudice, and then adapting. Indeed, I gave a similar reason back in 2007 to the question of why I made Civ 4:

I personally despise ideologies because they inevitably lead to a belief that there is one set of solutions to the world’s problems. One set of solutions means all other options are heretical, which means they must be controlled. Ideologues put ideas above people, which is the beginning of terror and oppression. People are more important than ideas.

Of course, discouraging rigid thinking is not the only reason I make games, but it is the best answer I can give to [the] question. If I ever get to release my dream strategy game, this idea will be clearly be at the center of the design.

I don’t know if my games can really kill fascists, but if Woody Guthrie thought his songs could do so, I don’t see why we can’t aspire to the same goal.

Offworld and Early Access

This post is a development journal from our Offworld forum. The game is available for pre-order here.

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.

We have been playing competitive Offworld game internally for over a year now, and every strategy leads to a counter-strategy and then a counter-counter-strategy, until someone finally gets enough leverage to finish the game with a hostile takeover. Lessons from these games have informed my development of the AI, so that it use the same tricks and strategies I have both employed and witnessed. We added teamplay after it became our most-requested feature and were surprised at how well it worked. For single-player, we created a dynamic campaign mode that plays out very differently from the standard skirmish game, making long, multi-hour sessions possible.

We are now taking our next step forward, releasing Offworld on Steam Early Access to expose our game to the oxygen of player feedback. Since last summer, we’ve run a small, private Founder’s Program that put the game into the hands of about a thousand fans who were willing to buy the game based simply on its promise and our reputation. So far, their feedback has been invaluable, and I will be forever grateful to the many who were willing to take a chance on us and our game. However, we need a much larger player base to be able to truly understand our game – enough players to poke at the holes in the AI, to be able to find each other for pick-up games, to help us discover if there are a few degenerate strategies that drown out the rest of the design. In time, players always understand games better than their designers, and if we are to make Offworld the best game it can be, we need to start that process as soon as possible.

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 before we 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 game right now when there is still time to do something about it.

I hope you’ll join us. Pre-order now at http://www.offworldgame.com/store, and we’ll see you online February 12th!

Podcast: Frank Lantz

In this episode, Soren interviews Frank Lantz, currently Director of the NYU Game Center. Frantz was also the co-founder of Area/Code where he led the design of Drop7. We discuss how to make sure your game gets written up in Boing Boing, why most people who like ARGs have never played one, and how to take advantage of your friend’s trip to the hospital in Parking Wars.

Games Discussed: The Manhole, Dungeon Master, Mortal Kombat, Wipeout, Gearheads, Diner Dash, PacManhattan, Shark Runners, Parking Wars, Drop7

idlethumbs.net/designernotes/episodes/frank-lantz

Designer Notes is a Podcast!

For years now, I’ve been a frequent guest on various video game podcasts, especially Three Moves Ahead and The Game Design Roundtable. I’ve always enjoy the format and have now decided to start one of my own. Thus, I’d like to announce the Designer Notes podcast, in which I sit down with noted game designers to discuss why we make games.

The folks at Idle Thumbs offered to host the podcast, which greatly helped getting this new endeavor started. My first guest is Rob Pardo, formerly the Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard. We had such a long discussion that I had to break it into two parts, and the first half ranges from his first gaming memories through StarCraft, Brood War, and Warcraft 3. I’ll be posting the second half in early December. Future guests include Frank Lantz, Henrik Fåhraeus, Jon Shafer, Daniel Cook, Brad Muir, Brian Reynolds, Chelsea Howe, and Daniel Benmergui.

EDIT: The second half is now available.

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Not Me?

I created one of those new-fangled Steam curator pages. Here are my comments:

Atom Zombie Smasher – A well-scoped RTS that keeps everything important and nothing else. The bizarro atmosphere helps too.

Brothers – A beautiful experience, and few game narratives integrate their actual game mechanics into the story so well.

