There is no question third-party, community tools enhances the player experience of the game. As proof, a vibrant community of devoted and volunteer player developers have already produced an impressive amount of tools, and the player response has been phenomenal.
All this despite the fact that getting data out of the game is a very difficult task, using such unreliable technologies as OCR. Although, again, these volunteers are working hard to make them better.
During Gamma, there have been numerous requests for an API to obtain market and other data from the game. Michael has responded that they are looking into it, and that they want to do it right. That, however, could take a while, as the developer team has other priorities.
I would suggest another approach to obtaining game data other than an API: a data dump of player and market statistics whenever the player docks.
This data dump already exists. As some of you know, there is an iOS app that was published by FD which gives your pilot's stats, current ship, and station info such as available outfitting items, available ships, and market commodities, including pricing, supply and demand. This is done via a Web API. (Note: Currently, the iOS app does not function, I'm assuming that launch has something to do with that, but the data is there.)
My suggestion therefore is to dump the player data from the local game client to file whenever they dock. You could use the current format used in the Web API (JSON), or XML, for example.
The community developers can take care of what happens to the data from that point: use it locally, upload to tools, and so on.
I believe that this would be very easy to add to the game client, and requires less thought that a full-blown API. I therefore request that you consider implementing this in the near future.
As an addition, some information is not available in the Web API that would be welcome by the community:
- Presence of a black market
- System star coordinates
- Rare commodities availability
- Station type and economy (economy, faction, wealth, government, etc.)
Thank you for your consideration.
EDIT: Some of you disagree with the use of 3rd party tools, please start your own thread to argue for or against them and please stay on topic, thank you.