A Consistent, Dynamic, Galactic Economy…

What a challenge.

Previously – most games would opt for a “ok, let’s pick some base numbers – cap their ranges and then every time you visit somewhere, we “tickle” them randomly to make it look good.”

If you’re lucky – they spent some effort making the ranges specific to a worlds technology, or “civilisation level” – or so on. But, after a while – it’s pretty easy to spot a “dead cert” trade route – where you always know “Technology” sells for 100 credits a tonne at one system, and you can buy it four systems away for 10 credits per tonne. Four hops. Yawn. Profit.

The wiser player tries to find something to get profit on the return journey (or even more yawnsome, one system away) and – yawn – goes back and forth ad yawneum clocking up the credits, buying all the hardware they can and as sure as ditchwater is dull, empties the game of any gameplay  it had left.

Now don’t get me wrong – I loved it. I did it. I plied the trade routes and milked them for all they were worth. But I was fourteen. Games were nothing like they are now. Back then – “finding” this kind of awesome way of churning credits was cunning and “ace”. Not an exploit of limited or shoddy gameplay design. Which is precisely how it would be perceived today.

These days – games are far more advanced. Gameplay is far more advanced. Game players are far more demanding, and discerning. We can’t get away with “simples” any more. Well, mostly!

In the dark and distant past…

Back in 2000, I wrote a basic trading engine for a “space game” that I envisioned I would make and release. I modelled our own solar system, and one hundred “simulated” pilots which would ply their wares between each economy. They would plan out routes based on profit. When they bought or sold, it modified the economies they were trading in. Fairly simplistic – over simplifed in fact. But, dynamic. The economies evolved over time. I added in supply vs demand, limiting the production of saleable resources – altering the demand for others based on each worlds tech level.

It worked. Badly. But it worked.

This is exactly what I intend for Dominium. But on a galactic scale – somewhat. I’ll explain.

Scaling up.

First, we need a highly complex, evolving, dynamic economy – per world. In fact, for my money –  per station or base.

Second, we need to be able to tweak these prolific economies quickly and easily. Because no doubt on the first release – no matter how much QA and Beta testing we do, somehow an exploit will creep in which means you can earn 100,000,000 per tonne on “Quorn Substitute Meat”. (I sincerely hope not, but you get the idea 😉 )

The plan (at the moment) is to use a hierarchical economy. We define all the commodities in the galaxy that can be bought and sold anywhere – ever – (which includes ships, weapons, ordnance, upgrades, supplies, foods, etc). Then we set minimum and maximum prices that can exist, anywhere in the galaxy for each commodity. This is the Master Economy. It means we can never get 100,000,000 credits per tonne for Quorn Substitute Meat, because we cap it here to be 0.12 credit per tonne. Or similar.

Then – we can define child economies which modify this base economy – based on their civilisation, technology, even location. Then they get local modifiers based on supply and demand.

The Empire will have it’s own sub-economy – which all member societies derive from. This guarantees that (within the Empire) there are controlled fluctuations in prices.

Other major “factions” within the galaxy have their own sub-economy – which will differ to the Empire. That means trade between these major factions has advantages / disadvantages.

Then we have races/civilisations – each of these have a sub-economy, their star systems have one, planets in the star system have one, satellites, space stations and bases will all have one.

Then we have modifiers for society status – perhaps it’s at war, or persecuted, or embargoe’d, or harassed by pirates – all these affect their economy, and supply and demand.

Disasters (which will occur, it’s a big galaxy) will affect the economies. These “ripples” will then propogate out into the larger galaxy economy – because of the simulated trade between each affecting each economy. A kind of “self-driving” effect.

This sounds great – but it’s a mess of horrors all waiting to happen.

“Stock” can run out – demand outstripping supply as hordes of simulated trades buy everything and move it out ot other systems. Prices peak, or plummet as trades affect the prices. Simulate the trade over enough time and you can end up with a wildly imbalanced overall economy, with many places starving for resources and offering maximum prices for everything, others totally overstocked and selling it for rock bottom.

The next thing which may have occurred is – “Hang on, you wanted 200,000 star systems, 1,000,000 planets and so on… that’s a lot of economies!”.

It sure is – and the above would mean storing the current economy for each – and more, a planet may have ten moons, each with a base, or six orbiting satellites – or both, or more! Not only do we have to store them – we have to update them based on the trade simulation and store the results.

This is where Procedural Generation comes in. “The Clever Bit”. Which I can’t tell you about – too much – because it’s super-secret! Also, if we gave away details it could lead to hacking exploits. Whilst they will happen anyway no doubt, we don’t want to just give away the keys to the kingdom with a hefty blank cheque! But, the trade routes are an important factor as you’ll see next.

Basically, the key to all this – especially with the PGC driven economy – is “balancing” – and that is going to take quite a long time to get right. But, we think it will be worth it!

Because you’re worth it.

So that sounds like a heck of a lot of effort, and seems to be fraught with peril and disaster.

What does it give us?

It means the economy between any two places is predictable, but not set in stone. It means you can find your “cash cow” trade route and do some profit churn… but as you do so – the economies will change to reflect that. Your actions will evolve or grow a trade route – just like a Neural Network – routes will grow and form based on usage as traders move between systems. Over a certain threshold and the simulation will take note, and other simulated traders will “jump on the bandwagon”, increasing trade. After a time – the prices will alter to reflect this trade, and your route – whilst still profitable – becomes less so.

Meanwhile, because simulated trade has moved to follow this new trend – other routes begin to fade away as they are unused. This means those economies are effected – altering the prices, making them a possibly more profitable route to explore. And there’s the key word there. Explore. This constantly shifting economy means you won’t be able to stick in that yawn to yawn trade route for too long. To continue churning credits, you have to look for new routes. That means visiting new worlds, and travelling further about the galaxy.

And – most likely – getting into more trouble.

This is exactly what we want you to do. Explore. Again though – you don’t have to! You could keep trying to churn credits from local trade, or do jobs, or any other means to earn credits by playing the game.

But really, we want to encourage you to go out and see our great big galaxy for yourself, to see the sights, encounter the many races and technologies, and find the many surprises that we will sprinkle within it.

Frankly – immodest as it may sound – we can’t wait to play our own game 🙂

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Author: Mak View all posts by

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