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Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#1
Traditionally in space sims, supply and demand are simply based on station's stock with suppliers being freelance freighters that buy and sell wares between different stations.

I want to discuss the systems of trade and how they work:

My initial idea of the trading would be a hybrid of contracts (between suppliers and demanders, transported by the supplier most likely) and freelance buying and selling.

Contracts could potentially be a set amount of specific wares delivered at intervals (I.e. an Ore Mine with a contract to a Solar Farm for 100k Energy Cells delivered weekly) with supplier behaviour varying based on player setting.
For example the settings could include things like:
- Stockpile for contract before sale to public is available
- Stockpile % of produced goods for contract, sell the rest

The issue I see with the contracts is that it potentially dries up the market for free trade, if all stations have their needs fulfilled by contracting others. Alternatively, free trade also offers a sort of 'contract-like' system where the player could simply close their station to anyone else and ship their goods out for sale manually.

What do you guys think? Are contracts actually an important or helpful feature or would they just complicate needlessly and damage the overall gameplay?
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#2
In an ideal world, mined ore would be delivered to their destination on time, and everyone would lead stress free lives.

However, on a planet, weather, cost of transport, natural disasters, and people all play a role.
Add to this the systems that are required to mine and transport the ore to space.
And that's just getting the ore off planet.

To get the ore to its final destination, a few factors to consider are natural gaseous phenomena (e.g. solar flares), optimal routes (use the space highway or not (there is be a valid reason not to, i.e. pirates), pirates, together with cost and transport costs again are just some to consider.

All the solar farm needs is ore, they don't really care where it comes from, or who does it, so contracts could be the way they keep their business flowing.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#3
I'm pretty positive there will be the ability to post a job to the job board (or LT equivalent) saying, "I want X units of ore for under X units of currency" and have it repeat however often is desired. The question would be could you also set restrictions on who is allowed to accept the job, even to the point of declaring that only a single ship or company could do it.

I could see benefit there from a purchaser perspective in the sense that you could manipulate the balance of power by giving your business and money to specific factions. From the supplier end of that it may be less fun, depending on how prone the AI was to excluding you from their accepted vendors list. It would be realistic if they would only buy from some new, small supplier like yourself in a single ship for a very large discount because you have not proven yourself reliable yet, but it would take some smart AI to actually take that kind of thing into account.

I don't know that a traditional contract like the ones suggested in the OP, where there is a repeating order that the supplier is obligated to fill, would add all that much in way of fun gameplay. I suppose breaking a contract like that would incur some sort of penalty, so that may be interesting on the supplier end because it gives you more incentive to keep your end of the bargain, but to me that would feel too much like a real job.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#4
bkdevil wrote:
Thu Jan 18, 2018 2:36 pm
I don't know that a traditional contract like the ones suggested in the OP, where there is a repeating order that the supplier is obligated to fill, would add all that much in way of fun gameplay.
Josh has said that this kind of "economy" would be the difference between LT and the "grind" of most other games (usually RPGs, e.g. World of Warcraft et al).
However, from what I remember, this would be considered a "job", that exists as long as there is a wallet to fund your activities.
The beauty is that its managed by AI and emergent gameplay.
bkdevil wrote: I suppose breaking a contract like that would incur some sort of penalty
Think Eve Online where your status is reduced after cancelling a contract with an agent within x hours.
No reason to think this could be true of LT too.
bkdevil wrote: but to me that would feel too much like a real job.
So, maybe not something that is introduced to new players, but something that could be used by long-term players?
e.g. Remote Management of industries in far away star systems (i.e. the other side of a worm hole)
Or possibly the equivalent of an "end-game" system for those who persevere with their universe.
YAY PYTHON \o/

In Josh We Trust
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#5
Oh, heck yeah. I've wanted RPGs to implement procedurally generatable contracts in some form since at least 2004. This link is pretty much a detailed look at the core components that a contract feature in a game needs to have. It was designed for MMORPGs, but that actually works for LT given its "NPCs should be able [within reason] to do anything the player character can do" design ethic.

I'm thinking contracts would be a special case of projects in LT.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#6
Contracts make sense for projects where a supplier is needed. Say I have a factory making ships and I need to pay a shipping company to transport the ships I've made to the dealership. In order to ensure that my ships don't get stolen I need a trusted company to do the transportation of my ships, and I also need a contract with the dealership as to how much of the ship price I receive after a ship is sold to someone. This helps me know who to blame if an unsold ship goes missing during transportation, and helps me manage my income as my ships are sold by a 3rd party.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#7
BFett wrote:
Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:14 pm
Contracts make sense for projects where a supplier is needed. Say I have a factory making ships and I need to pay a shipping company to transport the ships I've made to the dealership. In order to ensure that my ships don't get stolen I need a trusted company to do the transportation of my ships, and I also need a contract with the dealership as to how much of the ship price I receive after a ship is sold to someone. This helps me know who to blame if an unsold ship goes missing during transportation, and helps me manage my income as my ships are sold by a 3rd party.
I'd separate selling and transporting hard.
The overlap with the cut in sales price you outlined creates an extra element thats frankly unneeded in my opinion.

The same effect as the "sell to x and give me y of the sale" could as well be archieved with two separate orders which dont require the other party to do your bidding twice.

A simple "sell x to y" contract from your own stores at the target location and a "transport x from a to b" contract.
you simply sell your goods when they arrive at the target location.

Simpler to handle, simpler to reason about (for the player and AI), less things to break. Less complexity
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#8
I'll be very impressed if the NPCs are able to plan well enough to know whether or not they can fulfill a contract like "deliver 200 units of ore every 2 weeks for 20 weeks". To me it seems like there is an awful lot of future planning that has to go into that to make a smart decision on whether to take the contract or not.

