EDIT: This has been resolved and no longer has relevance. Thank you!
Hello all. I am going to talk about some of the changes to the trade economy in 3.7, my issues and criticisms with these changes, and what can be expected to happen if these changes make it to the Live build.
Before 3.6.In previous patches, profit margins for trade hovered around 4-6%. Profits themselves were also abysmal. For example, a Caterpillar would have to invest (and risk) 431,000 aUEC to make 36,000 aUEC. This was about the top of trade as well, otherwise you would be risking 1.4 million to make a measly 65K. While it could be argued that this is acceptable, it means that a single loss of cargo (from Pirates or 30K) would set you back horrendously. For this example, if we lost a load of Titanium, a Caterpillar doing that same run to make its money back would have to make 12 trade runs (roughly 5-6 hours) to make back the money lost on that route. .
And that’s at the extreme, upper echelon top of the food chain. The Caterpillar was the only ship capable of outpacing mission profit with trading. A lot of people attempted trading in small to mid tier haulers and the profit was simply not there to make it worthwhile. You could easily make the same or much more doing missions, and those had no personal risk if things went south. Many people attempted trade and lost it all in these ships, and with even the Freelancer MAX posting 12,000 profit on a 204,000 investment run, many people just gave up. The only money maker was mission grinding or trying to run drugs. In addition, 3.5.1 introduced differences in how the economy behaved. Originally locations had a set limit of supply and demand for commodities, and that limit completely refreshed every 2 minutes. 3.5.1 did away with this. Going forward, we changed to a cumulative demand system, where a location would replenish a small portion of its demand and supply every 2 minutes, up to a maximum cap. In addition, the economy also became linked between servers, so multiple servers would impact each other’s supply and demand. This system also brought in price fluctuation, diminishing profits overall. This was a stark period of time and only the most hardcore and dedicated traders pressed on.
3.6: Major Changes
Enter 3.6. This patch massively increased profits for trading. The average profit margin shot up to 19.09%. Suddenly, the loss of cargo wasn’t the catastrophic setback that it once was. Profits worth risking were suddenly obtainable, and more people started getting an interest in trading. The mid tier haulers suddenly became profitable. People were trading in things that weren’t Caterpillars, there was a bustling economy, and people without massive trading ships were still able to earn the profits to work towards those ships. A player starting with an Aurora could work their way through buying a Cutlass, a Freelancer MAX, and then the Caterpillar in about 220 hours of missions and trading. There was also a reason to trade the trash commodities like Beryl, Corundum, Tungsten, and Scrap. The usual 4-6 worthwhile commodities suddenly had alternatives and just about everything was worth running for one ship or another.
What’s more, this improvement to profits increased the emergent gameplay that CIG loves to tout. With the increase in profits, you had more people interested in pirating those profits. Actual piracy began to boom. Traders who suddenly had money left over could actually afford to pay for security details now or even pay off their attackers. There were more people becoming interested in a sustainable gameplay loop. The trade economy had finally been dusted off after suffering nearly a year of neglect and been given some love, and with that love grew emergent gameplay centered around it.
3.7: The worst economy so far.But all that is about to change. I’ve spent some time researching the new trade prices and 3.7 is going to see a regression that threatens to collapse most of what has built up in 3.6. The average profit margin is an abysmal 4.92%. We’ve gone back to having trash commodities that have absolutely no reason to be ran. A Caterpillar running Processed Food is only going to make $1K. Same for Iodine. Agricultural Supplies? $566. That’s it. Off an investment of $62,000, a makes $566 aUEC. We’re back to only having a small selection of commodities that can be considered worthwhile. And it doesn’t stop there.
If you don’t own a Caterpillar, there is a virtually guaranteed chance that you’re not making more than $24,000 an hour. Effective trade profits have essentially been put behind a hopefully unintentional paywall. To show what you can expect, I have made a rudimentary spreadsheet that shows the average buy and sell prices for commodities, their profits, and how much profit can be made per hour for various ships, which can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nNuF4OTJmPMCcaVjC4-DuemKguc4vRYh9DcWETnu-cA/edit?usp=sharing
Keep in mind that the Runs Per Hour section can be left open to interpretation as various factors can adjust how often a run can be made, and some commodities are so scarce that some ships can never realistically obtain a full load. However, this estimation shows how weak the economy has become. I also compared these prices to 3.4 and 3.5, and they appear to be nearly identical, with the only changes being within a mere 15 cent margin.
