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Video Game / Offworld Trading Company

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Offworld shipment launched...look at all the money!

Offworld Trading Company is a 2015 Real-Time Strategy game created by Mohawk Games and published by Stardock Entertainment. Players assume the role of competing companies colonizing Mars, with the goal of conquering the other companies...with a catch. There are no military units, and no killing. Only economic victory is possible. Players capture tiles, extract resources, and perform trade in an entirely player driven market. No player can have every resource they need to expand their colony, yet every resource is always available in the market, with prices rising and falling depending on player behavior. Yet not all is total pacifism in Offworld. Players can access a Black Market to purchase methods of sabotage opponents' resource production, steal resources, or even hack the resource market to produce artificial resource surpluses and shortages.

Winning the game requires planning, strategy, and deception. Players conquer opponents by using massive amounts of money to buy out their opponents' stock, in which they will receive all their assets, resources, and debt.

Offworld Trading Company provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Achilles' Heel: Keep a very sharp eye on the price of any resource you need and can't develop by yourself. This goes double for Power, Food, and the primary resource used to fuel any secondary resources that you're producing.
  • Amusement Park: The Pleasure Dome building.
  • Black Market: The Black Market becomes available at regular intervals, where players can discreetly buy sabotages to attack other players, additional Claims to capture more tiles, or a Goon Squad to defend a tile against attacks.
  • Child Prodigy: Maisie Song, a child, is the avatar and AI player for the Expansive colony, Seneca Development, whose artwork depicts a classroom of child entrepreneurs in training.
  • Colonized Solar System: The base game is on Mars, expansions add Ceres, Io, and Europa as alternate locations.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: Averted. The economy is composed of the thirteen resources, and driven by player actions. Every purchase by a player increases prices, and selling resources thereby makes the resource cheaper for other players. Fiddling with the market (honestly or not) is a vital strategy.
    • Furthermore, unlike 4X games, if you lack an Essential resource (food, water, oxygen, power,) starvation is impossible. You will automatically buy what you need and accumulate Debt instead. Debt is, in fact, its own resource, though an unwanted one, that must be paid off regularly to avoid increasingly disastrous problems.
  • Common Place Rare: Glass is rare, valuable, and one of the "final" resources. It can only be produced by combining Silicon and Oxygen, which is technically correct, because glass is Silicon Dioxide, but its more commonly referred to as sand. Though to be fair sand isn't particularly common on Mars, which is mostly covered in iron oxide (rust) dust.
  • Company Town: Each company is also a colony, which needs Food, Water, and Oxygen to survive, requiring more as it expands. The exception is the Robotic colony, which consumes Power instead.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Each player is one.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Possible if the player focuses on too few resources without cornering a market.
  • Faceless Goons: Players can purchase a Goon Squad from the Black Market, which can defend a tile from attacks, reveal who did it, and give that attack to the defending player.
  • Gaia's Lament: Earth is in bad shape, depleted of its natural resources and necessitating the Mars colonies as a new way of getting the needed resources. The final building is The Offworld Market, which sells a resource of your choice to earth for massive amounts of money.
  • The Generic Guy: Seneca Development is this. While not quite a Jack of All Stats, it doesn't have any unique mechanics to it; they just build lots of facilities.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The Hacker Array is a building which allows players to purchase hacks upon the resource market, creating a shortage to increase prices or a surplus to drive prices down. It always works and is anonymous. Justified in that the hacker array isn't breaching any databases, but rather just spreading misinformation and letting economics do the rest.
  • Indentured Servitude: Not only Reclamation Inc and their "employees" on five-year contracts getting them out of debtor's prison, but Seneca's employees are said to throw themselves into permanent levels of debt to buy their tickets to Mars.
  • Loan Shark: Zig-zagged. Debt is impossible to avoid, but doesn't impact your company's operationnote , and nobody comes knocking to collect. At least, not directly - debt accrues interest, and if its dollar value starts exceeding your assets, your credit score goes down, your interest goes up, and your share price suffers, the last of which makes you vulnerable to a buyout. Also, you can't profit off of selling power unless your debt is at zero; otherwise, any power you sell goes straight to the debt.
  • Mega-Corp: Most factions are one, since setting up shop on Mars is not a cheap endeavor.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Scavengers use Carbon instead of Steel to build and upgrade their colony. This is because their standards are lax and their buildings are hazardous.
  • Penal Colony: Reclamation Inc, the Scavenger corporation, are a corporation that take in employees with debts or questionable pasts and send them to Mars on a five-year indenture, after which their slate is wiped clean. Definitely a case of the inmates running the asylum; they have a loose view of regulations and building codes, and quite a few connections with independent contractors.
  • Player-Generated Economy: A major game feature. All thirteen resources are available for purchase at all times, with prices rising and falling with the player's purchases and sales. The resources demanded by the local colony also play a role, and in some missions you can influence what kind of colony modules get built. Prices also change with randomly generated surpluses, shortages, and weather effects. Then the market can be manipulated by hacking. The offworld market averts this, though; nothing you do changes the prices on Earth or in the asteroid belt.
  • Refining Resources: An important part of the game is doing this profitably. Some resources can only be refined, and some are more easily acquired as a second step. The scientist faction's biggest advantage is that they can skip a step by building refineries directly on primary resources. Likewise, the Scavengers don't use steel (a refined resource) when they can work with carbon instead.
  • Resource-Gathering: A major component of the game. There are thirteen resources total, and harvesting them all directly is almost impossible: players can only mine a certain number of tiles for each colony level, usually 5-6 tiles per level. While some resources can only be produced (glass, steel and electronics), that still leaves 10 resources to mine, and competition for the rare resources is fierce. What players can't get, they must trade for in the market (or they can just steal it), forcing either uneasy cooperation or monopoly tactics towards other players.
  • Shout-Out: To M.U.L.E. in the form of black-market MULEs that can gather resources without a claim.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: The "ultimate" Black Market attack on a player is setting off an underground nuclear blast. It permanently reduces the resource yield on a tile. Nobody is hurt, and it affects a very small area.
  • Space Pirates: Space Pirates are available only via auction, purchased discreetly, and are placed on a cluster of tiles, where they redirect resources in transit from one player to another.
  • Spiritual Successor: To M.U.L.E.. Both are science-fiction economics simulators with interdependent players and market manipulations.
  • Technical Pacifist: There is no killing in Offworld. Only lots and lots of sabotage. Even the resource transports that can get blown out of the air by magnetic storms are drones.