The NPC has to look at how much ore they have currently, the rate they are procuring ore, their other commitments for deliveries, the travel time from storage to the purchaser and even how likely the shipment is to be captured or destroyed before they can decide on whether they can reasonably expect to meet expectations. There are other, higher level items to consider that I can think of as well (like which way the market is going for that particular commodity) but even keeping it as simple as "can I supply it" seems like a very difficult problem. To accept a long term contract up front they would have to be reasonably sure that they are going to be able to meet demand for the entire life of the contract, and calculate whether or not their chances of failure are acceptable compared to the costs incurred by that failure. Will the NPCs be able to look weeks into the future and make an intelligent assessment of where they will be? "Intelligent" meaning at least well enough that they weren't super easy to take advantage of by the player.

I could see one-time, short term contracts, like "bring me 200 units of ore in 2 days or pay me 200 credits on failure" being graspable for an NPC since it just needs to make a decision about its chances to fulfill the contract at that moment in time. I just lose confidence the further that deal is pushed into the future.

I am coming around to the idea of contracts gameplay and RP wise, as I think it would be cool to have a long time business partner that you may turn to when things go sour, but the technical aspects of it seem daunting. Hahah, I guess it's lucky I'm not writing the code. :)
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#9
I think you might be over thinking the AI. All the AI has to do is to consider three variables. Number one being how safe is it to travel from point A to B which can be determined by how often ships are destroyed on various routes, can it carry that much cargo from point to point within the desired time frame and is the time to reward ratio in its favor.

The third variable being something that varies from NPC to NPC and should be based off of NPC character.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#10
I've probably mentioned this before, but Traveller makes a nifty distinction between "freight" and "cargo."

Freight is stuff owned by someone else. You're paid when you deliver that stuff to a destination. (Passengers can be considered a special case of freight.)

Cargo is stuff you own, and you make your money through speculation: you buy stuff someplace where it's cheap, haul it somewhere it's valuable, and hope you make enough from selling it to cover your shipping costs plus a profit.

I don't know that LT would want to make this distinction formally. But to me it seems like a very good fit for a Freelancer-esque game like LT. All you'd need is a Shipping contract type, where you get paid to deliver freight. Speculative commerce is already, I suppose, built into the game if our ships are able to haul anything other than ore we've mined.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#11
Flatfingers wrote:
Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:05 am
I've probably mentioned this before, but Traveller makes a nifty distinction between "freight" and "cargo."

Freight is stuff owned by someone else. You're paid when you deliver that stuff to a destination. (Passengers can be considered a special case of freight.)

Cargo is stuff you own, and you make your money through speculation: you buy stuff someplace where it's cheap, haul it somewhere it's valuable, and hope you make enough from selling it to cover your shipping costs plus a profit.

I don't know that LT would want to make this distinction formally. But to me it seems like a very good fit for a Freelancer-esque game like LT. All you'd need is a Shipping contract type, where you get paid to deliver freight. Speculative commerce is already, I suppose, built into the game if our ships are able to haul anything other than ore we've mined.
i'd definitely split the two concepts, especially to keep confusion about "selling" and "transporting" away


i'd find it interesting if freight would have to be packaged into standardised containers (of different calibers). to remove the general "which of those 10232 items belongs to whom" problem
which would enable the player to explicitly specialise in freight hauling
by getting a ship with a multiple of the container size as cargo space (if we keep a simple capacity model)
or getting a dedicated container ship with simply x containers of size y (if we separate the transport capacity models)

it makes it also easier to reason about freight contracts, because you either can or cannot transport containers of a certain size and you dont have to evaluate every transport job that floats around.
it also makes interesting opportunities for misdirection and subterfuge. fill a transport with empty containers and confuse the hell out of the pirates who dont know which freighter has the actual load :D
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#12
I think you might be over thinking the AI. All the AI has to do is to consider three variables. Number one being how safe is it to travel from point A to B which can be determined by how often ships are destroyed on various routes, can it carry that much cargo from point to point within the desired time frame and is the time to reward ratio in its favor.
I agree if the AI is taking a one time job. I was talking about when the AI has to attempt to make a decision about whether or not to take a long term contract. It's easy for the AI to figure out if it can do that job right then, it is hard for it to decide if it will be able to do that job repeatedly over a period in time. That would mean it needs to make projections about its future, then balance how accurate it thinks it is and how likely it is to be able to fulfill the contract against the penalty for failure.
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Re: Supply, Demand And Suppliers

#13
Here a little matrix how I understand the different types of moving goods:

Moving goods from A to B

mine: I own the goods
others: other entity owns the goods or has a contract with me to take ownership

________(A)mine__(A)others

(B)mine_____1________2

(B)others____3_______4


1 - normal trade, buy low - sell high (in the free market)

2 - purchase contract, I buy the goods from a customer at an agreed price, then I sell them high in the free market

3 - delivery order, I buy goods low in market, then sell to the customer a specific amount at an agreed price (withing agreed time)

4 - freight transport order, pick up goods, deliver them, within agreed time


The contracts need some kind of penalties, when the time/amount is not met.
And of course, I can also create the order, and let an ai player do the moving. (for example, when I dont own that type of ship to transport the amounts/cargotype)
This could realized with an upfront payment or some middleman taking a security deposit.

The contracts them-self could then be also sold on the market, for the new owner to take up the job and receive the payment. (maybe one that has faster ships or more free cargo space)

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