Allow NPCs to financially interact with fleet carriers

I'm sitting here watching dozens (hundreds?) of NPCs interact with my carrier, and whilst it's great to see the landing pads quite so busy I confess I'm a bit annoyed at all these NPCs getting a free ride.

They're stopping off, I can only imagine, to refuel and repair after conflict or to empty their waste into our processing units / etc ... but they don't appear to be paying for the privilege!

I'd like to at least charge them a landing fee, if not make some money on their refuel and repair antics

I'd like to see them participating in my market place buying and selling commodities from my private enterprise in direct competition to the space station that's just 25Nm away

It seems however that they're in their own alternate dimension where they get everything for free :(

The game would be much more immersive if instead of just interdicting me as I ferry stock onto my carrier, they were to actually land and buy/sell commodities from my market and pay for fuel and repairs.

Wouldn't that make the game so much more realistic?!
 
Boosting this a bit as I agree; however I think it should actually be integrated at the server tick level with the local system - trading with local stations (not outside the system). That way a player still needs to be involved positioning the carrier to spend time loading/unloading and responding to high profit events (famines, outbreaks), but the carrier operates while offline (meaning you can make bank by doing more than just using them as LTD barges) and you'll see them spread over the bubble a bit more.
 
It wouldn't just make the game much more immersive by integrating us further into the galaxy, but it would also massively cut down on the credit transfer exploits that fleet carriers have enabled. Players seeking to exploit the fleet carrier market to transfer credits would find that most of the value to be transferred would actually go to NPCs as they will be attracted from far and wide by the extreme prices players use to transfer credits.
 
You're asking for a dynamic economy that functions as expected.

Ludicrous. Absolutely bonkers.

Can you imagine how the game would change if supply and demand worked? If NPCs dynamically reacted to Fleet Carriers and Trade Commanders shifting goods according to prices in systems? If the economy were to be more predictably impacted by the dumping of goods, like millions of tons of diamonds in one station?

Nonsense.
Ballyhoo.
Completely caddywampus thinking.

...

+1
 
Can you imagine how the game would change if supply and demand worked? If NPCs dynamically reacted to Fleet Carriers and Trade Commanders shifting goods according to prices in systems? If the economy were to be more predictably impacted by the dumping of goods, like millions of tons of diamonds in one station?
Since they fixed the demand bug for LTDs in 3.7.3 (and for most other goods, but not the non-laser-mined core gems, for no obvious reason), LTD prices have been significantly affected by that sort of dumping, in a predictable fashion.

If people weren't so busy complaining about the acquisition of LTDs having been nerfed, you'd be able to read them spending more time complaining about the price having been :)

This is broadly the problem with implementing "supply and demand" for trade goods - the only way it can cause prices to go is down. But there isn't an equivalent concept for the other professions - you don't get factions saying "sorry, we know about enough ELWs for now" or "no, that's it, you killed all the pirates already" or "actually, we don't have any letters to deliver today" - and there's nowhere near enough in-game information to be able to sensibly do something about the resulting price drop.
 
Since they fixed the demand bug for LTDs in 3.7.3 (and for most other goods, but not the non-laser-mined core gems, for no obvious reason), LTD prices have been significantly affected by that sort of dumping, in a predictable fashion.

If people weren't so busy complaining about the acquisition of LTDs having been nerfed, you'd be able to read them spending more time complaining about the price having been :)

This is broadly the problem with implementing "supply and demand" for trade goods - the only way it can cause prices to go is down. But there isn't an equivalent concept for the other professions - you don't get factions saying "sorry, we know about enough ELWs for now" or "no, that's it, you killed all the pirates already" or "actually, we don't have any letters to deliver today" - and there's nowhere near enough in-game information to be able to sensibly do something about the resulting price drop.
I'm totally cool with prices dropping and work required rising. That's trade in a nutshell, as intended. For the record: I'm in the crowd that doesn't see a need to directly nerf or buff the various careers, but rather just implement proper supply and demand that makes sense across relevant markets.

