Offworld Trading Company Prototype Now Available For $80

Offworld Trading Company, the “economic RTS” being developed by Civilization IV designer Soren Johnson and Mohawk Games, now has a playable prototype available. The catch: it costs $80, its under NDA, and there’s no publicly available screenshots, videos or comments to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The game’s FAQ explains that they “intend the $80 Founder’s Elite Edition to cater to people who want to get their feedback into the design process as early as possible, either out of love for the concept of Offworld Trading Company or respect for Soren Johnson and the rest of the Mohawk team’s previous work.”

Is this a good thing? I can’t decide, so you tell me.

By paying the $80 (£46.88) for the Founder’s Elite Edition of the game, you get immediate access to the prototype, a second copy of the game to gift to a friend, private forum access, access to design docs and concept art, plus a soundtrack, strategy guide and other bonus content when the game is released.

Pre-ordering under normal circumstances is a dumb idea. It’s a hold-over from when there was scarcity in physical goods, which no longer exists for digital products. The inclusion of special “bonus DLC” and so on for pre-ordered copies is simply an effort to incentivise you into making hasty purchasing decisions.

But that’s not quite the case with “early access” versions of the game, even when there’s not a playable prototype. There’s a lot of entertainment value to be found by following along with the development of a game – obviously – and that entertainment can be wholly separate from the quality of the eventual game.

In this instance, there’s not just one playable version of the game, there’s two. Two copies of a game for $80 isn’t actually that bad, even ignoring the other bonuses. But are those other things bonuses? Are you paying extra for exclusive access, or to test an unfinished game that might not be any good? I’m… I’m confused. You’re on your own.

At the very least, the game does sound interesting. Nathan interviewed Soren Johnson and art director Dorian Newcomb about the game back before it had a name, and its representation of competitive economics in lieu of traditional gunfights sounds fascinating.


  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Big love to anyone who breaks nda and tells us if it’s any bloody good.

    • Cross says:

      Probably not big enough love to pay the fines, though. :/

      • slerbal says:

        I’d love to see them enforce that NDA though.

        Honestly nothing good would come of it should they do so. As others have said though I think this deal confuses customers and business partners and leaves a murky residue regardless of how good the team and eventual game are. That said this is the internets and we have the attention span of a…. ooh new shinies!

      • AngoraFish says:

        Fines? What fines? How much? How would this work? NDSs are simply commercial/contractual agreements. In most cases the worst someone breaking an NDA might face is termination of their software license. Hypothetically, they could perhaps be sued for some kind of commercial loss (almost impossible), but the loss would need to be quantifiable in financial terms in some way and the person being sued would need to have actual assets to make it worthwhile. Also, the company would need to deal with the gaming press fallout associated with trying to sue the pants off a 16 year old. Basically, your comment is a crock. NDAs are effectively gentlemen’s agreements, with the main consequence of breaking one being “nah, nah, nah, we’ll never work with you again”.

        • Mulberry11 says:

          I can’t speak for EU countries, but in the US you absolutely can be sued for violating an NDA. A cursory google search would turn up numerous high profile examples of this. If you don’t have assets they’ll garnish your wages for the rest of your life. Not everyone that games is 16 years old. The type of person putting down 80 bucks early access to an economic RTS is actually most likely 20-30 years old and I guarantee there would be legal repercussions should they catch any of them leaking things.

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      I have to say – I hope someone does break the NDA. If this catches on with independently developed Early Access games…

    • blackmoth says:

      Inciting people to that kind of sabotage is a really horrible thing to try and do, just because an early testing pricerange was set too high for your tastes. Pretty disgusting.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Sabotage? Really?

        • blackmoth says:

          Explain how it’s not.

          • Emeraude says:

            Explain why you used a term of military lexicon that implies the people doing the reveal are in a position of subservience or blatant enmity in a war context to the ones that want the information kept.

            You’re using a very strong word that has very strong implications. Very loaded. It’s not innocent.

            The fact that you do not even seem aware that your very choice of the word sabotage reinforce the point that people buying into this are being treated like employees (sabotage being one main weapon in original class warfare and unionism) – you’re implicitly acknowledging t it yourself – is kinda baffling.

          • blackmoth says:

            Pardon me for not knowing the etymology of a word I merely used for the dictionary definition. Read into that one all you like, even if it comes across as a bit wacko.

            So let me get this straight. You feel like Mohawk is the government or something, and the people who voluntarily sign up and pay for a thing they want that Mohawk is offering, they are enslaved victim workers?

          • Emeraude says:

            Not at all.

            If you want my position on the issue, I’ve had over posts down there.

            Here I was just trying to explain to you how clumsily improper (or conversely how violently proper) your choice of word had been, and why it entailed such a reaction.

          • SuddenSight says:

            Calm down Emeraude, that is the correct usage of the word sabotage.

            I disagree that merely asking someone to break an agreement is automatically sabotage, but the word sabotage is very general. Causing any kind of agreement to be scuttled for any reason can be described as sabotage (and is in colloquial usage).

            blackmoth could have chosen nicer words, but if his point is correct (asking someone to break an agreement automatically jeopardizes that agreement) then his (or her) words are entirely appropriate. Someone stating an argument has the right to choose words that best describe and support their argument. Instead of debating word choice, try simply refuting the claim itself (perhaps by pointing out that NDAs are serious business, and not only money but also the trust and goodwill of the developers is at stake here).

          • Emeraude says:


            Actually no, that’s not even correct usage of the word. “Sabotage” implies that the very aim of the action is the destruction/maiming of the thing being sabotaged. Here the break of NDA could potentially harm the project as a byproduct of the breach. But the aim of the breach is not to harm the project.

            Someone stating an argument has the right to choose words that best describe and support their argument.

            Yes, and the people stating the opposing argument have the right to call on dishonest framing by way of abusing certain vocabulary.

        • rexx.sabotage says:

          What’s up?

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Oh, not a lot. Just wanted to see how you were doing. Everything good?

      • TechnicalBen says:

        How is it sabotage for consumers to talk about products they purchase. Not doing so is very dangerous.
        Note this is a product, not a “product development”. If it’s not fit for consumers (which have specific protection laws) then keep it in the company/testing phase (which also have specific protections).

        We have a separation to protect both the company and the consumer at the varying ends of the transaction, so keep the two seperate!!!

        • jalf says:

          So how exactly does any of this translate into “you should absolutely enter into a contract only to unilaterally break it”?

          If you don’t want to abide by a NDA, maybe don’t do anything that requires you to sign an NDA?

        • SuddenSight says:

          I agree that this is a very shady agreement, and I encourage developers to try other methods of funding their game that don’t restrict consumer rights.

          However, simply because a deal is shady (or even unlawful) doesn’t give the consumer the right to purchase a product and then disregard only the parts of the deal they dislike.

      • Tikanderoga says:

        I have to admit, it is a very vague statement: Hey, we are making a game, that you can play if you give us $80, but you are not allowed to tell anyone about it, even if it sucks or is awesome.
        You cannot see if it is any good or appealing to your taste of games, but why don’t you give us $80 and find out.

        I see Colonial Marines all over again, except there we had screenshots and great previews too…

  2. GernauMorat says:

    Yeah no.

  3. shinkshank says:

    I’m completely behind the idea of charging extra for early access the way they’re doing it. You’re making sure that the people who’re playing your thing are the ones who care enough to pay extra for cool extras related to that game, as well as for the privilege to play it early and help shape it into it’s final form.

    Seems more reasonable to me than selling it for a lesser price in an unfinished state just to give your budget an extra kick.

