There is a huge exploit in ANNO 2070. And it is one of the more realistic elements of the game.
This exploit allows players to utilize standard game mechanics to completely shut down an opponent in multiplayer matches. And it works like this: Choose to start with the Tycoon faction. Start scouting for Eco faction players immediately after the session begins. Other players are not very hard to spot, since the islands with the important starting resources are usually located in the middle of the map. After you have found a thriving Eco settlement, plant your own warehouse on another beach of that island. If you want to be extra mean, put one or two depots near it to secure the area should your warehouse be destroyed. Now build some cheap buildings with large Ecobalance cost – namely Excavators and Coal Power Plants.
See where this is going? Yes, you take a hit in early production for spending building materials on your opponent’s island. And against another Tycoon player, you just slowed your economic growth for nothing. But Ecos are far more sensitive about the Ecobalance of their island. And with just a few buildings, you crippled the productivity of their farms and made their inhabitants too unhappy to pay any taxes. And there is nearly nothing they can do against this, apart from openly attacking your warehouse or trying to migrate to another island, where the grass is still green.
Stop complaining, it could be worse!
This issue popped up not long after the game’s multiplayer mode became functional. But what to do about it? The problem is created by the shared attribute, but the shared attribute is the core of the feature, and the feature is at the core of the new setting. So nothing we could chalk up as design flaw and remove it quietly.
Actually, that feature had already been dialled back from being global to just affecting one island. Just imagine playing the Eco faction and having to deal with a steadily decreasing ecobalance because a Tycoon player is settling anywhere on the map. No fun at all. And very, very hard to explain. It is one thing to construct a building and get an immediate feedback via numbers and changes in the island’s appearance. But another to build up peacefully and suddenly get a starving and rioting population, because you failed to constantly monitor one little abstract number somewhere on the screen. Which you do not care for anyway, because you have no idea how it is calculated or what it does exactly.
Just… don’t play with other people?
Anyway, the issue still exists when players share an island. We decided against either gutting the core mechanic by creating separate ecobalance values for players, or constructing contrived crutch-features and workarounds through quests or items. We want to solve the issue, and solve it right. So, yes, there will be updates to the game down the road that addresses this exploit.
But in the meantime, your best solution to avoid it when playing ANNO 2070 multiplayer is to form a social contract. Talk to each other, agree on house rules and shame anyone that uses cheese tactics. Chances are, you will be more successful than the UN in Copenhagen, Cancûn or Durban. I had hoped to get some results from these conferences that could be transferred into our game world. In a simplified form, of course, but the analogy would have been nice. At the moment, we will have to come up with something of our own. But on the bright side, it is probably implemented before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.