EX: LTDs - or your favorite mineral - should have nearly a 50% reduction in value sold to irrelevant economies. Tourism? Sure, folks buy diamonds for their traveling lover, but as raw goods? Nope. Military? Erm, not so much. Again, unrefined. High Tech? Sure, laser applications but again not refined to a usable tool. This is where Elite's economy falls apart: there should be a natural progression of commodities transforming into other commodities. This could have such great impact on the BGS:

You provide the necessary raw goods to a refinery, dropping the value of those goods (higher supply) but also boosting the supply of its output: refined goods. Refined goods go to Industrial or other relevant economies, those economies filter back to others...a very few loop back to refinery economies, like specialized tools. Traders can choose to focus on specific goods, or 'follow the commerce' by riding the supply wave from one economy to the next. For miners, the hunt is for the minerals then a refinery in need of them, and the risk of that search.

Implementing this isn't easy, but it's not hard either - and this is before you incorporate NPC traffic! Just making the economy fluctuate with commander input would pay huge dividends towards economic balance. Notably, you'd largely eliminate extended gold rushes - they'd still exist, but only a handful of commanders would cash in before the economy adjusted.
 
EX: LTDs - or your favorite mineral - should have nearly a 50% reduction in value sold to irrelevant economies.
Already true of all goods, and it's usually by quite a bit more than 50%.

You provide the necessary raw goods to a refinery, dropping the value of those goods (higher supply) but also boosting the supply of its output: refined goods. Refined goods go to Industrial or other relevant economies, those economies filter back to others...a very few loop back to refinery economies, like specialized tools. Traders can choose to focus on specific goods, or 'follow the commerce' by riding the supply wave from one economy to the next. For miners, the hunt is for the minerals then a refinery in need of them, and the risk of that search.
Somewhat abstracted but also already there - providing raw goods to a refinery will:
- reduce the demand level for those goods, decreasing the price temporarily while it uses them up
- boost the economic state of the faction, which if enough people do it will cause Boom state and increased production levels

Notably, you'd largely eliminate extended gold rushes - they'd still exist, but only a handful of commanders would cash in before the economy adjusted.
Also already there, with the exception of the few core gems which still don't follow supply/demand rules.

Tritium gets big gold rushes when a faction is selling it off cheap to raise cash after a disaster ... but they now only last a couple of hours even at a large economy before it's been stripped clean. There are big complaints elsewhere on the forum about this now working as intended, of course...

LTDs get big gold rushes at 1.7M when the right combination of states occurs, but - since the fix in the last patch - after the first few deliveries this will drop to about 0.8M. This is lower than a lesser combination of states would give at full demand, thus ending the gold rush ... though the combination of states is also short-lived so even if hardly anyone uses it the price won't last very long. With LTD demand regeneration being extremely slow, the prices throughout the galaxy are steadily trending downwards overall.

For the record: I'm in the crowd that doesn't see a need to directly nerf or buff the various careers, but rather just implement proper supply and demand that makes sense across relevant markets.
Right, but how?

1) How should Frontier implement supply and demand for services (exploration, bounty hunting, missions, combat bonds, etc.) in a way that makes sense and allows those professions to fluctuate as well?
2) How should Frontier extend the existing supply and demand system - which technically already does everything you asked for above, except for a slightly more abstract production chain - so that it's more noticeable outside two or three extremely heavily traded goods and the high value mined goods that it's enabled for? [1]
3) In a galaxy of 20,000 inhabited systems with hundreds of thousands of players, how do you avoid the "it's always high price day somewhere" effect that means - provided you move every few days - any gold rush is effectively permanent? (Or is this even desirable?) Or, equally, how do you avoid everything beiging out so it doesn't matter what you do you get X credits for it, because anything that pays X+1 three hundred other players have already drained.

[1] Let's take "fixing the supply/demand bug still affecting Void Opals, Benitoite, etc." as read.
 
Why not take faction state progression as bell graph transitions, with demand peak at the apex. Implement negative state effects too.

Factions paying more for combat bonds when at war, or bounty vouchers in a boom, or exploration data when expanding makes sense and would give meaning to supporting factions in the game.
 