    • fatgleeson says:

      This is probably all it is. The pricetag is a barrier to stop anyone that isn’t very interested in it from playing. One could say its exploiting your biggest fans for free advice/QA but really why not just let people buy it if they want.

    • Emeraude says:

      the privilege to play it early and help shape it into it’s final form.

      There’s something really weird in seeing people paying to pull dozens, maybe even hundreds for he most dedicated, man*hours worth of work being described as a privilege.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Or, you know, they could actually hire and pay people to test their game, as is proper, rather than this scuzzy “deal” to have people pay them for the so-called privilege of testing their game. I really hope this doesn’t catch on as the next big thing in game development.

    • Lemming says:

      Normally, you get to see at least a video or something first. This is a total blind purchase.

  4. Giuseppe says:

    I love all these schemes where you essentially end up paying to be a game tester.

    • Jeremy says:

      Man, that’s exactly what it sounds like to me. Paying someone to do a job for them isn’t what I would qualify as a “perk.”

  5. supermini says:

    Lets say there was an option of paying 80$ to be allowed on the set of a movie, as long as you sign the NDA. Would that be a bad thing? If you’re interested in how these things are made, quite the opposite.

    Whether it’s worth your money or not is kind of a personal thing so it’s not worth debating, but I quite like the concept.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      This is more like test screening and focus groups for pre-release of a film. I might be mistaken, but I’m fairly sure that audiences in those usually get paid to participate, or at least don’t have to pay for the “privilege” of getting early access. Also, it’s not like you’re being invited to the development studio to watch them code the game and make the art assets or whatever, which would be more the equivalent of being “on-set” for a movie than what this is.

  6. Ham Solo says:

    that’s just audacious, so much for early access and and NDA on top of that.

  7. Emeraude says:

    Issue for me is the combo of paying/buying and NDA.

    Either you’re a consumer/customer, or you’re a business partner.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Exactly this. They can price the early build whatever they want, but don’t try to take away people’s rights to talk about it.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    I’m thinking about making a game. $350 and I’ll email you what I thought up this morning on the bus.

    • RedViv says:

      Okay, just one thing: Will you ponder an exclusive preorder twat skin too?

      • CookPassBabtridge says:


      • Gap Gen says:

        I… uh, well, I guess I have now.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Oh, and remember, you can’t talk about the idea that Gap Gen tells you about after you give him $350 either, or he can sue you for breaking the NDA.

      • Gap Gen says:

        The purchaser will be entitled to me mumbling the idea in their ear, and to write out any personal thoughts on it in a single, locked private journal. Blue and black inks only, please.

  9. Heliocentric says:

    I miss the days when the gambling was done by money men with poorly fitting toupees. Now it’s become acceptable to ask people for $80 from behind a NDA. Fuck that quite frankly.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    Soren Johnson and Mohawk Games, remember those names. It’s the names of those who think you are an idiot.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Eh, as a counterpoint, the offered service is what it is, and people who dislike the idea of paying $80 for a prototype and vague promise of a finished product don’t have to. It’s not substantially different from Kickstarting a game in one of the higher tiers (aside from the funding goal and physical rewards). It’s a weird product, but I don’t think it’ll lead to the erosion of consumer rights or into tricking people into spending money they didn’t originally intend to.

    • Somerled says:

      Asking someone to give you money by namedropping yourself is arrogant enough to be off-putting. No thanks Soren.

  11. InternetBatman says:

    The NDA has the severe problem of limiting the free advertising your fans give you. If you don’t want fans talking about it, don’t release it yet. If you don’t want to release it yet, but need money for a game, do a kickstarter.

    • Geebs says:

      Given their language about people who are “excited about being part of the design process” or similar bollocks, and the steep price, I think they’re making a rod for their own backs; and that rod has “designed by committee” engraved on it.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      *looks at the number of comments* They seem to be doing fine when it comes to that.

  12. gnodab says:

    and to think that i once liked soren johnson. he seemed okay on 3ma….

    but no it is not ok to charge people to be beta testers.
    and it is even less ok to wrap it all up with an additional nda.

    either you want people to buy and play your games or you want professionals who help with your development preferably in house. this type of double dipping is just disgusting and it seems to grow ever more shameless.

    and the fact that there are people posting here who defend this is truly beyond me.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Same for me here. I’d be interested to hear what the 3ma guys think about this. Since SJ is a friend of the show, and 3ma is not incapable of viewing the podcast’s friends with a critical eye, I guess they’ll cover it at some point, especially given the podcast’s focus on strategy games and game design.

    • blackmoth says:

      why is it not ok to let people voluntarily give you $$ to get something they want (to alpha test/early access) again?

  13. Laex pls says:

    I’ll pay 80$ without any pictures or videos or anything else about the game itself.. sure. These methods nowadays.. I’m speechless.

  14. frightlever says:

    Elder Scrolls Online had an NDA for ever such a long time during late beta and that turned out fine…

  15. Zenicetus says:

    The high price doesn’t bother me, although I think it’s dumb in this case. Elite:D is doing the same thing, ostensibly to narrow the initial feedback pool to those most interested in the game. It makes sense for a game like Elite that’s going to attract a lot of interest, and the devs might want to limit the number of people they’re dealing with. I don’t think that rationale applies to a niche strategy game like this. Endless Legend is only $32 USD for early access and a certain degree of user input (including a user-designed faction), and the forums aren’t exactly overloaded with people giving input. It’s just a nice small community interested in the game. No need to put up gates when there won’t be as much initial interest as something like SC or Elite.

    It’s the NDA that’s really creepy here. To me, that says that either the developer is paranoid that someone will steal their ideas, or that they’re afraid an early access buyer might post something negative about the game in another forum. A confident developer (like Amplitude) just takes that risk, knowing the game won’t be perfect in the early stages, in return for some early funding. Requiring an NDA just sounds like wanting to have your cake (early funding) and eat it too (stifling any comments to the outside world).

    The whole concept just makes me want to put this game on the “ignore future news” list.

    • blackmoth says:

      NDA is mostly so that people aren’t livestreaming/youtubing/publicly reviewing what is a very early work in progress. Can you see how having a lot of that kind of stuff public before the game looks and plays like it’s supposed to on release can negatively affect its perception?
      Why are people so afraid of NDAs?
      There is nothing shady here.

      • Emeraude says:

        We’re not afraid of NDAs, it’s the complete reversion of the relationship implied by the very desire to impose an NDA that has been deemed problematic.

        Again: either those people are customers, or they are business partners. Can’t have it both ways.

        What we have here is someone asking for people to pay for the “privilege” of being treated like employees. If you can’t see why/how that’s an issue, why people might think this is at the very least a highly problematic trend for what it entails about working relationship in the industry, I don’t know what to say.

        Part of the issue is that this isn’t an isolated event, but part of what has been an ongoing process.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Fine, if you want my feedback and QA testing on a game that’s so shaky that no details can be revealed to the public, then I’ll happily sign an NDA. It’s not the NDA by itself that’s the problem. I’ve tested under NDA’s before.

        The problem is when the developer wants to establish that relationship, and also charge the user money for the privilege and call it “early access. ” I’ve never paid money for the testing I’ve done under an NDA. Never been paid money for it either… it was free testing under an NDA because I was interested in the product, and the developer was interested in my feedback. The most I ever got was a free copy of the final game.

        Combining paid early access and an NDA is a perverse idea that only benefits the developer, instead of the normal balance between customer and developer where either idea is fine on its own.

  16. Stellar Duck says:

    You know, I’m very interested in the concept this game seems to be going for.

