Station buy limits, game balance, and dynamic economy

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NMS
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Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:56 am

Continuing discussion of this issue: http://ministry.kronosaur.com/record.hexm?id=1353
george moromisato wrote:I'm not sure what the fix is, but I'm not 100% happy with the current system either. Any mechanic which tempts the player into getting an advantage via mindless/boring activities seems wrong to me.

Ideally there would be some way for the player to get an advantage in a non-boring way, but I don't know what that is yet.
watch tv, do nothing wrote:We already have trade convoys moving stuff between stations to a limited extent (I think black market convoys actually move goods sometimes but I could be wrong). Maybe when the system is generated, the engine could look at what "source stations" like mines and "sink stations" like corporate stations are present. Then a certain number of trade routes could be mapped and a freighter assigned and generated to each trade route, ordered to move between two stations picking up a commodity produced by one and depositing it at the other.

The source station would slowly and continuously generate the commodity and put most of it in the freighter when it arrives, and the hidden stockpile of the commodity at the sink station would continuously dwindle (this already happens). Thus, the sink station would pay less for the commodity immediately after the freighter arrives and pay the most for it immediately before it arrives, when supplies are lowest.

If the freighter is late or mysteriously destroyed, or it doesn't bring enough of the commodity (because the player sneakily bought up the entire supply right before the convoy arrived at the supply station), the player will be able to sell the commodity at an inflated price. If the trade route is unprofitable for the freighter enough times or is too risky (freighter gets attacked by hostile ships a couple of times, even if it survives), the freighter will gate out and the player can exploit the trade route for a little while until a faster and more heavily armed freighter gates in.

If the engine determines that the trade route was disrupted by player actions (direct, witnessed attacks on Commonwealth freighter types already trigger commonwealth justice, so I'm talking about unwitnessed attacks or players buying out the source station/ saturating the sink station leading to unprofitable runs), after a certain period of time Molotoks or other mercenary ships might gate in to administer a Teamsters-style lesson in business ethics. They wouldn't even necessarily have to go after the player directly, just circle the sink station and attack the player whenever they approach to encourage them to seek their fortunes somewhere else.
Dynamic Economy

A dynamic economy would be very cool in an open world game, but I'm not sure it's a good fit for Transcendence.
Pros:
- Realism
- Cool
- Makes trading less mindless
Cons:
- Makes trading a lot more complicated, and probably not in a fun or beginner-friendly way. You'd have to collect a lot of information about current prices at various stations before getting started, and then know something about how the economic model calculates those prices in order to manipulate them.
- If the model is realistic and there's a competitive market for shipping, price differences between stations should be driven down to the point where traders make a "normal" profit (enough to compensate them for their time and the risk of pirate attacks).
- If the player is able to manipulate prices by a significant amount, trading could become the most efficient means of earning money. George has said he doesn't want other sources of income to take the focus away from combat.
- Requires a continuous flow of goods in and out of a system's economy. This means the player could earn an arbitrary amount of money in a single system, eliminating the part of the game's difficulty that comes from limited resources.

Buy Limits

In the current system, the price stations are willing to pay for something is reduced if they already have a lot of it, and eventually they won't buy it at all. This is fairly realistic as a short-run economic model, and helps prevent the player from earning too much money by doing the same thing over and over. However, tvr discovered that these limits also depend significantly on how much of the good the player has in their cargo hold. They will pay full price as long as the player has more than they do. This is so counterintuitive that it was apparently only discovered recently, despite presumably being the case for years.

Also, the amount of a good that can be sold in a single transaction at the current price is limited only by the amount of money the station has on hand and the size of the player's cargo hold. This gives an extra advantage to larger cargo holds, and encourages the player to hoard goods that they might obtain more of in order to sell as much as possible at once, even when it would be more convenient to sell them in multiple batches.

My suggestion is to calculate the quantities at which stations lower their prices mainly as a function of the good's price, category, and number appearing (so commodities > armor > devices), and the size of the station's economy (based on its maximum money and/or replenish rate). Then stations should only offer to buy the difference between the quantity they have and the quantity at which they lower their price or stop buying the good. To avoid shifting the game balance too much, the limits should generally be higher than they are now (when the player doesn't have many in their hold).
Last edited by NMS on Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

StealthX051
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Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:09 am

There are a couple mod projects trying to do this already, however not many are released. The tutorial system, while better, is no where close to complete, and adding this might make trade harder for beginners, (even though that most beginners go around and shoot pirates for money).

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Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:53 am

I guess I should re-upload Alternative Exchange (after I update it, if necessary) to Xelerus. In that mod, shops did not let the player sell past the buying limits (raised to five times instead of twice), but the player always got full price. Player did not need to hoard items to defeat buying limits. Just sell as you get items, up to the limit. No pain, no fuss.
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Tue Mar 31, 2015 5:11 pm

@PM I don't believe I ever got to test that mod, sounds good.

