A new player's first impressions (and a little feedback)

Bona fides; I majored in Economics and Finances at Uni, and I’ve literally worked as an exporter/trader in a perishable industry… so yeah, dig me some markets + logistics. Played games all my life. There’s a major crossover in PU with my love for the strategy, what I’ve studied and know, and my life’s major interests; Geo-politics as expressed through economics.

I’d love to put forward some of my initial impressions, simple ideas/thoughts, and usually within each topic some questions for debate! I welcome any and all feedback or thoughts. I’m new to the game itself, so might miss things. I’ve read as much as I can as a precursor, and will mostly be focusing on broad strokes. In the interest of some hierarchy, I will start from the small - and end with the big. If there is any topic you would like me to expand on, I will, but in the interests of brevity, I will keep my claims short. Explanations are there.

First - How I imagine the world
This is the wild-west in space. Akin to The Expanse meets Alpha Centauri. We are the merchants on the front line of the development of new societies. We trade, we plan, we seek out opportunity. It’s important to understand the setting - since this should inform the gameplay! (more on that later)

Building Recycling
There should be a cost to “recycling” that is more in tune with cost/benefit. There are several reasons you would want to demolish, but ‘making a mistake’ should not outweigh wanting to change industries. A 10-20% dismantling cost above depreciation should be calculated in.

Settlers Hab
Pioneers use B-Fabs. Settlers use B-Fabs. Technicians use R-Fabs. L-Habs get the short end… There’s a brilliant progression for the mix Habs. I get that you need PP2 (hence Settlers) for L-Fabs, but there should be another workaround, like a PP1 making L-Fabs more input expensively. It’s eliminating a big source of L-Fab demand which might push people into L-Fab production.

Recipe Diversity
Which leads into this subject - there needs to be a far wider array of products/recipes. Don’t be scared by intricacy. For instance; Halite makes 2Na and 1Cl, but Bleach requires 1Na and 1Cl… and that’s the only recipe for Na… Like, what?

I love the meme of “our H2O is 90% space mud” as much as the next guy, but realism should just be a guiding principle, not a goal. Science Fiction kicks in at a lot of points, but I would love to see an overflow of it. Sodium makes Fizz Pop Space Rocks, a Luxury Ration, or Glow in the Dark Fabric. Throw a hundred recipes in, allow the inherent system design to balance the economy.

Prospecting
I know this is on the roadmap - but it leads to another concept. Imagine if every plot had varying degrees of resource… with a root base “theme” for each planet. Where there’s a lot more unknown until explored. Advantage gained through expense or luck. Perhaps it’s too heavy on the design side, but there needs to be many more elements of imperfect information. Right now, we’re sitting in a perfect information world, where the solution is given to people prepared to “design the system”. There’s no inherent risk/reward dichotomy to playing a certain style, the best rewarded style is cooperation in grand design.

The above sounds incredibly nebulous; but I love board-games where it’s up to the player to decide on a style, and to execute it flawlessly gets rewarded. The depth is a shortcoming, but I would love to see that there is more randomness and risk inherent in the game. You shouldn’t be able to plan for everything.

Loss
Which leads into… I hope you guys have planned design that actually involves loss. Under conflict you’ve been quick to point out that it would be top-level and not affect player’s assets directly… which leads me to believe that you’ve not factored in enough risk elements. Where’re the Space Pirates seizing my hold? Magnetic storms I can fly through faster between systems, but risk losing my crew to cancer (and having to pay out workers comp!)? Planetary tectonics? Ships crashing?

I understand that nobody likes loss, but it makes reward that much sweeter. Insurance can be an element worked into the design, underwritten by Factions. Corporations can also become involved in the game later. Corporations can also pay to “police sectors”, to eliminate bugs/pirates, but can then toll the space. So many possibilities. At the end though, it should come down to allowing player agency - Do I do something risky for a higher reward, or vice versa?

Exchange planets - rethink
The current solution to the problem of space on the main hubs is to increase the area. This is a band-aid at best - since either the game gets more popular and space runs out, or another solution is thought of. I’d love to hear more solutions, but I like mine the best, so here it is;

Exchange planets are completely owned by Factions, no extractive/productive bases allowed, you rent office space. Your offices are run by administrators/managers, and you have costs associated with the bureaucracy required to run your company. Your spot is also a warehouse - so you can buy/sell on the markets at any point (stock levels depending). Every player has to build their first base off-hub.