1) How should Frontier implement supply and demand for services (exploration, bounty hunting, missions, combat bonds, etc.) in a way that makes sense and allows those professions to fluctuate as well?
2) How should Frontier extend the existing supply and demand system - which technically already does everything you asked for above, except for a slightly more abstract production chain - so that it's more noticeable outside two or three extremely heavily traded goods and the high value mined goods that it's enabled for? [1]
3) In a galaxy of 20,000 inhabited systems with hundreds of thousands of players, how do you avoid the "it's always high price day somewhere" effect that means - provided you move every few days - any gold rush is effectively permanent? (Or is this even desirable?) Or, equally, how do you avoid everything beiging out so it doesn't matter what you do you get X credits for it, because anything that pays X+1 three hundred other players have already drained.
A lot of these issues comes from Elite's galaxy either not tracking relevant variables or because it treats each faction as if it were in a vacuum.

Bounty hunting, for example, doesn't seem to really depend on anything outside basic system states and security levels.

For trading, trade values should really look at nearby systems and their variables. For example, having a large extraction economy nearby that is performing well should in turn drive down the prices for extractable minerals in nearby systems due to the larger supply. Alternatively, if the primary local agricultural system goes into a state of anarchy, it should drive up food prices in the local area.

The game could also simulate what sort of trade fleets a faction uses (abstracted to a certain degree, of course), so a faction that has a higher proportion of militarised freighters would be much less affected by lowered security in the area as they can trade in anarchy systems that would otherwise obliterate normal civilian trade fleets, while a faction that relies heavily on long-range freighters would be subtly affected by more distant events but less affected by local events.

By making prices depend on a much bigger variety of variables, the "golden combination" for maximum profit would become much rarer and players would instead have to spend their time weighing up the various mediocre options. It would also give players much greater capacity to influence the economy in the galaxy, as the effects would be wider reaching than simply in the system they are operating in - if implemented properly it could even lead to extreme oddities occurring simply by chaos theory.

It also doesn't help that a lot of the biggest levers, the faction states, are used to define the system's parameters, rather than the much more logical approach of having the faction states be simply summations of the actual variables in the system. For example, rather than simply being the result of a poor economy, a famine state should appear whenever a faction begins to run low on food supplies; the actual effects on prices and NPC behaviour would come from the food supply situation while the famine state would be there to simplify things for the player.
 
By making prices depend on a much bigger variety of variables, the "golden combination" for maximum profit would become much rarer and players would instead have to spend their time weighing up the various mediocre options.
In practical terms - skip the ten players who'd find reverse-engineering all this stuff interesting in its own right - that would in practice just be a reversion to the state of trade between 3.0 and 3.3 where the high-end combinations arising from stacked states couldn't exist but they'd improved some of the "why would anyone ever bother hauling this?" goods to at least give 500-1000/tonne profit. If all the options are mediocre it doesn't really matter which one you pick - time spent weighing up the options would be better spent just making another trade run.

(Now, if committing to a trade run was a major opportunity cost - it took a couple of hours, incurred significant expenses, etc. - then sure, spending ten minutes upfront figuring out the best one would be smart. But that's not a practical thing for Elite Dangerous)


Trade also has the problem that it really balances badly with ship size. My ship of choice at the moment is a multirole Krait II. If I get interdicted by a pirate on a trade run, I can get 300k in bounties, plus potentially some useful materials out of that. Even ignoring the materials, my trade goods have to be worth 2500 credits profit per tonne to match that, which is limited to a relatively small number of goods and state combinations. Pretty much every trade good is already more useful to me as pirate bait than as actual cargo, before any introduction of deliberate mediocrity. Balancing purely around what's possible with maximum optimisation doesn't work well when most of the game isn't about doing that.


And none of this answers the key "what about services?" question - if everything except trade is non-competitive reliable income as it is at the moment, how does a more dynamic trade system get balanced against that without either making trade (broadly including mining and piracy as acquisition methods) useless for money or overpowered for money.
 
In practical terms - skip the ten players who'd find reverse-engineering all this stuff interesting in its own right - that would in practice just be a reversion to the state of trade between 3.0 and 3.3 where the high-end combinations arising from stacked states couldn't exist but they'd improved some of the "why would anyone ever bother hauling this?" goods to at least give 500-1000/tonne profit. If all the options are mediocre it doesn't really matter which one you pick - time spent weighing up the options would be better spent just making another trade run.

