Former Civilization IV Lead On Mars Game, Revitalizing RTS

By Nathan Grayson on May 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Mohawk Games is an excellent name for a company. And so it is that former Civilization IV lead designer and Spore man Soren Johnson approaches me sporting the company haircut. It’s a recent trim job for the old headshrub, he tells me, but he wears it well. However, the brain beneath the mohawk – the mind behind some of strategy gaming’s greatest greats – is the real main attraction here. Johnson’s goal is to design “core strategy games” in conjunction with Civ V art director Dorian Newcomb and in partnership with Galactic Civilizations (no relation) developer Stardock.

First on the docket? A still unnamed Mars economy RTS with no units and 13 different resource types. Is it madness? Probably, but it’s the good kind, the kind that drives a man to shave off most of his hair before a business conference, the kind that sounds wicked fun when people exchange fireside tales of their favorite matches.

Go below for a discussion with both men about how the game works, boardgame influences, how videogames might be able to replicate boardgaming’s face-to-face appeal, designing strategy that’s extremely complex but also accessible, release plans, and heaps more.

RPS: You’ve announced that Mohawk’s working on a strategy game, but what exactly is it? How fast-paced will it be? What’s it about?

Johnson: The current game we’re making, which we don’t really have a name for, we’re going to call it Mars right now. It’s set on Mars, and it’s an RTS. It’s about building a little economic engine. There’s 13 different types of resources. You have to decide “Well which are the ones I want to produce?” You accumulate some water, maybe turn that water into food, and then you have a stockpile, and then ultimately you really make your money based on the market. All these different resources can be bought or sold at any time, and the price just goes up and down totally dependent on players actions in the game.

So you play a four player game, if three of the players are all buying food then the price of food is going to go up. You get a lot of food, sell it, make more money. We don’t present what the price is. We don’t think the resources should be worth this much, this is totally dependent on the game. And sometimes players really forget about one specific resource, and they’re like, “Wow, can you believe the price of iron in that last game? It was ridiculous, what happened?”

RPS: Do you think it works best primarily as a multiplayer game? Sounds like that definitely adds a layer of boardgame-style enjoyment to it.

Johnson: That’s what we’ve been focusing on right now. The nice thing about developing a game that has a muliplayer side is you’re able to try out the mechanics immediately.

Newcomb: You have the best AI starting, because you have the strategy that you can implement. Then you can see other asymmetrical strategies from other people. A lot of times in games when you develop an idea you have to wait until you’ve completed the AI to obtain that kind of advantage. If it’s multiplayer I can take advantage of an idea immediately and get feedback, like “That was awesome,” or “That was the worst.”

Johnson: One of our artists had an idea recently. A lot of RTSs, you choose a side before you begin, Protoss or Zerg or Terran or whatever. And that’s kind of what we did. There’s colony types. And one of our artists was like, “Well how about deciding what colony you want after the game starts? You explore the map and then you choose what you want to be.” And we said, “OK, that sounds really interesting,” and we tried it out the next day. And we got the experience immediately because you’re playing a mulitplayer game and it’s for real.

If you have a single player game where there isn’t really competent AI, you’re kind of pretending like you’re playing. You know you’re going to be able to run rings around the AI. That’s one of the advantages of multiplayer. Having said that though, once we’re really happy with the game design itself, at that point it’s time to really focus on single player.

Newcomb: It really sucks to try to learn a one player game, having your first game be a multiplayer game where you get your butt kicked, it’s very frustrating.

Johnson: And the truth with most RTS games, the multiplayer is the glamorous side, the side that gets a lot of the attention. Developers will tell you, 78% of their players really are just there for single player. We totally know that, but it’s a question of what order you take things. You know the nice thing about that is, once the game design is done, if you start working on the AI at that point, you’re not going to be wasting time having to continually rewrite the AI as the game changes. That’s what makes gaming AI so hard. If you’re making an AI to play chess, the rules are never going to change. If you make an AI for a game, and someone decides to rip out this one element, [it's totally useless].

RPS: So, it’s a game that’s largely about economics, but it’s a real time strategy. What do you from moment-to-moment? I feel like detailed economics management is often more the domain of turn-based games. Offers more time for chin-stroking, conniving, stat obsessing, etc.

