I have been designing video games for 16 years. I got my start at Firaxis Games in 2000, working as a designer/programmer on Civilization 3. I was the lead designer of Civilization 4 and also wrote most of the game and AI code. I founded Mohawk Games in 2013 as a studio dedicated to making high-quality and innovative strategy games. Our first game, Offworld Trading Company, is an economic RTS set on Mars and released on April 28th. You can buy it here: [http://offworldgame.com/store]

Username being used for AMA: SorenJohnsonMohawk

Proof: [https://twitter.com/SorenJohnson/status/721005545184980993]

Offworld Trading Company giveaway thread: [https://www.reddit.com/r/Offworld/comments/4h78l7/soren_johnson_ama_giveaway/]

Christopher Tin will be having an AMA tomorrow at 11am ET/2pm PT!

Comments: 896 • Responses: 106  • Date: 

IronheadJohnson445 karma

I want to first say that Civ 4 is my favorite game of all time across any genre, and I've recently introduced my 8 year old to it and he's having a blast and learning quite a few things as he plays so thank you for your work on that game!

My question is, are you a history buff or just a game programmer that latched on with a company that happened to make games that feature loads of historical content? I've always assumed to work on Civ you'd have to be a big fan of history but I'd be interested to see if that's not the case.

SorenJohnsonMohawk614 karma

I was a history/computer science double major in college, so Civ was the perfect game for me.

foneafone279 karma

Hey, one of my favorite things to come out of Civ 4 for me was the discovery of Christopher Tin, composer of Baba Yetu, and his amazing work. It says on his Facebook page, Screenshot, that you two were room mates. Is this a reason as to how he found the job or is it purely coincidence?

SorenJohnsonMohawk256 karma

Can't really be a coincidence! Yeah, I liked his work as producer on an a capella version of The Rainmaker, but we couldn't use that song, so I asked him to write a new one... and he sure wrote one!

jetfantastic190 karma

What do you like and dislike about the direction the new civilization games are going? Also, what do you think about the insane prices the new civilization games have in Australia?

SorenJohnsonMohawk200 karma

Why is it so much in Australia?

Matt_MG185 karma

Are you aware your game just made a Penny Arcade strip?


I'm jealous.

SorenJohnsonMohawk94 karma

Yeah, cool to see! Hopefully, they have a week series in mind.

BeNign618137 karma

I was really excited to hear about the release on the weekend, but when I started the game, I was suprised to see a message about being in early access, and suprised that the VO for the game is still text-to-speech. Is the game still in active development?

Congratulations on the release. This is a really great game!

SorenJohnsonMohawk185 karma

That message was a mistake - we just forgot to remove it. (Players only see it the first time, so we didn't normally see it.)

We have done voice recordings to replace the text-to-speech, and it will be coming soon!

Ilitarist95 karma

Hello Soren, OTC looks great!

Question: Many users fear competitive multiplayer games. The assumption is you have to pour hundreds of hours to really "get" the game and many people do not want that. And usually RTS campaigns is regarded as glorified tutorial. What do you do to prevent people from thinking that? How would you sell the game to people who do not want to commit to game too much?

SorenJohnsonMohawk110 karma

Our campaign is definitely not a glorified tutorial. (In fact, we require you to win a skirmish before you can even start a campaign.) Instead, it's a dynamic, replayable campaign that you can do over and over, sort of like FTL (and each of the CEOs plays very differently).

SorenJohnsonMohawk84 karma

Also, we feel the game is just as strong in SP as in MP, which is why we added the Daily Challenge and also have auto-pausing so that players more used to turn-based games can feel comfortable with the game.

shirikenz75 karma

Civilization 4 was absolute perfection in my opinion, and I assume you would never work on another now you have Mohawk, but if you did, what would you do with Civ 6?

SorenJohnsonMohawk176 karma

I'm glad I'm not working on Civ6. The designer of that game is going to have to choose between one- and multiple-units-per-tile, and either choice will alienate a big group of players!

-Twokad-73 karma

Is there any part of the Civ games post Civ 4 (5, Rev, BE, etc) that you've looked at and gone "Why didn't I think of that?"

Is there any part of Offworld that you really wanted to be in, but for whatever reason (lack of time, money, resources, balance, couldn't get it to work, whatever) you just had to end up removing it?

SorenJohnsonMohawk146 karma

Every time I play a Civ (or 4X) game, I have a Google doc open in which I jot down good ideas I see. I know one idea I wish I had thought of from Civ 5 was letting cities attack units!

(see below for other question)

SirGronk69 karma

You have succeeded in not only making a complicated system understandable and easy to use (a difficult feat), but also visually pleasing and delightful to navigate. Do you have a dedicated UX designer, or is User Experience design a significant conscious part of your development process?

