Shadow markets, Worker Hijacking and Star Cluster Development

This write-up will cover 3 issues that are interconnected and should be adressed jointly.

1.Shadow Markets
My Corporation, just like any other runs a shadow-market, outside of CXL, where prices for a lot of stuff are significantly lower than galactic market. There are many reasons to do that, but i would like to explain a few why this should not be done:
-Shadow markets disrupt CXL and local planetary markets by lowering the trade volumes of those two significantly.
-Lower trade volumes slow down the global market, potentially “killing off” new players which cant diversify much initially
-Lower trade volumes hurt players which build TALL, they are forced to use shadow-markets because CXL is not diverse enough
-Slower and less diverse global market increases the time needed for the galaxy to mature enough to start producing Ships and late-game tier items openly for CXL. We are talking years.

I suggested to my corp to focus our shadow market on building up an economy in a chosen cluster, create a local market which could grow to rival CXL which will in turn stimulate the galactic trade, rather than disrupting it and fracturing. However it brought us to problem number 2.

2.Worker Hijacking
The way current population distribution works is counterproductive to global game goals. Specifically there is a game mechanic, which allows agressive overtaking of population at very little cost, and has no mechanics to counter it. Assume this scenario:
1.Corp builds up infrastructure on a remote planet, via combined effort
2.Planet population reaches scientist tier
3.Rival corp lands bases (because they can) and builds up only scientist production buildings.
4.Next pop redistribution cycle they skim scientists without ever investing into planet infrastructure.

This leaves Corp to either 1.Abandon the planet 2.Live with leeches 3.Attempt to tax leeches
Attempt on taxation will end up on large corp or multiboxers invading the planet, landing their HQ without any buildings and voting for their own governor, overtaking all infrastructure.

-Pop distribution should happen over periods of time rather than the whole pool being instantly distributed equally
-Pop distribution should happen based on “attractiveness” of your employement. You, as a base owner, build parks, cinemas, bars on your plots (iinstead of those sweet factories) to increase “atractiveness” of your employment, eventually scoring more scientists next distribution round. You now compete for planetary human resources by offering better lifestyles. All of these new buildings now drain more basic stuff like DW, COF, etc. creating even higher demand for lower tier products, allowing new players to always find demand for starting items.
-Pops should become a resource,not just a drainage, like they are now.
-Voting weight for government should be based on pops you employ on that specific planet plus the manned assets you have built on that planet, rather than just fixed digit it is now.
Finally this brings us to 3.

3.Cluster Development
This should be the primary goal of Corps, developing entire star clusters into eco-systems, controlling certain resources and products, competing with other corps at logistics, efficiency, imports and exports. Current operations of corps are quite pathetic when compared to the scale of the game.
You do not need to implement warfare because economical warfare shoud happen, but to achieve that players need to be able to develop systems outside of starting locations in a controllable manner. Right now 95% of stuff happens in starting locations, and we are more than a year into the server. Stuff needs to happen faster and expand quicker and the things i mentioned above currently slowing it down, not the speed of an actual server.

3 Likes

At this point there are no real incentives to expand further away from the starting systems. There are several reasons for that.

  1. The starter systems and the systems in their close neighborhood offer already a lot of ressources, and more importantly diversified ressources. Take Antares area. It has a decent agricultural planet (Harmonia, a starter planet). It has one of the best metallurgy planet in the whole universe. That’s Deimos, a starter planet too. It offers both a lot of ALO and O. And Deimos is one jumps away from Harmonia. Then there is also a LST planet just one jump away from Deimos, Nike. So just with these 3 planets, Harmonia, Deimos and Nike, one can cover the needs in basic consumables for PIO and the needs for basic prefabs. Further, there are good sources of FEO, H, MGS, HAL in the same system as Deimos, a big source of SIO on Phobos, which is one jump away from Deimos. More raw materials can be found up to 5 jumps away from Deimos: AMM, CUO, AUO, GAL, TIO, N, AR, HE, SCR, TCO, LIO, ZIR, BRM, BER, BOR. So essentially up to 5 jumps away from Deimos one can find all the necessary ressources, in decent quantities. The only important ressources missing are HE3 for FF and NE for AEF. So if the starter locations and their neighborhoods are already so reach in ressources, why even bother colonizing distant worlds? For remote worlds to be colonized, they should offer significantly more ressources to outweigh the drawback of remoteness. Moreover, one should get in the same neighborhhod diversified ressources: at least a fertile planet, a source of H2O, a good metallurgy planet (FEO or ALO, better both), sources for LST, SIO, O, H, AMM, MGS, HAL, BOR and HE3, everything a few jumps away from each other. I don’t think that’s the case now. So imo, the starter worlds and their sourroundings are simply better than the other places in the universe. By constrast, in EVE Online the nullsec offers way more ressources than highsec.

  2. An other important factor is the location of the customers. There is an advantage to produce close to the place where you sell. That saves shipping expenses. Many companies sell their products to newer players. Myself I earned tons of cash by selling basic prefabs to starting players after the release on Steam. Others sold them consumables: RAT, DW, OVE. And where are all the starting players located? On the starting planets of course! So that’s like a system with reinforcement: there is a huge advantage to run your business in places where there are already many players, because then you get many potential customers. By the way, for the same reason the trade in EVE Online is concentrated in one trade hub, Jita 4-4. There is an advantage for everyone to trade in one place. To attempt to brake this reinforcement, the devs should introduce dynamic starting location, where new planets get added to the list of strating locations once they meet certain requirements (a certain number of bases, certain planetary projects, etc.).