(Now, if committing to a trade run was a major opportunity cost - it took a couple of hours, incurred significant expenses, etc. - then sure, spending ten minutes upfront figuring out the best one would be smart. But that's not a practical thing for Elite Dangerous)


Trade also has the problem that it really balances badly with ship size. My ship of choice at the moment is a multirole Krait II. If I get interdicted by a pirate on a trade run, I can get 300k in bounties, plus potentially some useful materials out of that. Even ignoring the materials, my trade goods have to be worth 2500 credits profit per tonne to match that, which is limited to a relatively small number of goods and state combinations. Pretty much every trade good is already more useful to me as pirate bait than as actual cargo, before any introduction of deliberate mediocrity. Balancing purely around what's possible with maximum optimisation doesn't work well when most of the game isn't about doing that.


And none of this answers the key "what about services?" question - if everything except trade is non-competitive reliable income as it is at the moment, how does a more dynamic trade system get balanced against that without either making trade (broadly including mining and piracy as acquisition methods) useless for money or overpowered for money.
It wouldn't simply be that all trading is effectively the same, but instead that trading interacts with far more variables and the abstracted NPC trading would soften most of the extreme circumstances. Trading effectively would be about finding situations wherein the NPC trade fleets are either unable or unwilling to meet demands. This could be if key systems have fallen into anarchy (which would drastically affect systems that don't have significantly militarised trade fleets), it could be that the supply and demand are on opposite sides of a superpower divide, it could simply be that players are willing to trade over much longer distances than normal NPC fleets.

Effectively, short-distance high-profit routes should be rare and typically have some kind of problem with them such that players would have to identify what kind of edge they have over local trade fleets in order to turn a tidy profit. If there's a clean, quick and safe way to earn lots of credits without any major issues, then the NPC trade fleets would burn it out within hours.

Courier, passenger and data delivery missions would have the same limitations - if it can be done easily by a faction's fleets or via general commodity markets, why would they need to pay someone way over the odds to do it?

Making more variables matter would also give far more impact to BGS changes. Disrupting a single system would have wider effects on the regional economy, demolishing a particular factions trade fleets would impact their ability to resupply themselves, spreading a particular superpower could encourage conflict (to create better trade routes if you are willing to trade between superpowers) or could be used to create a closely-knit trade NPC trade networks (providing a decent economy and associated benefits without player maintenance, at the cost of decent jobs for us outsiders).

The pirate issue I feel is far deeper reaching than simply the bounty values ascribed to pirates and the other direct economics behind them. Pirates in this game are dumb. As in, their density collapses galaxies, their monumental stupidity is visible from Andromeda and their foolishness has every philosopher to exist in every species spinning at 7200 RPM in their graves.

Make them smart and actually act like sensible business owners, making calculated calls based on risk/reward and cost/benefit ratios and knowing when to accept their losses, push on or simply outsource some of the work. Really, a pirate should only attack if they stand a 95+% chance of victory, as anything less will likely result in financial losses over time; pirates should be willing to scan someone with a hold of cargo and decide "nah, not worth my time" or "nice haul there, but those guns look pretty mean and I can't afford the risk" or even "good cargo and worth the potential pain, but I can't do it myself. Better call for backup to bring this lot into port safely". If it is an attractive business model for someone to go around baiting pirates with cargo, then there's something very wrong with pirate behaviour as they clearly can't be earning a profit themselves.

Other services might be quite difficult to work with, particularly exploration. Exploration definitely needs some kind of diminishing returns based on how many people have already explored an object as a softer alternative to the "first discovered" bonus, probably further scaled by how far that object is from human space; this would prevent exploits like the "road to riches" as a large number of players performing the same route would rapidly devalue it and so would naturally encourage explorers to wander off the beaten path. It basically comes down to applying logic behind the value of discoveries and how much Universal Cartographics would pay for the information rather than just each stellar object having a fixed value.
 
