Hi all! Neritus here. I’ve been hard at work coding Space Trucking and its surrounding systems, supported by the rest of the team for ideas, lore input, and mechanics. The project has been quite satisfying to my geekdom, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect and provide a preview of the upcoming feature release, coming mostly likely sometime in March. There will be quite a few new activities to do in Space, so it’s also a good opportunity to prepare players for what’s coming and garner input before it lands.
Cargo contracts are placed by NPCs, players, or player organizations. The setup is pretty simple. TAKE the contract, fly to its origin, PICKUP the contract, fly to its destination, DELIVER it, get paid!and At the start, you’ll only be able to take one contract, but completing contracts will increase the maximum number of contracts you can take up to 15. You’ll have 8 RL hours to complete the contract once you’ve taken it, or 2 RL hours if it is marked as a priority. If you fail to get it done in that time, the contract, including any shipping container you’ve picked up, will be seized from you, the maximum number of contracts you can take will be reset to 1, and you will lose some “Hauler Reputation,” used to track RANKINGS HAULERS. There will at all times be quite a large number of cargo contracts available to take, allowing you to plot a route which includes as many contracts as possible for maximum profits. So long as you’ve picked up a shipping container, however, you will not be able to use any form of warps, except voidgates. Cargo contracts have a minimum reward amount, which is a function of the cargo mass, distance, and a service fee.
If you’re not so interested in hauling, but are interested in having your goods hauled, look no further! The cargo contract system lets you set up your own custom shipments for someone else to deal with. It will cost you some marks, but it does save you time, and time is money! In the original theorizing of the system I went back and forth on the notion of “should haulers have to pay collateral upfront?” It was decided instead to put the onus on contractors to insure their contracts against loss instead so that the hauling system is as newbie friendly as possible. As such, the system for calculating insurance premiums needed to be fraud-proof. Fraud will still be possible, but the game keeps tabs of how many marks are being added into the game via insurance payouts vs removed from premiums, estimates the likelihood of piracy, examines the reliability of the contractor, and spits out an insurance premium. If you’re a manufacturer disgruntled by the cost of shipping insurance premiums, know that you do have a say in the matter by supporting anti-piratical and anti-fraud efforts.
Periodically, NPC cargo haulers will take the longest-waited cargo contract, whether it is an NPC contract or a player-made Contract. This allows for players to get their commodities moved even during low periods of activity where there are not enough players haulers. NPC cargo contracts tend to like to ship raw materials from hubs to subsectors with refining bonuses, then take those refined commodities where they can be best used as inputs with a production bonuses, and finally take finished goods back to stations that sell ship supplies. This means that savvy players will have a pretty good idea what commodities will be shipping in certain shipping lanes. Great news for pirates….
Here be pirates
The Space Trucking Update will also introduce Space Piracy into the game. As haulers fly around in space, they’ll have a chance to be ambushed by NPC pirates. These ambushes scale in difficulty depending on a) the Piracy Rating of the zone, and b) the class of ship the player is flying. You’re probably going to be able to slink away in your Prospector from the handful of enemy ships that show up, provided you react appropriately. But if you’re flying around in a big juicy Superhauler you can expect pirates to show up in force, and you best have a gameplan for survival. I want to be clear that pirate attacks will only occur if you are carrying a shipping container from a cargo contract (or if you’re a Warden, more on that later). Miners and other spacefarers are safe from getting ambushed.
Piracy Rating is a figure that goes from -100% to 100%. To trigger a pirate attack, a zone must have at least 10% piracy rating, ratings below that are a buffer. Piracy Rating is pumped into the Sector by various lore-appropriate Subsectors and zones, which act like factories pumping pollution into the air. Piracy rating then diffuses through the Sector like a cloud of pollution. No new rating is introduced through diffusion. The GIF above depicts what the Sector could look like after 100 RL days if no players are active in stemming the tide of Piracy. That said, us admin will have all the tools we need to monitor piracy rating, to ensure we’re hitting just the right balance.
Some lore-appropriate Subsectors and zones, such as the factional subsectors, act as buffers against the spread of piracy. When piracy rating is diffused into these zones, it cancels out the incoming rating, removing piracy rating from the overall system in the process. Various other activities also influence the ups and downs of piracy rating: pillaging incursions vs defeated ones, the presence of pirate refineries/autofactories vs destroying them, and Ishvana owned Cosmpiercers vs Faction owned ones.
A pirate’s life for me
Enter player Pirates and Wardens, Starmourn’s own version of Cops and Robbers. Let’s start with Wardens. When flagged as a Warden, you will periodically be ambushed by pirates in much the same manner as haulers. Basically you’re a law enforcing pirate magnet. Defeating these ships (or any pirate ambushes really, if you want to escort haulers) will reduce piracy rating in the zone by a fair margin and earn you some Warden Rating to help you climb RANKINGS WARDENS. As a Warden you can locate other Player Pirates if you wish. You are not Open PK to them except under normal PK rules, but they are Open PK to everybody, always, so long as they are in Space.
There are two ways to become flagged as a Pirate: 1) PIRACY JOIN PIRATES to voluntarily flag as a pirate. You’ll gain the power to locate NPC cargo ships and, as you commit acts of piracy, you will gain Notoriety, the system used to track RANKINGS PIRATES. 2) Through repeated acts of piracy, you will eventually become notorious enough a criminal that you will be auto-flagged as a Pirate. Yes, this means that you can be involuntarily flagged as Open PK in Space. But on the other hand, you are playing a character that is continually disrupting the economy and that should have consequences. That said, gaining Notoriety will first deduct Warden Rating before adding Notoriety, and vice versa. Thus it is possible to engage in repeated acts of Piracy without eventually becoming Open PK, so long as you’re doing penance as a Warden to offset it. If that’s your chosen playstyle, however, you’re not likely to climb either RANKINGS WARDENS or RANKINGS PIRATES. To be clear: being a Space Pirate does NOT allow you to PK others, except under normal PK rules. This includes player cargo haulers. Space Pirates will not be allowed to attack cargo haulers just because they are pirates. Unless, of course…
Less than 12 parsecs
Don’t think for a second that we forgot about all of you who want to play Space Smuggler. We are adding a whole new slate of illegal commodities for the purpose. For now these commodities will only be seeded by smuggling contracts, and both NPCs and players can take these contracts. Smuggling contracts pay much better, but are way more dangerous than taking a normal cargo contract. First up, you need to pay the full value of the cargo in collateral upfront. Second, the chance of a pirate ambush is higher than normal, because the contract probably only exists to extort you of the collateral. Thirdly, upon arrival in the destination Subsector your cargohold will be scanned. If the scan succeeds, you will be attacked by NPC Wardens. The likelihood of the scan succeeding can be reduced with a new ship module, Cargo Scramblers. Players can also fit their ships with a new hardpoint, the Cargo Scanner. Any successful cargo scan which uncovers Contraband will be announced on Conflict and make the player Open PK in Space until they, dock, jettison the contraband, or are destroyed.
If you do wind up with contraband in your commodity storage, you’ll be able to either SELL it to nefarious distributors for serious marks, or TURN it IN to the authorities for a small fraction of its value, and some Warden Rating.
That’s all for now, folks. There are some other surprises planned but now that I’ve gone and spoiled the greater part of it, it’s time to settle back into my code hole.