Thursday, July 15, 2004

SWG: Jump to Lightspeed: Space Commerce +

Let me turn now to some of the comments regarding Space Commerce.

WesBelden wrote:
for it to have any chance of succesfully being implemented in my eyes, a limit on what can be transported by players on public transport (ie, what's currently in the game), or a heavy charge for carrying such things (resource containers going up by number of resources in each one, crates etc.) would have to be implemented. Similarly, the amount one can hold while in a fighter class ship would also have to be limited.
Agreed, and it's an excellent point.

I grumbled some time ago about wishing that SWG had implemented an "encumberance" system, since 100,000 units of steel taking up exactly the same amount of inventory space as Goru Rainstealer's calling card just makes no sense whatsoever. If encumberance was factored into carrying capacity, then the problem of freighter space (not to mention vehicle trunks and mount saddlebags) would automatically be solved.

Failing that, I suppose that there would have to be a rule in place that items could only be transferred from shipping terminals to ship "manifests" with X number of spaces (based on the size of your ship and available space not taken up by other ship systems like weapons or engines), and from ship manifests to delivery shipping terminals.

Of course, that does nothing to prevent someone from simply buying an item from a shipping terminal and placing it in their personal inventory, getting on a ship and going somewhere else, then placing that item for sale on another shipping terminal. So maybe this is another place where we need to make the distinction between freight (something you ship for someone else but that doesn't belong to you), which could use the terminal->manifest->terminal system, and cargo (something you buy yourself and take elsewhere to sell at what you hope will be a profit), which people will certainly transport in their personal inventory.

IgescaStorm wrote:

Flatfingers wrote:
[... The only catch is that the person who placed the item for sale would have to authorize the delivery, otherwise you could have people griefing merchants by having their products shipped to undesirable locations.]
Why? If i bought an item from the bazaar, my money was sent to the seller. Now i can say another player, he shall bring it to me... Where is the grief?
IgescaStorm, the original suggestion didn't include buying the item first; it was just about offering to buy an item after shipping it. You're right that if the item is purchased first, then it would be fine to allow the new owner to authorize delivery.

The key is to insure that only the owner of an item is allowed to determine what happens to that item.

Rykith wrote:
I was thinking that maybe the alot of these things can be tied to the Merchant profession. It would greatly enhance that profession.
I was thinking that, too. :)

Just imagine if creative Master Merchants could be as powerful in their part of SWG as TKAs or CM/Pistoleers are in theirs....

TulasiKid wrote:
I haven't read Axelrod's work (was that something I was supposed to read in Macro Econ 1?) ...
You do NOT want to get me started on this subject! (You just think some of my other messages are long....)

Although Axelrod's work on the Evolution of Cooperation has applications in Economics and other human-related fields, it's probably best known in Political Science circles; in particular it's directly relevant to Conflict Resolution studies.

Basically he used computer simulations to show that cooperative behavior can evolve even in a crowd of people who take advantage of other people, as long as certain rules are in place:

  • participants need to be able recognize each other

  • participants need to be able to have multiple interactions with each other

  • participants must not know how many possible interactions there might be
If those rules are in place in a multi-person system, then it turns out that a very simple strategy (known as "Tit-for-Tat") can create an island of productive cooperation even in an ocean of advantage-takers.

I'll leave it at that; if you're interested (and this stuff really does turn out to have some fascinating resonances with designing multiplayer games), you can find a lot more information on the Web.

TulasiKid wrote:
... but I do know that in the 19th Century American economy, businesses and investors faced these very same kinds of problems owing to a lack of a regulatory infrastructure for enforcing trade and commerce. Reputation was an important aspect of doing business, because there often was nothing else for investors to rely on.
Exactly right, and that's highly relevant to SWG and other MMOGs.

In my essay Economic Stages in MMORPGs, I try to make the point that online games (including SWG) are basically stuck at a prehistoric level of economic activity. If you think about it, about all we can do are make one-shot deals with each other, either through the Secure Trade Window or Bazaar/vendor terminals.

And isn't that similar to the limits to economic activity in the 1800s, when you pretty much only did business with people you knew personally and/or locally? When there's no reason for you to trust some distant person, why do business with that person?

