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Topics - Psigun

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Recently I finished a series of books that catalyzed my interest in the non-combat gameplay of Starfarer (The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper by Nathan Lowell if anyone is interested). I think most of us would agree that the tactical space combat of Starfarer is already the best there is, even in beta. The potential for non-combat gameplay is even greater and I'll explain why. A believable and rich universe is key to making the campaign a success above and beyond the amazing combat, and a vertical integration of supply chains for the economy of Starfarer will give the richness to the universe by offering a wide array of interesting non-combat options. Enriching the setting will make combat itself that much more enjoyable. It would be cool to see AI bustling around being industrious while being harassed by pirates... or you.

Vertical Integration in regards to a supply chain is the idea of following a product from mining the raw material to finished goods being in the hands of consumers. That's grossly simplified, but hopefully it conveys the idea. In terms of Starfarer I imagine a supply chain that would be something like the following: mine raw material, transport raw material, manufacture good from raw material, transport good, sell good to profitable market. How this fits into the game is as a mechanic for producing starships, weapons, modules, commodities, goods, and provides richness and depth to the universe. In my mind I'm picturing a player being able to function as one step in the supply chain depending on what they want to do, or all of them if they want to vertically integrate fully. I'm not sure of the complexity that Fractal Softworks is aiming for, so full integration might be beyond the scope of the game. I'll highlight each area of the supply chain and toss out some ideas next.


Capital: Crews, Workers, Ships and Stations

This isn't a step in the supply chain, but rather the capital and infrastructure required to maintain it.

  • Ships and stations unique to each step in the supply chain. This is already apparent in the beta with cargo haulers and freighters. Ex: Mining ships, Manufacturing stations, Passenger liners, Cargo haulers, Orbital habitats
  • Crews and workers that gain experience for non-combat tasks, just like crews already gain levels for combat. Ex: An elite force of workers on a manufacturing plant may drastically increase profit margins. A green crew on a passenger liner may provide poor service and demand a cheap fare.
  • Ships and stations could have default ratings for each non-combat area. A mining ship might be grade A for mining, but grade F for passengers. A passenger liner might be A for passengers, but C for cargo. A manufacturing station could be A for manufacturing, but D for habitation, making it a bad market for luxury goods delivery but great for producing them. This rating would affect profit, and some jobs might be deeply unprofitable if done with the wrong tools for the job.

Mining

This is the first step in the a simple supply chain. Getting raw resources from some source and delivering them to somewhere for a profit. Asteroids are the obvious source, but salvaging has potential for to fill this niche as well. This step seems pretty straight-forward so I didn't really brainstorm much that was worth mentioning.

  • I'd love to see cargo containers that could be filled up with mined resources and then picked up. This worked well in EvE's mining metagame.

Bulk Freight

Bulk freighters and cargo haulers would be responsible for transporting raw goods and commodities from the original source to a market, whether it's for manufacturing or consumption. These are the goods that rely on sheer volume to transport at a profit. Big and lumbering, they give up speed for mountains of goods, whether it's ore from an asteroid field or grain produced at an agricultural planet. This is the step which would move raw goods to their manufacturing base, or commodities to their destination.

  • Markets variable over time. Fluctuations in market add some risk beyond just pirates and other factions.
  • Distances for this step would be relatively short compared to the next transportation step.

Manufacturing

Here we have the middle step in the simple supply chain. Raw goods come in, finished good or parts come out. Most likely this would be occurring on a station of some sort. There could even be shipyards which convert ship parts into ships as an example of a possible additional step in the supply chain. Players could even produce weapons for use by their own fleet. For credits, things like luxury goods could be produced. Manufacturing bases also provide a destination for goods in the last part of the chain.

  • Blueprints! Just being able to produce whatever you want after getting a station seems a bit imbalanced. Having to buy blueprints from the appropriate agency (ex: tri-tach ship blueprint from tri-tach HQ) would make this step a bit more interesting.
  • Different stations for different purposes. Refineries for fuel, shipyards for ships, industrial stations for weapons and modules... Even habitation stations that would provide people looking for transportation on passenger ships.