SorenJohnsonMohawk75 karma

Yes, we have TWO dedicated UI developers. One is a programmer with a strong UI background and the other comes from graphic design/web dev.

HeyBayBeeUWanTSumFuk66 karma

Why is Gandhi such an asshole?

SorenJohnsonMohawk152 karma

I think it's the gap between expectations and reality.

WaffleSandwhiches65 karma

For both Civilization 4 and 5, it seemed like it took multiple expansions before the Civilization experience was truly "right". I remember playing Civ 5 on release, and thinking that the political situations had been stripped out in favor of a more interesting combat system. But then later a lot of that stuff comes back with the expansions. Why does it take so many expansions to get the "Civ experience" back from the previous release?

Offworld Trading Company is truly bizarre from an RTS perspective. It's totally unique. Most RTS games make me feel like a leader or a god, but this one makes me feel like a scheming CEO trying to claw my way to the top of the capitalistic food chain. What gave you the idea to make it in real time instead of turn based like the civ games?

I hope it really takes off, there's a lot in Offworld Trading Company that other games can learn from ;)

SorenJohnsonMohawk82 karma

Well, my opinion differs on expansions a little. I actually believe that Civ4 is best in SP without the expansions (or maybe just with Warlords) although there were plenty of UI improvements in BtS that would have been very nice in the original.

However, games like Civ are huge beasts that are very difficult to tame the first time around, no matter how good of a development process one has. It's not surprising that it takes a couple tries to get right. The biggest problem is lack of large-scale feedback before release, so it is basically IMPOSSIBLE to get it right.

With Early Access, we got that feedback starting over a year ago, so I believe we have a much more balanced game than would by typical under the old system.

SorenJohnsonMohawk63 karma

Christopher Tin will be doing an AMA tomorrow at 11am ET/2pm PT!

onlycatfud46 karma

Can we expect offworld to be expanded or what kinds of modding can be done? New ceo's or resources or any other big additions or mechanics?

SorenJohnsonMohawk64 karma

We have extensive modding support: http://www.mohawkgames.com/2016/02/03/modding-tutorials/

We also have future plans for the game but can't really talk about them yet!

LacsiraxAriscal43 karma

I love Civ IV so much, thanks for making it! Have you ever delved much into the vibrant modding scene for the game? If so, what's the most impressive, interesting or fun mod you've seen? Did any make you go, 'wow, why didn't I think of that?'

I like many am a massive fan of Rhye's and Fall and even moreso the Dawn of Civiliation expansion of the scenario.

SorenJohnsonMohawk56 karma

I LOVE the modding scene for Civ4, so inspiring! Rhye's work is absolutely some of the best (many ideas for Civ4 came from his Civ3 mod), and Derek Paxton (now of Stardock!) did the amazing Fall from Heaven mod.

Impsulei41 karma

WHY OTC is not communistic game? Do you think Mars is not UTOPIA?

SorenJohnsonMohawk83 karma

But Utopias are BORING! :)

Ironically, my political beliefs are on the left side of the spectrum, so keep in mind that Offworld is not an endorsement of its mechanics!

MindlessMe1338 karma

Is there a feature that you loved while developing Offworld Trading Company that didn't make it into the final game? If so, is there a chance it'll make it in post-release?

SorenJohnsonMohawk48 karma

I have a stack of extra ideas for Offworld that didn't make it into the game, but basically everything we worked on made it into the game. I'd LOVE to have the campaign support multiplayer, but that is way beyond the scope of what a company our size could do.

sohvan37 karma

Do you play a lot of computer strategy games in your free time? What are some of your favourites from recent years?

SorenJohnsonMohawk133 karma

Been very inspired by what Paradox accomplished with Crusader Kings. Really like Invisible Inc and Darkest Dungeon.

rarely_beagle37 karma

Your Designer Notes podcast has had some incredible interviews, my favorite bit being Rob Pardo talking about early Diablo and SC:BW. Any plans to find more strategy game innovators?

SorenJohnsonMohawk44 karma

I've got interviews stored from Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds, Louis Castle, George Fan, Tyler Sigman, David Sirlin, and others. Stay tuned!

jaltesorensen31 karma

What is the story behind your first name?

Scandinavian grandparents or parents fans of Søren Kirkegaard?

SorenJohnsonMohawk53 karma

My great-grandfather was named Soren and changed it to Sam when he immigrated from Norway, so my family decided to bring back the old names.

Jagmas28 karma

Which HQ is your favorite to play with and what is your go to Black Market purchase?

SorenJohnsonMohawk35 karma

I tend to favor Scientific because they make money so easily (since they are immune to the ups-and-downs of a input resource prices). I also like Scavenger a lot and like to play aggressively with them.

