It's no secret that boarding and capturing ships is the most profitable action a player can take (in the early to mid game), not only in terms of game time but also in terms of real time. This has remained true even after the addition of depreciation to the game, having all plundered and captured goods be 25% of their original cost. Even if we were to lower this worth even further, plundering and capturing would still remain an excellent way to get your hands on new outfits or ships without needing to buy them. (As such, we're still looking to ways to make plundering and capturing more difficult, such as with #871.)
Given that we've already nerfed boarding and capturing once though and it still remains one of the quickest forms of gaining credits, we should perhaps begin looking to other forms of income that we should buff instead of attempting to nerf capturing down to the level of everything else.
This PR seeks to do something similar to #5779, making a number of changes to various parts of the game all at once with the goal of creating a more balanced outcome, only while that PR is focused on combat balance, this PR will be focused on economy balance. #5772 appears to have overstepped its initial objective of combat balance and gotten into the territory of economy balance as well, making changes to minables that I will discuss below, so I figured I'd tackle my own, separate economy changes in a new PR.
Explanation of changes
Increase all commodity prices, but maintain the same margins.
During a new playthrough recently, I was busy mining while watching a battle on the other side of the system between some pirates and merchants. When merchants feel too threatened, they will spew their cargo all over the system as a distraction, and pirates will move to begin picking the cargo up. I realized though that the worth of those commodities was far lower than the worth of the metals I was mining, so it seemed to me like it would make zero sense for the player to actually use scaring merchants into dumping their cargo as a method of income. (This heavily ties into an issue like #4628.)
Another thing I realized (and that has been outlined in the changes made to minables by #5772) is that having minables be worth more than commodities doesn't make too much sense. Reason being is that minables are raw materials, whereas commodities are typically processed goods, in some cases made with the resources from minables, and therefore commodities should be worth more than raw materials. While this is a realism argument and the reason that minables are worth more is likely a game balance situation, I think that it's possible to have both game balance and realism in this case. All we need to look at is the difference in obtaining minables versus obtaining commodities.
Minables are obtained by, well, mining asteroids. It's a very low cost, low risk endeavor, especially if done in a well defended system. There are more high risk regions with greater amounts of high price asteroids, but these are still ultimately low cost to mine. All you need is a single ship and some lasers, maybe an asteroid scanner if you don't want to manually aim. Early game it's even possible to bribe pirates and have the profit from what you mined outweigh the cost of the bribe.
Commodities on the other hand are obtained in two different ways. The first is buying them from a planet then selling them somewhere else. Compared to minables, this is a more high cost endeavor, but is still low risk. Given that you need to purchase the commodities before selling them for profit, the actual profit margins on selling commodities is lower than what is earned for selling minables. The trade off though is that commodities are more scalable than mining, given that you can use your entire fleet to buy and sell commodities but mining is effectively only an early game method of income.
The second way to get commodities though is to steal them, either through boarding or through getting a merchant to dump them. This is both low cost but high risk; once you have a ship capable of plundering or scaring merchants, it costs you nothing to do so, but there is a high risk in that you could be destroyed in combat. The benefit of this risk though is that you obtain commodities without having needed to purchase them, removing the costs associated with normal commodity trading.
So there is certainly room for both balance and realism with this system. Commodities can be made such that they have lower profit margins than minables when buying and selling for trade (the reason being that trading commodities are more scalable than mining, so we can't have trading commodities be better than mining for the early game), but higher profit margins when stealing commodities (rewarding players for taking a risk).
To that end. I've currently at least doubled the max price of all commodities in all systems while adding the change in the max price to the min price. For example, food previously had a min price of 100 and a max price of 600. This has been changed to a min price of 800 and a min price of 1300. This causes profit margins on trading commodities to remain the same while greatly increasing the worth of stolen commodities. Commodities now occupy a range of 680 credits per ton at the low end to 4340 credits at the high end, up from a previous 100 on the low end to 1520 on the high end.
This substantially increases the viability of playing as a salvager, a playstyle that is particularly fitted to pirates. I will note that this does technically buff boarding and capturing by increasing the worth of captured ships, but players who are capturing will typically be capturing ships that tend to have lower cargo values, while players who are salvaging will tend to harass ships with higher cargo values, so even though both playstyles gain from this, the salvaging playstyle gains more (and I would say also becomes a relevant playstyle where before it wasn't).
This change also impacts commodity trading by slowing down the rate at which one can buy new freighters, given that the invested cost of buying commodities is now higher. While this is a nerf to this playstyle, I think it's a reasonable one, as commodity trading is still infinitely scalable, and buffing salvaging necessarily has to come at the cost of commodity trading anyway.