    But with 80$ and an NDA I must say that I think mr. Johnson is beyond the pale.

    You can get 5$ for it in a couple of years, if I haven’t forgotten about the game by that time, is my reply to that. No way am I going to support such shady practices.

    It’s not the price that’s the problem. It’s the NDA. Just wanted to make that clear.

    • Emeraude says:

      It’s between sad and amusing how reading “mr. Johnson” has my brain automatically start looking for a Shadowrun reference.

  17. Frank says:

    I have a question for you: How the f*** could this be a bad thing?

    I’m sick of RPS’ kneejerk skepticism of any business model they don’t recognize. I think this one will turn out poorly for Johnson and co, but that doesn’t mean it’s a “bad thing” in any broader sense. Yes, shady business models exist, but when you post about one as such, you must *explain* why you think it is shady, not just list its differences. (And I’m not just talking about this post, to be clear. RPS does this all the time.)

    Along the same lines, preordering is not a “dumb idea” simply because it has pre-digital origins. Make a better case (though I suspect none can be made against preordering). I’m going to buy Firaxis games day-one anyway, so getting a 1% better game is nice. I don’t know if it does much for the publisher, but maybe it helps them manage finances (just as in predigital times it helped them manage production scaling). And how does it hurt you or anyone else exactly?

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Here you go:

      link to

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, that could have been an interesting piece if it was an investigation instead of an editorial. Publishers have reasons for using preorders and DLC. What are they? The “they want sales before the flood of bad reviews” angle is interesting, but there are other ways of looking at it as well. For example, in any artistic medium that requires patronage/funding, there are concerns about both having a sustainable funding model and supporting innovation. Let’s see RPS talk to people who have thought about that or have looked at the shape of the revenue stream from a game over time. Indies, for example, are writing about their experiences (e.g., on gamasutra) regularly. The folks at Humble Bundle, GOG and elsewhere have certainly thought about it as well.

        Maybe I’m asking too much, but if they don’t have anything enlightening to say, I wish RPS’d quit with the one-note editorializing.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Well, you asked them to *explain* why it was a bad idea and they did so in that editorial.

          Besides, it’s hardly rocket science that it’s dumb to hand over your money before you get a product.

          • Frank says:

            Ah, I thought your “here you go” meant that you were giving another example of the same.

            That article offers only the shallowest, most cynical explanation, like he thought “I know I don’t like this. What’s the first rationalization for its existence that I can think of? Oh right, greedy scumbags covering their asses.” While I don’t think that’s wrong, I also doubt that it is the full story.

            And explaining why it’s generally a bad idea for consumers (which, as you say, is obvious) isn’t really explaining why it’s a bad thing full stop. Is the gaming scene/industry worse because it is here? If your answer is “yes, because people might buy it” um, … that’s not good enough.

    • Thurgret says:

      Making people pay to do a job, and then have them enter into an NDA on top of that? I don’t like either. I don’t like most Early Access stuff, with a scant few exceptions that I’ve played (Mount and Blade as was, Kerbal Space Program, and an obscure one – Ultimate General: Gettysburg), but I can accept it if companies are at least upfront about it. Adding an NDA in is just naff.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Ultimate General is a great example of Early Access by the way. They’re really doing a lot with that and the game has changed quite a lot since I bought it when it was released.

        Ultimately (har har) it’s shaping up to be a great (if somewhat too simple for me) war game and one that I reckon could serve as a good entry point to future grogs.

        • Thurgret says:

          I’ve got a good few hours out of it. Though yes, the most complex thing about it was trying to figure how they had laid out the terrain until they put the height contours in, but at that price point, I won’t complain about simplicity.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve put about 20 hours into it so far and have enjoyed them all.

            Thing is, I’ve won every overall battle so far as both sides and playing on the hardest difficulties, so it’s getting a bit stale. This is probably a result of the ungodly amount of time I’ve spent and still spend playing Scourge of War.

            For a tenner Ultimate General is a splendid game and I feel like I’ve robbed a bank at that price. I rarely bother to put 20 hours into a game these days so that says something.

    • slerbal says:

      The price to support a game you really want to support is fine – people are free to spend their money anyway they like.

      The murkiness stems from the insistence on a quite-possibly-unenforceable/not-worth-enforcing NDA.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Many of us *have* posted an argument for why it’s a bad idea. In my case, it’s the “having your cake and eating it too” argument. They want the advantage of cash flow from early access, while stifling people’s comments about the game who have paid for that access.

      This is not a normal business arrangement. Usually it’s one or the other. I’ve been under NDA as a beta tester for games before, but in none of those cases had I paid money for access. I’ve also paid for early access to a few games, and I wouldn’t have done that if there was an NDA attached. Either way is a reasonable balance between customer and developer. Combining them only advantages the developer.

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, but the comments down here are more insightful than what RPS writers ever have to say. “X is bad because it’s new” or “Y is bad because we’re digital now, and it existed before!” or “Z is this thing over here. I think it’s super-sketchy, won’t attempt to explain why and will instead use my vague skepticism as a starting point for a discussion”.

        Here’s hoping their new writer can help on this front.

        Anyway, yeah, I don’t want to pay $80 to beta test this game under an NDA either. I don’t see the fact that they’re providing that option as harmful, though. I would sign up if this were a great pitch from my favorite developer, like if Warren Spector said “I want to riff on the gameplay of Jagged Alliance 2 with my team: Brian Reynolds, Jon van Caneghem and everyone who worked on Deus Ex.”

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          Only giving one half of the story is something RPS do all the time, unfortunately, under the guise of editorials rather than investigations as you rightly say. It’s not something I approve of, as I think the adoption of a more broadsheet tone would make much of the site’s content less contentious, but sadly RPS are not alone.

          I know it’s in “comment is free”, but may I direct your eyes towards this abomination:

          link to

          I mean, for God’s sake, “anti-environmentalism bordering on racism”?! Come back, John Walker, all is forgiven!

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      It’s not a bad thing. For them, at least. Why? Because they can always depend on fools like you to come out of the woodwork in support of it.

  18. rabbiqqqqqqqq says:

    agree with the comments on here. the idea behind the game sounds like it could be cool and given that you get two copies for the eighty i’d actually be pretty tempted – but hiding the whole thing behind an NDA is just a dick move however you look at it. i’d lean towards not putting my money down just out of principle.

  19. aleander says:

    Down with this sort of thing. Early access, fine, but NDA in this case, while it might be done with good intentions, is indistinguishable from attempts to silence dissenting consumers.

  20. hemmingjay says:

    My studio and a few other small to mid sized studios have been discussing the need for a movement to return the integrity to the relationship between developer and user. While I have no problem with a person wanting to pay $80 to see a game before it’s a game, I do have a problem with a developer asking for $80, sight unseen, to access what will certainly be fark-all for the next 6 months until they get to the point when they will charge $40 for Alpha.

    I don’t even consider pre-orders to be a fair practice, although I can understand the use. It’s entirely in the favor of developers and not at all and adding to the divide. I am torn though, as a gamer I want to have the choice to make a stupid decision if I want to. I make plenty of them ;)

  21. CookPassBabtridge says:

    How on earth do you police an NDA? Unless only 2 people buy it, how can you track anonymous internet randoms playing it and posting “it’s a bag of dog testicle” on reddit?

    Or journalists passing on the content of said posts? What if some RPS readers had a whip round, bought a copy, then anonymously accidently emailed RPS their thoughts to be tangentially referenced? Are we all under NDA? Is there a NLORA where I am obliged to cover my eyes or ears in the event someone begins transmitting opinions in some form? Will the dev come round and break my legs? Why is the milka cow lilac? So many questions

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Or what if someone bought it and played it with a friend and said friend then posted his musings?