However, I feel like I have fallen behind the community significantly at this point, so I really need to get better at all the HQs.

ZeReaperofZeath27 karma

What do you think about the shift from Civilization 4 to 5? Which one do you prefer?

SorenJohnsonMohawk73 karma

I am completely unable to judge Civ5 objectively, but I thought that moving to one-unit-per-tile was worth pursuing.

I did a Three Moves Ahead with Jon Shafer (designer of Civ5) where we talk about the two games: https://www.idlethumbs.net/3ma/episodes/civilization-at-25

SirYelof23 karma

Hi Soren! Jeff here, your Atari-based brand manager for Civ 4 before the successful transition to 2K (and the implosion of Atari/Infogrames).

How have you been approaching the QA for OTC? I know one of the tricky parts of Firaxis's approach was that "the game was the design doc" and QA consisted basically of playthroughs, which made it difficult to catch small issues at weird leaves of immense path/decision trees. With your emphasis and background on AI, I imagine there's even more opportunity for 'emergent' behavior that may lead to weird situations. Is there any way to unit test stuff to try and catch situations that might otherwise only be found through playing?

(Bought it last night, and love the game, and can't shake how familiar it all feels... ;-)

SorenJohnsonMohawk20 karma

Hi Jeff, I think Early Access has really changed our whole approach to QA. It's amazing how quickly the community finds issues with the game if they are engaged. I've tried to become very connected to the community, and they reach right away when they find something wrong with the game. Our regular QA team is best at doing stuff that players wouldn't want to do (let's all try out 4p matchmaking while disconnecting for two hours!).

spacetak22 karma

You were hugely successful in making Civ4 data driven, allowing for tons of mods. Did you take the same approach with OTC? python+xml ?

SorenJohnsonMohawk24 karma

Yes, we have a very similar approach for Offworld. All the data is in XML. We aren't using Python, but we do have C# scripting. (All of the tutorials were built as scenarios using C#.) The core game/AI code is also available to mod/replace.

1blackmagic21 karma

When are you going to change the name of the black market to "blackmagic" to honor the game's 10th best player?

Ok serious question - what is the plan for offworld now that the game is released? Additional downloadable content? More gameplay modes? Just hang out and support the existing game as it stands?

One more comment - i'm really glad to see you guys pick up zultar on the team. He's done more for the community than anyone else and is a fantastic liason to explain the game to everyone.

SorenJohnsonMohawk11 karma

Zultar has been great, so I was very happy we could involve him officially. We have a lot of things we still want to get into the game, so expect to see some updates to the game down the road. (Not sure what is announced or not, so I'll have to not be more specific!)

Asrafil21 karma

I'm curious about your opinion on Endless Legend, which many say is the best 4X game since CIV 4. Have you played it? If so, what did you thought of it?

SorenJohnsonMohawk34 karma

I played it and thought it was very interesting. The civs were so asymmetric that it felt like many different games in one, but that also makes it hard to judge if the whole game hangs together. I would need to spend a lot more time with it to find out.

I was amused that there is a free-market resource trading mechanic (which is basically all of Offworld) hidden in sub-menu!

MerryRain17 karma

How does an indie game recruit one of the best living composers? The soundtrack is amazing, it's got something of the old management games in it but, I don't know, spicy.

Do you have a favorite piece from the soundtrack? I'm torn between Red Planet Nocturne and Allegro For Hydroponic Systems.

EDIT: what do you listen to when you're not working?

SorenJohnsonMohawk42 karma

It's totally simple. All you need to do is be his college roommate. No big deal.

The opening track is my favorite. I think Chris put a lot of pressure on himself for that one because of the success of Baba Yetu (which was also the opening track), and it came VERY LATE in the process, so I was thrilled when I heard the first version. Just under the wire!

SorenJohnsonMohawk17 karma

If you look at my phone, you'll see my biggest music collections are Dylan, the Stones, Ellington, Prince, Romantic- and Minimalist-era classical, Costello, Springsteen, post-Velvets (Television, Modern Lovers, punk, etc.), 50-era rock (Bo Diddley, Little Richard)

ElagabalusRex16 karma

What do you think of the state of strategy game AI? Is it reasonable at the moment to make a complex strategy game where the AI has the same information and economic constraints as the human? How has AI changed in the past decade?

SorenJohnsonMohawk29 karma

Every game is different and is easier or harder to make AI for. Offworld was a LOT easier to write AI for than Civ because there are no units to control. In some sense, the best way to make good AI is to keep it in mind when designing the game itself.

MDCCCLV16 karma

I just got the game after seeing it on the front page. Why did you make the initial skirmish game mandatory and would you consider changing that, maybe an option somewhere in the settings?

