[SUGGESTION] Expand trade and mining away from first-person play

tl;dr Automation of the main gameplay grind and allow experienced players to build trade fleets/mining conglomerates forthose who prefer strategy
to twitch combat.

I am one of many who play Elite a bit and get a bit, well, bored - I know there is such a lot going on in the wider galaxy, but actual gameplay means flying in and out of stations and systems over and over with just a few moments of fun selecting missions and trade goods, planning immediate routes and longer term strategies before another several minutes of work flying the ship. Not that it wasn't fun and exciting at first - and still can be - but I have done it too much.
I am not one to enjoy combat for it's own sake. It has its place - the fear of getting attacked adds a frisson of excitement when I overextend my credits to take on a valuable cargo, but that too becomes routine (besides which, in a pirate attack is likely to be a one-sided affair since the pirates will naturally choose victims they can defeat; I don't get to make a choice.) One can go out looking for a fight with a superficial story-justification - bounty hunting etc. - but unless you aspire to become a dangerous combatant (as many do, I'm sure) you don't have a place in any of the bigger, more exciting conflagrations (Thargoid attacks and so on.) I am not good enough to take on those roles with much success and training to become competent typically involves tediously convoluted twitch skills reminiscent of playing "platformer" style games (which I despise.)

I like Sim games, strategy games, trading games - and I considered the original Elite as having strong elements of these, with its open-'world' and trading system. These days I am spoilt and want more. I believe that it might be possible to add-on a whole different style of gameplay for the many (?) players of Elite who are more drawn to the open sim than the linear 'narratives' and combat missions.

My suggestion is this:-
Allow the Commander to step away from the pilots chair. Allow us to hire a NPC pilot to navigate the routine flights while we pore over the trade information, study the galactic map, plan and strategise, communicate with other players and NPCs - and perhaps man a weapons console or a fighter ship when needed. I image that this would become a viable option for a starting player at around the time of their second ship upgrade. By this time they will have done hundreds of jumps and docking manoeuvres and have lost much of the the thrill. At this time, instead of up-weaponing to an Asp, say, a player might try to focus on trade and transport and acquire a Type 6 with an NPC pilot and enough haulage space to cover the crew costs. The player remotely deals with the bulletin board, and provides a route plan for the NPC pilot either from on-board the Type-6 or possibly another ship entirely. The player can join the route, as passenger, wingman or let the pilot go on his own.
In time the player might kit out a second Type-6 and pilot and set up a route for him to fly. As time goes on the player spends less and less time dozing in supercruise and more time managing his little trade fleet.
A cap on the number of ships per player might be needed to avoid extremes by hyperrich players - though the ability for an Elite Trader to affect the economy of whole star systems and thus get heavily involved in faction politics would be an fine end-game position for this type of player. A 'soft' cap whereby the organisational time for the player becomes overwhelming might suffice, if for example pilots in large trade companies tend to be unreliable, light fingered or want to unionise.

Most players won't want to do this - they'd rather get the bigger gun and go shoot stuff. Perhaps they'll buy up a trade ship later for pocket-change and set it up on an automated triangle trade route to make a little money. When, eventually, the automated ship is raided by pirates, the player might have an incentive to go investigate or take revenge perhaps on the entire local faction who financed the pirates (personalised goals and missions ftw) For the "Spreadsheet warriors" there is a whole game, potentially plugging into faction politics and exploration (more on this later) using their trade muscle. And this can be enjoyed without leaving their home station, if they want. It seems that there is an abstracted idea that massive numbers of unseen merchantmen ply the space lanes to provide the grist for the dynamic station economies when no player happens to be hauling, so more player activity in this area should not break anything - if the player tries too often to do the uneconomical thing, for reasons of politics, or just trolling, the expense will make it self limiting. Meanwhile, smalltime traders, new players etc. will be no worse off with player trade fleets than the abstract mass of trade flow.

MINING - flying around shooting at asteroids got dull very quickly (for me, at least) Taking the Commander out of the pilots chair means giving him automated mining equipment. The mining drones may fill in here but would like to recommend taking a cue from a game that is very often cited in this sort of discussion - STAR WARS GALAXIES. A deeply flawed MMO game, but it had the best gathering/crafting mechanic. The key feature was an automated facility that took time to work. It was designed for you to leave running and periodically collect the loot. During that time it was vulnerable to attack.
I suggest that planetary surfaces are the best locations for these facilities, at rare randomly assigned points of high concentration of your target mineral. I also suggest that they are eminently lootable by Players in SRVs who happen to either accidentally stumble across them or who acquire the information on facility locations by hacking?, super-scanners?, following the player-mine owner discreetly while he goes collecting? And, of course, there could be booby trapped mine-facilities and installable point-defences for the mine-owner to protect his investment.

Where to deploy a mining facility?
Exploration in the galaxy is largely the prerogative of the determined few who are prepared to spend real time days to travel the big black. For a more regular player, all the low hanging fruit for exploration has been marked, flagged and, soon, codified. A significant raison d'etre for this profession not available, limiting players. However, if detailed, time-consuming scans could reveal potential resource hot-spots there would be a financial reason to go prospecting not too far from the bubble. Except, it would quickly become another dull grind.
In the spirit of this suggestion, automated fire and forget (or set and leave to return later, like the mine-facilities) survey drones could be deployed - perhaps even jump-capable drones the size of a small ship with pre-planned routes (perhaps actual ships with a hired pilot too.) Perhaps there are stealth versions (automated or player flown) that can scan areas of known activity by another mining corporation in order to guess where their facilities have been deployed. Or to evaluate the combat strength of a settlement (that is, presumably, there to protect a particularly valuable mining operation.) And counter measures to defeat a scan or hide a resource concentration/mine facility
The location of an especially valuable resource concentration would have a value in its own right, like a treasure map. Several grey market/auction houses could be set up for trading this information with restricted access depending on faction affiliations, reputation, ready credits etc to make the most of this additional element of gameplay.

It seems to me that a lot of this could be bolted onto the game without disrupting the more ordinary players experience (except, possibly at the high end politics where more possible actions and effects should be better) and it would give a whole different way to interact with the Galaxy for the armchair player, whilst adding a few new targets-of-opportunity for the pirates that are not zero-sum (the pirate still gets to raid a player-owned ship but it doesn't ruin the trader-players game so thoroughly, as it is one ship of many.)
Generally, nurturing of a bourgeois merchant class who are happy planning their financial risks from a safe distance fills out the middle-class of the galactic society, between the 'political and warrior elite' and 'scum and villainy' and could add to the co-operative-competitive social interaction more than the 'destroy all enemies' motivation that is prevalent now.
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