It wouldn't simply be that all trading is effectively the same, but instead that trading interacts with far more variables and the abstracted NPC trading would soften most of the extreme circumstances. Trading effectively would be about finding situations wherein the NPC trade fleets are either unable or unwilling to meet demands. This could be if key systems have fallen into anarchy (which would drastically affect systems that don't have significantly militarised trade fleets), it could be that the supply and demand are on opposite sides of a superpower divide, it could simply be that players are willing to trade over much longer distances than normal NPC fleets.
The first problem with "longer distances" is that the bubble is largely homogenous - it's not that all the extraction systems are at one end and all the refineries at the other - so pretty much every system has several nearby sources of almost all trade goods.

The second problem with "longer distances" is that with Fleet Carriers (or even a half-decent ship) nowhere in the bubble is a long distance from anywhere else in the bubble for a player. With extremely slow travel - Elite I style - then distance could start to be meaningful even on a regional level. But that's not going to happen.

Effectively, short-distance high-profit routes should be rare and typically have some kind of problem with them such that players would have to identify what kind of edge they have over local trade fleets in order to turn a tidy profit. If there's a clean, quick and safe way to earn lots of credits without any major issues, then the NPC trade fleets would burn it out within hours.
Okay, but how "rare" is "rare"? There are 20,000 inhabited systems in the bubble, most of which have somewhere between 20 and 50 other inhabited systems within a single 20LY jump. That's, say, 350,000 short-range trade routes, 150ish common commodities, so about 50 million possibilities, and it requires trivial "big data" analysis to find the best one.

Getting "rare" to "less than one in fifty million" but not "zero" on a system this noisy is basically impossible.

Courier, passenger and data delivery missions would have the same limitations - if it can be done easily by a faction's fleets or via general commodity markets, why would they need to pay someone way over the odds to do it?
Sure. Now given that everywhere in the bubble is essentially 15 minutes away from everywhere else in the bubble, and even the tiniest faction demonstrably has hundreds of ships and pilots at its call, why would factions hire independent pilots at all, for anything? Realism has its place but if the conclusion is "why are players even able to make a living, they should be toiling away in the Lepidolite mines like the rest of the NPCs" that's not really the point of Elite.

Disrupting a single system would have wider effects on the regional economy
Even in Colonia with it's tiny economy I can't think of a single system you could disrupt that would make any significant difference to regional trade.

demolishing a particular factions trade fleets would impact their ability to resupply themselves
Yes, but you'd be hostile to them so you couldn't take advantage of that yourself. ;)
This is also basically there already - that sort of negative action (if the dominant BGS force) is likely to generate a state such as Infrastructure Failure, Terrorism, Blight, etc. which massively but temporarily increases profits on certain trade goods.

The pirate issue I feel is far deeper reaching than simply the bounty values ascribed to pirates and the other direct economics behind them. Pirates in this game are dumb. As in, their density collapses galaxies, their monumental stupidity is visible from Andromeda and their foolishness has every philosopher to exist in every species spinning at 7200 RPM in their graves.
Okay, sure, that's true. So the pirates act like economically rational agents and sell their ships to live a life of luxury on a private tropical island with all the Lavian Brandy they can drink, the bounty hunting profession collapses because no-one does anything illegal, and we don't need to worry about balancing either :)

Elite-series piracy has never been even close to economically sensible, unless you assume that the value of the goods not reaching their intended destination is the real goal, and they're all funded more to disrupt rather than steal shipping (which would explain why most of the half-decent ones don't even pretend to be here to steal your cargo).

(Obviously the idea that it might be more rational to blow up a trader than try to rob them would go down very poorly with the "griefers!!" crowd, but the economic argument I think is pretty sound and has plenty of historical precedent. WW2 submarines weren't out there with the Jolly Roger robbing merchant convoys.)