SorenJohnsonMohawk37 karma

Our campaign is VERY different from the base game, and it is also very different from how most RTS games work. In most RTSs, the campaign is basically a glorified tutorial that introduces all of the game's pieces but in a super boring way with scripted missions that always play out the same and can be basically beaten with a walkthrough.

We wanted to make something dynamic and replayable, which means the rules are very different: there's no buy/sell stock system, persistent upgrades between missions, special events not seen in skirmishes, and so on. Thus, we want people to try the campaign once they have the basics of the game down. I definitely don't want people to jump right into the campaign.

It's my wife's favorite way to play, btw! (Ilana Kamat is her bag.) She prefers single-player, and it fills that niche of wanting to play some Offworld games in an evening but also wanting there to be an overarching structure to the games.

Wyney14 karma

How did you come up with the idea of Off World? My friends and I really like the board game Planet Steam, and I think this would be the closest thing to that game in an RTS. Hopefully we'll all be picking up the game soon.

SorenJohnsonMohawk30 karma

I was inspired by older games like Belter, Age of Empires 2, M.U.L.E., and Railroad Tycoon: http://www.matchstickeyes.com/2014/10/01/offworld-trading-company-interview-with-soren-johnson/

rockymountainoysters14 karma

Why is /u/christophertin always losing to fucking "99 Luftballoons" in the popularity contest for favorite foreign language songs, and will you promise to continue to commission work from him until his eternal masterpiece emerges and this cosmic injustice is righted?

SorenJohnsonMohawk13 karma

I promise!

fcmetro12 karma

Have you seen any mods that you wish you had added into civ 4?

SorenJohnsonMohawk23 karma

There were TONS of interface mods that made huge improvements to Civ4. A lot of them were rolled into Beyond the Sword.

1blackmagic12 karma

Is it really the intention to replace the text to speech with regular dialogue? I love it as a low tech charm that sounds really science fiction like.

Also...bring back "buckle up! your martian economic thrill ride is about to begin" and "uhhh....your stock is being sold."

I've always thought the stock being sold noise as the equivalent of Dan "Toasty" Forden in Mortal Kombat. "TOASTYYYYYYYY!"

SorenJohnsonMohawk10 karma

haha, yeah, there will certainly be a contingent that misses the old voices!

Ilitarist11 karma

You've designed both huge, familiar to everyone larger-than-life game and experimental unorthox genre-bending cheap in comparison game. What were the core differences in the process of designing so different games?

And how does it feel making another strategy game after you've already done the one many claim to be the best PC game ever?

SorenJohnsonMohawk15 karma


The thing that connects Offworld and Civ4 are that we built both as multiplayer games at the beginning, so the gameplay iteration was based on our own play sessions. It's what I like to do best, and I could do on a known design or a new one!

PotterOneHalf10 karma

Saw that Penny Arcade did a comic on your game today. I definitely want to try it out, but will it work on my Macbook Air that I bought in 2015?

SorenJohnsonMohawk9 karma

Not sure! What do the prereqs say? Anyone here play on a Macbook Air?

palidor4210 karma

You went to work on Spore towards the end of its development cycle. What motivated you to do that? Are you disappointed that Spore, despite the hype, turned out to not get much of a long-term following?

SorenJohnsonMohawk26 karma

I was amazed by the high-level concept for Spore, so it was hard to resist. (Passed on a job at Blizzard to join the Spore team.)

I posted my thoughts on Spore here: http://www.designer-notes.com/?p=654

MattKatt9 karma

Hi Soren. Love Offworld; bought it Early Access for three of my friends.

My question is regarding designing: I'm currently in the process of designing a game and I've hit a sort of mental block. I've got several different threads to work on, but I can't seem to figure out what needs to be done first. How often does this actually happen in your team? Is it difficult to assign specific tasks? How much of the Offworld game engine had you produced before adding in all the extras? Or did you already have a solid plan for final content, and then move forward with that plan in mind?

SorenJohnsonMohawk11 karma

It's hard to answer without know more of the specifics, but my metric is always what is the thing that can be done to get us to genuine gameplay as fast as possible. Whatever that is, do that.

DefinitelyNotIrony9 karma

Hi Soren. I'm a long-time fan of the Civ series (especially 4), so thank you for so much for those games. How would you pitch OTC to someone who loves turn-based 4X games, but hasn't felt quite the same connection with RTS games?

SorenJohnsonMohawk15 karma

First of all, Offworld has not unit selection, which is usually the biggest barrier for people handling RTS games. Also, we have tried to make the game as turn-based friendly (in SP) as possible. When you are scanning, founding, placing a building, trigger sabotage, the game actually automatically pauses for you so that you don't feel any time pressure. You can turn on another option that pauses the game anytime you open one of the advanced building tabs.