The reason I like this idea? It adds elements of depth/cost/interaction into the game-play by linking you to a Faction (all the future ideas that use this interaction can easily be implemented). Doesn’t benefit one player over another (because of first-mover advantage), and actually feeds into the lore… We are charged by the Factions to build the businesses required to feed the already established planets. We entice workers, we build the infrastructure, we move the goods around, we feed the Faction beasts. Those beasts are, on a macro scale, in conflict with each other - so we are both subsidised by Factions, they are our benefactors, but also beholden to them.

I’m done for now.

I’d love to talk about…
Land Allocation - We need a price for real-estate. We need a real-estate market.
Labour Market - The market is too linked to commodity pricing. There needs to be a separate market with its own Supply/Demand.
Money Supply - Right now the MM’s function as a form of printing money, but it’s imperfect because it has perverse impacts on the commodity markets.

I love the game so far. Looking forward to anyone else’s thoughts.
(oops, this got long)

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Thanks for your elaborate feedback! I’ll try to answer some of the points!

I tend to agree. The hard part is to present this to the players in a way that doesn’t completely overwhelm them. Even with the current amount of products and recipes it is hard to see what goes into making a product from scratch for example. Another problem is that we need to create demand for every product or else the markets will be pretty empty…

That is true! Exploration is on the roadmap (one of my favorite features to come) and once it is implemented the resources of a distant planet will be hidden for example. I am not sure if we will have individual resource concentrations for every plot, but it sure would make things interesting, especially if plots could be sold.

The question is how to make such systems fair? Should every one in 10000 flights crash? What could influence the chance for a crash? The ship’s age? Random events like that will most likely be perceived as unfair.

Magnetic storms (and other weather effects), that influence a whole planet, on the other hand seem better suited for what you have in mind with “loss”. I could imagine that a certain planet suffers from magnetic storms that regularly stop the production for example.

Yes, it is a game design band-aid :slight_smile: My current favorite solution is to add more starting planets, remove the amount of resources on the hub planets to make them more like the others and most importantly remove the comex from the surface and place them either in orbit of the planet, or in orbit of the sun. That way we will still have hub planet or hub systems, but the planets themselves won’t be overpowered and overrun as they are right now.

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there needs to be many more elements of imperfect information. Right now, we’re sitting in a perfect information world, where the solution is given to people prepared to “design the system”. There’s no inherent risk/reward dichotomy to playing a certain style

I agree. Once a player gets to know all the game mechanics then the optimal decisions are in some sense rationally calculable and – as hard it is to believe for a game this complex – from a game-theoretic perspective, the game comes close to being a solved game.
(although I admit the markets are highly volatile and contributes a high degree of uncertainty)

At the same time, the game is so “slow” that it would be very very frustrating to invest time and $$ in some process that then gets wiped out in some unpredictable random event. It will certainly cause some to stop playing.

I think introducing even just one more stochastic game mechanic (I like your ideas : a real estate market, or a labor market) that is independent of the commodity price market will keep the “fun” of the game going beyond the early game.
(Some of my ideas mentioned before were scientific research – a probabilistic chance of discovering a new recipe, or a monetary and/or financial market – note even AirlineSim has a stock market(!) )

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@molp

Recipe Diversity
I get your point of overwhelming players, but come on - we’re all a bunch of ultra-nerds. Mass-appeal is definitely not one of your guiding principles (I hope).
To your other point, I was more concerned with “alternative” recipes. I love the idea that a PP1 constructor can make B-Habs inefficiently using only FE, and a PP2 can use AL. The reason is because it introduces redundancies and self-correction into a market. For instance; No good source of FEO close? Well, now everyone is making B-Hab’s using PP2’s because AL is cheap.

What interests me more is the counter though - no source of ALO close? Well, what about expensive and inefficient L-Hab production on a PP1 when there’s a lot of FEO available? It will naturally push the FEO price up, and allow for cheaper L-Hab production. This self-correction then allows for more random seeds in planet spacing.