Crusader Kings 2 – Requires an upfront commitment, but no historical game has ever made PEOPLE so important.

Frozen Synapse – Because turns can be submitted in any order, this game is ideal for asynchronous play.

FTL – A perfectly paced game, of just the right length to enable consequence (by being short enough) and progression (by being long enough).

Magicka – A hilarious game, especially in multiplayer. Wonderful joy of discovery if the player stays away from walkthroughs.

Mark of the Ninja – A masterpiece in transparency. Exposing the details of a stealth game (as well as limiting it to 2D) creates amazing intentional play.

Papers, Please – Games have immense powers of empathy, and no game does a better job of creating unexpected empathy.

Spelunky – A monument to the ability of video games to create new worlds from scratch; the last game this amazing was Seven Cities of Gold (for its time).

Steel Storm: Burning Retribution – Simply feels great to play; this game gets every little detail of twitch right.

Swords and Soldiers – 2D? 3D? How about a 1D RTS? This game is a lesson in how simplification leaves room for greater engagement with the actual game mechanics.

Thief Gold – Did you know the original Thief is on Steam? Well, the original Thief is on Steam.

Thirty Flights of Loving – Apparently, this game was made by the same guy who made Atom Zombie Smasher. I assume that’s impossible, however, as nobody can be that versatile.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon – Get a few friends together, team up on Terrorist Hunt, thank me later.

Unity of Command – Remarkably accessible for a wargame. The supply mechanic creates an important perspective on the battles.

The Game Design Round Table #93 and #94

I was on Dirk Knemeyer’s Game Design Round Table podcast twice last month and spent some time talking about how my current game, Offworld Trading Company, is progressing. On Episode 93, we discussed dynamic campaigns in strategy games and were joined by Firaxis designer Ananda Gupta, who shared his experience working on the (dynamic) campaign for the new XCOM. On Episode 94, we were joined by Civ 5 designer Jon Shafer to discuss the current state of Offworld and their impressions of the game.

As a reminder, Offworld can be purchased now on Steam at offworldgame.com.

Offworld Rules Circa June 2014

In June of 2014, I posted the rules for Offworld Trading Company on my company’s blog. Of course, given our practice of constant iteration, it didn’t take long for those rules to get out-of-date, so I am now editing that post to keep it up-to-date with the current game. Indeed, as more and more time passes, that original ruleset will diverge considerably from the publicly available version. Thus, I am re-posting the original June 2014 version here as an archived snapshot of the game, which might make it interesting reading by the time we officially release the game. As a reminder, Offworld can be pre-ordered at offworldgame.com.

1.0 Introduction

Offworld Trading Company is a game about the colonization and exploitation of Mars by corporations who have taken to space for a profit. Each company will found a colony on the map, claim territory, construct buildings, produce resources, and then make money by selling them on the open market. Players can harass each other with industrial sabotage, mercenary pirates, and market manipulation. The end goal is to buy out all the other corporations via the stock market, in which each company’s price goes up and down based on the value of their current assets.

2.0 Components

2.1 The Map

The map represent a section of Martian terrain that has been opened for commercial development. This map has been divided into hex-shaped tiles, each of which can be claimed by players. Some tiles, such as mountains, slopes, and canyons, are marked as unusable and will never contain any resources. Also, each usable tile has one of five height levels (Very Low, Low, Medium, High, and Very High) which means that the map is a collection of plateaus. These plateaus are useful for connecting buildings together into rail-based networks that allows the transportation of resources without using Blimps. Tiles also have a wind level (Very Weak, Weak, Moderate, Strong, Very Strong) and ice content (Normal, Permafrost, Ice), which determine how certain buildings perform.

2.1 The Resource Deposits

Each tile can contain deposits of the primary resources (Water, Carbon, Silicon, Aluminum, and Iron). These deposits are classified into four different resource levels, which each have different yield rates:

  • Trace (-75%)
  • Low
  • Medium (+50%)
  • High (+100%)

Also, some tiles contain a Geothermal Source, which is required for the Geothermal Plant.