      Really, the NDA seems to be a miscalculated move and serves to alienate potential customers, of which I was one.

    • Emeraude says:

      Why is the milka cow lilac?

      Some whispers in the informed circles that this actually has to do with marmots and aluminum foil.

      You didn’t hear it from me.

      I’m under NDA.

  22. SquareWheel says:

    If you’re not interested, then this isn’t meant for you. You’re not that interested in the game and would probably be a shitty beta tester. Wait for the full release when there will be trailers and reviews galore. It’s extremely silly to get upset over something like this.

    • c-Row says:

      How dare you bringing some common sense to the comment section? Out with you, hush hush!

    • blackmoth says:


    • slerbal says:

      that is a vacuous statement to make. it is completely fine to read an article and then comment on said article, pointing out the rather silly arrangements. no offence, but you don’t get to decide what i can and cannot comment on :)

      good day, sir.

    • Zenicetus says:

      You’re missing the point. People are voicing strong opinions (which is different from “getting upset”) because some of us don’t want this to become the new paradigm for the customer-developer relationship. Mohawk is trying to redefine that relationship to include users paying for the privilege of signing an NDA. That’s new, and it’s worth commenting on.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      This has the risk of being a scam as it provides no checks or security of guarantee to the purchaser. It provides little if any information. Thus even if it is not a scam, it going forwards allows others to use the same mechanism as a scam.

      Even though the current sales system is not perfect, we don’t want it degrading. So really, the “if your not interested” comment applies no where. Everyone here is interested in the game. Their not interested in mechanisms that allow for customers to be scammed (or developers to be indistinguishable from fly by night scams).

      We need something to back up both parties, which videos/content do provide proof of a product to protect the business (buyer was aware so no refunds), and also protects the customer (they know what they are buying).

  23. blackmoth says:

    First I will remind people that the 80$ is completely optional. If you think it’s too expensive, you don’t have to participate. Isn’t that awesome?

    What is with all this rage? I don’t get it. Even the article is definitely written in a tone that makes it seem like Mohawk is doing something wrong here. But there’s no explanation of why that’s the case, other than “pre-ordering is dumb.” That doesn’t necessarily translate to “the act of offering early access at 80$ is dumb”.

    Mohawk doesn’t have unlimited funds. They could PAY (take money that would otherwise go toward development time) some random QAers. Or they could RECEIVE money (that goes toward development time) to get people playing and testing and giving feedback from the strategy gaming community (i.e. the kind of players that are going to buy this game on release).

    People who have the sufficient funds and serious interest will gladly pay this. It won’t be every kid on the block – it will be a smaller, manageable pool – but that is exactly what they’re looking for.

    Doesn’t sound dumb, and doesn’t sound wrong. And anyone out there setting Soren and Dorian up as the bad guys are misguided. They are driven completely by the passion and goal of making GOOD games that they want to be making. But you’re gonna demonize them because they wanted to bring in some players during development and were asking more than you thought was worth it.

    Give it a rest.

    • Emeraude says:

      What is with all this rage?

      I don’t know, maybe read the comments to find out. That way you’ll address the issues that have been raised, instead of those that haven’t.

      Makes for better conversation overall.

      • blackmoth says:

        People are just saying they have a problem with it – not saying why.

        • slerbal says:

          yes they are.

          the comments are pretty clear about this – few people have any issue with he charging of $80 as it is up to the individual how they spend it, it is the NDA that is the issue as it confuses a paying customer buying a product with a business partner and people are just calling this out… in a comments section about that very same subject.

          the NDA is more than likely unenforceable and a bit of a dick move and it seems like a good idea to point this out.

          • blackmoth says:

            I’ll quote myself from earlier: “NDA is mostly so that people aren’t livestreaming/youtubing/publicly reviewing what is a very early work in progress. Can you see how having a lot of that kind of stuff public before the game looks and plays like it’s supposed to on release can negatively affect its perception?”
            I will add that public judgement being passed too early in development is ESPECIALLY deadly with strategy games, where the difference between the game playing well or poorly can come down to the honing and balance of a few numbers.
            This isn’t about being a dick. This also isn’t threatening or scary. You aren’t paying the 80$ to get a copy of a finished product. You are paying to participate in early prototypes, so it comes with a caveat. How is this confusing?

          • Zenicetus says:

            I will add that public judgement being passed too early in development is ESPECIALLY deadly with strategy games, where the difference between the game playing well or poorly can come down to the honing and balance of a few numbers.

            Then you know what? Don’t ask people to pay for access until it’s in better shape. That’s a formula that Amplitude followed with Endless Space, which along with Kerbal was one of the first games to try this They did it by waiting until the game was good enough for the rest of the world to know about, before asking for money.

            Requiring an NDA for paid early access just sends a message that they’re not proud enough of their work to both charge for it, and also let the rest of the world know what they’re charging for.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      By any chance are you part of the development team?

      As everyone has said, with consumers, certain things do not mix. This is in it’s simplest terms a legal requirement.

      NDA and purchases. Now, it may not be illegal in this instance. But most here see that as a loophole and not a desired outcome.

      • blackmoth says:

        Im a developer, but not affiliated with this team.

        I guess I just don’t see this as purchasing a product. I see it as access to internal docs and internal prototype builds.
        It’s not the same as if I’d walked into walmart to buy some sneakers and was required to sign an NDA to do so.

  24. psulli says:

    People used to get paid to develop and test software.

    Now people pay to do it.

    Gimme all the PR you would like but this is weird.

  25. ExitDose says:

    I’m not a person that has a problem that takes issue with Early Access, but this one really bugs me. This just seems to step on the consumer’s rights.

    • blackmoth says:

      How so?

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Since you seem to insist on not reading the comments, the problem is the NDA.

        • blackmoth says:

          That’s what people are saying, yes. But explain how exactly it steps on the consumer’s rights.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Because it’s a reversal of the usual set up. You’re paying to perform a job that they would otherwise have to pay to get done. That’s one thing, and comes with its own set of implications. When you then add an NDA you basically have people paying for restrictions that normally only applied to employees.

          • Cooper says:

            If you want a concrete example: An NDA stands against articles 3(c) and 3(f) of the United Nations guidelines for consumer protection. Which are “Access of consumers to adequate information to enable them to make informed choices according to individual wishes and needs” and “Freedom to form consumer and other relevant groups or organizations and the opportunity of such organizations to present their views in decision-making processes affecting them” respectively.

            In more simple terms: The NDA denies the simple right to voice opinion over a product and inform others about a product.

          • blackmoth says:

            Just because something is a reversal of a norm – doesn’t make it wrong. But I can see your worry of a future in which every game stopped hiring Q/A and relied entirely on paid early access feedback. Im not entirely sure I’m afraid of that though. Restrictions included, If there are people who are willing to pay for all that then….

            As a person who doesn’t feel like paying to Q/A, I dont have to and can buy the finished game. I’m not sure if, in this future, anything is different to me.

            The only difference is being made to people who voluntarily pay to Q/A.

          • blackmoth says:

            To Cooper:
            Back before early access was a thing, there wasn’t *more* information available for consumers to make choices. An Early access with an NDA isn’t creating an environment where there will be less consumer information available on a shipped product.
            It’s simply making sure that the kind of information that would usually be available on release, is available on release and not before (again, how it would be if there were no early access at all.)
            In a way this preserves the old paradigm more than when early access doesn’t require an NDA.