Also, the actual game mechanics themselves (resources, markets, patents, etc.) are a big part of what people like 4X games. You might want to try the campaign, which string together seven missions and lets you pick upgrades between them. Lasts about three hours.

TylerTkickstarter7 karma

Game design question. in board games the role of a game designer is pretty well defined, game designers build prototypes and first drafts and game developers write more content and help polish.

In video game devlopment it sounds like no two operations are alike. Do you see any trends that will formalize the role of video game designers? Right now it looks like video game designers are "the spread sheet guys".

SorenJohnsonMohawk11 karma

Well, I'm not a spreadsheet guy. I still write all the game/AI code for the projects I work on. That's not possible for every game, of course, so I expect that "game designer" means different things for different projects. What it SHOULD mean above all else is that it is the person on the project most focused on the player experience.

Fumblerful-6 karma

On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to make a medieval economic RTS?

SorenJohnsonMohawk14 karma


Tozzar6 karma

Can you let me know when you are going to play next so I can beat you for the achievement?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

I will be playing some during our weekly streams (Thursdays @10am ET) so you can try then. I will post to my twitter when I play other times!

(However, I think I am going to beat the Practice Games during this week's stream to post to YouTube.)

faideww6 karma

Hi Soren!

  1. What games did you play growing up that influenced/inspired your design mentality the most, and how?

  2. What advice would you share with people looking to get into game design as a career?

SorenJohnsonMohawk10 karma

  1. Seven Cities of Gold, Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon, SimCity were big influences. They taught me how alive a game could be if built on systems.

  2. First, learn a hard skill (code, art, sound) and then make a game, either on your own or as part of a team!

UpiedYoutims5 karma

What always amazes you about the communities for these games?

SorenJohnsonMohawk11 karma

The amount of energy and passion that they have for our games is amazing. I love Civ 4 and Offworld, for example, but they are still my job. I SHOULD care about them. The community does what they do out of love.

DeLuca24005 karma

With the resurgence of Space Sims do you see RTS's making a similar comeback?

Bonus Question: What's your favorite condiment?

SorenJohnsonMohawk26 karma

BBQ Sauce!

I'm not sure RTS games will make a comeback unless people start pushing the boundaries of what defines an RTS (like cough you know, Offworld). Military RTS's are losing to MOBA's because controlling multiple units is beyond most players.

ChazGELF5 karma

Hiyo! o/ I've been gradually getting to grips with the game after poking at the tutorials (I still really like that there's a nod to M.U.L.E. in there!)

What's your favourite line of dialogue or quote in the game so far? (My personal favourite has to be the incredibly deadpan "Look at all the money!" after making an Offworld sale.)

SorenJohnsonMohawk9 karma

I think the "Filthy Pirates" line is my favorite.

Impsulei5 karma

Do you have planned HQ to be able to rotate before founding? Any developer can defeat Guru difficulty AI in default setting?

I love to play Offworld Trading Company you design!

SorenJohnsonMohawk10 karma

Plenty of people in our community can win on Guru, but I doubt anyone (including me) on the team can.

We HAVE considered rotating the HQ, but I am not sure the added complexity really adds anything. It would make the founding phase even more challenging because now you have to consider spots which look invalid with the default configuration.

heresybob5 karma

Heya Soren,

Been following your career for years after Civ 3 and still remember your comment about Civ being a "Tile based game" vs "Turn based game." Looking forward to picking up Offworld on steam!

Do you feel Civ transferred to a hex map well?

Did you play Beyond Earth and how would you compare that to Alpha Centauri?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

I think Civ works great on a hex map. We didn't use hexes in the past because we thought they scared people!

Alpha Centauri was a very unique game, one which makes a difficult yardstick with which to measure other games because it was such a perfect game for its time.

fizban15 karma

The most popular games on mobile is based on in-game paid subscriptions. How do you feel about this thread? Is paid subscriptions the future of game design?

SorenJohnsonMohawk13 karma

Are they doing subscriptions now? I thought it was more microtransactions.

There is no such thing as "the future of game design" - almost everything new we see is just additive, not replacing what is old. People still play Rogue!

suaveitguy4 karma

What is Sid Meier really like?

SorenJohnsonMohawk10 karma

Sid is a great guy, and I really enjoyed working with him. He has a sly sense of humor which might not come out much in interviews but that I've always liked.

He has an intense focus on what matters to the player, which is a good lesson. He also has never left behind making games on his own - he still writes the gameplay code for the games he works one.

__snooch4 karma

Why does Ghandi always betray my trust?

SorenJohnsonMohawk17 karma

Perhaps you trust Ghandi too much?