Trading

This is differentiated from the Bulk Freight step in the chain by the volume of cargo, type of ship doing the hauling, markets, and distances.  Smaller, faster ships would be key to making this step profitable. Manufactured and finished goods will be of smaller volume and higher value than bulk cargo. Smaller ships means faster ships, and that makes greater distances for cargo delivery a profitable use of time. I'm envisioning a sphere of influence around cargo pickup points, with manufactured goods having a much larger sphere of influence to be profitable than bulk haulers. A nimble trading ship dropping off a load of pharmaceuticals 5 systems away from where it picked them up, contrasted with a huge superhauler hauling grain from an agricultural planet to an industrial desert planet a system or two away for example. They might both get similar profit margins, but in much different ways and means.

  • Distances would be long, volumes small, and cargos dense in value: think computer parts as opposed to bulk silicates.
  • Passengers! The most important cargo of all. I would love to see some passenger liners and yachts that would have a rating on their comfort. Luxury yachts transporting people between systems could demand a huge fare, compared to poor immigrants on a beaten down passenger liner.
  • It would be fun for prices on finished and manufactured goods to be highly variable, making it important to have quick 'runs' to minimize risk, "I made the kessel run in under 12 parsecs!"
  • Variable prices at passenger drop off seems strange. Maybe passengers would pay a fare upfront for delivery to a specific system. The better your ships accommodations and the faster your ship, the better your fare.

Markets

The final step in the simple supply chain. Getting a shipment of beam weapons to a military base. Pharmaceuticals to an Ag. world. Rich passengers on a luxury yacht from an industrial world to a paradise world. The final destinations for cargo would all be involved at the manufacturing or mining (mining grain off an ag. world) phase of the supply chain. The trick here would be setting prices and interactions. I haven't the faintest idea how to setup a believable and entertaining system of market dynamics in a game.

  • Passengers pay fare up front with a set destination
  • Manufactured goods have a high but variable price and low volume, with destinations far apart
  • Raw goods and commodities have a low and stable (still slightly variable) price, high volume, and close destinations. It's logical to build refineries next to mining operations, isn't it?
  • Picturing shipyards and ships as the ultimate step in the Starfarer universe economy. Being able to setup a fully integrated shipyards operation from the bottom up should be a massive undertaking with huge rewards


That was longer than I thought, but I really wanted to brain dump while ideas and thoughts the Solar Clipper books popped into my head were fresh. Hopefully you guys can criticize or expand upon some of my thoughts. You could almost have a whole game built upon the economy, and I think having a fully functioning economy is key to the campaign being as epic as the combat already is.

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Just finished the Solar Clipper Trader Tales books/audio books and it really made me yearn for a solid space opera game with trading. Starfarer is already quite solid as most of us know, it's just all combat as of yet. The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper is available on podiobooks.com for free, if anyone here is interested. It's a slow (but not boring!) series about a solar clipper sailor and his rise through the ranks. Not much action, but a lot of character interaction and an interesting array of technology in a well-crafted universe.

Scouring the Internet, nothing really has filled that niche for me since the old Wing Commander: Privateer. The X3 series and everything was too convoluted and dense for my tastes and not much else looks promising... Except for Starfarer. I love the way ship and fleet design, and combat works so I'm looking forward to see what the dev comes up for in regards to trading and mining and the other aspects of space opera commerce.

Free Audio Books
http://www.podiobooks.com/podiobooks/search.php?keyword=trader+tales

The First Book
http://www.amazon.com/Quarter-Share-Nathan-Lowell/dp/0982514549/ref=la_B003D54RY4_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1340345206&sr=1-2

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Bug Reports & Support / [.52a] Stations not receiving new ships?
« on: May 05, 2012, 11:10:30 AM »
I have been playing .52a for hours and while it's awesome, I haven't seen any changes in the stocking of ships at the stations. I keep following in Tri-Tach convoys hoping to see some new capital ships or fighters but nothing new gets added. Not even fresh stock of the old ships that have already been there. Is there some sort of bug going on here, or is it just much less common for ships to be restocked?

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