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Civ IV designer takes RTS in a new direction with Offworld Trading Company | Ars Technica


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Johnson and Newcomb also took pains to stress that Offworld Trading Company matches would be tight and focused rather than the multi-hour slogs of some similar titles. “The mechanics are more of a tycoon game. But most tycoon games are paced differently. They’re built as purely single-player games” which makes them last 10 hours or more. But Offworld is built around 30 to 45 minute matches. “It’s [for] people who like to play Age of Kings or StarCraft over lunchtime,” says Johnson. Still, that length will likely be customizable: “We’ll probably have some knobs. I like having knobs in games, so people can have much longer games if they want.”

Even outside of the player experience, Johnson and Newcomb said that the shorter play times have value in the development process as well, allowing the team the chance to see every facet of the game and tweak it through frequent matches. “We’ve been playing it every week, because as a multiplayer game, that’s the core of how you develop the gameplay. You can try out a feature right away because you have people on the other side.” When I noted that I rarely finished a full game ofCivilization but restarted regularly, Johnson said there’s a game-design reason behind that gameplay pattern: “That’s why the early game of Civ is so enjoyable, because that’s what the developers have been able to play over and over.”

Offworld Trading Company may be conceptually ambitious, trying to take combat out of a real-time strategy genre built solidly on top of it. But Johnson and company sound like they’re trying to stay grounded to the genre’s roots, both in its development and in the play experience itself. It’s gonna have an arc, it’s gonna have intensity, it’s gonna have a resolution, and we’re all gonna get together to talk about what happened. That’s the type of game we’re making. The difference is, it’s not a combat game.”

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