Commodity | Min | Mid | Max | Margin
-- | -- | -- | -- | --
Clothing | 680 | 830 | 980 | 300
Plastic | 780 | 930 | 1,080 | 300
Food | 800 | 1,050 | 1,300 | 500
Metal | 1,090 | 1,290 | 1,490 | 400
Equipment | 1,310 | 1,510 | 1,710 | 400
Medical | 1,510 | 1,760 | 2,010 | 500
Industrial | 1,840 | 2,040 | 2,240 | 400
Electronics | 2,280 | 2,480 | 2,680 | 400
Heavy Metals | 2,970 | 3,320 | 3,670 | 700
Luxury Goods | 3,740 | 4,040 | 4,340 | 600
Tweak the mining experience.
This is a companion change to the changes made to commodities, including the tweaking of minable prices such that commodities are generally worth more per ton. Overall though there's a general sense that mining simply isn't a worthwhile endeavor. #5772 decreased the worth of minables per ton while increasing the payload of each asteroid and generally reducing their hulls so that they can be mined faster. While I think that making mining quicker and increasing asteroid payloads is a good direction, I don't think that decreasing minable worth per ton is the way to go, or at least not by how much #5772 did. Reason being that it's already fairly easy for a Sparrow to fill their cargo hold and sell it for a reasonable amount of credits per day spent mining, and reducing the worth of minables just means that a Sparrow would need to spend more days mining to make the same amount of credits.
Along with this has been an idea to create a dedicated mining lasers of some sort to making mining quicker. I'm not too against this idea, but I'm not particularly for it, either, given that part of the original intention behind minable asteroids was that you could use any weapon you want to mine them and just have higher hull damage weapons be better at doing so, so a mining laser would necessarily either need to have massive hull DPS for its size, or we'd need to introduce a new mechanic for certain weapons to be able to do increased damage to asteroids.
A concern that I do hear though is the lack of any ship that is truly dedicated to mining. Most NPC mining is done by interceptors and some light warships, but these ships have rather small cargo holds. You can't really use freighters for mining though given that they typically lack guns, and the smallest freighters that become somewhat viable as mining vessels are too expensive, and mining really loses its value as a form of income by the time you can get your hands on them. So perhaps some sort of interceptor sized dedicated mining vessel that travels relatively slowly for an interceptor but has a cargo hold comparable to a light freighter is in order. Such a ship seems like it could fill a reasonable niche with the changes made by #5779.
To the end of addressing this issue, I've at most cut the cost per ton of minables in half while increasing the payload of the asteroids to compensate. This results in most asteroids having about the same expected value, although on the low end of silicon and lead, I did increase the expected value of mining these asteroids given that their original expected values seemed very low to me. The worth of minable asteroids per ton, excluding yottrite, now occupies a range from 500 credits to 5000 credits, close to the 680 credits to 4340 credits that commodities occupy. This isn't quite strictly "processed goods are always worth more than raw materials," but is much closer than it was before.
While the reduction in the worth of minable asteroids per ton does reduce how much a full cargo hold is worth, the increased payload means that it should be easier to fill your cargo hold in the first place, and the same expected value per asteroid means that while asteroids have been made worse in terms of income per game time, they've actually become better in terms of income per real time, also helped by the fact that all minable asteroids have had their hulls reduced by anywhere from 12.5% to about 19%.
Beyond just tweaking the worth of minable outfits and the payloads of asteroids, I've also created two new weapon types geared toward mining.
The first involves a new "prospecting" weapon attribute that increases a counter on any minable asteroid being hit. This value increases the default 25% drop rate of a minable asteroid according to the equation
.75 / (1 + toughness / prospecting), where
prospecting is the amount of "prospecting damage" that was applied to the asteroid before it was destroyed and `toughness' is an attribute inherent to minable asteroids that determines how resistant they are to having their drop rate increased.
For example, the mining laser that I have currently created has a hull damage per frame of 1.9 and a prospecting per frame of 0.1, while a silicon asteroid has a hull of 350. It takes 350/1.9 = 185 frames for a single mining laser to destroy an asteroid. In that time, it will have applied 185 * 0.1 = 18.5 prospecting to the asteroid. A silicon asteroid's toughness is 37, meaning that the drop rate of a silicon asteroid destroyed by a mining laser will go from 25% to .25 + .75 / (1 + 37 / 18.5) = 50%. Given that the prospecting applied to an asteroid is a factor of how quickly it was destroyed versus how much prospecting was applied per frame, using multiple mining lasers doesn't further increase the drop rate of an asteroid, only increasing the speed at which the asteroid is destroyed.
