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Illegal Goods

#1
After reading Gazz's excellent post yesterday about cargo transfer etc, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around how illegal goods (i.e. goods that are for some reason always classified as illegal, not perfectly acceptable goods you might have stolen) might be implemented in Limit Theory. I hope you won’t mind if I detail my thinking and I apologise for any overlaps this might include with other people’s thoughts. I also apologise for the length, but I’ve tried to put a lot of thought into this. There are two questions I want to tackle: firstly how you designate goods as illegal in an infinite, procedurally generated universe and secondly how the game should respond to someone carrying them.

Part 1: What is Illegal?

The first question is how to determine what goods – if any – are illegal in any given sector. Ignoring goods that are illegal in the same civilization that produces them, I think this broadly breaks down into three approaches (yes I know there are four points)
  1. All Hail the RNG!
    Basically left entirely to random we say any good might be considered illegal somewhere, which in an infinite universe this actually means every good is illegal somewhere - and yet the chances of you actually finding that place is virtually nil. This is the most simplistic answer, and one I strongly believe is flawed in every possible way, not least because as an honest, law abiding space-citizen you might suddenly be branded a smuggler because these seeming innocuous space-potatoes are, for no clear reason, reviled by the otherwise benevolent society you are currently passing through.
  2. “Warning: Space-Potatoes might be habit-forming”
    The second option would be to have a property that marks some goods as “potentially illegal”. The PG description text could then include various reasons as to why these goods might be illegal somewhere, giving the player a clue that this item might not be good to just carry around long term, or, alternatively, that these Space-Potatoes might be considered a rare (and illegal) delicacy / stimulant somewhere and their location might be worth remembering.
  3. A Localized Problem
    My favourite approach would be to say that although any good might be illegal, it will only ever be illegal in a “nearby” system/civilization (although nearby might require a definition). This makes sense as goods that originate on the other side of the galaxy are unlikely to have ever been seen before let alone be enough of a problem to have been banned. It also prevents the obvious problem of most goods being illegal somewhere, but never anywhere nearby (i.e. making them almost irrelevant). One major advantage of this is that since this effectively means there are only a finite number of places where a good might be illegal it should be possible to include that in the item’s description, e.g.:
    Space-Potatoes are a popular staple enjoyed by billions of Earthicans on a daily basis. However, the nearby Centarii have banned them due to their shape offending their god Ungu, Lord of Purple, despite their being considered one of the most delicious foods ever discovered.
  4. Categories
    In addition to one of the above approaches I think there’s also scope for a civilization to ban an entire category of items (although naturally this should be quite unusual). Consider this example:
    400 years ago the Centarii developed their first beam weapons. These new guns, nicknamed “Redbeams”, were not only incredibly precise over a very long ranged, but were several orders of magnitude more powerful than the existing, ammunition based projectile weapons widely available at the time. The resulting arms race led to a planet spanning war that almost wiped the people out. Only when the Arch-Priest of Ungu declared that redbeams offended the purple god so greatly that it represented the highest form of heresy did the war cease. Beam weapons have been banned ever since, despite their pulse weapons now making the redbeams of old look like water pistols.
    Category-based bans make sense even if the game would normally only ban locally invented "problem" goods, as long as the PG system is able to provide some reason for it. Although it might be a little annoying it does add colour; exactly how annoying though depends on what being illegal actually means…
Part 2: What does Illegal mean?