          • ExitDose says:

            I don’t think that this is an enforceable contract – in the United States, at least. A desire to avoid bad press doesn’t trump the ability to express your opinion of the product that your purchased, no matter if you term it early access, pre-alphe, etc.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            Devs: Buy our game
            Consumer: Er… maybe, what is it?
            Devs: It’s a strategy game where money is used as a weapon. Designed by Mr Well Known Game Dev.
            Consumer: Oooh, sounds great! But I don’t make decisions on publicity statements alone, got any footage of the game?
            Devs: Buy our game.
            Consumer: Err… How about a screenshot?
            Devs: Buy our game.
            Consumer: Independent review? Let’s play?
            Devs: Buy our game
            Consumer: Text explaining how the game works?
            Devs: Buy our game
            Devs: Buy our game
            Consumer: Why would I do that? I don’t know if I’ll like it.
            Devs: It’s early access.
            Consumer: So?
            Devs: That means even if you don’t like it now, you might in the future.
            Consumer: Can you tell me what the game will be like in the future?
            Devs: No.
            Consumer: Why not?
            Devs: Because people who buy it now get to help design the game.
            Consumer: But you tried to sell me this game based on who was designing it, now that turns out to not be the case?
            Devs: The named designer choose to allow other people to design the game, thus he ultimately is the designer.
            Consumer: Seems a bit dishonest to me.
            Devs: Buy our game.
            Consumer: So if I buy it, I get to design it?
            Devs: Yes.
            Consumer: Will my ideas be considered?
            Devs: No.
            Consumer: Then how do I get to design it?
            Devs: You get access to a forum.
            Consumer: And?
            Devs: We’ll read it.
            Consumer: And?
            Devs: That’s it.
            Consumer: Presumably this game is filled with tonnes of bugs?
            Devs: We’re not going to tell you.
            Consumer: Do I get a discount for putting up with all this anti consumer BS?
            Devs: Quite the opposite!
            Consumer: So let me recap, you want me to buy your product.
            Devs: Indeed.
            Consumer: For a higher price than it’s retail
            Devs: Yes please
            Consumer: I get the product, unfinished.
            Devs: Yup
            Consumer: Filled with bugs
            Devs:………. Please don’t jump to assumptions, thankyou please buy our game
            Consumer: You say that it will change
            Devs: MAY change.
            Consumer: and that I get access to a forum
            Devs: An Exclusive Forum that we read.
            Consumer: But, the only reason I would need that is because you want me to sign an NDA, otherwise I’d use a forum with people I want to talk to on it.
            Devs: The first rule of buying our game is that you musn’t talk about our game.
            Consumer: You do realise the subtext behind Fightclub was against this stuff, don’t you?
            Devs: Buy our game.
            Consumer: And the designer reads the forum, then takes the ideas he likes and puts his name to them?
            Devs: You’ll be mentioned in the credits
            Consumer: As a designer?
            Devs: No
            Consumer: So if I come up with an idea and it is incorporated into the game, how will anyone know it is my idea?
            Devs: I’m sure other people on the forum will remember.
            Consumer: The forum that no-one is allowed to talk about.
            Devs: That’s the one!
            Consumer: Do you at least guarantee that the game will come out?
            Devs: Good god no!
            Consumer: Do you guarantee that you will work on the game at all?
            Devs: No, but come on, do you really think we would do that?
            Consumer: Well, no, but it’s an additional risk with early access isn’t it?
            Devs: Buy our game.
            Consumer: Why are you even offering this, it seems like a smart consumer would pay less, later for a better product.
            Devs: You’re forgetting that you get to design the game!
            Consumer: Do I really get to design the game:
            Devs: No.
            Consumer: Why are you offering this?
            Devs: We want to get more money, now
            Consumer: Why? Are you having cashflow problems?
            Devs: No.
            Consumer: So why offer it?
            Devs: Because some people were damaging their monitors by hurling currency at it in response to the publicity we put out.
            Consumer: Fair point, but presumably those people were invited to join a forum and as they are so interested in your game already knew about this “opportunity”?
            Devs: The forum is only for those who bought the game.
            Consumer: An email list?
            Devs: This way more people saw it
            Consumer: Fair point, but again it seems a bit anti-consumer, locking people out of the pre-game hype unless they buy your game at a huge markup.
            Devs: You are free to buy our game on release with your regular retail rights!
            Consumer: When all the people who were most into your game have burned out on it already, exacerbated by bugs and I’m left playing only with people who weren’t hyped about it, thus likely to burn out sooner.
            Devs: We don’t believe anyone will burn out on our game.
            Consumer: Is that a guarantee?
            Devs: No. Buy our game

          • blackmoth says:

            That was pretty long for something that seems to have missed the point.
            Maybe they don’t have a ton of media released right now. They open up entry to prototype anyway. Anyone who balks at throwing 80$ down for something they dont know a ton about isn’t irrational. The good thing is, they are free to balk.

            The 80$ isnt for the finished game. The finished game, to clarify, is something that comes later, when it is no longer a prototype.
            Traditionally, when games are no longer prototypes, the company’s marketing team will begin releasing more screenshots and video and information about said game. Then previews and reviews come. That is the information by which a general consumer then makes the decision to buy the finished game. This includes the person who balked at the 80$ prototype access.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Where is the kickstarter to write part 2 of this

          • Cooper says:


            You write about before / after release.

            Once you are charging consumers for a product you have, to some extent, released a product, even if it is not final.

            In the past, and in the present, we rely upon reviews from writers and recommendations from friends or those whose views we trust before spending our money. We rely upon having that information before spending money on the game. An NDA attempts to stop that information being shared with potential consumers.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            I think you missed the point to be honest – the point is that a normalisation of buying games with little to no consumer protection is universally a bad thing. The price point is set to maximise profits, not keep the uninformed out. They KNOW that uninformed consumers will get dicked over by this and they don’t care, because uninformed consumers getting dicked over is more profitable than informed consumers getting exactly what they know they are getting. This is why less and less studios put out demos!

            The games industry is exploiting a loophole and until they start accepting returns if the title does not live up to the claims of what the game will be on release and is at the moment you buy it, then it is anti consumer. Fun fact, if you buy a game on early access, you are never protected by law. When the game is released consumer protection will not apply to people who bought it early, so if it contains game breaking bugs, tough shit, no return for you. This is bad, and even if this game is going to do everything properly (and to be fair, the comment by the dev is exactly right), make a great game and release a great product, they are normalising the early access for scumbags who will exploit you and even if this game is trustworthy, this is the appropriate place to voice concerns about the process they have chosen to use, because without the likes of you shouting it down left, right and center, voicing this concern at the very least will help people to make decisions and at best could make sure that when the scummers do set out to rip us off, they can’t use a method which is so bloody easy for them.

          • iseemonkeys says:

            Many people stated why they disagree and gave points to back it. You seem to purposely choose to ignore them or just trolling.

  26. gombicek says:

    Yay. Rejoice. It’s finally here. In the past companies used to hire and pay betatesters. Now betatesters will pay companies to betatest their games. I have nothing against early access but they are crossing the line further and further.

  27. TechnicalBen says:

    “Two copies of a game for $80 isn’t actually that bad…”
    No, 2 copies of a GOOD game for $80 isn’t actually that bad. $40 a game on something random, considering the number of poorly made games, are not good odds, even if your a gambling type. Anyone else would think it crazy to jump in blind!