The second new weapon is a "tractor beam" weapon mechanic. Any turret with the "tractor beam" weapon attribute will behave similarly to an anti-missile turret, except instead of automatically targeting missiles, it will automatically target any flotsam that is within its range (i.e. its velocity, since anti-missile turrets and by extension tractor beams all "create" 1 frame projectiles), applying a velocity toward the tractor beam equal to the value of the tractor beam. For example, a turret with
"reload" 1 and
"tractor beam" 2 will pull on a flotsam with a velocity of 2 * 60 / 1 = 120 velocity per second. Tractor beams also apply a slight additional drag to flotsams that they are pulling on, with this drag being the strongest on flotsams that are traveling perpendicular to the tractor beam pulling on them, causing flotsams to fall quicker toward tractor beams instead of potentially orbiting your ship as they get pulled on. Should you have multiple tractor beams, using opportunistic turret firing will cause each tractor beam to pull on a separate flotsam, while focused turret firing will cause each tractor beam to grab the first flotsam it can, even if another tractor beam on your ship is already pulling that one. Given that tractor beams attract flotsams, this means that tractor beams work on both minable asteroid debris and dumped cargo from merchants.
While a new ship that is dedicated to mining isn't something I'm opposed to, I think it's something that can be left for another PR.
Asteroid | Cost per outfit | Payload | Expected value | w/ Mining Laser
-- | -- | -- | -- | --
Silicon | 500 | 80 | 10,000 | 20,005
Lead | 900 | 60 | 13,500 | 25,689
Iron | 1,100 | 55 | 15,125 | 27,268
Aluminum | 1,600 | 50 | 20,000 | 36,067
Titanium | 1,900 | 50 | 23,750 | 38,035
Copper | 2,100 | 35 | 18,375 | 33,087
Neodymium | 2,300 | 65 | 37,375 | 47,867
Tungsten | 2,700 | 40 | 27,000 | 40,528
Uranium | 3,000 | 40 | 30,000 | 42,032
Silver | 3,600 | 35 | 31,500 | 44,133
Gold | 4,400 | 30 | 33,000 | 46,234
Platinum | 5,000 | 32 | 40,000 | 48,023
Yottrite | 100,000 | 13 | 325,000 | 357,591
Remove raid fleets?
Raid fleets are basically only a nuisance for freighter players who like hauling around lots of cargo. Their intention is to balance against snowballing freighter fleets hauling commodities, but I'd argue that they hardly even succeed in that, only slowing down the snowballing of freighter fleets by requiring a player to buy more warships. So we're effectively just hampering one playstyle without really impacting any others. And there's certainly an issue of players running into the raid fleet mechanic without having any idea what's going on, ruining their experience. (See #6049 for one such example.) What I'd say is even worse though is how raid fleets only appear in human space, meaning that a player is free to snowball their freighter fleet anywhere else in the game just so long as they don't bring all their ships to human space. So really, the whole raid fleet mechanic fails on multiple fronts, and I feel like is something we should just do away with. While this does make hauling commodities a more attractive option than it might have already been, I really don't see it as too big of an issue. If we really wanted to stop players from creating fleets that snowball (which I don't think should be a goal of ours), we'd implement something like #4665 that would just flat out prevent a player from creating a fleet above a certain size.
And in any case, I think that trade prices fluctuating is a better balance against snowballing freighter fleets than anything else. Increasing the cost of commodities as is done in this PR is also a nerf to snowballing freighter fleets, as while the profit margins have remained the same, it now takes more of an investment up front for the same amount of cargo, so the profit as a percentage of the costs has actually decreased, which will slow down any fleet snowballing, even if only by a slight degree.
If we wanted to remove raid fleets, I would relegate them to a gamerule (#5556) instead of outright removing them.
I've reduced the threshold for the raid warning mission to appear from requiring that the player have a 49% to spawn a raid fleet to a 14% chance. This is to make it clearer to the player when raids are appearing, as the previous threshold was far too high to really help the player, and they're probably getting swamped by raid fleets long before reading ~50% attractiveness.
I've just concluded a poll on the Discord server asking about raid fleets, and here were the results.
So raid fleets are here to stay with the ability to toggle them, defaulted to on, coming in the future. We had some lengthy discussions after I posted this poll though, and raids being underdeveloped is something we discussed, among other things. I wrote down a bunch of ideas as to how raids could be improved and put them on my todo list:
Expand pirate raid system
Governments can have multiple raid fleets
Raid fleets can have thresholds above and below which they won't appear
Raid fleets can have different limits to how many fleets can spawn at once (currently all are capped at 10)
Raid fleets can have a max attraction to the player
All raid fleets can be switched off with a gamerule
"Sandbox" difficulty in the future switches them off?
Systems can have raid fleets?