After we’ve established what goods are illegal we have to decide how that affects gameplay, the most important part of which is how the authorities should respond to someone carrying them. Again I’ve outline below a number of options:
  1. “It’s a brain-melting death-fungus whose only purpose is to kill our race.”
    Sometimes it might make sense that someone is going to attack a trade ship carrying something they consider illegal even if it’s not in their territory. Perhaps it’s a brain-melting death-fungus, or perhaps the tasty crunchy snack the universe is going crazy over turns out to be the larval form of another sentient species, either way someone is going to be really, really offended that you’re selling it even if you’re not in their space.
  2. “The War on Space-Potatoes”
    In the real world people don’t usually care about the truck carrying poppies from the farm to people who refine it if they’re doing it on the other side of the world, but it has been known to attack the farm and/or refinery itself despite it not being on home soil. In the same way a race might not actually attack traders carrying an illegal good outside their territory, but if you set up a factory in neighbouring space the authorities might cross the border to pay you a visit.
  3. “This is the space police. Drop your illegal cargo or prepare to be shot down”
    The X series employs a simple model whereby civilizations police their own space. Enter it with illegal goods and if the police work out what’s in your hold they’ll (warn you then) attack.
  4. “Space-Potatoes are unwelcome here. Move along.”
    Ibuprofen is, as I recall hearing, illegal in Dubai. Carrying it on a plane that passes through their airspace isn’t a problem, but if you land with some, well, let’s just say that that’s not good. This might translate to a civilization allowing goods to pass through space as long as you don’t actually dock with a station or land on a planet.
  5. “My ship is sovereign property of the nation of Earthica, and my Space-Potatoes are mine.”
    When a ship docks in a port, duty is only due on any items that are taken onto the shore. Other goods are instead sealed in a locker by customs. Some civilizations in LT might be so lenient with the way they respond to illegal goods that they don’t care if you have them as long as you don’t try to buy or sell them in their stations or on their planets.
  6. “What happens space-side, stays space side”
    The most lenient of civilizations might not even care about trade in some goods as long as said goods don’t end up planet-side. For example, it turns out since that Ungu the space-potato-hating Centarii god of purple is deeply afraid of space, space-potatoes are only really banned on the planet itself as he’ll never know about what goes on in orbit.
  7. Addendum: “Do you have a Space-Potato Licence?”
    Something occurred to me when I caught up on the whole scanners debate. Some items might be illegal (using one of the above methods) unless the pilot possesses the correct licence. Such a licence might be tough to acquire, requiring excellent standing. It might even be possible to get a forged licence somewhere which may or may not fool the local authorities. In an ideal world a legal transaction of illegal goods would require both parties to have a licence, allowing a pilot to abuse his licence by shipping goods somewhere they're not meant to go, but that might be overly complex.
There are several possible ways these different methods could be implemented. I’d love to see different societies take a different attitude to different items (perhaps giving them different terms such as “highly illegal” or “banned planet-side” instead of just “illegal”) as I think this would add real character to the universe. I also think it would make the different careers a player could choose more varied: smuggling doesn’t become one box, it becomes a gradient – you might smuggle relatively safe space-side-only goods to the planet’s surface making you more of a bootlegger, or you might run brain-melting death-fungus to terrorist cells making you essentially a terrorist yourself. Likewise bounty hunting isn’t just about catching heavily armed pirates or smugglers, now you can go after soft targets who’ve been flagged by law enforcement as selling space-potatoes on the planet (who’ll likely be lightly armed and more prone to running than fighting but worth a low bounty) or the guy who the informant you just paid told you is carrying several tonnes of death-fungus (who is likely to be ready to fight to the well-armed-death once he realises you know his secret).

Apologies for the long read, and thanks if anyone read it all the way to the end!
Last edited by Triscopic on Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:52 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#3
Glad you think so. I hope if nothing else it provides a good foil for other people to come up with better ideas.

It just occurred to me that I'd missed something important - it should be possible for some illegal goods to be licensed, allowing a pilot to possess them legally, giving more trading options. Perhaps one race have pretty powerful beam weapons but they illegal without a licence making hard to get (legitimately) but not impossible. Alternatively you could pick some up from a "wreckage", but then you won't be able to carry them through the space of that sector without getting asked some serious questions.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#4
Hey Triscopic that's a great post! Have been thinking a good deal on your ideas. Creating laws - because when you come down to it these are the definitions of illegality - carries a risk of spawning an entirely new class of brain eating monsters (genus: lawyer/attorney).

Laws are set by an entity depending on the perceived impact upon that entity. To illustrate - in the UK smoking tobacco at home is legal (from the perspective of the criminal justice system) BUT in my home it is ILLEGAL. This thought kind-of parallels your post but frames it up a little differently. If I believe that a specific commodity is bad for my entity then I will ban them in the area which I control but at what point will I believe that something is harmful for my entity? Perhaps entity can be generalised for game mechanics purposes - those space-potatoes can cause harm in some percentage of species. Perhaps the (procedurally generated I assume) species in LT have (two or three) parameters associated with them (e.g. RED, YELLOW and BLUE)? Perhaps those three can be arranged in a wheel? If species "X" has more than 20% BLUE in it's make-up then it will be harmed by space-potatoes. Thus with three parameters per commodity (RGB) and a similar three per entity (harm caused by RGB) you have a quantitative measure. Obviously three parameters was an arbitrary selection - it could be any number.

