Biohazards Abound

It's been a "fun" week.


I watched Markiplier play through the entirety of Resident Evil 7.  This had two big advantages:
  • I could be a scaredy babby who didn't have to play it myself.
  • I could be a cheapskate who didn't have to buy the game.
But it was indeed a pretty incredible looking game.  The level of detail of the scenes was well above average, and the scares they came up with hit just the right notes.  A solid reboot, but a spoiler to say anything else about it.

Then I went and bought Offworld Trading Company on sale.
I played it for 6 hours and thoroughly wished I never did.  As my Steam review puts it:
If you were hoping for M.U.L.E. or any other game about forming a business in the crucible of the wonder that is offworld colonization, then this is not that game. However, if you like to win at games about number accumulation in real time, then you are in luck. Offworld Trading Company is the epiphany of real time number accumulation games!

The gameplay is basically day trading as a manic depressive. Place buildings to make some commodity related numbers go up and others go down over time. Some tiles are worth more numbers than others, but you have a very limited number of claim numbers to place. Perform acts of sabotage to lower your opponents' numbers, but be careful: it costs cash numbers! Whenever you buy something, the cost number of that commodity goes up. Whenever you sell something, the cost number goes down. Can you consistantly sell the most commodity numbers when they have the highest value numbers? Usually you have no idea who is shifting what numbers. When you play this game, this is your life now.

To win the game, you need to earn the biggest amount of numbers to buy your opponents' stocks so your numbers eat them in a "hostile takeover." Lets say both you and your opponent have enough money to buy the other out: first click wins, because numbers!

Mercifully, games of Offworld Trading Company are usually over within a half-hour, but win or lose you will have literally nothing to show for it. In a story-based game you may have heard a story. In a building game, you might have built something cool. In a 4X game, enough might have happened that you ended up building a story. But there's nothing at all memorable about a match of Offworld Trading Company, just a sense of relief that the frantic shifting of numbers is over.

I tried to salvage this by getting good at Offworld Trading Company, but now I don't think it's possible. I tried playing Skirmish on "manager" difficulty (a level playing field) and the AI wins every time. I tried prioritizing upgrading my base. I tried prioritizing having the most of the highest value commodity. I tried cornering the market via tackling a scarce resource. None of this works, the AI first out-upgrades my base and then buys me out before I catch up. Maybe the AI is programmed to know something about the game I don't, maybe a computer is just naturally better at shifting numbers than a human player, or maybe it just flat out cheats. At this point, I honestly don't care anymore, I'm just sad.

In summary, Offworld Trading Company is a saddening game that makes me hate numbers. 
Might seem a tad over-the-top, but the feelings were real enough.  That night, I tossed and turned under many a fevered dream that the evil biological forces in the Resident Evil 7 were basically exploiting niches in the same way as my AI opponents exploited the commodity market in Offworld Trading Company.  I was not particularly scared of either game, but I think my subconcious was communicating that the discomfort it felt made the eviller game not the one with evil in the title.


I'm experimenting with building procedural maps by assigning identities to the chunks on the world map and going from there.  Seems to work well enough, but early results look really ugly.
Those roads are supposed to be connecting, and they're not, but this is just a work in progress anyway.
After much deliberation, I've decided not to abandon this system.  What needs to be done is I need to really nail down a bulletproof system of introducing interesting content this way.

Real Life:

I caught a cold this week, and it's turning out to be a full-fledged, garden variety two-weeker.  It was bad enough to cause me to miss three days of work last week and not particularly enjoy or make good use of the time off.  Even worse than the sinus pain and dizziness is what this cold has done to my voicebox, resulting in cracking and other malfunctions that make it hard to speak.  Fortunately, I seem to be recovering, and get Monday off due to a national holiday.  But I likely won't be back to 100% until some time around the end of the month.


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