Johnson: So one way you could describe it is it’s an RTS without units. You just focus on the buildings and the resources, and so obviously that means that aspect of the game is a lot deeper than you normally see in an RTS. Starcraft has two resources. Age of Empires: Age of Kings has a pretty advanced economic system. It has four resources, food, wood, gold, stone. So we knew that we would need to expand up on that. I think we have 13 resources: energy, water, food, oxygen, fuel, chemicals, iron, steel, copper, and so on and so forth. Each of those resources have different uses. Some are useful for building, some are useful for life support, some are useful mostly just to make money off of.

Newcomb: And how they’re useful is unique. We had a big set initially, and we’re trying that out, and over the course of it we’re swapping out resources, swapping out what they do, swapping out not their inherent value but their value in terms of the hierarchy of building things. We’re trying to balance things so that each of those has a purpose in the game, and each of those provides another wrinkle for someone to go in a direction, another choice to make as they play the game. So it’s providing the same exact environment with “What do you decide to do now?” Based on what the other players might be doing, what’s your opportunity? Which resources come together to form the best strategy?

Johnson: And there’s multi levels of resources. Which is something you don’t normally see in an RTS. You pick up a cattle and then you turn it into meat, then you go and you ship that to a city or whatever. In our case, you take the water, you turn it into fuel. You take the fuel, you turn it into chemicals. So there’s a whole resource tree. That affects the market, because it’s pretty easy to create water, so it’s easy to drive the price down, flood the market with water so to speak. But it’s pretty hard to turn that all the way to chemicals. That’s usually the reason why the price of chemicals keeps going up. There’s demand for it but there’s not enough supply.

RPS: You said there aren’t necessarily units, so what is the interface? How does it work?

Johnson: When I started the project I set a high level of constraint. “We’re not going to select units. We’re not going to move units around.” There were still kind of units to move around and do things, like, “I’m going to claim this tile,” then this little probe pops up from the colony and goes out and claims the tile. “I want to build a steel mill.” Then an engineer pops up, travels to the spot, and builds a steel mill. You’ve got a water mine. It produces water, then a little blimp pops up and flies the water back to your colony.

But these aren’t things you control, like in SimCity or one of the other city builder games. But at the same time we went back and forth on, well, there’s exploration units. Should you control those? We had pirate units. Maybe should you control those? Then we had defensive units to ward off the pirates. So at some point I was trying to make it work for exploration units, and said “Ok, you just set exploration flags, and the units will automatically figure out where they’re going.” Like the pirates and stuff. That wasn’t much fun. It was just a little bit frustrating. You want it to do exactly what you want it to do, and maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. There’s a reason why RTSs let you select units and do exactly what you want them to, because people like that immediacy.

So we tried that for awhile and was like, “I really want to get away from unit selection because I feel like that’s something that really makes RTSs hard for a lot people. That’s makes it very inaccessible.” And selecting units is not really core to our design. So I was like “Ok. Let’s get rid of exploration units. Let’s make pirates kind of one shot things. You just launch a pirate mission. Or you do exploration, you scan tiles. You have a certain number of scans, you click a tile and it reveals, you click a tile and it reveals. It’s more of a top level thing. So far that’s working out pretty well.

RPS: You mentioned simplifying that whole element of it. But I think a lot of people who are really into core strategy games like that complexity, that’s their thing. When they hear that people want to simplify it they immediately think, “Oh no! They’re gonna make it for people who don’t play our games. They’re gonna ruin it!” So why is that your core design philosophy?

Johnson: To me when I think about games, it’s like a bucket. You have so many rules and pistons and mechanics and content that you can pour into that bucket. For an RTS the bucket is a little bit smaller than it is for a turn based game. With a game like Civ, Civ originally was a real-time game, way back in 1990 when it originated. Sid Meier, because he was inspired by SimCity, was like, “Oh I’ll just do that, except at a global level.” The thing was, it was just too much for people to handle as an RTS, so he made a turn-based game.

And now people, if they don’t understand something they can take time to learn about it. So the amount of complexity you can put in a game goes up. Now if you make a real time game, specifically the Paradox games which are sort of real time games, but if it’s a game that’s fast paced and 30 minutes long and competitive, that bucket is a little bit smaller. And most RTS games fill that bucket with combat and units and special powers and abilities, and that’s great. We’re taking that stuff out of the bucket, but what we’re putting into the bucket is this complicated resource tree, and discovery system, and tiles, and auctions, and building chains, and free market.