Here's an illustrative colour wheel courtesy of the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University (http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homega ... ebde7.html) Image Earlier I mentioned "perceived impact". If each entity has a modifier that governs its perception of harm we could multiply our quantitative measure by this perception factor and maybe add a random factor too to allow things to flip-flop over the illegality line over time (think cannabis). So I've added another entity trait but it can be global for the entity.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#5
It just occurred to me that I'd missed something important - it should be possible for some illegal goods to be licensed, allowing a pilot to possess them legally, giving more trading options. Perhaps one race have pretty powerful beam weapons but they illegal without a licence making hard to get (legitimately) but not impossible. Alternatively you could pick some up from a "wreckage", but then you won't be able to carry them through the space of that sector without getting asked some serious questions.
And I wonder what this would add to the gameplay. It seems one of these features that annoy the player for annoyance's sake. Let me put this straight: You grab an awesome set of guns from a floating wreck and cheerfully rush into port to get them installed, only to either: a) get blasted to bits because of "illegal goods", b) get fined for more than the guns are worth because of "illegal goods", and have to hand them over or c) might manage to grab a fetch quest / pay money to actually keep what you have found.

Seriously, that type of gameplay should be reserved for parodies and/or the Galactic Redtape Simulator 2442. All it does is annoy the player. Annoyed players will start hitting things, starting with the annoying NPCs and going all the way to the uninstall button.
Perhaps entity can be generalised for game mechanics purposes - those space-potatoes can cause harm in some percentage of species. Perhaps the (procedurally generated I assume) species in LT have (two or three) parameters associated with them (e.g. RED, YELLOW and BLUE)? Perhaps those three can be arranged in a wheel? If species "X" has more than 20% BLUE in it's make-up then it will be harmed by space-potatoes. Thus with three parameters per commodity (RGB) and a similar three per entity (harm caused by RGB) you have a quantitative measure. Obviously three parameters was an arbitrary selection - it could be any number.
To be completely honest: I don't give a flying rat's butt WHY the game decided something is illegal. While I appreciate some decent flavor text, in the end the only thing to me is whether the cargo offered is illegal where I intend to sell it, and whether the expected profit will offset the added risks. That's all. I don't care if I sell ferrous compounds, baby kreelies (which taste great) or bioweapons. What I care about, should I follow the path of the trader, is the bottom line.
Also, stuff being harmful wasn't much of a cause for outlawing it until rather recently. Booze and tobacco have been sold for what seems an eternity, and both are rather harmful, which isn't even a recent discovery. They're culturally accepted, and seeing what wierd crud this "cultural acceptance" issue has spawned in the past and the present, I'd say you could probably just randomly pick 1D4 -2 items from a list and be done with it. Maybe reroll every 10 in-game years for added "realism". The banning of commodities in the past followed to logical or scientific reasons, they were either culturally, politically or economically motivated.

All I ask is to give the traders a workable way of checking whether something is illegal in a specific area, and preferably being able to do so before accidentally arriving with a bay full of contraband.
Last edited by Hardenberg on Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hardenberg was my name
And Terra was my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination
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Re: Illegal Goods

#6
Hardenberg wrote:To be completely honest: I don't give a flying rat's butt WHY the game decided something is illegal.
And that's a valid perspective and I respect it. Randomisation is certainly one way to go and "easy" to implement yet it runs the real risk of being arbitrary and inconsistent. Risk and reward were mentioned how are you going to measure that? Binary 1=here come the infinite Vipers, 0=out here for a cruise? The homepage of LT says:
[ INFINITE ]
No hand-crafted assets. The universe is built procedurally - from the asteroids to the planets right down to the ships - so each game is completely different. Each universe is also infinite in expanse: you'll never finish exploring, learning, or conquering.
So here when talking about the law, smuggling, trade and by extension police and other entity (faction) responses to my behaviour I do not want that kind of black and white - give me the [ INFINITE ] shades of grey every time and if you're giving me the shades of grey keep it consistent - or try to explain why space-sprouts are bad and yet space-cabbage is good ;-)
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Re: Illegal Goods

#7
As for the back stories, we could pretty much make them up as we please.
What's legal or not somewhere on our planet does not follow any logical system. Alcohol is more habit-forming and damaging than cannabis but it's the cannabis that is illegal. Because that's the way it is. *shrug*


While once i a while I might enjoy tinkering with all the shades of red, green, and blue, it would be a major hassle to ferry a cargo from A to B, always observing it's legal status in every star system along the way. That's a lot of planning for every single cargo you pick up, not to mention that the AI needs to be able to play that game as well.