The vendors, Bazaar terminals, and Secure Trade Windows are all extremely valuable economic tools in SWG because they are sufficiently trustable to allow players who don't know each other to trust each other in business deals. But are they enough to really unleash the creative potential of players who enjoy making business deals with each other?

To encourage more advanced economic activity in SWG, we need more advanced economic features. I tried to imagine what the most important of those features might be, and the most crucial concept by far was our notion of enforceable contracts.

The idea that people can agree to some exchange, and that all parties to this exchange agreement can trust the entire legal system of their culture to effectively enforce all the (legal) terms of the agreement, is probably the single most crucial advance in economic history. This is because an enforceable contract system allows potential contractees who don't know each other to trust each other, because they can trust the system to require the other person to hold up their side of the deal. And that opens up more new economic opportunities than any other economic tool we humans have ever dreamed up.

So yes... I sort of would like to see a good, enforceable player contract system in SWG. If the theory behind it is correct, then the question is whether it's technically feasible. I think it is... but that question is better addressed in the other threads on this subject.

BattledroidStrider wrote:
It encourages Freighers to be running around ...
That is a great way of putting it!

The truth is, we don't require player contracts or shipping terminals or any other new game mechanism to move cargo in JtL; we can do that informally the day JtL launches. But allowing players to do some thing is not encouraging players to do that thing.

Although there might be some diehard merchant types trying to make a living through freight shipping and cargo speculating in JtL, why bother when the game clearly isn't designed to support commercial gameplay? A set of in-game features to support freight and cargo shipping would take nothing away from combat gameplay -- in fact, they would enhance the purpose of combat beyond just pwning the other guy or levelling up. With commercial gameplay included, combat can also be about defending a merchant convoy from bloodthirsty pirates, or helping carry a crucial schematic to one's faction HQ or PA hall, or keeping the trade lanes safe from marauding creatures -- you get the idea.

In short, features to support space commerce are necessary to create the backdrop of everyday life before which the heroes of the Star Wars saga can play their roles.

As much fun as combat in JtL will be, it should be about more than just combat. As I've asked before: When only heroes can play, who needs heroes?

nasafan2 wrote:
increase the pay for illegal goods, spice/sliced weps, armor etc, but also make it a harsh punishment for getting caught with em. Being found out on the ground is not as bad as if the imps found out you were trying to actually transport the stuff! Puts a little risk in the game of spice running for all you smugglers out there.
I'm up for that.

Seriously, out of all the possible commercial enhancements that JtL might bring, the most obvious would seem to be letting Smugglers be better than anyone else at using their personal starships for smuggling.

Currently Smugglers are on the board for a revamp after JtL goes live. If I were a Smuggler who wanted smuggling in space to be a part of that revamp, I'd already be coming up with ideas for how to implement that... (hint, hint).

Lasek wrote:
if a player were to grab a delivery mission, mark it as delivered (nobody else could take it).. And then log out or simply not go to the delivery location. He wouldn't be able to access or use the items, but he would be able to grief by not delivering them to the wanting person.
Good point, Lasek. You're right; a freight delivery system would probably have to have some kind of guaranteed delivery period. One day might be excessive; how about two-hour delivery? If you haven't stashed it in the receiving terminal within two hours, it's yanked out of your ship and restored to "available" status on the shipping terminal.

If we really wanted to get complicated with it, we could charge "overdue fines" -- every hour beyond the two-hour limit, you lose 20% of the delivery payment. If the fines chew up all the delivery payment, then the item goes back to the original shipping terminal.

This still doesn't entirely address the problem of someone who takes a delivery item but doesn't deliver it... and then keeps taking it, over and over again, just to keep someone else from buying the item. If freight delivery is just NPC mission stuff, no problem, but if we're talking about delivering player freight, then that's a problem.

We probably also need to have some kind of counter that "remembers" whether you've taken some item, and doesn't let you select that particular item for delivery more than once per day.

TheHomicidalVerpine wrote:
For the npc cities: give players a higher reward for say running missions that take them from obscure locations to obscure locations.
This is another idea that just makes good sense. One of the greatest game mechanics ever invented is the one that ties reward to risk -- that way players get to choose the level of risk with which they're comfortable, and they are rewarded commensurate with that level of risk.