2.2 The Colony

Each player founds one colony to start the game, which stretches across multiple tiles, all of which need to be usable and of the same height. All resources underneath the colony will be mined although at only a quarter of the rate that a normal building would produce. A geothermal source will produce energy but, again, at only a quarter the rate of a Geothermal Plant. The colony will contain the player’s resource stockpile, which is where resources are taken from when sold on the open market and deposited into when bought. Each colony also consume life support (Water, Food, Oxygen) which have to be bought on the open market if they are not in the stockpile.

2.3 The Buildings

Each claimed tile can contain one building, and the different types are listed here:

  • Water Pump (mines Water)
  • Ice Condenser (creates Water from ice content)
  • Hydrolysis Farm (turns Water into Food)
  • Electrolysis Reactor (turns Water into Oxygen and Fuel)
  • Chemicals Lab (turns Fuel and Carbon into Chemicals)
  • Elemental Quarry (mine Carbon and Silicon)
  • Glass Furnace (turns Silicon and Oxygen into Glass)
  • Goods Factory (turns Carbon, Silicon, and Aluminum into Goods)
  • Metal Mine (mines Aluminum and Iron)
  • Steel Mill (turns Iron into Steel)
  • Solar Panel (creates Energy from height level)
  • Wind Turbine (creates Energy from wind level)
  • Geothermal Plant (creates Energy but requires Geothermal Source)
  • Patent Lab (can discover patents)
  • Engineering Lab (can improve industrial production)
  • Pleasure Dome (produce money from population)
  • Hacker Array (can create artificial shortages and surpluses)
  • Offworld Market (can sell resources offworld)

Each building (except the Ice Condenser) consumes Energy when active.

2.4 The Units

Units cannot be controlled directly by the players and are instead generated automatically based on player actions. Each unit consumes Fuel, and Blimps consume more Fuel depending of their cargo. The different unit types are listed here:

  • Drone (claims tiles)
  • Engineer (constructs buildings)
  • Blimp (ships resources)
  • Pirate (steal resources from Blimps)

3.0 Turns

Offworld is a real-time game, but the game system itself is updated in turns. Every turn, buildings produce resources, the colony consumes life support, and various other event might occur. The game has five different speeds which determine how fast the turns occur, but the default speed (Normal) is set at one turn per second. In single-player games, the player can change the game speed (and also pause the game) whenever desired.

4.0 Scans

Before founding a colony, the player will spend some time exploring the map. Each tile will have one of three visibility states:

  • Fogged (tile and resource deposits are not visible)
  • Revealed (tile is visible but darkened, resource deposits are not visible)
  • Visible (tile and resource are visible)

Most of the map will start the game as Fogged, but each player will begin with a small section of the map Scanned. The player can then perform scans on specific tiles to reveal more of the map – each scan will set all tiles within a radius of 2 as Visible and all other tiles within a radius of 6 as Revealed. The player will acquire a new scan every 4 turns. Once the first colony is founded, the map will slowly reveal itself automatically to all players.

5.0 Colonies

5.1 Founding

Once the players have scanned enough tile to discover a good place to found a colony, they select a colony type and then place it on the map. Once a colony is founded, the player receives their initial claims, money, and resource stockpile. Players who found later will receive more claims. The four different types (and their bonuses) are listed here:

  • Expansive
    • Double production from tiles under the colony
    • One extra claim at game start and with each colony upgrade
    • Recovers faster from EMPs, Power Surges, and Mutinies
  • Scientific
    • Conversion Buildings can use resource deposit on their own tiles (for example, a Hydrolysis Farm could use Low Water to create Food).
    • Double production from Trace resource deposits
  • Scavengers
    • Uses Carbon instead of Steel to construct buildings
    • Receive a free Pirate after each colony upgrade
    • Learn about news events earlier
  • Robotic
    • Colony does not consume life support
    • Units use Energy instead of Fuel