Have near-Earth systems lack raids while frontier systems could have raids with lower thresholds
Don't spawn raid fleets when the player is launching? (Avoids instaganks with no counter)
Cargo space used for attraction instead of just total space?
Use cargo worth?
Add raid fleets to more than just human space?
Hai = Unfettered raids
Wanderer = Unfettered raids???
Ember Waste = Korath raids
Coalition = None? Nothing really fits without creating Coalition pirates, which don't make much sense.
Some sort of delay between when you enter a territory and when raids show up?
Simulate the worth of your undefended cargo spreading by word of mouth.
Instantly being raided but a bunch of Korath when jumping into the Ember Waste wouldn't make much sense.
I think an overhauling of the raid system is outside of the scope of this PR, though, so this is something I'd handle later.
Ensure that commodity prices on pirate worlds are generally middling to high.
On top of the commodity price changes across the board, I have also gone through and increased the price of commodities on pirate planets such that each commodity is at least middling in terms of its base price, up to a maximum of 10% greater than any base price in the rest of the game. The reason for this is to lean harder into the improvement of pirate gameplay via salvaging commodities from merchants, providing players a safe location where they can get at least a middling profit on stolen commodities, and sometimes even the best possible price in the galaxy.
TO BE ADDRESSED
Increase job payments, especially on the low end.
Jobs are perhaps the most obvious form of income in the game, giving you a simple mission to complete for a predetermined reward. With plundering and capturing being such a profitable venture, though, jobs are greatly overshadowed. Some job payments on the low end are also absolutely pitiful, having the player travel several systems just for a few thousand credits. You practically make as much money trading alongside doing jobs with the small missions like that as you do from the job payments themselves. So while I think that higher end jobs are in a fine spot, with certain jobs being able to pay out hundreds of thousands or even millions of credits, the lower end jobs definitely need to see an increase in payments.
Have jobs offered scale more appropriately with a player's current capabilities.
We are limited by the UI in just how many jobs are able to be offered at once. A way to buff job running would be to prune those jobs which the player doesn't want to do while offering more jobs that the player does want to do. This could be achieved by using conditions to get a sense of what the player's fleet capabilities are and offer jobs which are appropriate to them. For example, if a player is only equipped with warships, then perhaps less passenger and cargo jobs should offer while more bounty hunting and escort jobs do. But if the player is in a freighter, we should offer more cargo jobs and less combat jobs.
We should also be able to check if the player has a hybrid fleet. Perhaps if the player has a high cargo space and high DPS, we provide cargo jobs that spawn pirates to worry about, or have hybrid escort/cargo jobs.
Increase impact on trade prices from player selling large amount of cargo?
Terin has suggested that he thinks that the fluctuation is far too low at the moment, saying how he traded 500k goods at a 300 credit profit, and the price of the good he sold on both ends only changed enough to reduce his profits per run per ton to 250 credits.
There have also been suggestions to perhaps make it so that different planets have different resistances to having their prices changed. Perhaps populace, developed planets can hardly change their prices, but underdeveloped planets are much more susceptible to having their prices changed by massive amounts of trade.
Cap number of commodities able to be bought per commodity per day?
Put a cap on just how effective a freighter fleet can get by only having so many commodities able to be bought per day.
No, I'm not interested in creating an entire economy simulation where planets have X production of commodities per day and Y consumption of commodities per day where the number of commodities remaining versus production and consumption is what determines the commodity price. This would just be a simple "You can only buy A tons of food per day and B tons of heavy metals per day."
Not as keen on this change, it's just an idea that's come up that I think is worth discussing.
Potential issues with these changes
By making everything else in the game more profitable, we make the climbing of the tech ladder much easier, effectively making the early game shorter. I don't think that this is necessarily a good thing, as we shouldn't be trying to fast track the player though sections of the game. Every section of the game should be enjoyable to some degree, and the early game above all else should be among the most enjoyable given that it's where all new players start, and I think that part of the enjoyability of the early game is seeing yourself slowly progress. Part of the reason for the addition of depreciation was to slow down the early game, after all.
So with the ability to earn credits being greatly increased with this PR, the early game may end up becoming too short. The obvious solution might be to increase the price of outfits and ships (certainly not to the same degree that the profitability of various actions has been increased because then we'd just be back to square one but with bigger numbers), but then that also just feeds back into making plundering and capturing more profitable. So perhaps along with increasing the cost of various items, max depreciation would be increased; increasing the cost of everything by 25% and reducing the max deprecation from 25% to 20% would leave plundering and capturing as profitable as before while slowing down the progression of purchasing new outfits and ships, but leave other forms of earning credits more profitable than plundering/capturing by comparison due to them being untouched.