If this game was primarily a transporting game (like Ports of Call), such a level of complexity might be justifiable but there are many more areas of gameplay in addition to that.
Therefore I would suggest a greatly simplified "illegality" system.

  • Every trade goods has a universal legal level.
    • (0) Legal. Anywhere.
    • (1) Controlled substance.
    • (2) Fun stuff. Biological or concealed weapons, killer drugs, what-have-you.
  • A star system or systems controlled by faction X has a legal level.
    • (-2) Anarchy system. Anything goes.
    • (-1) Dictatorship. Anything goes, provided El Chefe gets a cut.
    • (0) Bureaucracy. Just have your papers in order.
    • (+1) Restrictive. Trade is limited to licensed corporate partners. Not a happy place but quite safe.
    • (+2) Big Brother. Big Brother wants you to be happy. If you are not happy, you can still be used as reactor shielding.
  • Now you simply add the legal levels of cargo and star system and you know how much the police would like to have a little chat with you.
    It's not as deep as it could be but it's generic enough to figure out without a damn spreadsheet.

    If you somehow decide to take an illegal cargo into a Big Brother system, things get lively - but it's your call.
  • Licenses.
    • Acquiring the license lets you ignore all these restrictions - but only for "mission cargo", which comes with all the proper paperwork.

      This would imply a system similar to Ports of Call, where you don't buy / sell a cargo but transport it from A to B.
      One of the advantages of such a system is greater accessibility for a player who just got the game. Figuring out the economic system takes a bit but if you can pick up a cargo, deliver it, and get paid for that, you're in the game right away.

      Illegal cargoes in such a "transport" system could be managed far more easily.
      Since the destination is known, it would not be hard for a computer to check if you were missing the proper license for any star system along the way.
      (you are not actually selling the goods, only transporting)
      If you decide to take the contract anyway, fulfilling it is your problem.
    • But I digress. Back to licenses. =)
    • An alternative implementation of licenses could be that there are several levels of license as well.
      -1, -2, you get the idea. The better your documentation and standing, the more restrictions you get to ignore.
      Instead of having a complex 3D matrix of what can be traded how and where, you still have one integer sum that goes up and down.
      Juggling three numbers all the time may get old quickly but it would be easy enough to figure out if the UI (star map or otherwise) does it for you.

      Any transport mission offer could tell you if you, with your current licenses, could legally take a certain cargo from A to B.

      The star map could display in which star systems you, with your current cargo, had better give the police a wide berth.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#8
Gazz wrote:While once i a while I might enjoy tinkering with all the shades of red, green, and blue, it would be a major hassle to ferry a cargo from A to B, always observing it's legal status in every star system along the way.
Are you assuming that all the player gets is raw information? I'm deliberately keeping the concept separate from the implementation. From an implementation perspective everything that you player knows should be a part of their in-game knowledge and I could easily see that knowledge being presented visually or in summary format using a SatNav like function. Just needs a couple of extra options and instead of avoiding "low bridges" and "tolls" I get the option to avoid "hostile territory" or "territories where my cargo is illegal". That implementation works with any mechanic for calculation of the questionable cargo (from random, through simple to complex models).
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Re: Illegal Goods

#9
Hardenberg wrote: And I wonder what this would add to the gameplay. It seems one of these features that annoy the player for annoyance's sake. Let me put this straight: You grab an awesome set of guns from a floating wreck and cheerfully rush into port to get them installed, only to either: a) get blasted to bits because of "illegal goods", b) get fined for more than the guns are worth because of "illegal goods", and have to hand them over or c) might manage to grab a fetch quest / pay money to actually keep what you have found.

Seriously, that type of gameplay should be reserved for parodies and/or the Galactic Redtape Simulator 2442. All it does is annoy the player. Annoyed players will start hitting things, starting with the annoying NPCs and going all the way to the uninstall button.
Hmmm. I guess I used a bad example. My point was to *add* utility, not remove it: rather than have a simple "this is banned, full stop" I thought it would be interesting to reward players who earn a high reputation with a faction such they could be trusted to ship restricted goods, in the same way as in some state in the USA some people are licensed to ship and sell Marijuana whilst others do so illegally. Perhaps talking about weapons was a bad example.

