Dev Blog 3 -- Upcoming Economy Overhaul for the Live Servers

Dev Blog, May 2024

With the start of our final internal testing and bug fixing on the economy overhaul for the live servers, we want to start releasing more information regarding the planned changes so that players have an opportunity to prepare for them.

The design of the 2.15 economy (which formed the basis of the 2.17 economy) was formed in an environment that allowed players to have an unlimited number of free accounts. Each of those free accounts came with two free economy slots... and so the stage was set for problems. For a time, back when the game's population was much larger than it currently is, the flaw in this original design was fairly well hidden, as there was sufficient demand to consume the output of those essentially-unlimited economy slots. The Players who put in the extra effort of managing 100+ Accounts reaped the rewards accordingly, but their extra output was just as rapidly consumed by the needs of buyers.

As time went on and the population of the game declined over the years, the extensive abuse that had been being made of the unlimited number of free accounts became much more apparent, and Vision eventually made changes to remove the two free economy slots on each Account.

With the removal of the free economy slots, and a decade-plus of population changes, the basic concepts behind the original 2.15 design no longer align with the realities of the game's current state, and so we have been working on a pretty major overhaul.

This overhaul (currently in testing) will begin a process of bringing the economy more in line with the current population level and number of daily Players.

There are several changes in the overhaul update:  

  • The structure model from the free economy slot era no longer aligns with the fact that all economy slot usage in game has either been purchased or is being accessed by subscription. The new model being released with the upcoming overhaul update will include (1) retiring some structures as well as (2) changes to structure maintenance, inputs, outputs and labor adjustments to match a new model being applied.
  • The NPC Auction Agents will play a role in the economy moving forward.  We want the NPCs on the sales side to be reduced to only being found in each Nation's Capitols and the neutral Dutch Port of Oranjestad.  The Capitols will have various offerings of high usage items and Oranjestad will feature the complete offerings of all NPC agents.
  • In general, NPC sales as we move forward are intended to be a form of reserve supply or a last resort source for an item. For this reason, NPC prices will be generally very high compared to the actual item's production cost.  This allows a more generous space for Player producers to undercut that NPC pricing while still keeping a large profit, while at the same time works to provide a price cap on goods that will prevent Player-driven perceptual inflation through sellers putting out goods with insanely high profit margins. This being said, NPC Sellers won t sell everything so there is ample room for profit across the market. However, for those items that NPCs will sell, such as ships typically used by new players (Level 12 and under), this will simultaneously ensure these items are always available, and at a reasonable cost.
  • On the buying side, NPC agents will also become more prevalent. As all economy slots are now being paid for, we want to make sure that there will always be a buyer for some of the items that can be produced through those economy slots, so rather than ever leaving them idle, they can always be making goods that can be sold. These NPC Buyers will offer relatively small profit margins over cost (as they are not intended to compete with Player buyers who will be paying higher prices), but they will be a last resort buyer for Player goods that is far superior to the Junk Merchant. While the NPC Buyers will not buy everything that Structures make, this represents a price floor for the goods that they do buy, and in a worst case scenario will always provide a profit over costs to producers of those goods.
  • There are a number of changes that will be made to Recipes to accommodate the upcoming changes in the Structure system. These changes touch on many aspects of Recipes, including the removal of some recipes, labor adjustments, recipe component adjustments and click-cost adjustments. It will also involve moving some Recipes from one structure over to another structure, as some structures are being retired. The overhaul will include the addition of new Recipes that are needed in the reconfigurations done to the Structure model.
  • There are bug fixes that will also be implemented as part of this update, to address recipes that are currently missing from Structures that should possess them.


NPC Auction Agents

NPC Auction Agents were the first element changed in the unfolding economy overhaul and they will have changes in progress throughout the remainder of it.

Agents were originally created back during the original implementation of the 2.15 build with the planned intention of being removed completely after the full roll-out of 2.15. These originally-temporary Agents had one job to provide a stopgap supply of goods from the new recipes in 2.15 and prevent production delays until Players had jumped in and taken over all of the new manufacturing and market opportunities represented by the additional items.