Ilitarist4 karma

You've mentioned Rise of Nations on a several occasions, e.g. it's the other strategy game with replayable SP campaign apart from OTC. Thoughts on Rise of Nations? Has it influenced your design in other ways?

SorenJohnsonMohawk8 karma

RoN's a great game, but it's the concept of a replayable campaign which has had the biggest influence on me. I find most scripted, training-wheel RTS campaign incredibly boring and also a huge waste of resources as most people will experience that content only once.

We gave it our best shot with the Offworld campaign. I feel players should at least try Offworld's campaign with each of the nine CEO's.

BillRountree4 karma

Are you open to developing strategy titles for platforms beyond PC, like mobile, console or even for VR? I'd be genuinely interested to see how you would approach a smaller experimental concept compatible with a mobile interface.

Side note: Really enjoying the recent recent blog posts leading up to OTC.

SorenJohnsonMohawk7 karma

I'd love to make Offworld for the tablet. I think it could really work since the player doesn't need to select units. However, the paid mobile market is scary, so I would be afraid to make a big bet on it.

Tigershawk4 karma

Originally this game was developed with the Unity tool. Is it still the case? What version of Unity is it developed for and what parts did you take out of it, like the UI?

SorenJohnsonMohawk6 karma

We used Unity to make Offworld. I think we shipped with 5.3.4? We are also using its UI toolkit which seems to work OK now?

domecraft14 karma

As a person who is about to enter college and would like to work on artificial intelligence for video games, what specific skills or courses do you recommend that I have/take so that I can have a leg up in the video game industry?

Also, do you believe that machine-learning like AI will eventually become a major part of video games -- i.e. enemies in the game that learn from the player and adapt to their strategies?

Thank you for doing this AMA.

SorenJohnsonMohawk14 karma

The issue with very high-level AI techniques is that he are often run on games which have 0 chance of having their rules changed (chess, go, etc.) I'm not up-to-date with things now, so I'm sure machine learning and so on will play a role, but it's not something I've considered for my projects.

The main issue is that it is not enough for the AI to perform well at the game. I need to be able to understand WHY it is performing well, both so that I can tweak it to make it play more "fun" for the player and so that I know it will adapt appropriately if the rules change.

Pizzarcatto4 karma

This game was my childhood, so thank you so much! Anyways, in what ways was Civ 5 a step in the right direction? Away from it? And thank you for Baba Yetu.

SorenJohnsonMohawk4 karma

Above all else, Civ 5 was gorgeous. So much better looking than I though was possible for a Civ game.

jpjandrade3 karma

What's next for Offworld / Mohawk?

SorenJohnsonMohawk19 karma

We're focusing on improvements to Offworld right now. Things are looking good, so we can start thinking about the future soon.

So, basically, we are going to make a survival VR MOBA.

Dubanx3 karma

What would you love to add to OTC if budget weren't an issue?

SorenJohnsonMohawk6 karma

Multiplayer campaign

LegalNA3 karma

I'm regards to the economy aspect did you have an economist on board to guide? What corrections / how will the game balance the market?

I'm thinking of the papers that were done on WoW and Eve economies and am intrigued how a "economy" game will measure up with economic theories.

SorenJohnsonMohawk6 karma

Actually, our understand of economics is fairly naive, but because we didn't put our thumb on the scale*, so to speak, I think you could learn something from playing Offworld.

*meaning that the prices are a direct result of player actions (buying and selling)

Oprahs_Mingie3 karma

Hi Soren,

What is your "Go-To" kinda beer?

SorenJohnsonMohawk9 karma

I generally prefer hefeweizen. Mostly because it doesn't taste a lot like beer!

Hyakku3 karma

Hi Soren

First, Civ 4 is one of my all time favorite games, thanks for the time and care spent there. That was one of the games that really helped cultivate an interest in international relations for me around my college days, which took me to some fantastic journeys working in places like Geneva in the UN, I graduated with an international relations degree and in general have been blessed to approach the world with a multifaceted perspective. Thanks for helping me find my path.

My only question pertains to VR as a new medium for RTS: I'm a huge virtual reality enthusiast, and I've been holding off on OTC and a couple of other RTSes in the hopes that I can next dive into a quality RTS in VR (and because being a semi adult with work actually takes time :/) as this medium is just begging for someone with your talent to bring a quality RTS to. Are there any plans for OTC to get VR support? I can't imagine how many more collective decades of our lives you could take in VR.

SorenJohnsonMohawk5 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

Unfortunately, I don't really have any plans for VR. Honestly, without tooltips, I feel kind of lost as a game designer! I believe that some fascinating stuff will come from VR, but I think it will come from designers who aren't as tied to old systems as I am.

New1Win2 karma

Purchased offworld last night, and I am enjoying it. It is pretty complex though with a steep learning curve, which for me is a plus. That being said, I can see it as a huge negative for more casual players. Do you hope to implement any new features to make it accessible to the newbies?