As for Gazz's system, I respect the simplicity of the system, and perhaps that would make it preferential to more players. Personally, I know I'd prefer a system that provides more variation as I think it would provide more challenges and opportunities, but I'm willing to accept I could be in a minority. I dothink that licences might be better simplified - e.g. you are licensed to carry all moderately illegal goods.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#10
@ SteelyEyed
It doesn't matter how it's represented. If there are 50 trade goods with 3 properties for potential legal issues in 10 nearby systems then you require the player to record this information in a 4D matrix. A lot of players will struggle with the concept, not to mention displaying it in any logical fashion.

If you don't give any hints as to the underlying reasons for this, you get a black box system that is indistinguishable from a completely random system, making it's development a complete waste of time. Might as well skip all the complexity. =)

Just keep in mind that this is only a small part of the entire game - but a part that can affect many other areas such a trade routes or even military supplies / installed weapon systems.
My thread about the mechanics of cargo transfer is also about structuring the game's features in a way that would allow for gameplay to happen while the process of carrying or transferring cargo is pretty unexciting.


Triscopic wrote:I respect the simplicity of the system, and perhaps that would make it preferential to more players. Personally, I know I'd prefer a system that provides more variation as I think it would provide more challenges and opportunities
That it's much simpler is because it's only the foundation of gameplay elements. No more than a necessary evil.
How you do business with more or less illegal goods is where the actual meat is. What you can do with (or about) the system.

Can you evade all the police cruisers all the way to the trading station? Do you meet with a contact or fence in deep space? Do you deposit your cargo on some unmarked moon? Do you have to acquire forged licenses or cargo manifests? Do you jam communications and shoot the police cruiser that took an entirely-too-close look at your cargo?

IMO, doing stuff ingame is far more interesting than seeing a number be a "4" instead of a "1" or a legal status being "banned" instead of "legal".
A reliable system that the player can "figure out" is more interesting in the long run because then the player can then work out schemes to get around it's limitations! Far more interesting than throwing "random events" at the player like "Your potato chips are illegal 'round here. Drop your cargo or be destroyed!"
Engage the player, allow him to bend the rules, make him act within - or outside - the rules of the game world. For that, the game needs clear and understandable rules.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#11
I like the simplicity of Gazz's suggestion but I feel as though it is too simplistic. I also feel as though the suggestions made by Triscopic might be a little far out there, but not beyond the capabilities of the player and/or the game.

Keep in mind, that bordering systems (whether they're in the same empire or not) will more than likely have some things in common, and not have vast differences, much like (most) neighboring countries. Space is also vast, and with how big LT is going to be, I don't think it is going to be one of those where "You must travel through this system in order to reach your destination". There will be many routes.

This would allow for even complex illegal goods systems to be navigated. You're carrying goods A, B, and C. If you're in a system that allows for all three, chances are the next system will either allow or have the goods be controlled slightly, but not outright illegal.

Gazz is also right in the fact that what makes a good illegal or not in certain systems does carry over to quite a few other aspects of the game (the NPCs have to do the same), but if we simplify too much, then the universe evolves to a stagnant state in regards to trade routes.
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Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#12
I don't mind more complex systems. I just cooked up what I think is the minimum amount of complexity required to touch on all the major points without creating a system that drowns the player in trivial details.

Adding stuff on top of a basic concept is easy. The only question is if the added bits produce more interesting gameplay instead of more chores and bookkeeping for the hell of it.

DWMagus wrote:if we simplify too much, then the universe evolves to a stagnant state in regards to trade routes.
That's the real beauty of the system. (aka My Sinister Plot)

Imagine a "-1" sector where the police force has it's yearly surprise crack-down on smugglers to keep their quota of arrests and the politicians happy.
It just happens to turn into a "0" sector for a while.
I'm sure we can find plenty of justifications to tweak the number either way.

Rarely (and/or temporarily) even the legal status of a particular ware can change, tossing a wrench into the player's carefully set up money printing scheme. =)

You don't have to modify a byzantine and hard to maintain 3D matrix to make that happen. All it takes is adjusting a few obvious key variables by +/- 1.
If the system is set up to work with them, the universe around it will adapt automatically.
The AI would have no problem at all understanding the system and working with it in an intelligent and more importantly, believable way. You could watch the AI adapt it's trade routes to such events! You could accept a mission escorting the AI convoy that wants to take advantage of the sudden change in demand!