This example can then be extrapolated to all other industries (and fleshed out more fully). For instance Chemists… I really want an electrolysis recipe. 1H2O = 1H and 2O…and vice versa. The point is to build redundancies into the T1 space, so that it can more easily become a pure perfect competition place. This would incentivise players to move out of the T1 space also - since there would be fewer profits (long-term)

Prospecting
Sure - the every plot is just a fanciful thinking - but it leads to a different mindset. I used to love checking out shareprices in the newspaper as a kid - and one set of shares interested me immensely, and that was prospecting companies. They would have terrible share prices, but once in a while, one of them would go from 1-5 price, to 100… and that was amazing to me.

That kind of risk/reward is something that is missing… and I can’t imagine it being viable on a planetary level. Just far too few places to explore. Obviously, a gas giant will be “This kind of composition” (which can be seen from far) - but perhaps looking closer identifies a pocket of Mercury gas, or Argon… You still get the option to get the overall N/O that you identified from far, but now you have a sweet kicker. Perhaps you luck into it, perhaps you prospect it. Perhaps you’re a prospecting company that funds itself through loans from a Corp’s bank, or giving out shares on the shares exchange.

Also… I want plots extraction rates to diminish over time to incentivise prospecting.

Loss
No. Definitely not the 0 or 1 loss of a ship. Definitely losses of time/production - but commensurate on reward gained if the risk is taken. Some randomness needs to be taken into account in the game. Take for instance the hacks of Safmarine/Maersk in 2017 - which lead to about a $300m in damages. Personally, that caused them to lose one of my containers for 50 days (they thought it was in Hong Kong, it was in Seoul).

There has to be risks involved in shipping. Small ones, and big ones. Ones you can get insurance for, ones that are unimaginable. There also has to be risks in moving further away from controlled space (but obviously has more rich resources that haven’t been tapped yet). Right now there is only market risk. No financial risk (companies that you rely on going under). No shipping risk. No event risk.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate it :wink:

@nigelhenry
That is exactly what I was trying to get at. Concerning the length of designing processes; I see what you’re saying, and agree wholeheartedly - you don’t want to dishearten players like that, definitely. I think, if you build in redundancies or the ability to switch at cost (which already exists in the recycling of buildings), then you’re fine. You’re really only up against market risk at the moment, and the market has many re-balancing and mechanisms that allow for changing your plans mid-stream.

I don’t think a tech-tree will work. For one, the tech-tree already exists (it’s the tier system in the buildings), but more importantly; it would advantage older players far too much. The system is designed to be 100% persistent - and I think coming to terms that some people have had not only physical but tech growth in front of you - now THAT would be disheartening.

I had a separate idea that is tech-tree like, Brands. It’s a cost to business, but it has benefits. It shifts a perfect competition market to a monopolistic competition market. How you would implement it - I don’t know… On a planetary level (a certain Corp’s brand is more sought after and gives more utility/bonus to workers), or on a micro-level (an input of a 5 star H2O causes DW production to increase by 20%, while 1 star is -20%?)

It could create an entirely new “battlefield” - (I love the game theory of advertising)… but also gameplay decisions; do you pump out 1-star filth, and dump it on markets, or take your time and craft 5-star premium and build a brand?

Thoughts?

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I like this thread, and I like where it’s going. I’m not going to have time in the near future for detailed comments Unfortunaly.

I fully support more complexity in the materials tree. A single player should find it very difficult to role out an entire production chain. @mhk has managed to produce the most expensive endgame product almost entirely on their own. I feel that the end game should be building on top of a long chain of production - one that is not possible for a single player to implement.

Materials need a lot more uses, and the tree must be far more intertwined. There should be lots of options to produce a certain output, and lots of ways to use that output.

I like the idea of varying quality materials. Perhaps higher quality prefabs could slow down degradation. Higher quality consumables could affect greater efficiency output.

An element of randomness would be fantastic. Right now, it is effectively solved. @Skullbearer and I have independently developed methods to solve it (I’ve not implemented it, not sure for skull.) it’s really just a massive linear system. Completely solvable.

Adding this level of complexity is a massive ask. The community would be incredibly willing to help if clear guidelines and a materials tree viewer were provided. Like having an issue tracker, but for materials / production chains suggestions. Accepted solutions could be merged into the tree and visualised to help with further development.

PrUn has such incredible potential, I’m really excited about it.

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