Other services might be quite difficult to work with, particularly exploration. Exploration definitely needs some kind of diminishing returns based on how many people have already explored an object as a softer alternative to the "first discovered" bonus, probably further scaled by how far that object is from human space; this would prevent exploits like the "road to riches" as a large number of players performing the same route would rapidly devalue it and so would naturally encourage explorers to wander off the beaten path. It basically comes down to applying logic behind the value of discoveries and how much Universal Cartographics would pay for the information rather than just each stellar object having a fixed value.
It stops people getting lots of money without even leaving the bubble, but I can jump 100LY from Colonia and get "first mapped" at a couple of million a time on a basically unlimited number of terraformable HMCs. If I jump 200LY I'll start getting WWs, AWs and ELWs too. If I head a few thousand LY corewards I could go for days without ever seeing another discovery tag. The supply of newly-discovered systems containing nominally valuable worlds is for all practical purposes unlimited, and travel speeds make them all to within a basic approximation "nearby" for the optimising player. What limits the demand (without saying "look, we already know about 100,000 ELWs, even your first discoveries are basically worthless" as a blanket policy)?
 
If people weren't so busy complaining about the acquisition of LTDs having been nerfed, you'd be able to read them spending more time complaining about the price having been :)
I'm doing this already :)

Edit: mostly because i was in holiday when patch hit and my XB account had a carrier in the LTD3 system with a buy order for 17000 LTD. Luckily it was not filled entirely
And now i'm sitting on 8000 LTD purchased at 1 million per ton with no market to sell them
 
The first problem with "longer distances" is that the bubble is largely homogenous - it's not that all the extraction systems are at one end and all the refineries at the other - so pretty much every system has several nearby sources of almost all trade goods.

The second problem with "longer distances" is that with Fleet Carriers (or even a half-decent ship) nowhere in the bubble is a long distance from anywhere else in the bubble for a player. With extremely slow travel - Elite I style - then distance could start to be meaningful even on a regional level. But that's not going to happen.


Okay, but how "rare" is "rare"? There are 20,000 inhabited systems in the bubble, most of which have somewhere between 20 and 50 other inhabited systems within a single 20LY jump. That's, say, 350,000 short-range trade routes, 150ish common commodities, so about 50 million possibilities, and it requires trivial "big data" analysis to find the best one.

Getting "rare" to "less than one in fifty million" but not "zero" on a system this noisy is basically impossible.


Sure. Now given that everywhere in the bubble is essentially 15 minutes away from everywhere else in the bubble, and even the tiniest faction demonstrably has hundreds of ships and pilots at its call, why would factions hire independent pilots at all, for anything? Realism has its place but if the conclusion is "why are players even able to make a living, they should be toiling away in the Lepidolite mines like the rest of the NPCs" that's not really the point of Elite.
While it is true that most systems have hundreds of systems within reasonable travel distance (most freighters can travel 75-100 light years when laden on a single fuel tank with E-C grade FSDs), once you start filtering for specific systems that number starts dropping drastically. Filtering by specific economy type runs that number down a fair amount already, but if you filter out opposing superpowers and lower security levels (most traders would avoid anarchy systems, and trade in high-value goods is likely to be mostly between high-security systems as they are easier for pirates to handle economically) then that number drops even further. Once you factor in the differing production rates for different commodities and the different sizes of populations that some systems have then it is quite possible for a system to realistically only have a few realistic sources for a particular good. Going further, systems on the edge of the bubble would also have some of their 75-100 ly effective trade fleet range being unoccupied, so systems on the edges of civilised space would be very susceptible to this.

And this concept would go through the whole production chain, so hitting a few choice extraction economies hard would in turn have impacts on the local refinery economies and follow through to affect the industrial and high-tech systems.

In terms of giving a few gold rushes here and there but for them to disappear organically and be actually rare, it would likely take quite a lot of tweaking. Give the system a good beta tryout (as in, a few months of betas, not just a prerelease marketing exercise) and tweak as necessary, remembering to continue monitoring even after release and tweaking further.