Newcomb: Ultimately, what ends up having the most gains as a player, the way that you won the game is to focus on one or two things really well. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure we’re providing the focus on those two things. If I’m playing a multiplayer game with Soren and he does something, I need to respond to it or plan to respond to it. It may involve building something, it may involve watching the price of things go up or down, it may involve attacking him.

When you introduce the mechanic, especially in a pretty quick paced game, “How do I select these units? How do I move them from point to point? And if I’m getting attacked how do I handle that?”, that ended up just becoming a distraction. Instead of it enhancing the strategic possibilities, anything becomes a distraction from what your main focus is of how you want to win, how you want to play the game. Because if you’re just, “Man this is just another thing keeping me from playing the game that I thought I was playing,” then it’s probably not that important. The thought of simplifying, streamlining it so that it becomes a free to play massive timesink or something, that’s very different. I think a game could be very complex at its heart. What we’re trying to do is distill it.

Johnson: The simplification is a tool to put focus on the parts of the game that you care most about. And when when you play Mars there’s this market that’s always visible. Thirteen resources, thirteen prices, thirteen stockpiles, thirteen rates going up, going down. That’s actually a lot to keep track of. That’s actually where your focus should be because a big part of the game is interacting with… so there will be these random events. Suddenly there will be a food shortage, and if I don’t pay attention to that Dorian will be able to sell his food while the price is really high. Where as if you both see it, if we both see the price rise up, and I often have the sense that both of us have our finger on the sell button, and which one of us is going to sell? We both want to sell!

Newcomb: At the highest. You don’t want to see the price drop and know that’s when someone else got all of the money.

Johnson: The type of games were talking about right there, there’s not really a game out there that does this.

Newcomb: It’s interesting that we’ve been playing a lot of board games that have slightly dynamic markets where you can bid or out bid someone. inherently those games take longer to play. Once you introduce negotiations into the game it double, triples the time to play. The nice thing about this is we have a full negotiation system that’s up and running for everyone, but it happens real time. So if I want to sell stuff at a certain price I can do that at my choosing while Soren’s doing different task. And he can undercut me over time, and I’m like, “Crap, I’ll never get that value.”

RPS: It’s interesting to me because you are making a very specific type of game. Mars Economic Simulator is very specific compared to, for instance Civ, which was the world, and Spore, which is evolution – these concepts that people can grapple onto very easily. Whereas this is a lot more, “OK, here’s this one thing that you’re going to do. Hope you like Mars! Hope you like economies!” So do you think this will appeal to people who like your work in those other games?

Johnson: Well I hope so. I think there’s two aspects there. One is, it is certainly a narrower scope. I think in some sense that’s more appropriate in general than Civ’s scope. The scope with a Civ game is somewhat insane, and it’s crazy that it even works at all. Usually making a Civ game meant just trying to plug all of the holes to try and keep it from totally bursting. This is hopefully more of the right scope for a game.

But more importantly as an independent studio, we’re five guys making a game. We have only a certain amount of resources to work with. When we worked on Civ 4 we had a big team and a big publisher behind it. There was a lot to draw on. There was already a huge fan base out there. The scope was like the blessing of the project, you knew that was part of it. You knew that you had resources to realize it. We can’t make something that huge right now. We have to pick our battles, right?

RPS: Boardgames are obviously a big inspiration here, and you’ve been talking about negotiation phases and stuff like that. But I think the real intrigue of boardgames – maybe the thing that makes, say, economies and management able to stand alone in games like Agricola – is that you’re face to face with someone, and you’re really getting into it and talking to them directly. Personally, I almost always end up accidentally role-playing, pretending to be a character. So it’s not like, “I sure do love farming!” Instead it’s, “I like people. I like interacting with people.” For obvious reasons you can’t really replicate that in a PC game. Are you worried about not having that appeal in the game?

Johnson: Well we do and we can. One aspect of the game that works really well for that is the auction house. There are times during the game where the game will keep running, but there will be an auction pops up in the corner, and that will be for a specific plot of land, or an extra claim.

