Thursday, September 29, 2005

SWG: New Economic Abilities for Merchants

It occurs to me that maybe the dearth of stickified FAQ-type messages in this Business and Economics forum is due to there being no in-game way to get business/economic information that applies to every player.

You'd expect to see hard numbers on financial operations in a forum like this... but how are we supposed to obtain that kind of info?

I'm not a Pikeman, but let's say I was. I could acquire one of every type of polearm, write down its listed stats, then use each one in carefully controlled settings to generate a detailed list of behavioral characteristics. I could work out things like DPS ratings, decay rates, and so on for various players in various situations, and from that data produce a chart that would help Pikemen decide which polearm was best for a particular function. That's the kind of useful information that gets stickied.

But what similar tools do business types have for assessing market characteristics? I know how much money I make based on my sales actions, but that's just me -- it doesn't really tell me anything that can help you and every other sales-oriented player. My personal numbers aren't globally useful information that deserves stickyhood, but they're the only kind of numbers I can obtain right now.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of economy-related things I'd like to know on an ongoing basis:

  • Which server has the lowest price for high-CD non-ferrous metal?

  • Which planet on Ahazi has the lowest price for high-CD non-ferrous metal?

  • Which server sells the most swoops?

  • Which server sells the most swoops per active character on that server?

  • Which ten vendors on Radiant/Corellia did the best sales last week?

  • What are the current average prices on Tempest for all flora resources?

  • How have prices for ferrous metals trended over the past week?

  • How have prices for composite armor trended over the past month?

  • How have prices for generic houses trended over the past year?

  • Which planet on Wanderhome buys the most harvesters?

  • Of all Bazaar terminals on Bria, which one is used most often?

  • Which mission terminal gave out the most money over the last week?

  • What is the breakdown of mission terminal money received per profession?

  • Which ten characters have the largest bank accounts on Shadowfire?

  • Given prevailing resource costs, what are the ten most profitable craftable items?

  • Given maintenance costs, what's the optimal number of vendors?
All these things and many others like them are debatable. But is "debatable" really the qualification for something to be stickied when everybody else is stickying hard numbers?

If it's the best we can do, then OK -- let's go ahead and sticky the best debates or the most interesting ideas for enhancing economic gameplay... but let's also admit that that's a second-best result.

Here's an alternative: What if we had in-game abilities that could be used to discover the kinds of hard information that would merit being stickied here?

What if there were Merchant skills to obtain local economic information?

Yes, that information would be posted immediately to become global information... but would it hurt the game for many players to have that information widely available? Could it be abused in some way? Or would it be more likely to open up economic gameplay to more players? Would it improve competition, thus making markets more efficient overall as players realize where to go to earn more profits?

Wouldn't it finally allow us to generate hard economic information worth tracking?