Even worse, price diversity has disappeared. In 3.6 and previous patches, large ports like Lorville would buy certain commodities at a premium. This higher price helped to justify the long run in to the location. However its prices are now identical to selling at most outposts and Port Olisar. So we’ve actually regressed even further than previous patches. Coupled with fluctuating prices and the new, slower demand/supply refresh system, profits will be lower than previous patches.It can also be argued that trading has been made severely less profitable than mining. For example, someone FPS mining Hadanite on Daymar can make $33,000 aUEC off of a full backpack. Each Hadanite deposit drops 10 pieces, and it takes 12 nodes to completely fill. This can be accomplished in about 30-45 minutes. A , the largest ship in the game for trade at this moment, has to risk $437,518 aUEC to make a profit of $31,130, which takes about 30 minutes to accomplish. So between being able to rent a Prospector and go surface mining with no personal risk, or using a $295 USD ship to risk $430K to make the same profit, it’s hard to justify even attempting trade at the high end range, and completely unfeasible for any smaller ship.
Not to mention the poor Mantis. We know how most traders feel about the Mantis. With trade profits slashed and the threat of a ship that can deny escape, a lot of people will be inclined to simply not trade. The poor Mantis is being introduced in to a patch that is going to kill off its target prey before it can. There will be an overall decline in piracy and hiring security to protect trade runs (It’s hard to pay a security detail a decent wage off of slim profits, as they can make more elsewhere and paying them enough means you’re not making enough for yourself). Good bye to an entire facet of emergent gameplay.Even the rental system won’t help alleviate the pain of this. The largest rentable trade vessel, the Constellation Andromeda, can only make a maximum of $21,120 an hour off of its most profitable run, and that’s the limited commodity that people have spent most of 3.6 fighting over. For reference, a 1 day rental of the Andromeda costs 70,000. Therefore it take 3 and a half hours of trading at its maximum earning potential to afford a single 24 hour period of the ship.
Buying ships in game is simply out of reach as well. If you wanted to get in to a Freelancer MAX at its current cost of 2.1 million, missions are still going to be the way to go. Even at a very generous $24,000 an hour through missions (estimation), that’s 87 and a half hours of pure grinding to get in to it.
And once you do, good luck because the max it can make hauling legal cargo is 26,400, and once again that’s Laranite, the highly limited commodity that experiences fluctuating prices. So the entire ship purchasing system that was given love in 3.6 is simply not obtainable now, and the rental list is too restrictive to make any meaningful impact for people wanting to try hauling.
In closing, it’s bad. I understand that nothing is final and all things are in motion and some systems will need to be tested over others, but this is several steps back and I cannot find any effort that has actually been put in to the economy, as the current trade economy is simply 3.4 with a few nickels and dimes thrown around in prices so they’re not identical to previous iterations. This will put meaningful trading behind a $295 USD pay wall for at least the next 3 months if these numbers are allowed to make it to Live, and I strongly urge anyone who has the power to do so to at least give us a semblance of 3.6 trade prices before this goes to Live.
Thank you for your time. I am only one person but I do not want to see the gameplay that I and so many others enjoy be affected so negatively.
EDIT: I know it’s a block of text so its easy to miss, but if you wanted a simplified look at what profits to expect in 3.7, here it is. Wait a few days and Gallog will have a more in depth version: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nNuF4OTJmPMCcaVjC4-DuemKguc4vRYh9DcWETnu-cA/edit?usp=sharing
Thanks for the effort you’ve put into this, and the passion you have for trading gameplay! I’m glad to hear that you loved the changes with 3.6.
Citizens, rejoice! 3.6 prices will be restored as soon as possible. Your diligence is very much appreciated, and your commitment is exactly what makes Star Citizen great!