Or a specific technology. Our technology is going to be a little bit different in that it’s more like a patent system, which means that there’s maybe twelve unique technologies, and if you get a specific one no one else can have it. So it’s not like you’re all going to spec into the same resource tree. It’s more like the game will allow twelve technology cards, and if I grab one card then I’ve got that technology locked down. But a patent might be held up for auction, and you know, I bid on it, Dorian bids on it, I bid on it, I know who’s bidding on it.

It gets really heated. In fact we played a game recently where afterwards me and Dorian talked about how it went down. We’re pretty sure that he lost the game because he won the early auction…

Newcomb: Yeah, I kind of cut my throat to get the thing I thought I wanted, and I was dying the rest of the game.

Johnson: Was it teleportation? I forget what it was. Anyway something important came up in auction.

Dorian: And it was a critical thing.

Johnson: And early in the game you don’t have much money, but you have some resources. So we both went all-in on resources, to try to outbid the other one. We both pushed ourselves to the total limit, and he won the claim, but then he didn’t have any resources to work with, so it was a really hollow victory.

Newcomb: Ideally this is a game that you want to play with your friends. My belief is that, I think this is one of the best games I’ve worked on. I want it to be the best game I’ve worked on, but there’s a lot of work to do to make that happen. I love all the games I’ve worked on in general. But the thing that’s great about this game is it reminds me of when I was playing games growing up, when you play boardgames with your neighbors or friends.

And in general, I’m not saying that this wouldn’t be a great game to play with strangers, but the best introduction to this is, “Hey, I want to play this game with you. I want to show you ’cause we haven’t played a game like this before. We’ve played tons of games where we shot each other. We’ve played tons of games where we raced each other. We’ve played tons of long-term turn based strategy games. This is a game where I want to see how you solve this problem, I want to see how you compete in this type of environment.”

In some ways the best way to learn the game and play the game is on a LAN in, like, a college setting. You know, have a friend come over with their laptop. That being said once you get used to the game it has a really appealing just straight up competition level style of play. And a lot of MOBAs are doing that now, where you play something that… in general if you’re playing something like that your team has to be really good, otherwise it’s really frustrating. I think there are a lot of people who play with just their friends, against strangers. I could imagine this being that sort of game. I think those games are best played with a team you know well, not just random hookups, like, “Oooh! I’ve been paired for my skill set!”

RPS: At some point are you planning to heavily support voice chat, so people can really engage on that level? I guess what I mean is the difference between just having voice chat as an option versus it being like, “Hey, this is a pretty optimal way to play! You guys should try this.”

Newcomb: I think voice chat would be optimal. Actually, I would love to be able to even send video messages to people.

Johnson: Another thing I like to push is the voice chat not just for the game, but after the game. One of the best parts for me in Civ appeared afterward, when people got together and figured out what happened. Mars should have some really incredible end game screens, where it shows the prices that go up, and the crash tier, and what happened here? Why did it drop? A picture of the stock prices as they go up and down, to see what was correlated to what. This one player won, how did they win? Well they made this much money off this specific resource, that’s worth a try.

RPS: You initially said this was going to come to Steam Early Access. Is that still the plan?

Johnson: Yeah. We haven’t really made any official announcements or anything, but we’re definitely in favor of the Early Access concept.

Newcomb: What we’re trying to do is create a small studio that’s sustainable. We want to be sure that we’re able to take chances with our games. A lot of really passionate gamers wonder why aren’t the big studios making games like this anymore.

Big studios have never made games the way they thought they made them. Even games like Civilization II that came out, internally there’s, “Oh, we don’t think our game’s going to do well.” But then it’s a huge success. I think a lot of the time, large studios have a hard time understanding what the hardcore gamer wants, outside of the hardcore super market, and they can still miss that.

So what we’re really trying to do is create a small studio where we can take chances. Small enough where we can make a Martian economics RTS game, and the success of each Early Access period will give us a taste of how successful we’re going to be, and do people actually want to take those chances and risks in the game design choices that we’re making.

Johnson: One of the big inspirations from board games is not even just the mechanics, but the diversity of topics. If you look at the top 100 games of boardgames you’ll see an incredible variety of types of game. Way more than the variety you’ll see in videogames, definitely in strategy games. If we’re able to keep our team small we’ll be able to reduce some of the risk of development. Like with Kickstarter, or Early Access or whatever, then yeah you take some risks and go out on a limb to start out with.