SorenJohnsonMohawk5 karma

We put a lot of work into the Tutorials and Practice Games. I'm hoping that will be enough? I'm going to record a video soon in which I step through all of the Practice Games. Hopefully, people can learn by watching.

Pentt412072 karma

When is civ 6 coming out? Civ 5 is now 5 years old. Seems to be a right time for a new one

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

The typical gap is 4-5 years, and I'm am sure the franchise is not over.

I, however, do not work for Firaxis!

shirikenz2 karma

Have you ever beaten Civ 4 deity?!

SorenJohnsonMohawk8 karma

Not sure if I ever tried. If I was on the way to beating it, I would probably stop and try to improve the AI.

Deity level was set beyond a point that any of us could play because we know that the players will always be better than the devs at the game.

FlagstoneSpin2 karma

What were your biggest influences behind making an RTS that, instead of being combat-focused, was infrastructure-focused? (Reading up on it, it reminded me quite a lot of a real-time Eurogame!) Were there any particular games that you think led you to that idea?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

I go into some of the influences here: http://www.matchstickeyes.com/2014/10/01/offworld-trading-company-interview-with-soren-johnson/

However, a lot of other board games (certainly Catan and Power Grid) influenced me.

garfieldsam2 karma

You are probably not taking questions anymore, BUT I'm super curious: As someone with an economics background, I'd love to know how did develop and tweak the algorithm(s) that determine commodity price, stock price, etc.? I really like the idea of creating a game based on something like a price simulation model(s), which makes the mechanics more fluid and harder to master. But I also have no idea how I'd go about developing one!

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

Our algorithm is actually fairly simple. Buy resources, and the price goes up. Sell them, and the price goes down. It's a bit more complicated, of course, to kind of work like a spring (the lower the prices go, the harder it is for them to fall further), but the details were done by feel, no research.

ChronoX52 karma

  • Which improvements for CIV's AI do you think are possible?
  • Has the system of how game AI is designed changed a lot since you began working?

I've been playing Call To Power, III, IV and V and loved all of them. The main criticism I often come across is that the AI simply can't keep up with tactics in the later stages so it has to be given advantages.

Thank you for providing we with hundreds of hours of fun!

SorenJohnsonMohawk4 karma

I think the best way to improve the AI is to get the community involved in improving it after release. There is just no way to write a good AI without the reality of the players being involved.

ySomic2 karma

I loved civ series and got a lot of hours into the game. I loved it with my friends and I've been interested in the game from the start.

I'll probably be buying it soon once I saved up!

But my question : once I buy the game, what do you recommend me to do after the tutorial?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

Be sure to play the Practice Games, which ramp up the difficulty step-by-step. Then, if you like single-player more, do the campaign. If you prefer multiplayer, get good at the Daily Challenge first as that uses the same rules as MP.

Impsulei2 karma

Do you know about this game Ymir http://ymir-online.com/ ? It is economic and civilization simulator of the stone age.

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

cool, will have to check it out.

SomerTime2 karma

I absolutely love Offworld Trading Company, but I am so awful at it. Any hot tips to offer those of us whose fledgling business are struggling to get going?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

We included a Game Almanac that has strategy guides from Cubit and Zultar, two of our best players. I'd recommend giving them a look! http://steamcommunity.com/app/271240/discussions/0/364040166681453499/

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

Also, Zultar's tutorials are great: http://www.designer-notes.com/?p=697

thebarkingduck2 karma

I'm relatively new to trading games - I love the concept of feeling like a tycoon and love business sims, but this looks difficult for me to understand the mechanics with the other elements involved. I bought OTC on Steam and have yet to play it, fearing I'll get frustrated and never touch it again.

Any recommendations to someone new to the genre starting out?

SorenJohnsonMohawk4 karma

Work your way through the tutorials. The first five are scripted, so they are set lessons on how to play. Then, try to beat the Practice Games. Each one ramps the difficulty up a bit, so you'll be a very good player by the end.

Ally0fJustice2 karma

How common is it to do both programming and design in the game industry? What would you say the split is in terms of working hours between the two? What's the most fun?

SorenJohnsonMohawk6 karma

I don't really think of it as a split. Programming IS design for me!

Theoretical design feels like a lot of fun, but it's also usually a waste of time if you go overboard. Most of your original ideas don't work out, so it's best to just start coding.

xSnarf2 karma

How much though, internally, did Firaxis put into multiplayer? As someone who exclusively plays Multiplayer now in a steam group, most of the players feel that multiplayer is neglected by Firaxis.