  3. As of now, there is nothing one can do outside the faction space that one can’t inside the faction space. One won’t get a different gameplay by settling in a remote system. This can be changed by adding a sovereignity mechanic and warfare outside the faction space (like in null sec in EVE Online). Then some players will settle outside the faction space just to get access to this content.

The problem is that to wage economic wars one does not need to colonize remote systems. Actually, the CX systems are the best places for economic warfare. With a non-economic warfare that can only be done outside the faction space, one would get an incentive to actually settle outside the faction space.

On the whole I kind of agree with OP. Corporations feel a little pointless to me - they seem to mostly be a way for a group of players to remove themselves from everyone else, almost as if they’re playing on a private server. I think it would be better if there wasn’t a way for them to create shadow markets, and instead there was some other benefit to being in a corporation. Unfortunately I have no proposals for how these things could be done in practice.

Economic warfare sounds good, but isn’t worker hijacking a form of economic warfare?

Some corporations such as ours (Ooga Booga Capital Management) specialize in shipbuilding (selling ships in kits on auctions). For shipbuilding vertical integration is very important, because most ship components 1)require several steps to produce, 2)don’t have other alternative uses and 3)there aren’t enough ships built to support trading the components on the CX (volumes for each particular component would be low).

In summary, a ship requires both a huge amount of ressources and a huge amount of production hours for production units. However, this is spread across several dozens of different components and their intermediaries, requiring all kind of production units, with long chains for inputs and outputs. But the volume for each individual component is in general low (1 ENG, 1 CQS, 1 BR1, 3 MFE, 2 SFE, etc., etc.). Because of this one cannot specialize in building just one component and selling it on the CX. To get meaningful volumes for each individual component would require much more ships built, a much larger player base, and much more shipyards. So the solution is to control the whole chain for all the components, and sell them in bundles (ships in kits).

Howover, this vertical integration cannot be achieved by just one single player, since a ship requires too many different components and intermediaries. Instead, the vertical integration is achieved through coordination of several players, organized into a corporation such as ours. Other shipbuilders have an organization similar to ours. Without such a high level of coordination and inter-player integration, well, there wouldn’t be any new ships in the universe and everyone would have to do with the two starting ships.

And yes, our corp has its own shadow market. The trade there goes beyond what is strictly necessary for shipbuilding. Because why not?

Right, but you could do that just as well without a corporation. It’s just a group of players getting together and co-operating to achieve certain build goals.

Which is fine, of course. It’s part of the point of these types of games, like having clans or guilds in MMOs. It’s just unfortunate that the result of corporations competing with each other is that it creates all these internally vertically integrated groups of players which then reduces the liquidity of the main economy.

I see the lack of demand for high tier goods on the CX as one of the problems this game has to solve in order to move forward. It’s a catch-22 that most higher tier goods are only useful for ship building, so only ship builders want them, so ship building corporations have to vertically integrate.

We should be trying to break that catch-22, not using it as the justification for shadow markets.

One won’t solve the problem without a larger player base. The issue is that PrUn is too niche. It’s graphically unappealling, has no soundtrack, has a strange UI, many features are still missing, and it is somewhat unimmersive.

I would say all 3 points are symptoms of player growth not being aligned with universe growth.

If you want more credits, then the current best approach is to sell stuff to a MM, because that’s where credits are generated. Since it’s a fixed amount and is disconnected from universe state, you can run it in isolation forever. If that was tied to global population, then MM’s prices would crash into the ground as too much money is created.

If you want more materials or physical growth, then the current best approach is to trade internally, because money is nearly worthless for daily production, other than paying taxes and LM fees. You can keep producing materials pretty much forever. There’s no counterbalancing mechanism that balances total material with population.

In either cases, you’re playing a disconnected game from the universe because you can do your thing forever. Shadow markets is the most efficient form of trade because you’re getting rid of market uncertainties. If you can guarantee a ratio between 2 materials to be fair, then you keep the liquidity provider profit between yourselves.

Worker hijacking derives from this. Since growth isn’t tied to universe growth, workers will always tend toward the bare minimum to support your operations. Workers are a positive externality since you don’t own them and these externalities are minimized whenever possible. Limiting total player wealth to universe population means that workers supply would have to grow when players accumulate more wealth. There would then be no hijacking. It would be called recruitment competition.

Cluster development also happens because of this, but on top of that there’s no diminishing returns to overpopulation. The best planet can expand linearly until it’s filled up, at which point the next best planet makes sense. Since there’s no point in growing planets beyond your needs, then these planets do not really get filled up and there’s no point in expanding to new clusters. Also, if there was a scaling penalty to overpopulated planets, less interesting planets would see some use because it wouldn’t be a binary event where it now becomes economically viable. They would slowly get more interesting and cluster development would happen naturally.

Im glad to have spawned such an interesting discussion. I agree with majority of points other readers have risen here except for the game being unimmersive and etc.

I suggest to all those that have read this through and contemplated on this, convert this discussion to a possible feature proposal, where the said three main topics and several auxilary ones mentioned in replies are adressed with a well thought out system. Im pretty sure this will be appreciated by the dev(s).

you dont need to be in a Corp to establish a shadow market.

I will do a summary of all the above soon to filter out a possible proposal.