  28. dorianN says:

    Hi. This is Dorian from Mohawk games. Sorry if this pricing model has rubbed you the wrong way. We debated a lot of the same concerns I’ve read here when we decided to move forward with our Founder’s program. I apologize that folks feel abused by this “scheme”. We are not looking for free playtesting, nor are we trying to stifle folks from voicing their opinions to protect “future sales”. The gameplay and multiplayer is really ahead of the art and audio production of the game. The NDA is really to prevent people from streaming stuff on Twitch, and having people’s initial reaction of the temporary assets hurt their impression of what the game will become.

    Internally we are huge fans of the game. There is always the fear when you develop something you like this much that you are in an echo chamber, and that you miss out on things that are obvious to customers. We playtest regularly, inviting friends, developers, and press to try it out and give us their honest feedback. Our hope was to test these waters out with people that are dedicated fans on Soren’s previous work. This was the approach we decided on.

    Please do not think of this as the best way to get the game, or even the preferred way. I personally would recommend waiting until we post some screenshots, have a video or two, and have earned your investment. Mohawk’s plan is that we deliver the goods and make a great game where the debate isn’t about the initial price point of the Founder’s edition, but which corporation is the best one to start with when there is no water but tons of carbon the map.

    • iseemonkeys says:

      Not giving my opinion on your modal but you do realize what you wrote sounds like a contraction. ” nor are we trying to stifle folks from voicing their opinions to protect “future sales”. The gameplay and multiplayer is really ahead of the art and audio production of the game. The NDA is really to prevent people from streaming stuff on Twitch, and having people’s initial reaction of the temporary assets hurt their impression of what the game will become.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The debate isn’t about the $80 price. It’s about combining Early Access (at any price) with an NDA requirement.

      Many of us here have worked as beta testers under NDA’s before, including donating that time freely with no compensation. What we’ve never been asked to do before, is pay the developer to work under an NDA. That’s new, and it’s why you’re getting this blow-back.

    • RobF says:

      The idea that someone is more of a dedicated fan of someone’s work if they’re willing to fork over a larger amount or that it’s somehow right to charge a more dedicated fan for earlier access is pretty grim when you actually remember they’re human beings. (Do you love us the most? $80!) Really, think about what you’re saying with that.

      But that aside, the NDA is pretty grim and really, you could have covered that just by asking people nicely not to share on Twitch. Absolutely no need for it to be there -especially- when you’re charging high amounts for access.

      • Emeraude says:

        Yeah, there is something pretty grim in the idea that the value of your passion, that your value as an individual can be monetarily evaluated and placed on a market.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          Why so? Most Baroque and Classical music only got to be written because a wealthy patron wanted a talented composer to write something that took their fancy. Patronage is nothing new. Realistically, your worth to any company is indeed in the depth of your pockets, and your likelihood to empty them. The problem is when a company tries to empty them under false pretenses, not when they basically flat out tell you that this 80$ down the drain, might be good, might not, no refunds.

          • Emeraude says:

            The end production can be valued. But the passion of the actors ? There is a kind grim prospect in that you are basically saying to anyone that cannot meet the price tag that they’re just not passionate enough. Equating being poor with not being invested in the medium/production/community.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Oh I see, well OK. I suppose semantically it would indeed be incorrect to say that a poor person is necessarily ignorant or dispassionate regarding a given object/commodity/product. For example, a disenfranchised woman in the street in 1966 might have overheard a Beatles record, and found it to be the greatest thing she had ever heard. One cannot deny her passion, if I have understood you rightly. Naturally one also cannot deny that she is of no practical use to Apple records other than word of mouth advertising, but I concede that her poverty by no means implies disengagement. :)

          • Sleepy Will says:

            @Shamefuldisplay – and what about that same woman, with that same reaction who is now comfortably wealthy, yet doesn’t buy the record because reasons, can she not also be passionate about the Beatles?

            Is it not fair to say that your passion for something cannot be discerned by your public actions or your spending?

    • Stellar Duck says:

      “There is always the fear when you develop something you like this much that you are in an echo chamber, and that you miss out on things that are obvious to customers. We playtest regularly, inviting friends, developers, and press to try it out and give us their honest feedback.”

      Then why not invite some fans to play it as well instead of making them to work for you as well as putting them under NDA?

      If the game really is in a stage where you fear anyone seeing it would be bad, then how about holding back putting it up for sale?

    • Emeraude says:

      Dorian, I don’t think anyone but the most jaded had any illusion of you doing this purposely to try and scam people. That’s not what is at stake here, not your company’s honesty or earnestness.

      Surely, I hope, you can see why and how the set up you’ve been proposing is eminently abusable and on some respects can have a putrid influence on the workforce/marketplace if it gains traction. Because that’s the issue here.

    • Saii says:

      “We are not looking for free playtesting”

      So how many professional testers are you going to be paying over the development cycle?

    • InternetBatman says:

      “The NDA is really to prevent people from streaming stuff on Twitch, and having people’s initial reaction of the temporary assets hurt their impression of what the game will become.”

      The problem is that you’re not selling the game for what it will become. You’re selling it for what it is. Thus the NDA is preventing the consumer from making an informed decision, and taking away the rights of the consumer at the same time. It is a profoundly unequal and unfair exchange.

      People should be able to see it on twitch if they can buy the game. People should be able to make an informed decision. If you want to sell the game and you want to use placeholder art; then put a giant banner at the bottom that says this game is a prototype. If you care more about how people perceive the game then how the game sells right now, release it for free under an NDA, or don’t release it. If you want to sell your vision of the game then do a kickstarter, and release it when it is ready without the NDA.

      Also, I think you’re underestimating the consumer. People know what early access is, and the vast majority of criticism early access users give is not about how a game looks.

    • Frank says:

      You could simply have a “no videos or screenshots” policy if that’s true. “An NDA” implies something broader.

    • DeadlyAccurate says:

      So you admit you’re not sure the game is worth buying, but you have no problem taking money from people anyway. If you don’t think your product is good, don’t charge money for it. If you’re forcing your customer (and these are CUSTOMERS–not friends, fellow developers, or employees) to buy two copies of your game at $40 a piece, you’re saying you’re ready for the public to know about it. Early access is BS when it is used to insulate a game from reviews. Don’t want the reviews? Don’t charge for the product.

  29. Saii says:

    Why on earth would I want to pay $80 to do a cack-handed attempt at the job of a professional games tester?

  30. phanatic62 says:

    At first I was annoyed that other people were annoyed. Maybe because I think this game sounds cool, and I want to play it, so I felt the need to defend what the dev is doing. But I read the comments, and I get why this upsets some people. I personally think that $80 (even for two copies) is too much to spend, regardless of the NDA, so I’m not buying it at this price point.

    The NDA is, at best, a poorly thought out plan. If you’re selling to the public, the game should be public. Pretty much that simple. But to call out the developer, saying that you’re hurt that Soren Johnson would do such a terrible thing… give me a break. It looks to me like this was a compromise made for investors, and like most compromises made for investors it was a bad idea. The best thing you as a consumer can do is to not buy the game right now. If it really burns you up, don’t buy the game at all. But to say that this is a travesty of consumer rights because some unfortunate soul is getting scammed into buying a game without having seen screenshots or videos is just ridiculous. If you as a consumer will part with $80 so readily without understanding what you’re buying, I don’t feel bad for you.

    Outside the question of legality, I think the market will figure this one out. If this blows up in Mohawk’s face and the game sells poorly because of it, I doubt many devs will follow suit. And even if some do, just don’t buy their product if it makes you that upset.