5.2 Upgrading

Each colony starts at population level one and can be upgraded four times. Each successive upgrade costs an increasing quantity of resources, and each upgrade increases the life support demands of the colony. The benefit of each upgrade is that the player is granted new claims:

  • Level 2 Colony: +3 claims
  • Level 3 Colony: +4 claims
  • Level 4 Colony: +5 claims
  • Level 5 Colony: +6 claims

6.0 Claims

The players receive a set of claims upon founding and upgrading their colonies. Extra claims can also be gained from random events, bribed via the black market, and won in claim auctions. When a player initiates a tile claim, the colony automatically creates a Drone unit, which then moves towards the tile and claims it if no other player gets there first.

7.0 Buildings

7.1 Construction

Building can only be constructed on claimed tiles. The player purchases buildings by spending resources, and then a Construction Yard immediately appears on the chosen tile. The colony create a Engineer unit which travels to the tile and constructs the building.

7.2 Production

Every turn, buildings produce resources. Some buildings create resources directly from resource deposits (the Elemental Quarry creates Silicon and Carbon from the corresponding deposits). A few more create resources based on the tile’s ratings (the Wind Turbine creates Energy modified by the tile’s wind level). Others convert input resources into output resources (the Glass Furnace consumes Silicon and Oxygen and produces Glass). Buildings can be turned off if the player determines they are not profitable.

Adjacent buildings of the same type have increased production rates – two adjacent building receive a +50% bonus while three get a +100% bonus. Higher numbers of adjacent buildings receive no additional bonus.

7.3 Shipping

After resources are produced, they are shipped either to other buildings or to the colony. If one building produces a resource required by a second building and if these two building are connected by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, this resources is instantly transported to the second building via rail. If no such building exists and if the first building is instead connected to the colony by an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resource is similarly transported to the player’s resource stockpile.

If, instead, the building producing the resource is not connected to either a building that requires the resource or to the colony, the resource is stored within the original building. Once the building accumulates 20 units of the resource, a blimp is created which transports the resources directly to the colony. Players can choose manually to ship resources early before they reach 20 units.

Finally, buildings which require resources can also be supplied from the colony. For example, a Steel Mill that is not connected to a Metal Mine on an Iron deposit will receive shipments from the colony. If the building is connected to the colony via an unbroken string of claimed tiles, the resources will travel instantly via rail. Otherwise, a Blimp will ship Iron from the colony to the building.

7.4 Engineering Lab

The Engineering Lab allows players to research technologies that increase the production rate of specific resources in all corresponding buildings. For example, Improved Water Pumping increases Water production at Water Pumps by +25%. The bonus affects the building’s output but not the input, so Improved Food Production will mean that a Hydrolysis Farm produces more Food but does not consume more Water. Each technology costs Chemicals to research. The four levels of research possible for each technology are listed here:

  • Improved: +25% production
  • Efficient: +50% production (+75% cumulative)
  • Optimal: +75% production (+150% cumulative)
  • Super: +100% production (+250% cumulative)

7.5 Patent Lab

The Patent Lab enables players to acquire patents that can change how their company operates in fundamental ways. Each patent costs Chemicals to discover and becomes unavailable to all other players after the initial discovery. The different patents are listed here:

  • Nanotech: When deleting buildings, the resource cost is refunded.
  • Superconductor: +50% Energy from buildings connected to the colony.
  • Energy Vault: Can store up to 100 units of Energy
  • Virtual Reality: Doubles revenue from Pleasure Dome
  • Perpetual Motion: -50% Energy consumption
  • Water Engine: Units use Water instead of Fuel
  • Slant Drilling: Buildings can access best resource deposit in adjacent tile
  • Cold Fusion: Buildings use Water instead of Energy
  • Teleportation: All buildings and colonies are considered connected
  • Thinking Machines: Buildings adjacent to colonies are protected from sabotage

7.6 Hacker Array

The Hacker Array allows players to trigger artificial shortages and surpluses which can alter the price of specific resources. For example, a Food Shortage would increase the cost of Food. The cost of shortages and surpluses go up each time they are used by the player. These artificial events are indistinguishable from the random events that occur naturally during the game.