There's plenty of reasons why a faction would request additional help from outsiders. The obvious one being risk - delivering stuff into anarchy systems, warzones or Thargoid-infested regions requires far more clout than their normal couriers can provide and they probably wouldn't be willing to risk them; equally, getting military craft to do deliveries isn't necessarily prudent as using warships to ferry stuff around can quite easily get political, so it makes sense for them to get an outside contractor to shoulder the risk. There's other points that they might not want their activities to be necessarily "above board", so they get an outsider to take the fall for their dirty business while they distance themselves from whatever smuggling, vandalism or other nefarious work is being done. Lastly, it might just be that they don't really have the methods to do something; if the accessible markets for a particular commodity have dried up within reasonable trading distance then they'll start putting requests out for freelancers to step up, or if they don't have direct access to Aegis's tech or a Guardian Tech Broker then they'll ask freelancers to help with anything Thargoid-related. It might even be because the pilot has access to something that the faction doesn't, such as being on good terms with a rival faction or having a permit for a certain system (I can think of a lot of factions that would pay good money for someone to go trash the faction fleets in Alioth, Archenar or Sol in false flag operations, which would also additional reasons for players to go out to earn the permits for these systems). The point would be for every good route to have a reason for its existence.

The lepidolite mines, despite being an obvious hyperbolic joke on your part, just highlights another section of Elite's economy that needs work - how the only financially viable things to mine are gemstones. A separate problem entirely, but one that warrants further discussion at another time.

Okay, sure, that's true. So the pirates act like economically rational agents and sell their ships to live a life of luxury on a private tropical island with all the Lavian Brandy they can drink, the bounty hunting profession collapses because no-one does anything illegal, and we don't need to worry about balancing either :)

Elite-series piracy has never been even close to economically sensible, unless you assume that the value of the goods not reaching their intended destination is the real goal, and they're all funded more to disrupt rather than steal shipping (which would explain why most of the half-decent ones don't even pretend to be here to steal your cargo).

(Obviously the idea that it might be more rational to blow up a trader than try to rob them would go down very poorly with the "griefers!!" crowd, but the economic argument I think is pretty sound and has plenty of historical precedent. WW2 submarines weren't out there with the Jolly Roger robbing merchant convoys.)

It stops people getting lots of money without even leaving the bubble, but I can jump 100LY from Colonia and get "first mapped" at a couple of million a time on a basically unlimited number of terraformable HMCs. If I jump 200LY I'll start getting WWs, AWs and ELWs too. If I head a few thousand LY corewards I could go for days without ever seeing another discovery tag. The supply of newly-discovered systems containing nominally valuable worlds is for all practical purposes unlimited, and travel speeds make them all to within a basic approximation "nearby" for the optimising player. What limits the demand (without saying "look, we already know about 100,000 ELWs, even your first discoveries are basically worthless" as a blanket policy)?
I don't think selling the space equivalent of a van is enough to retire on, living gets pretty expensive once you factor in advanced medicines, modern gadgetry and life-span enhancing progenitor cells. Maybe the pirates who are out there in Anacondas and the like could retire, but at that point they are more likely into piracy as a full career and way of life, enjoying the feeling of power and authority as terrified pilots beg for their lives in exchange for their cargo, much like how IRL cartel head honchos could pretty much retire but decide to keep active instead as the money and lifestyle has become such an addiction for them.

To be honest, if a pirate could destroy the ship and then dissect the wreckage for salvage to get the cargo contained within it, then it would probably be a much more desirable profession for those who are willing to get their hands dirty. It doesn't make that much sense that all the cargo magically disappears the moment a ship loses structural integrity. I could just hear the open-players and their high pitched "REEEEEE! How dare you support griefers in their evil quest to ruin MY game?", but it would probably encourage me to actually outfit a ship for piracy and go to town in a system I don't like in the name of justice and profit as there wouldn't be all the faff about disabling an enemy ship and using hatchbreakers and the like. Bonus points if the carving up the ship with mining lasers also yields actual salvage fragments just like mining. I quite agree that it isn't just NPC behaviour in piracy that needs a fix, it also needs a fix in terms of the game mechanics.

For exploration, yes you might be able to find new worlds quite quickly by just travelling 100 ly away, but at the same time the research data would not be considered particularly special as you are only 100 ly from inhabited space. Travel out to near Beagle point (probably not actually Beagle point itself though as UC probably has all the data they'll ever need on it), and then you can probably start earning some more. Combine this with a general increase in the survival difficulty for exploration such that it takes an accomplished explorer in a properly equipped ship to actually survive indefinitely in the black and exploration would have desired scaling in terms of both difficulty and equipment.
 
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