RPS: Do you have a general timeframe for Early Access, or are you still too early in development to be making those sorts of plans?

Johnson: I have it in my mind, but I don’t want to say just yet. I want to get it out there soon. It’s very playable already. It’s fun right now. It mostly is a question of can we get the game to production level that is good enough, but not embarrassing.

Newcomb: The first artist to join the team was an interface artist, because we really wanted to make sure the interface was very playable, and it’s laid out in a way that’s clean but also attractive. So we have all of those things that we want to make sure are good before we release it. You don’t want to release a game that’s obtuse or unclear and have people say, “I don’t understand what’s going on.” I’d rather them say, “I know what’s going on, I don’t know how to get there. Teach me how to play better.”

Check back soon for part two, in which we discuss Firefly as one of Mars’ primary influences, the (supposed) decline of RTSes, the weird state of triple-A development, and whether or not Johnson will ever do anything on the scale of Civilization ever again. Also mohawks.

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47 Comments »

Top comments

  1. MistaJah says:

    RTS without units sounds refreshing. Yet I would assume some sort of (out-of-control) population representation would be necessary to breathe life into the world. [I would find ants aesthetically preferable to simple "representative" figurines. Compare one mill in a tile - Civ 5 - to several scattered randomly across last swathes of terrain that makes up a tile - Eugen Wargame series level of detail. This is a budget concern of course...]

    Digital strategy games can feel so static and lifeless with figurine-like units, lacking the physical connection. As mentioned in the article, scanning tiles…[Don't you say DEFCON.]

    Concluding there have not been enough unit-omissioned RTSes sans city-builders to predict how this’ll turn out.

  1. Arglebargle says:

    Not a particular fan of the multiplayer RTS thing. It’s not what made Civ interesting personally. Or Spore seem interesting in advance. However, his AI argument’s a pretty good counterbalance.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, CIv IV was ace in singleplayer, and IIRC Soren spent quite a bit of time making it work well in multiplayer, so I’m willing to buy their “it helps us experiment with good mechanics” argument.

  2. Koozer says:

    “But these aren’t things [units] you control, like in SimCity or one of the other city builder games.” I don’t remember SimCity having builder units…

  3. Reapy says:

    Starpeace?

  4. MistaJah says:

    RTS without units sounds refreshing. Yet I would assume some sort of (out-of-control) population representation would be necessary to breathe life into the world. [I would find ants aesthetically preferable to simple "representative" figurines. Compare one mill in a tile - Civ 5 - to several scattered randomly across last swathes of terrain that makes up a tile - Eugen Wargame series level of detail. This is a budget concern of course...]

    Digital strategy games can feel so static and lifeless with figurine-like units, lacking the physical connection. As mentioned in the article, scanning tiles…[Don't you say DEFCON.]

    Concluding there have not been enough unit-omissioned RTSes sans city-builders to predict how this’ll turn out.

  5. Soolseem says:

    If this is as good as it sounds, it’s my personal GOTWhateverYearItComesOut.

  6. PoLLeNSKi says:

    All the talk of resources has got me hungry to go play settlers 2 again.

    btw is there a better more recent entry in that series? They seemed to lose their cutesy resource gathering charm when I was looking through the sequels a while back, having hero units and too much combat for my liking.

  7. Frank says:

    Hooray for an RTS with less unit fiddling. Worst things about post-WC3 RTSs and their MOBA spawn: (1) fiddling with unit spells; (2) fiddling with unit movement.

    A Mars economy game sounds like M.U.L.E. (though I’m not so old that I’ve actually played that).

    • Geebs says:

      The terrible irony of Warcraft/Starcraft units – even after all that time training, they still can’t tie their shoelaces, much less stay in any formation apart from “the blob” without the player.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        One thing I destest about RTS is how one half of my army can get massacred while the other half stands one screen away and does NOTHING.

        • Fattsanta says:

          Well.. did you order them to do something?.. you’ve.. you’ve gotta order them to do something..

      • LionsPhil says:

        Manually-triggered unit abilities becoming common are one of the worst things to happen to RTSes. They are micro incarnate, and belong entirely at the Starcraft end of the spectrum.