@watch tv, do nothing A dynamic freighter load balancing system with mercenary enforcers of the status quo sounds just like the sort of cool behavior I'd like to see in an interactive universe, this would be a very cool mod especially combined with other dynamic enhancing mods such as DySys.
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Watch TV, Do Nothing
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Tue Mar 31, 2015 7:21 pm

To clarify, I'm not describing a "real" dynamic economy, or even a real economy per se, just scripted convoys that move supplies between different systems and variable prices and commodity stocks depending on how recently a convoy arrived.

I don't think it makes sense for any game mechanic in Transcendence to encourage the player to hang around in a specific system performing menial tasks. The player is trying to get to the core, not go into up business as the Denebola Salmonite Delivery Service or what have you. That's why I suggested a game mechanic where strong ships eventually come and muscle players out of any trade route that they start running for too long.

NMS
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Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:33 pm

Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:To clarify, I'm not describing a "real" dynamic economy, or even a real economy per se, just scripted convoys that move supplies between different systems and variable prices and commodity stocks depending on how recently a convoy arrived.
I think that's dynamic enough that most of my earlier points still apply. Cool, but bad for game balance and enjoyability.
Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:I don't think it makes sense for any game mechanic in Transcendence to encourage the player to hang around in a specific system performing menial tasks. The player is trying to get to the core, not go into up business as the Denebola Salmonite Delivery Service or what have you. That's why I suggested a game mechanic where strong ships eventually come and muscle players out of any trade route that they start running for too long.
And if the player starts farming those ships?

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Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:02 pm

And if the player starts farming those ships?
Then the player gets rich and they start sending stronger and stronger and faster and faster ships. If the player keeps at it they'll eventually find themselves staring down wolfens with omni-thermo + omni-positron lancer + NAMI heavy launcher + plasma shields that are actively seeking to attack the player to keep them off the trade route. And then they start coming in twos. And then threes. Eventually the player won't be able to fight them, especially not when bogged down with cargo. (Although if they come prepared they'll get some awesome loot before they're driven off. Oh well, you can't balance everything.)

I think that trading should remain mindless/boring to discourage players from spending too much time on it. If it was easier to kill pirates than fly across a few systems dodging thermo/positron shots, that's what players would do.
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Thu Apr 02, 2015 1:00 am

How about a system defense corps?

It should consist mainly of civilian level ships with highest quality civilian weapons. They will guard the freighter with 1 guard. If the player destroys the freighter, then he/she would be hunted down by the system defense corps. Eventually, if the system defense corps is exhausted, then corporate cruisers will start appearing.

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Thu Apr 02, 2015 6:37 am

Kourtious wrote:How about a system defense corps?

It should consist mainly of civilian level ships with highest quality civilian weapons. They will guard the freighter with 1 guard. If the player destroys the freighter, then he/she would be hunted down by the system defense corps. Eventually, if the system defense corps is exhausted, then corporate cruisers will start appearing.
That's kind of what the Commonwealth Militia is. But if they had enough ships to escort all civilian freighters, they wouldn't be having so many problems with pirates and warlords (and the game would be a lot more boring).

PM wrote:I guess I should re-upload Alternative Exchange (after I update it, if necessary) to Xelerus. In that mod, shops did not let the player sell past the buying limits (raised to five times instead of twice),
Five times instead of twice what? I'm not really sure how the system works now.
PM wrote:but the player always got full price. Player did not need to hoard items to defeat buying limits. Just sell as you get items, up to the limit. No pain, no fuss.
That sounds good, but I don't have a problem with being able to sell some amount over the limit at a reduced price. Sometimes the convenience outweighs the inefficiency. It would be nice if there were an indication in the dialog that they're low-balling you though.

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Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:26 am

Trading came up during the stream tonight and we discussed buy limits. Also, I've been meaning to look at the buy and sell screens because there are some other issues to fix/improvements I'd like to make. I think what I wrote in the first post about buy limits is still a good summary, and I edited it slightly for clarity.

George suggested using calculus to (I think) calculate the area under the station's demand curve, but this has a couple issues. It's hard to convey to the player how the price varies with the number they sell without a graph, and it makes it hard to optimize how to divide loot among stations that will buy it. So my suggestion is a stepwise function where they buy some at full price, some at a lower price, and eventually won't buy more. The number of steps between full price and 0 could be 1-3.

Also, maybe there could be a way for stations to specify that buy limits should be adjusted for items meeting certain criteria.

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Fri Sep 29, 2017 6:52 am

NMS wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 1:26 am
Trading came up during the stream tonight and we discussed buy limits. Also, I've been meaning to look at the buy and sell screens because there are some other issues to fix/improvements I'd like to make. I think what I wrote in the first post about buy limits is still a good summary, and I edited it slightly for clarity.

George suggested using calculus to (I think) calculate the area under the station's demand curve, but this has a couple issues. It's hard to convey to the player how the price varies with the number they sell without a graph, and it makes it hard to optimize how to divide loot among stations that will buy it. So my suggestion is a stepwise function where they buy some at full price, some at a lower price, and eventually won't buy more. The number of steps between full price and 0 could be 1-3.