    • Emeraude says:

      The issue with a purely laissez-faire attitude being all it takes is enough of a minority to follow suite for the practice to gain traction.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Well in a strictly laissez-faire environment if no-one had the money to pay for the service then no-one would, and the concept would fail. If lots of people had the money, and wished to spend it in that manner, then a new market would be created, with a new service being granted for its apparent market price. (i.e. a niche product for a niche audience). It’s very difficult to “trick” people into spending too much in a laissez-faire system, as the market is supposed to determine *the most that they can pay*.

        • Emeraude says:

          There’s no such thing as a strictly laissez faire environment. What we have though, is people advocating a laissez-faire attitude in a tightly regulated environment (that’s what commerce is), with consequence that the regulations in aggregate always en up in favor of those that have the means to propose and enforce new models (ie: the capital owners).

          It’s not about tricking individuals into paying too much, it’s that with a laisser faire attitude, all it takes is a profitable minority for a practice that is overall bad for the majority, or as been judged bad by the majority, to take root and spoil things for everyone (else).

          Which is partly why we try to ahve regulations in the first place.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            With respect, your weighting of the power to enforce certain models of payment etc on the capital owning classes sounds more like socialist dogma than sound theory to me, though perhaps I have misunderstood you. What I do not understand is this sentence: “all it takes is a profitable minority for a practice that is overall bad for the majority, or as been judged bad by the majority, to take root and spoil things for everyone (else).” If the practice is profitable, how can it be bad? That, surely, is the sole objective? It sounds to me like you are judging the morality or other general appropriateness of the market by other criteria than what the market want / what the market are getting. If the market want this model, they will pay for it. Naturally I don’t mean the WHOLE market, or even the whole potential market, I mean a sufficient segment of the market to render development profitable.

            Frankly, if this system enables developers to make a profit on their labours and deliver the game on time (which I am not convinced of, but we shall see), then surely it is a system that is working? If the resultant game is of poor quality, then the market (or the customer base, if you prefer) will cease to purchase the game, and will cease to purchase future games made with the same payment model. I don’t see where regulation comes into the matter at all.

          • Emeraude says:

            If the practice is profitable, how can it be bad?

            Why have regulated commerce as to ban slavery and drugs ? Those were/are perfectly profitable practices.
            But we’ve decided that they were wrong for the social body, and regulated against them

            Profitability is not the sole, nor the ultimately the most important factor for regulation. Quite the contrary, most regulations are to be made because something is profitable to some but comes with hidden costs that is being paid by all others (regulations on pollution are a great example).

            Here we have something that may be good for that publisher, but have possible negative impact on the whole market. This has to be weighted. Maybe I’m just being alarmist, but this has to be weighted.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Sorry to be boorish, but Slavery was actually not as profitable a practice as was generally supposed by slavers at the time. Adam Smith wrote a lot on the subject, in actual fact free labour tends to be a great deal more productive than slave labour, to the point where the slight savings implicit in only paying basic board and providing accomodation versus salary are wiped out by the massively improved productivity of a properly employed labour force. It doesn’t actually diminish your point re: drugs particularly, just couldn’t let it slip. :)

            Anyhow, I see that you were indeed referring to a “moral dimension” that was not immediately clear in your initial post (you spoke of laissez faire, you see). I thought you wanted to regulate the market for the economic rather than moral good of the market, you see, which was my misunderstanding.

            As for the point itself, I absolutely do not want to diminish the horrors of drug abuse or pimping (which I would say is a more current and appropriate example than slaving for reasons discussed above), naturally there are very good reasons why the above are regulated (though as an aside, I think they could be *better* regulated if legalized, though I understand why that’s a moral no-go) I don’t think they are comparable to what we are talking about here. In these cases, lives are ruined, human rights are contravened, etc. In the case of an 80$ early access title, what’s the worst that could happen? Either people reject the model en masse, in which the case the developer regrettably goes bankrupt, or people waste 80$ on a worthless non-product, the potential failure of which was carefully advertised against before they made their purchase. In that case, what’s the worst that could happen? They learn the value of thrift?

            I respect your wish to protect people from immoral payment practices, I do. But since the practice is laid out in full before a penny is handed over, I must ask: Aren’t you really trying to protect people from their own (presumed) profligate spending habits? Shouldn’t they be allowed to manage their own expenditure? As I say, I would agree with you if customers were lured in under false pretenses, as was the case with The War Z, for example, but this is just a perfectly legitimate, if superficially rather shady, business transaction, conferring a high chance of total loss upon the user. I dislike the presumption that individuals should not be permitted to make high-risk spending decisions at their discretion.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Not to also be boorish but the profitabilty of slavery is not quite as simple as you (and possible Smith) make it out to be.

            In the Cotton States slavery was certainly worth it but only after the introduction of the cotton gin. Leaving aside the preposterous arguments of the south about tradition and general racism, to the planters, slavery was absolutely a profitable mode of production. There was a reason Cotton was King.

            But this is a question that has been debated since forever and you can find arguments either way. Going to Smith for support is fragile at best, as much ink has been spilled later on over this subject.

            Sorry, couldn’t let it slide. :P

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            @Stellar Duck

            Cotton gin was only invented in the 1790s and achieved decent saturation even later, whereas the Wealth of Nations was completed before that. I never denied that slavery was profitable in its own way, I was saying that slavery was not *as* profitable as productive, free labour. I must confess I never intended this contention to balloon into 19th century America, as I really intended to illustrate the contemporary point of view by the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in Britain, and refute the notion that slavery is, by and large, a profitable but morally problematic institution. Speaking in terms of basic economic theory, slavery is neither moral nor profitable. I confess to being better versed in 18th century British commercial practice, but surely the vast boom in the American cotton trade precipitated by mechanisation in the latter half of the nineteenth century confirms my contention that slavery was ultimately a practice that was already in its death throes? The USA, as the last major, civilised nation to abolish slavery, is also probably not the best yardstick (nor, admittedly, is Britain as an outlier in the other direction.) Certainly by the 1820s, the writing was on the wall for all those with eyes to see.

          • InternetBatman says:

            Slavery was absolutely profitable at the time because the working conditions refused to let workers consider the shadow opportunity cost of their labor vs. free time. Ransom and Sutch clearly document the loss in southern productivity in One Kind of Freedom, which is one of the basic economic texts on slavery.

            One of the reasons Britain was able to outlaw slavery was that the majority of cotton production was either in the American south, which they didn’t control, or in India where residents were compelled by force of arms to join a market economy that was significantly distorted in favor of British fabric producers.

      • phanatic62 says:

        Agreed. But many people are already boycotting the idea of Early Access. Taking it to the other extreme with high prices and NDA’s seems like it will alienate even more people. So if developers want to earn some extra cash early on, and there are people willing to buy a game sight unseen and be under a gag order until the dev is ready for them to talk, it’s probably going to happen. I think if people get really upset about this practice that it will end up costing many more sales on the other end, and that will stop most developers from following suit.

        The thing is, even if EVERY game started coming out with super early access with an NDA for $80, I still wouldn’t buy any of those at that price point and until I found out more about the game. I find it hard to believe that this would ever become a major revenue stream for companies, and for that reason I don’t think this is as big a deal as many comments on this page would lead you to believe.

  31. Bahlof says:

    I miss the old days in 2009 when early-access cost $10 or less. I hate when company’s say “We charge outrageous prices so we can only get the most dedicated feedback!” more like narrowing down the testers to a few wealthy individuals. I understand not wanting feedback from those who have no concept of early access but can really complain that much if they gave you money to begin with?

    Ugh pet peeved.

