Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 14, 2007
Pirate-run economy?

Trinity from has an interesting article on the economy of Pirates of the Burning Sea, describing the system and asking whether it will work. I sure hope it does, but I have my doubts, which I would like to list here:

1) Crafting in PotBS is not an activity taking up any significant amount of time. You have 10 production lots, which produce X items per real-time day, whether you are online or offline. Quote: "For example, you might have a lumber mill, with a corresponding recipe to turn oak logs into planks. A structure starts accumulating “stored labor” from the time you set it up, and each recipe has a requisite “stored labor” component. In other words, before you can start producing the planks, you have to have the required number of hours of stored labor on your mill. Once you have that, all you have to do is click on a button, and the planks are produced immediately." Emphasis is mine. Second quote: "Materials/product movement will be done manually, ie. you have to actually transport goods from one port to another in your ship. No UPS delivery through the mail." Which tells me that there is no "crafting game" per se, there is only a transportation game. Once you have your 10 trading structures up and running, you just log on once a day, click a button, and immediately produce items out of all the stored labor in your structures. Put the stuff on the local auction house, and log off again, having played just 5 minutes. That is nice and easy for people who *don't* like crafting, but doesn't sound very interesting for people who do like it.

2) Apart from not taking any time, the system also appears to tend towards being static. You are limited to 10 lots per account, thus expansion of your business isn't possible unless you two-box. Once you filled all 10 lots with some production structure, they are going to produce the same X items every day. You can probably destroy structures and build new ones, but as that apparently costs money and materials, there isn't any profit in changing too often. Once you found some production chain that makes a product that sells well, there isn't much incentive to change. The whole thing becomes a source of free gold, with no decisions or effort required from you. Just produce the same stuff every day and sell it.

3) The only challenge lies in transporting stuff, because obviously the prices for oak in a port where oak can be produced will tend towards zero profit. So you load your ship full of oak and sail to somewhere where there is none, selling it at a profit. There are two extreme risks involved with that: either it is boring, or you are being robbed by pirates. I'm not sure how the developers plan to make shipping oak from port A to port B fun. You could increase the excitement level by going through PvP zones, but after being ganked by pirates a couple of times you probably stop doing that.

Quote Trinity again: "What excites me - and no doubt all other spreadsheet/database geeks - about the concept is the challenge of figuring out what to produce, how to make it, where to set up my factory, where to sell the product, and how much to sell it for." Yep, that excites me too. But what happens once I figured it out? Once my spreadsheet tells me that I should build 6 oak lumber camps, which produce enough oak for 3 lumber mills, which produce enough oak planks for 1 ship mast factory, and I set all that up, what then? I'll be stuck as a ship mast salesman, transporting ship masts from my home port to some port where other players have set up ship building factories using lots of masts. The only excitement will be whether I will be ganked on the way there, and I can avoid that by only going when there is no PvP currently on in those two ports. That gives me flashbacks to Earth & Beyond, where trade was also static. Once you found out the best trading route, you went that same route over and over, until you got bored, quit the game, and forced EA to shut Earth & Beyond down after 2 years.

The only hope is that the trade actions of other players and the PvP wars make change profitability over time to a degree where at some point selling ship masts isn't a good idea any more and building a new production chain to produce cannon balls is worth the investment. I just wonder how often that will happen, and whether that is enough to keep me busy playing as a trader.
Unfortunately, when a game tries to create a market system, the "static" tag is going to stick.

The problem you state, about what to do when you "figure" out your best production scenario, is a fundamental problem I am worried about for PotBS.

In a market system based economy, competition is the key to making the markets work. Creative destruction occurs where by a new company makes a product more efficiently and therefore destroys the market for an older company that can't produce as efficiently. I don't see this happening in PotBS as there is NO WAY TO IMPROVE THE PROCESS! 10 lots can only produce X goods. There is no way for some up and comer to improve production and get Y goods out of 10 lots.
For more insight into the economy of PotBS be sure to look at this entry in one of the developers blog:
This sounds very similar to what was implemented in Star Wars Galaxies. The in game mechanism to get around the 10 lots you could have per account was that the game allowed you to share ownership with others (so they could pay maintenance etc on the structures). The "Big Producers" would buy lots from other players who really don't care about crafting and place massive farms out in the wilds.
The more I hear about Pirates, the more it seems like EVE in boats.
So basically PotBS crafting is analogous to raiding?

The intrepid adventurers who first enter the dungeon have to "figure" out the "systems" in place to "beat" each encounter. Once that's done, it's the same play-by-numbers each time after that. Raiding is static.

Post it up on a strategy site, then everyone else is playing those same numbers without the whole cumbersome "figuring it out" stuff...
I think the PvP contentions will make it a bit more than static... but I can't say more than that on the subject.

This one's NDA needs to drop already. :)
You could increase the excitement level by going through PvP zones, but after being ganked by pirates a couple of times you probably stop doing that.

That make me LOL

Yea it doesn't sound too exciting. I don't like when they try to force the economy to be controlled totally by players. Then you end up with some servers that may work decently and others that don't. Using your example it is alot of work to suddenly arrive at the port with all your ship masts only to find 4 new ships there off loading all their ship masts and you find yourself priced out of market and have to start over with another produce. Very fun, not.
Maybe the fact that are four classes and one seems more focused to crafting maybe will be the key.

I suppose that this crafting class will have skills related to crafting, that i hope that will be the way to improve the "production".

Maybe the crafter can made 4 mast in 12 labor hours, and the others classes for the same name of mast can need let's say 18 labor ours.

And if the combat classes have skills related to combat i suppose that the crafter should get similar skills related to crafting. Like master mast maker or something similar...

Also only specalutions that i hope will be in the game...
Hello! I hope you don't mind me reacting to your reaction on my blog. :D I think the static nature of trading will be limited to those who decide to deal with raw materials. Demand for the end products will certainly change over time so the "crafters" (ie those who decide to make end-user goods) will have to diversify or even change directions, depending on what players need/want. Also, I'm not so sure if a port's resources are finite (don't recall reading anything about that) or if say, Port-of-Spain's iron will eventually run out, which makes the system less static.
I hope you don't mind me reacting to your reaction on my blog.

Just the opposite, I think this is how the blogosphere is supposed to work. As long as there are links between the articles, this can lead to intelligent discussions spanning several blogs.
A system very similar to this works very well in EVE Online. I don't think the economy there is 100% player driven, but it's close. It has the beauty of not forcing anyone to take part in the crafting/manufacturing/industry aspects, but allowing them to explore it in great depth if they want to.

As I was saying on Trinity's post, this has been the trigger for me deciding that PotBS will be the next game I'll play.
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