Revisiting the Intel UI

How the player finds out about what’s going on in the Sector – and specifically, what opportunities there are for them to take advantage of – is really important. Some examples of this kind of information, or “intel”, are a bounty posted by a faction, a mission to analyze a probe on the outskirts of the Sector, ongoing hostilities between major factions, the player’s recent discoveries, and so on.


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Revisiting the Economy

Part of the design process, it seems, is going back and changing things that seemed like they would work well on paper, but didn’t quite pan out in practice. Putting several systems together can be an especially challenging process, and the one you start with will likely need the most changing as the other pieces settle in around it.

For this release, I started by revamping the economy system. Largely, the redesign has met its goals – it has good performance, and it can represent a flexible set of events in terms of “what’s happening in the game world”. However, working on the UI for colony management has exposed a few areas for improvement. (Pictured below: not one of them.)

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The map UI in Starsector hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced, back when Corvus was the only star system and there was no hyperspace. It’s been tweaked here and there to support new features along the way – terrain, for example – but the core functionality has remained the same.


With the upcoming update drastically increasing the number of star systems the map has to handle, and its focus on exploration, it was finally time for an overhaul.
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Planetary Surveys

To begin, some context: a planetary survey is something you do to figure out whether a planet is worth establishing an outpost on. There might be other reasons to do it – for example, thinking about whether gathering survey data could be a good way to earn some early-game credits, and/or influence faction behavior – but those things aren’t central to the mechanic. The main path is: find a planet, survey it, and then establish an outpost.

This implies some level of procedural generation, so that the planets and star systems you’re exploring differ from game to game. I don’t want to go into the details here – it might be worth it’s own blog post, and I’m not sure how much I want to dive into how it works in the first place, to avoid spoiling the experience – but will say that yes, procedural generation is now officially a feature.


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Economy Revamp

To start off, I’d like to clarify what I mean by “economy” here – just the underlying simulation that moves around commodities and is responsible for matching up supply and demand across the Sector. This does not include things like trade disruptions, which are events that cause price changes. These are certainly part of a more expansive and player-centric definition of “economy”, but for this post, I’d like to focus purely on the commodity distribution algorithm.

So, what does the algorithm need to do? We’ve got markets and commodities, and each market has a supply (i.e. production) and a demand (i.e. consumption) for each. What we need to do is figure out where commodities will end up, given the supply/demand situation. For example, if one market is producing food, its output should be distributed among food-consuming markets according to their demand.


There are some further complications, but the above is the gist of it – fairly straightforward supply and demand stuff, though getting it to actually work out is anything but.
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