Because these Agents were fixed and intended for fairly-rapid removal, no support or analytical tools were created for them. 

But Players did not take over the manufacturing of the new goods as expected. Instead, they merely purchased from the unlimited-supply NPC Sellers. Although the intention was to urge Players to take over this role, new development ceased on the game at Portalus before the Agents could be removed (or even adjusted). Agents remained in this state for years, until only a few months ago. 

 Vision was able to create new tools for working with the NPC Auction Agents, and an algorithm from the server currently under construction was adopted to govern NPC Auction Agent changes. This new logic monitored the consumption rates of items sold by NPCs both Globally and by Nation.  Determination of pricing and stock replenishment would be influenced by both factors as well by item value, item usage category (low, medium, high) and availability (number of ports found).  As soon as these elements were all in place, we began making changes with the NPC Auction Agents as the new tools did not require new builds to be produced and released for the Agent changes to be picked up by the servers. As a result, Agent behavior shifted from a fixed to a living model. The process of changing NPC Auction Agent behavior began at the end of September 2023.

The first changes made to Agents began by changing the formerly unlimited quantities available through these NPCs. Once limited quantities were in place, NPC prices began changing based on the volume of items either being purchased or remaining unsold in each Port. As we expected initial volumes to be high, we added a governor to the stock logic to keep price increases from going to extremes based on what was likely an large initial spike of builders hoarding stockpiles as a hedge against running out.

We did not implement them globally, but rather by picking specific industry types for our initial targets.  Ship Building was the first target as we knew in the long term (even with a reduced population), there was no need for NPCs to be in competition with Players when it came to Ship Building.  From there on, every few weeks we moved on to another aspect of industry, until we reached the end the metal working industries. Lastly, we limited NPC ship sales.

It only took just over two months for the consumption of NPC goods to begin dropping off sharply.  Most players by this point had reconfigured their production setups or had begun using the recently-introduced ability to instantly change nations to effectively increase their production capacity and no longer relied on NPC goods for production.

However, there were still pockets of high consumption and we wanted to allow a bit more time before we began pulling NPC Auction Agents entirely from some Ports, effectively limiting access.

In late January, we began the process of no longer resupplying ports that were not Regional or National Capitols and when NPC stocks in those ports were depleted, the Agents were removed completely. In March, we began to remove ports from the NPC Auction Agents access. As of last month, we have reached a point where we feel we are ready to shift the NPCs into their final positioning so as to be ready for the next stage of the overhaul update.

Over the next few weeks players can expect to see the following from the NPC Sales Agents:

  • NPC Sales agents will begin to be removed from all ports except Nation Capitol ports and the Dutch port of Oranjestad.  Any stock held by NPCs in ports that are not a Capitol port or Oranjestad will no longer be replenished.
  • A reduction process will begin for ports whose markets contain goods that are sitting idle and not being purchased, so even if players do not purchase the stock currently on hand in these ports, those stocks will be removed over the next few weeks.
  • Low-volume items that have been available through NPCs but have not sold in significant quantities will be reduced to being found at NPC Agents in Oranjestad only. This will provide Players with a single location where basically anything the NPCs will sell can be found, as well as gives insight into which items NPCs sell that provide very small market opportunity.
  • NPC Sales agents will have any items that are to be retired from the game due to upcoming Recipe changes removed from their listings several weeks prior to the retirement of those items. We don't want players accidentally increasing their stockpiles of items that are going to have no use in the near future.
  • After the completion of sales point reductions to the Capitols and Oranjestad, NPC sale prices should be expected to begin to fluctuate differently from how they have been up to this point. Up until now, the algorithm being used tended to only press prices upward to a consumption-based cap. Once the port reduction plan is complete, NPC sales prices will be able to move up or down based purely on sales. Keeping in mind that we want to keep market competition with Players to a minimum, and that NPC offerings are intended to be for those moments when you need something and you simply can't find it anywhere else other than through an NPC, Players should expect price changes to be smaller and to have a pricing floor the NPCs will not go below.
  • After the reduction of NPC sales points is complete, the new behavior of NPC Buying Agents will start to become active. Up to this point, NPC Buying Agents are untouched from their original introduction. Like the NPC Selling Agents, NPC Buying Agents were originally only intended to be around for about 90 days before also being removed. Given the current state of the economy, these Buying Agents will become much more active than they were originally.