The reason why I try to steer towards "simple" systems is that it's not those systems themselves that make the universe come alive. It's the AI. It's what's happening in the game.
No matter how hard you try, if you force the AI to deal with a stupidly complicated system, it will both take ages to "get it right" and there will always be impossible to reproduce cases where it just screws up. Consistently.
That makes the game look dumb and all that work is wasted.
I'd rather have a solid but easy to modify core system and see more work spent on making it interesting by making it interact with the rest of the game. For instance, you could support the campaign of a Law & Order party in order to permanently increase the legal level of a sector, driving a competing drug lord out of business. Because his drugs are bad hmmkay.



That I use numbers like +1 or -2 is only for the sake of explanation. Of course we can have more granularity. It's actually implied.
The legal status of a sector or faction can change over time, reacting to political, economic, or just plain random events.
The +1 sector could really be a +1.057 sector.
If you keep shooting down the police cruisers, it will eventually slip down to a 0.991 sector, greatly changing the flow of wares.
The game economy / environment could be a lot more dynamic than just altering prices up or down because ware cycles can open up or close down. Entirely new trade routes. And the AI will be all over them. =)
Don't discount a concept because it is too simple. (even if it is =) Look at what you can do with it. What the AI can do with it.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#13
I guess I'm trying to make an analogy to John Conway's Game of Life. Some patterns take a little bit of time to evolve to come to their final form, while some don't change at all. I just don't want to end up with the latter without having an extravagant system to achieve the former (and without an ungodly number of evolutions to reach that point).

It's not that I don't understand your argument Gazz--on the contrary, it is a good system in its simplicity. I guess I just want something that's more than a simple A-to-B, but I can't really describe what I'm thinking of, because when the rubber meets the road, everything comes down to a simple A-to-B.
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Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#14
One problem I have with Gazz's idea is that it seems illegal goods would be illegal everywhere and nowhere would let you produce them safely, as any sector might have a randomly incited crack down. Randomly having your stations destroyed isn't going to be fun.

Compare that to X. There many illegal goods can be produced safely and legally in some sectors because they're only illegal in some, e.g. Space Weed is a basic food stuff for the Teladi but it's an illegal drug elsewhere.

My point is that in an infinte galaxy it's totally belivable that one race's delicious snack is another race's crack or dealdly toxin.

From Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Here's what the Encyclopedia Galactica has to say about alcohol. It says that alcohol is a colourless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars and also notes its intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms.
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Re: Illegal Goods

#15
Triscopic wrote:One problem I have with Gazz's idea is that it seems illegal goods would be illegal everywhere and nowhere would let you produce them safely, as any sector might have a randomly incited crack down. Randomly having your stations destroyed isn't going to be fun.
I do not know if this was addressed already, but the question is "how many" items will be traded. I guess in a procedural universe, the list may be infinite, and because with infinity, everything that is not impossible will happen, some race will need the other race's illegal drug to even survive.
This also mean that statistically you will not find a buyer for your goods on a foreign planet - sorry guy, here the acgn567823 is not digestible, no interest.

So possibly we will face a more realistic approach of taking some (few) standards goods that we imagine will have value everywhere - metals, organics, components etc... and add some "local craft from #asdg57§§" (replace with a nicely generated procedural name) as a generic specialty from a planet, with a random chance to find a buyer for an interesting price on other planets and a random (but clearly communicated) universal legal level.
Within such a scope, the system of Gazz is perfect - some of those categories are mostly illegal, but legal on some planets (with the appropriate negative modificator), while others are mostly legal except on some specific locations (with large positive modificators).
Obviously the system can be arbitrarily complexified - but should be only if it really adds to gameplay.

Possible modification is to add more qualifier (each similar to the Universal Legal Status of Gazz). E.g. each material has a
* Characteristic #1 (e.g. generic violence indicator: weapons are high, mashmallow low)
* Characteristic #2 (e.g. generic bio-toxicity: heroine is high, electronic components low)
* Characteristic #3 (e.g. generic social unacceptability: slaves are high, poems are low)
And the final legal status in a system the worst case.
Example: Mashmallow are 0 for violence, +1 for bio-toxicity and 0 for social acceptance.
Planet Sugharcoated (a religious tyranny) has a tolerance of -2 for violence, 0 for bio-toxicity and +2 for social acceptance.
So our cargo has 0-2 = -2 (legal with regards to violence) +1+0=1 (restricted with regards to biotoxicity) +1+2=3 (police wants to speak to you because of social unacceptability - mashmallows are sweet and god did not creaded the Zlongs of Sugharcoated to have fun!). So beware of the cops!
Again, to be seen whether the added complexity really leads to an added gaming depth/fun...
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