        I don’t really know what Dragon Commander was thinking when it put in so many, given it’s fiddly as heck to actually use them when you’re a dragon. And not being a dragon is missing out much of the point of the game.

  8. draglikepull says:

    Civ IV is one of my favourite games of all time and this one sounds really neat, but I don’t want to support anything that results in Brad Wardell getting money, so I’m in a bit of a quandry here.

  9. eldoran89 says:

    i was looking for another article about a civ like game….all i can remember is that it was an interview and that the game is very early in development. it was no civ clone more a new interpretation of the idea… anyone an idea what i mean? pls provide link if so ;)

    ps. excuse my english it’s not my mother tongue

  10. DatonKallandor says:

    So 78% of players don’t give a crap about Multiplayer RTS (which, by the way, is a hopelessly optimistic figure skewed heavily in the multiplayer playing direction), so we’re going to….not care about that and make a multiplayer focused game anyway.

    Great thought process there.

    • Soren Johnson says:

      During the design phase of the game, we are focusing on multiplayer because we can test new ideas out immediately (because humans can adapt to new rules easily). Once the design is finished, we will focus on the AI for single-player because we won’t have to keep rewriting it as the design keeps changing.

      (btw, not sure where the 78% came from – that’s obviously not a real statistic!)

      • DarkSaber2k says:

        So how long until the we’re expected to fund the inevitable Kickstarter and/or Early Access?

      • Gaytard Fondue says:

        78% of all statistics are made up.

      • Josh W says:

        This makes sense to me, if your only doing single player or coop vs AI, then you can do all kinds of weird things to design the game mechanics around differences between AI and humans. But the moment you start saying that your opponent could be interchangeably a human or a computer, you probably have to start designing for the human first.

        On the other hand, one nice thing about the tile and timing based system is that it will probably end up actually being quite suited to evolutionary algorithms; you can have search algorithms, poling existing revealed tiles and checking adjacency etc, and recursively elaborated trading rules (find a nice simple quality rule, then start adapting to people’s adaption to your rules with increasingly specific situational quirks).

        Whether that kind of stack actually ends up playing intelligently is another matter, especially given how interconnected all those functions would have to be in practice.

    • Creamice says:

      Really fed up with this “argument” by now.

      Every MP-game will include SP, so i have a potential market of 100% if include MP and <100% if i don´t..

      Even if you assume that there needs to be some kind of choice between the two (which is nonsense anyways,), it still depends on what your game´s strength is and what the market looks like. If my game is going to be competing with 100 other great SP games while being the only good MP game around, i might very well be better off focusing on the MP (90% of 22% of something is more than 10% of 78% of the same thing QED).

      And anyways I´d hope that it´s more fulfilling to have people who have a social life and some kind of intellectual pride as your customers – instead of nerd zombies that get off on beating up inanimate objects.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        No. You can make a game that is CLEARLY multiplayer focused and you’ll get the overwhelming majority of your playerbase not even TRYING to log in to the multiplayer account system. This happens constantly, and that’s a fact because every time those kinds of stats are released they show exactly this. Multiplayer is not gigantic. You are not going to “make an e-sports title”. You are not going to be the next Starcraft. Spend your development money and your development time where your players are – in the singleplayer (and maybe coop).

        • Creamice says:

          Really love Coop-Games myself.

          Problem is there was a memo going to all the developers that “86% of customers don’t play coop”. So nobody makes those anymore :).

      • AngoraFish says:

        The only way your argument would be legitimate is if a developer’s time and resources were practically infinite.

        You may as well be arguing that because PCs are only a sub fraction of the market, developers should focus on developing games that are playable on every conceivable alternative gaming platform rather than developing only for the PC.

        In practice, irrationally focusing resources on implementing multiplayer redirects development time and money away from refining the single player experience in order to service what is objectively only a tiny fraction of the market.

        Furthermore, even if the core gameplay is identical, trying to balance gameplay for multiplayer is significantly more complex than single player, since AI is easily nerfed and/or buffed in a way that is not possible with human opponents.

        Additionally, all this effort focusing on multiplayer then goes to waste after the initial flush of post-release excitement goes away and matchmaking servers start feeling like ghost towns.

        • Creamice says:

          78% of people only eat vanilla flavored ice cream. Does that mean that other flavors should not be produced?

          Can’t you see how ridiculous that kind of “reasoning” is??