In the upcoming weeks players can expect the following changes to NPC Buy Orders:

1.     The current Buy Orders are out of date and no longer aligned with current pricing in game. In order to clear this up, many of the current NPC Buy Orders will be removed and those not removed will be adjusted.

2.    New Buy Orders will be created located only in Regional ports, Capitol ports and the Dutch port of Oranjestad. These new (or adjusted) Buy Orders will following the model of being slightly above production costs, intended to provide a last resort route to always move goods, but not as profitable a one as selling directly on the Markets to other Players. The prices offered by these Buying Agents will go through an adjustment shortly before the launch of the Economy Overhaul to have them in position for the coming changes.

3.    Buy Orders for items that are being retired will remain in place or be newly created, so that rather than going to the Junk Merchant for disposal of discontinued items at a major loss, Players can recover more of the value of the goods. These Buy orders will remain in place for several weeks after the overhaul launch in Oranjestad, Regional and Capitol ports, but following that period they will be found in Oranjestad only. 


Structure Model Changes:

The planned changes to Structures are significant, and the model that will be employed may affect Players decisions regarding what types of Structures to use, whether to maintain a current Structure or possibly replace it, and whether or not is it desirable to place a Structure that might be slotted for retirement. The structures in the new model being applied are listed below:


The following six Structures are going to be Retired:

1.      Chandler's Shop

2.      Salt Pen

3.      Sail Loft

4.      Rope Walk

5.      Clay Pit

6.      Pottery 

Retired Structures will become like other currently-retired Structures in the game, meaning once retired, new Deeds for these Structures can no longer be produced. Their recipes will be removed from the Draughtsman's Office. Currently-existing deeds will still be usable, and those players with Retired Structures already placed down in the game will be able to continue using them.

 As to the disposition of the Recipes currently used by the to-be-retired Structures, those Recipes will be recreated in a form used by other, already-existing structures. They will be recreated in the following structures:

1.      Chandler Shop Recipes will be recreated in the Boilery

2.      Salt Pen Recipes will be recreated in the Boilery

3.      Sail Loft Recipes will be recreated in the Improved Textile Mill

4.      Rope Walk Recipes will be recreated in the Improved Textile Mill

5.      Clay Pit Recipes will be recreated in the Quarry

6.      Pottery Recipes will be recreated in the Blast Furnace 

In the new model, all Structures (including those being retired) will fall into one of three categories: Doubloon StructuresSupported Structures or Premium Structures.  

The following is a list of Structures and which Structure category they will fall into. Please note this list contains the Retired Structures for inclusiveness sake, in the event players still have deeds for them or already have them placed in the game.

Doubloon Structures:

1.      Advanced Logging Camp (Ironwood)

2.      Advanced Logging Camp (Oak)

3.      Advanced Logging Camp (Teak)

4.      Logging Camp (Fir)

5.      Logging Camp (Ironwood)

6.      Logging Camp (Oak)

7.      Logging Camp (Oak) (No Trade)

8.      Logging Camp (Teak)

9.      Woodcutter's Camp

10.  Advanced Lumber Mill

11.  Lumber Mill

12.  Carpenter's Shop

13.  Cooper's Shop

14.  Advanced Mine (Copper)

15.  Advanced Mine (Gold)

16.  Advanced Mine (Iron)

17.  Advanced Mine (Zinc)

18.  Mine (Copper)

19.  Mine (Gold)

20.  Mine (Iron)

21.  Mine (Iron) (No Trade)

22.  Mine (Silver)

23.  Mine (Sulfur)

24.  Mine (Zinc)

25.  Saltpeter Mine

26.  Forge

27.  Forge (No Trade)

28.  Stamp Mill

29.  Weaponsmith

30.  Advanced Quarry (Granite)

31.  Advanced Quarry (Limestone)

32.  Advanced Quarry (Marble)

33.  Gravel Pit

34.  Clay Pit

35.  Pottery

36.  Quarry (Granite)

37.  Quarry (Limestone)

38.  Quarry (Limestone) (No Trade)

39.  Quarry (Marble)

40.  Salt Pen

41.  Advanced Plantation (General)

42.  Advanced Plantation (Sugar)

43.  Farm

44.  Fishing Lodge

45.  Hunting Lodge

46.  Pasture

47.  Plantation (Cacao)

48.  Plantation (Coffee)

49.  Plantation (Cotton)

50.  Plantation (General)

51.  Plantation (General) (No Trade)

52.  Plantation (Prickly Pear)

53.  Plantation (Sugar)

54.  Plantation (Tobacco)

55.  Vineyard

56.  Bakery

57.  Slaughterhouse

58.  Tanner

59.  Advanced Sugar Refinery

60.  Chandler's Shop

61.  Sugar Refinery

62.  Powder Mill

63.  Rum Distillery

64.  Tar Distillery

65.  Winery

66.  Draughtsman's Office

67.  Draughtsman's Office (No Trade)

68.  Master Draughtsman's Office

69.  Provisioner

70.  Recruitment Office

71.  Rope Walk

72.  Sail Loft

73.  Textile Mill

74.  Advanced Shipyard (Medium)

75.  Advanced Shipyard (Small)

76.  Assembly Yard

77.  Careening Camp

78.  Master Shipyard (Large)

79.  Shipyard (Large)

80.  Shipyard (Medium)

81.  Shipyard (Small)

Doubloon Structures
are structures that only require doubloons for operation.  They have no construction material requirements for creation, only a doubloon cost, and they require no maintenance provisions, having a doubloon cost upkeep only.

Supported Structures:

1.      Large Logging Camp (Fir)

2.      Large Logging Camp (Ironwood)

3.      Large Logging Camp (Oak)

4.      Large Logging Camp (Pine)

5.      Large Logging Camp (Roble)

6.      Saw Mill

7.      Large Mine (Copper)

8.      Large Mine (Gold)

9.      Large Mine (Iron)

10.  Large Mine (Silver)

11.  Large Mine (Sulfur)

12.  Large Mine (Zinc)Blast Furnace

13.  Finery Forge

14.  Plantation Estate

15.  Sugar Plantation Estate

16.  Tobacco Plantation Estate

17.  Leatherworks

18.  Boilery

19.  Improved Textile Mill

20. Large Quarry

Supported Structures
are structures intended for use in larger-scale productions. They are supported in that they require construction materials to build and they also will continue to use maintenance provisions. Their difference from Doubloon structures, beyond construction and maintenance, is that their input and output capacity is significantly larger than Doubloon Structures.

Premium Structures:

1.      Logging Company

2.      Mining Company

3.      Foundry

4.      Iron Works

5.      Company Shipyard

6.      Hidden Cove Shipyard

7.      Textile Factory

8.      Farm Estate

Premium Structures
are Treasure Aisle Structures requiring Burning Sea Point investment to utilize. These new Structures are a combination of Supported and Doubloon Structures. They do not require construction materials to build and do not require maintenance provisions, using only doubloons for their maintenance costs. They also gain significant labor bonuses to go along with significantly increased input and output capacity.

There will be at least one new Premium Structure being added: The Wood Works, which operates very much in the same as the Iron Works in that it encompasses the production capabilities of a Saw Mill, Carpenter's Shop and Cooper's Shop in a single structure and also will gain the upcoming production bonuses that will apply to all Premium structures. 

In our next Dev Blog, we will go more in-depth and granular regarding the upcoming Economy Overhaul, including the changes to Recipes that are likely to be very impactful (such as the removal of the barrel component in charcoal production) when it comes to Players production plans.  We will also discuss labor changes, click-cost changes, component adjustments and some Recipes that are moving from Structure to Structure, or that are being Retired.