8.0 Resource Markets

8.1 Local Market

Once the colony is founded, players can buy and sell resources freely on the open market. If Food is $20, then a player can sell one unit of Food for $20 or buy one unit for the same price. However, each time a resource is bought or sold, the price goes up or down accordingly. Thus, if a player decides to purchase 100 units of Food for $20, the price will go up during the transaction so that the final price will be more than $2000. Resources bought and sold are added to and take from the player’s stockpile at the colony.

Energy is a special resource because it cannot be stockpiled. Instead, it is automatically sold to the local market at the current price. If a player is instead losing Energy, it is bought automatically from the market. Similarly, life support resources (Water, Food, Oxygen) is also purchased directly from the market if the stockpile is empty. If the player also has no money, the automatic purchase increases the company’s debt, which has a very negative effect on its stock price.

8.2 Offworld Market

Offworld prices are set randomly at the beginning of the game and stay constant throughout.

With the Offworld Market, players can sell resources offworld, often for prices higher than on the local market. Each offworld sale requires 100 units of the resource and 20 units of Fuel. Thus, if the offworld price of Food is $500, the player would lose 100 Food and 20 Fuel and then earn $50,000.

9.0 Time of Day

Each turn, the game clock moves forward, which affects a number of buildings. All of the production buildings (except for the Wind Turbine and Geothermal Plant) turn off between 22:00 and 06:00. The Ice Condenser and Solar Panel also have lowered production during the hours of the early morning after 06:00 and the hours of twilight before 22:00.

10.0 Auction

Every day at noon, an auction can be triggered. The auction is open to all players and is timed. Bids are in increments of $500, and the time limit is extended if a bid is made close to the end. Four types of auctions are possible: a new claim, a specific tile, an unclaimed patent, and mercenary pirates.

11.0 Sabotage

The identify of the player triggering each sabotage event is hidden and not revealed until the game is over.

11.1 EMP

An EMP freezes buildings within a radius of 2 from the targeted tile for a period of time. Buildings closer to the target are frozen for longer.

11.2 Power Surge

The Power Surge freezes a number of buildings for a period of time. The surge starts at one tile and then travels randomly to adjacent tiles with buildings.

11.3 Underground Nuke

The Underground Nuke lowers resource deposits by two levels. For example, a High Iron would be reduced to a Low Iron. Resource deposits can never be lowered below Trace.

11.4 Dynamite

Dynamite destroys a building, reducing it to rubble. The owning player can repair it for half its normal construction cost; a Drone unit will automatically appear at the colony and travel to the tile to repair the building.

11.5 Mutiny

A Mutiny allows a player to capture another player’s building for a period of time.

11.6 Pirates

Pirates look for Blimps to shoot down and give the lost resources to the player who hired them. Pirates will stay on the map until they have captured a total of 60 units of resources.

12.0 Black Market

The Black Market is where all sabotage items (except for the Pirates) are purchased. Also, the player can bribe claims on the Black Market. The Black Market is initially closed for a specific number of the turns after a player founds a colony; the number of turns is lower for players who found their colonies later.

Each time items are purchased from the Black Market, the price is doubled for all players in the game. Also, each player is locked out from the Black Market for 60 turns after a purchase.

13.0 Stock Market

Each player’s company begins the game with a stock price of $5, and that price goes up and down according to the value of its current assets (money, debt, resources, buildings, colonies, and stock shares). Shares can be purchased in increments of 1,000, and each company has 10,000 total shares. If no more shares are available for purchase, a player can buyout the other players’ sharing by purchasing them all together for double value.

Once one company controls all the shares of a second company, the second company’s owner is removed from the game, and all the buildings, colonies, and patents belonging to that company are given to the first company. The game ends when only one company remains.