Alright, it has been a while since the last thread and while some things were improved, the overall economy system still doesn't function, something acknowledged by Tecton when he turned off taxes temporarily. I've talked about this a lot in Discord but thought I'd consolidate my thoughts and suggestions here so the admins don't miss it and everyone else can have a place to discuss their own thoughts.
Problem: The economy has a supply issue, not a demand issue. There is plenty of demand from the many people who want to take part in the manufacturing process, and I think the ultimate goal is to make it so that the ship forge is only used as a backup plan in case all manufacturers decide to stop playing for a while. What we lack is the ability to actually make anything in volumes that makes the process worthwhile. I don't just mean for manufacturers, but also for people looking to potentially buy from them. There are many problems with the ship forge and market offersystem, and while it is true that it is simply more convenient to buy from the ship forge, it really doesn't help when there is only a trickle of player-made goods and most of them aren't available on market offer at all. There are also talks of adding more non-space uses for resources, but this only increases the demand. While adding more uses is a positive thing for adding depth to the system, but until we fix the supply issue it doesn't matter how amazing or how many uses we give resources - we will still not be able to interact with any of them.
Problem: Player time is important. Flying between stations takes a long time. Going at 3000 speed, assuming you get a clear line with no obstacles, it takes about 36 seconds to travel through a zone. This quickly adds up considering how many zones you have to travel. For people who want to gather, finding a mineral can require a significant time investment. Let's say on average it takes about 10 zones to find one on average, which is pretty conservative from my experience. That's 12 minutes for a return trip. This is about how much I expect the reward for doing this to be worth. People can get over 10k marks an hour from bashing and incursions. Let's say a fair reward for that time is around 2000 marks. What is it in reality? From my experience hauling asteroids, each gives between 5-10. I know people have found some with more, but I have hauled probably over 20, from way outside the 10-zone estimate I am working under, by now and this is the range I have experienced. Let's say the profit for each is about 30 each, which what you can possibly get for titanium, but is far higher than what anyone will (or, reasonably can) pay for every other resource. So with these estimates we can assume asteroids are worth about 150-300 profit each. Gas is an even larger issue, because scooping takes more time, as does searching for gas clouds, which you need multiple of.
Problem: There is almost no reason to own a refinery. With the volumes of materials being refined, even without taxes, there is really no point to owning a refinery when there are already other people with them. In fact, I would bet that currently there is no need for more than one set of refineries in the entire game. No refinery is being used at anything near max capacity. I don't have the numbers for this, but I occasionally check REFINERY LIST HERE at Omni and it is rare for me to see any even being used. With all of the scooping/mining I've done, I've never had a case where my refinery of choice (i.e. the cheapest available) is already being used by someone else.
Solution: Increase the yield of asteroids and gas clouds. I think all of the above problems can be solved with a simple fix. Not just a minor increase, either, but I would argue that we need something like a 10 times increase. Asteroids should give 60-80 refined minerals per and gas clouds should give 1 refined gas per. This would help with the supply issue, allowing more resources to go through the process and get into the hands of manufacturers, which allows more player-made goods to get into the hands of people using supplies. This would increase the profitability of gathering to bring it closer to other activities. This would also give refineries a reason to exist. At base minerals take 1000 seconds to refine, so a single asteroid would take up most of the RL day's capacity. Two asteroids of the same type a day and you will need to find a second refinery. What this solution doesn't do is it doesn't necessitate another pass over the costs of production. The only change is tethers and scoops factor into the cost of resources a bit less, but this is not that significant in the grand scheme of things, and it also makes probes actually worth using. I actually see no real disadvantage to this solution.
Problem: Outer station refineries and autofactories are not worth it. What many people I've talked to imagined a supply chain where you'd need to produce goods in different stations and hauling them to another to produce another. The reality is that because all non-Omni stations only have 3 refinery types and 1 or 2 autofactory types, it is much more efficient to just put everything in Omni, even with the higher taxes. Remember, player time is important and flying between stations takes a long time. The solution to this is NOT to increase taxes even more, because production margins are already so slim, but instead to incentivise using those outer stations instead. This is particularly a problem for refineries. Hiza, located all the way in Ibyssian, can refine astrium, titanium, and ultarine. People aren't going to think "Oh, I should fly this asteroid, which may or may not be astrium or titanium, to potentially save one or two marks in tax". Instead, they'll think "Ok, I'll fly back to Omni now so I don't have to worry if this asteroid can be refined there".
Solution: Offer bonus yield at these stations. For refineries, I suggest a 25% to 100% increase to yields, depending on distance from Omni. For example, Elonova, which is only about 5 zones away might only give a 25% increase, but Hiza, which is probably closer to 40 zones (I didn't count), would justify the 100% increase. This may sound high, but if it takes me twice as much time and effort to refine at Hiza, shouldn't it also give twice as much reward? For autofactories, I think a similar 10% to 30% chance of getting a double production batch might be enough. This gives people the option of putting everything in Omni, where it is much more convenient, or spreading out their supply chain for potentially higher profitability.
Problem: Resources in storage reduce the number of asteroids and gas available to everyone.
Solution: Remove existing storage factoring into the resource generation. Going to tackle the problem and solution together because they're just two sides of the same coin. This is one that has bothered me from the start. I get that there is a worry that we'll get the resource gluts like some of the other IRE games have seen, but there is a major difference between Starmourn's resource system and the comm systems in the other games. They aren't just generated out of thin air. They aren't a daily tithe that players just get. Here, someone has to go out there, spending marks on scoops or tethers, and refinery costs, not to mention an incredibly large amount of time, to gather these resources. If someone spends a million marks to get resources, that's entirely okay. They now have a million less marks to put into the rest of the economy. Why should someone holding 1000 titanium mean that everyone else has a harder time of getting it? We're trying to make a system that everyone can take part in, aren't we? I have yet to hear a valid argument for why this exists, and to be perfectly honest, this feels like the admins being too scared of something bad happening that they've made it so nothing at all can happen.
I have other ideas for how we can make the system even better in future, but I feel like the three things above are crucial to actually get the basics working in the first place. After all, if we don't have a solid foundation, what good is it to build even more on top of it? I may be entirely wrong, but none of these look like the type of changes that should take much development time at all, but I think the economy system overall would be drastically better for all parties if they were implemented.