          Using numbers like the infamous 78%, even if it were a scientifically proven figure, to make any kind of argument is laughable. What does it mean? Does it mean that if you focus on SP those 78% will buy your game? No? How many will, then? I’ll tell you: Depending on myriads of other actually relevant circumstances (Quality, Innovation, Marketing, Competition, Luck,..) 0-100% of people are going to buy your game.

          And even IF focusing on multiplayer precluded you from 78% of your playerbase, it would still be a PERFECTLY VIABLE use of development time to try and go for the other 22% instead – just like it makes sense to produce ice cream that is not vanilla-flavored.

          • AngoraFish says:

            78% of people only eat vanilla flavored ice cream. Does that mean that other flavors should not be produced? Can’t you see how ridiculous that kind of “reasoning” is??

            Well, I can see how ridiculous your analogy is, so at least there’s that.

            Apparently, according to your reasoning, every tub of ice cream needs to be neapolitan because, you know, it’s not possible to manufacture separate tubs of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. No, everybody must buy the same mixed tub whether they want the other flavours or not. If they don’t like the other flavours, well, I guess they’re just going to have to throw the other flavours out. Clearly there’s no wasted resources with that model, no, absolutely none at all.

            Oh, maybe that’s not what you meant. Perhaps what you meant was that the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry should be blended together into some kind of light brown mush. That way everybody gets exactly the flavour they wanted and nobody need waste a single spoonful. Pure genius!

            Actually, in hindsight looks like your dubious analogy wasn’t completely ludicrous after all.

          • Creamice says:

            Now don’t try the ole switcheroo on me. I’m not the one trying to pressure the ice cream maker to only produce his favorite flavor… you are!

            And i’m not even begrudging you your right to lobby for that. I’m just annoyed by the faulty arguments and the ignorant impertinence that makes you feel you can tell a guy what he should do with his game/development time without any insight in his concept and vision for the game or any other circumstances.

            If you are going to make an argument why this game should focus on SP please at least base it on why you feel it fits this particular game… Problem is, you won’t be able to because we don’t actually know that much about it and what we DO know makes it sound like MP is at the heart of the concept (“PC-boardgame”).

  11. racccoon says:

    “Johnson: Yeah. We haven’t really made any official announcements or anything, but we’re definitely in favor of the Early Access concept.”
    YEAH because we’ve never seen so many MUGS on the net.

  12. squareking says:

    So it’s Agricola in space, then?

  13. LionsPhil says:

    Johnson: The type of games were talking about right there, there’s not really a game out there that does this.

    These guys really need to get an Atari 800 in their office (emulated, if necessary) and spend some lunchbreaks playing M.U.L.E.. Especially with the mention of land auctions and whatnot.

    Still super excited about this.

  14. guygodbois00 says:

    “One of our artists had an idea recently.” This sentence is killing me over here.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      That would be Gareth, now promoted to Lead Idea Haver.
      Well done, Gareth.

  15. Fenix says:

    I’m surprised there have been exactly 0 mentions of Civ IV: Colonization (or Sid Meier’s Colonization), as that was a game pretty much focused on resources and resource management. There were dozens of them, and even the way Johnson talks about resource trees was done there.

    Sure it had [pretty bad] combat and it wasn’t perfect, but it did many of the things the fine folks here are describing as features of this upcoming game.

    In any way, I am pretty intrigued nontheless, and will definitely purchase this when it comes out.

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  17. MaXimillion says:

    Hopefully at least a portion of the dev team has read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. Also hopefully with the Civ V art director on board they won’t go overboard with letting aesthetics interfere with functionality, like the Civ V city UI and road mechanics.

  18. Josh W says:

    Achron also played with the idea of choosing your group a few minutes into the match, (among all the other things it played/plays with). In their case it worked in an interesting way, because what they lost out was not time spent building up a particular strategy, but specificity in that strategy. So the longer you wait to change your strategy, the less capacity you have to use that information intelligently, even though your development time remains the same.

    I thought this was a pretty good idea, and I quite like the idea of setting a build project up for “a building”, and then tweaking the design as it’s in progress. The earlier you tweak, the more specialised you can make the kit. Lots of potential there, especially if the potential “counter” stuff is buried deeper in the list by moving out of certain resources etc. Quite a bit of potential there.