Do you think that Dev teams should focus more on multiplayer, or is it not work it considering the time it takes away from other development?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

Not sure how they handle multiplayer now at Firaxis, but it was a BIG priority for us for Civ4. In fact, the game was built as a multiplayer game before we worried about single-player (so we could test out the game mechanics without an AI).

barnesie2 karma

Certainly interested to check out Offworld based on your lineage.

Quick question, how awesome was Kelley G. to work with at Firaxis? Just regular awesome or super awesome?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

Pretty super awesome!

(wait... who's asking?!?)

czarquon2 karma

I actually like that OTC is very fast paced, and a quick play. Did you design it that way with eSports in mind ? Or did you just want something that people could finish, rather than say a month long Civ game ?

SorenJohnsonMohawk4 karma

In order to be a good (as opposed to just functional) multiplayer game, time frame is an important consideration, so we always knew that we wanted the game to be less than an hour so that it wouldn't be too hard to get people to find synchronous time to play.

Having said that, I'm surprised that Offworld plays as quickly as it does. I originally thought it would last more like 45 or 60 minutes than 15 or 30. We stripped out parts of the game that weren't helping (like unit selection) and the game kept getting shorter but still being as (or more) interesting. All things being equal, if a game maintains the same amount of depth, shorter is better, for lots of real-life reasons!

jpjandrade2 karma

What other games are you currently playing / enjoying in the past year or so?

SorenJohnsonMohawk6 karma

Mostly Offworld!

(I've really enjoyed the Sorcery series on iPhone. #2 is the best adventure game I've ever played.)

jpjandrade2 karma

It may be too soon for a full postmortem, but now that Offworld launched how do you feel about the decision of launching it as a early access title?

SorenJohnsonMohawk7 karma

The only thing I was worried about with going to Early Access was that our "second" launch would not get noticed since we've been around for so long, but things seem great so far. We've sold at least as well as the first time around and have also crushed our previous record for concurrent players.

The actual Early Access process has been extremely valuable for improving the quality of the game. We make some major gameplay changes based off of player feedback - a good example is how the stock system changed: http://www.designer-notes.com/?p=1149

mLalush2 karma

Have you ever brainstormed or thought about MMORTS? Would it be a valid concept/genre? For example linking different regions of a big world together on multiple servers.

I discuss this a lot with a friend -- that it's sort of a natural next leap for the RTS genre. We both agree though it would be a huge technological undertaking for any company, and it'd come with a set of very difficult game design challenges.

Ever thought about this concept?

SorenJohnsonMohawk3 karma

In a sense, Clash of Clans-likes are actually MMORTSs, even if they don't look like traditional ones. One with a more traditional, synchronous, 30-min experience, however, sounds like a development nightmare, I'm afraid.

CookiezFort1 karma

What is your favourite game, (excluding Offworld Trading Company and Civ)?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

I consider the original Pirates! to be the best game ever for its time.

zeroexev291 karma

What was it like working with Christopher Tin on the soundtracks for both games?

SorenJohnsonMohawk1 karma

It was great! Chris and I are good friends, so it's always great to work with him, and he is open to getting feedback from me to iterate on his work.

CommanderXao1 karma

Do you play Magic: The Gathering, and if so, how many Sorin cards do you own?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

Didn't know about Sorin? I've played some Magic but find the hole too deep to jump into for my time/money.

YesThisIsDrake1 karma

Do you look at Mods for civilization ever?

If you don't please give a look towards the Realism Invictus team for Civ 4. I liked the base game but RI is such a wonderfully complex mod that has a lot of cool ideas in it. Totally fixed the issue of stacks of death.

Also what is your least favorite video game ever?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

Cool, I'll have to check it out. How does it fix Stacks of Doom?

Least favorite... never really thought of it that way. I definitely don't like games that have unnecessary narrative because the games are about mechanics. (It's ok for a game to be about its story!)

shirikenz1 karma

So what are you working on at the moment, and what do you hope to make in the future?

SorenJohnsonMohawk1 karma

Updating Offworld! Have ideas for the future so stay tuned.

nazZz-T1 karma

Soren or Søren?

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

Soren! (don't mind Søren, however)

emblemfire1 karma

Can you please help make Civ6? I think a fusion of 4 and 5 would make the best Civ yet!

SorenJohnsonMohawk2 karma

See below!

Soranomaru-3 karma

Hi Soren!

Does Mohawk Games currently/plans to employ anyone that identifies as part of the Mohawk people? What is your opinion about using the name of a living culture for your company? Are you or your company currently involved in indigenous game development efforts?

Congrats on the launch of Offworld Trading Company!

SorenJohnsonMohawk7 karma

Actually, our Art Director is part Mohawk! Can't say we've been involved much in indigenous game dev but would be happy to hear about it. (For the record, we are named after the hairstyle, not the tribe.)