And just to make it an even better idea, THV's suggestion also has the advantage of encouraging players to visit new places -- something SWG's developers have always been interested in encouraging.

Finally, this idea ties in well with the notion that cargo bought in a big city on a "safe" planet should sell for the most money in outposts on "adventure" planets. Again, link risk to reward, and encourage players to go places they haven't been.

AuleyDavyds wrote:
What do you think of the recent addition of the "Auction" chat channel? ... The advantage of this system is that it solves the expediency issue I mentioned earlier: someone seeking to buy something can type a request, and *if* the right smith/seller/merchant is on and sees it, the response can be immediate.
I agree -- my first thought on seeing Q-3PO's announcement of the Auction channel was, "Well, there's the first version of the 'Want Ads' feature I was asking for -- dang, these guys are quick!"

It's not quite as useful as a "persistent" message that can be searched for on a shipping terminal. It's also less convenient than a message that lives in the same place (i.e., on a shipping terminal) as the merchandise to be shipped. But it's a great starting point, and I'm delighted that the development team took the time to implement it.

AuleyDavyds wrote:
... a player who has a large amount (or any amount really, I guess) of high-quality resouces from a planet (let's say Talus), lists them as available on this new "shipping bazaar" system, and then a crafter can purchase them. When exactly does the delivery take place though?
I think of it like this: Items are "in-transit" when the shipper accepts the delivery, and "delivered" to the destination starport shipping terminal when he redeeds his ship upon landing.

But if there's a better way to accomplish grief-free but productive shipping, I'm listening!

(Personally I'd rather players were able to stay in their ships in landing bays and do their commercial transfers from a shipping terminal aboard their ship, but we've probably flogged that dead horse enough at this point.)

AuleyDavyds wrote:
Should the crafter be able to see listings over all planets, and then purchase it, hence creating a contract for a player to move the goods from one location to another?
I'd actually prefer to see something like that as an advanced skill in an Industrialist (or revamped Merchant) profession.

AuleyDavyds wrote:
The result for the shipper is a question, though: does he get a cut of the price the miner paid to the crafter, is there an increased fee (say add 10-15% depending on travel time and the danger of the route) added to the cost that the crafter pays, or are credits generated for the shipper, leaving the original contract as is?
If it's player-generated, I'd say make shipping payments additional credits. The seller would have to factor the cost of shipping into his price for the goods he's trying to sell, but the point of player shipping is not to add money to the system but to spread it around more.

If OTOH we're talking NPC-generated freight shipping, then there'd probably need to be some function that calculates the delivery fee (AKA "mission payout") based on the difficulty of reaching the destination terminal. (The cost of the item would actually be irrelevant, since as an NPC-generated item it wouldn't actually exist and therefore could not be purchased.)

AuleyDavyds wrote:
the important question is timing: Does the shipping occur before the sale (the miner asks to move stuff from Talus to Coronet in hopes that it will sell better there) or after (the example I gave above).
As I replied to IgescaStorm above, only the owner of an item should ever be allowed to determine the disposition of that item.

So if I place an item for sale, I have to authorize delivery if it's OK for the item to be delivered someplace else before it's purchased.
However, if you place some item and then I buy it, it would be nice if I could pay to transfer that item (which I now own) to a shipping terminal for delivery to the starport closest to me.

MayRee wrote:
Maybe people who move frieght for the misisons could have a "freighter rating". The Rating could be based on how many successful transport the person has completed. A low rating could get the freighter on the BH terminals (smuggler or not). A higher rating could get the freighter higher missions.
Hmmm... that's an interesting idea. I like the way you've worked it up so that players have good information about who they might do business with.

The only concern I can think of is that this might wind up preventing lower-level freighter captains from competing with established players. I'm not suggesting that everyone should be "equal" -- that just eliminates any reason for entrepreneurial creativity -- but at the same time I wouldn't want the established players to get all the shipping business. That's the kind of mercantilist exclusivity that just inflates prices; we want to be sure to have commercial competition so that every freighter captain can fill a useful niche.

How can the rating system help achieve that goal?

mistermackey wrote:
jeez how did you think of all that stuff?
ph34r my excessive free time. :)