Also, maybe there could be a way for stations to specify that buy limits should be adjusted for items meeting certain criteria.
1) Explination :

Originally, the traffic codes carry orders for ships to sell whatever they have to stations ( presumable after they loot wrecks and dock at a station )
However, as we know, this never worked out as well as we required it to . Because of this, the Station Buy Limits have hit the Players harder then I think they needed to .

2) Resolution that has been in testing:

In my idea of trade routing ships in common traffic ( sometimes explicit ship traffic to do the dirty deeds ) I had stocked ships with &tr ( whatever ) and they both buy and sell : *t~fm;
I also set the stations that don't sell to the player to carry a "Sell" item in their <Trade> so they can interact with traffic ships.
This gives the system an active inventory and moves items around from one station to the other -
where there are stations like manufacturing or stations like the Corporate Enclave, the factory can gain new items for production from traffic and the Enclave can sell to the traffic ( but not the player ) the items it holds.

So far, I think the evolution of my idea is going along fine but I really like the proposal of Korolov stations taking up the slack and actually moving supplies rather then half stepping the job .

However , Korolov isn't present in all systems and either another ( stronger) station is required or we fall back on the traffic ships for systems that have traffic ( some higher levels do not have traffic due to the lack of stations that would normally call on the traffic code )

3) Evidence of Resolution not being exclusive to EAB3 ( me ) :

I never believed the problem was the station limits, I believe the problem is the lack of cargo shipping to and from stations and between stations.

Alternative Exchange , Galactic Trader , Merchant Convoy , Merchant Emporium All attest to exactly what I believe to be the true issue.


I once watched a movie, a space object heading toward Earth : a Scientist so proud and full himself over his use of Calculus predicted almost everything EXCEPT....Intelligence manipulating the object.

This the Flaw I see in your great minds tinkering out this challenge with fancy math that will only devastate the player 's experience or totally fail in the face of an intelligent and unpredictable set of minds operating on various strategies of War and Peace operations within the systems.

Why? because you are insisting that the Player is at fault for striking the limits on an item : this is not the case.

The stations not having a dynamic Inventory or shipping system is the problem
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Fri Sep 29, 2017 9:38 pm

Just gonna drop this ticket here... http://ministry.kronosaur.com/record.hexm?id=73634
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Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:38 am

I'd say that there are presently two issues with trading that can be dealt with without a major undertaking.

The first is unreasonable profits. This can be fixed with a simple algorithm, where favorable price extremity(low sell price and high buy price) are modified by a multiplier:

Code: Select all

[Systems_from_source_station + 1] / 3
Where Systems_from_source_station is calculated by getting the number of systems that would have to be traveled across in order to find a station that would sell this commodity at below - market price.

The second is the lack of action in trading. This can be resolved by having pirate stations send out task forces to kill the player if he is carrying sufficiently valuable non - weapon cargo. These task forces could be specified similar to 'reinforcements', taking a table of ship groups, a value 'time', and a value 'aggression' that is compared to the player's desirability as a target, calculated below:

Code: Select all

Total_value_of_non_equipment_items_in_cargo / Total_value_of_installed_equipment
Every 'time', the station checks whether random() < desirability / aggression, gating in a ship group and sending it to dock at the station and then attack the player if so.

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Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:12 pm

JohnBWatson wrote:
Sat Sep 30, 2017 5:38 am
The second is the lack of action in trading. This can be resolved by having pirate stations send out task forces to kill the player if he is carrying sufficiently valuable non - weapon cargo. These task forces could be specified similar to 'reinforcements', taking a table of ship groups, a value 'time', and a value 'aggression' that is compared to the player's desirability as a target, calculated below:
This sounds like pirate raids from Endless Sky. There, when raided, your fleets gets swarmed by pirates immediately after take off or system jump.

What I would do in such a situation is overequip my ship(s) and farm the pirates. Free loot!

Endless Sky uses your fleets' firepower to offset cargo to calculate raid strength, but that does not fully work because after a certain point, you may have more than enough firepower to kill everyone (and/or enough defenses to ignore the pirates) even if it barely offsets your cargo capacity.
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Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:07 pm

Hello, first post. I watched the vod concerning this topic and was hoping this was here.
My first thought for the solution when I heard George Moromisato explain the calculus formula was, simplify it; meaning that at the end of the formula you would end up with a specific amount currency for a specific amount particular product, and if it would be easier to simply state a varying number for a product's 'desirability' for each station type including faction modifiers for each type of item.

Let's say that we have 20 erbium rods. A starton, which would be neutral across the board, will buy 12+1d6 rods at 50% value. This could the base for general products. But there happens to be a corporate station nearby and you've done a few mission and have rank so you know they will give you a better deal and will buy more of what you found. This would look like (12+1d6) +25% erbium rods for 75% of value, So if the randomizer rolls a 3 that's an extra 2 (if rounded up) rods at a better value. This means that you can form the strategy of first selling to corporate then to the starton to get the most bang for your buck, even if you have to travel a bit.

The numbers are bad but I think the method is sound, and can be as intricate or broad as you like, and giving the flexibility to alter the markets through modding by changing the 'desirability' of item types, or even specific items.

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