  32. Emeraude says:


    You’re not being boorish, that’s a perfectly fair point. Hell not only do I agree, we’re presenting parallel arguments on that point: slavery *was* profitable… to a minority. What Smith showed was that, regardless of the moral argument, it wasn’t’ profitable for the vast majority of the people.
    Saying “it’s profitable” is not enough. Profitable to whom ? And what at what costs, especially the ones that are hidden and not immediately apparent ?

    In that case, what’s the worst that could happen?

    The practice is successful enough to become a new norm. There is yet another slight regression in consumer and worker – that’s the bit that kinda disquiets me most – rights.

    The practice of making people *pay*to produce work for a company under a weird guise that leaves neither the protection of a contractual service nor the one of a product sale to consumers/workers gets generalized, the way the practice of abusing interns generalized on the market, making the position of workers in the field even grimmer than it is right now.

    It’s not a great battle we have here for sure. But small as it is, it’s worth giving a look.

    Aren’t you really trying to protect people from their own (presumed) profligate spending habits?

    Look at it that way: we’re all stupid. Not all the time, thankfully, but we *are*. Sometime we individually act against our collective interests. Sometimes we act against our own. If only because so often what we find self-evident common sense is actually wrong.
    That’s also why we have regulations: because we need protection against ourselves and one another. Now if the cost of the mistake is negligible, then there is no point in regulation.
    If it isn’t, well at least worth looking into it. The market seldom regulates itself for the better.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      I understand what you’re saying, and I agree wholeheartedly with the “we’re all stupid” stuff, but my problem is that the regulatory body is frequently even more stupid. Sorry to refer to Hayek, because I know he’s not exactly well-loved in some circles, but any state regulatory body, no matter how adroit and nimble, is necessarily reactive and slow. Problems have to occur before there can be a reaction, by which time the next loophole has been created. Perverse as it may seem, a market which fails to self-regulate is actually a failed market, it’s not a case of regulation on the left versus market on the right (or however you wish to visualise it). In short, a market which lacks transparency (say, a banana republic land sell-off) or legality (some of the dealings of various casino banks and MPs during the last economic crisis) is a bad market, as it removes the power of the consumer to adequately make judgments in good faith.

      Now, if you’re asking for a regulatory framework that stops companies from breaking the law, of course I’m 100% down with it. It’s very bad for the small businessman to see Starbucks paying no tax, when paying tax is the law of the land. It’s bad for him to see investment managers go unpunished for investing in hedge funds that don’t really exist. We have laws against such actions, and they must be upheld.

      Where I worry is in regulating against, as you put it, stupidity. Because stupidity is so difficult to adequately define. So often, the government will simply define “stupidity” as “anyone who does anything at all that we believe to be wrong, for subjective reasons”. After this has been enforced, the next logical step is for the government to re-define stupidity as “anyone who doesn’t agree with us”, followed by “anyone that doesn’t vote for us”. See why some people (myself included) are so worried by legislation against stupidity? It’s so easy to abuse.

      Let’s say, and this is an example I superficially agree with by the way, that the government makes it illegal to buy any Apple product, since as most tech-literate people will tell you, they are essentially over-priced, under-engineered where it counts, and geared towards selling stylish but brittle technology to those that value style above capability. That might seem superficially sensible. The question is, who has lobbied for this? Are the grubby tendrils of Microsoft behind it, via lobbying? Did the Minister of this matter once just have a bad experience with an iPhone and getting caught by the News of the World with the Grinder app open? Who knows, and this is the problem!

      I know I’m stretching the original example of an 80$ pre-order to breaking point here, but my basic problem with regulation of profligacy is that it’s very easy for those in power to twist definitions of profligacy to suit ulterior motives which may not be visible to the public. Even if they do not, they may have simply lag behind the customers in detecting a new, good value for money system of selling. In 2004, I must admit I would have been fully behind outlawing Steam and its wretched EULA that meant the customer didn’t own his or her games. 10 years later and I own 200 games with them! :)

      Goodnight! Have a good ‘un

      • Emeraude says:

        It sometimes seem to me like you’re either reading something that isn’t there or having an argument by proxy with something/someone else here. I’m not sure I can answer that properly.

        All I’m saying is, to put in economical term, if the social cost of individual actions is high enough for the social body that regulation, in spite of all the inefficiencies and risk you noted and I fully acknowledge (which is why we try to build safeguard mechanisms in there too), is deemed like a worthwhile proposition, then it should be done.

        If not, then we live with the cost. Or we do what we’re doing know we try to argue to defuse the situation before it happens.

        I’m not arguing for regulating against stupidity. That would be like arguing against oxygen. I truly believe we wouldn’t be alive if not for the gift of being stupid.

        In 2004, I must admit I would have been fully behind outlawing Steam and its wretched EULA that meant the customer didn’t own his or her games. 10 years later and I own 200 games with them!

        I still would on many respects. Not ban the thing altogether, but certainly regulate certain respects of it much more tightly. Good example of a minority making something that is overall bad gain traction and become the norm right there. With added problem that regulating down the line is now going to be much costlier if it has to be done.

        Oh and correction, you don’t own.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          Indeed, I should have been more careful in my phraseology there! At least most if not all Steam games can be have the client cracked off them, should the need ever arise.

  33. Person of Interest says:

    Didn’t Double Fine do something like this with Broken Age? I seem to remember there being a private forum for early backers and a request from the developers not to share the project’s progress with the outside world. Am I mis-remembering? Was the request generally honored by the backers?

    Are we only having this discussion because the developers said “NDA” instead of “Scout’s honor”, even though both would likely play out more-or-less identically?

    • RobF says:

      Given there’s no legal repercussions for going back on “scouts honour”, I think it’s a distinction well worth drawing.

      An NDA is for business to business dealings, not for customers.

  34. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Good name, though.

  35. knowitall011 says:

    this is about the same as telling gamers to stfu and hand over their money base on? nothing?

  36. OceanIris says:

    Many arguments here seem predicated on consumers’ (in)ability to decide whether or not to spend money on such a product. Sounds dangerous!

    To those more learned than I: why? (An honest question.)

  37. Giaddon says:

    This should be obvious to wheeling-and-dealing chappies interested in this game. The elite founder’s edition comes with 8 codes you can hand out that people can use to purchase a scaled-back version of the elite founder’s edition for $20. Simply sell those codes for $5-$10 a pop: you make your purchase costs back, and the purchasers still get access to the game cheaper than they could otherwise. Capitalism at its finest.

  38. racccoon says:

    Its a browser game for $80 dollars

    link to

    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 the height and wind levels determine how Solar Panels and Wind Turbines perform, respectively.

    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%)
    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 consumes life support (Water, Food, and 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 terrain)
    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)
    Dry Ice Condenser (creates Carbon and Oxygen from Dry Ice terrain)
    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 seconds. 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:

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

    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 (which starts full)
    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 although the impact of the former will lessen the more they are triggered.

    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 buildings which require sunlight (which includes the Ice Condenser, Dry Ice Condenser, Hydroponic Farm, and Solar Panel) turn off between 21:00 and 06:00.

    10.0 Auction

    Every day at 06:00, an auction can be triggered. The auction is open to all players and is timed. Bids start in increments of $500 and go up as the bidding increases. Further, 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 Goon Squad

    The Goon Squad protects a building from sabotage. If that building is targeted, the sabotage fails, the identity of the saboteur is announced, and the targeted player steals the sabotage item.

    11.7 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 seconds 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.

    I give it a hour or two before it leaks…

  39. DantronLesotho says:

    Fuck NDA’s.