Downstream Trade System Proposal and Overall Trade Thoughts

I have been playing this very well-made Grand Strategy game called Europa Universalis IV since it came out in August of 2013. One thing that I think stands out in the game is the trade system. While some people in the EU community have some gripes with the system, I think it not only has promise in Grand Strategy games, but Stonehearth as well! I’ve been contemplating how something similar to it could be implemented in our lovely little game of ours. I’ll start by explaining the trade system of the game (Since the lousy forum won’t let new users post images). Try not to get overwhelmed.

The entire map is separated into different trade nodes. Good examples in EU would be London, which encompasses England and Ireland, Chesapeake Bay, which covers from New York to Florida, and Ceylon. which covers most of southern India. In Stonehearth, these names and sizes would obviously would be randomized and have RPG-like names. I’d imagine that the nodes would cover the size of 2-3 cities and maybe some AI settlements. Ex: Warmwood Heights, which covers the base of a large mountain.

How money enters the nodes is based on the goods harvested within the node. In EU, A a fraction of the value of the trade good enters the node. Some goods are more valuable than others (Coffee is worth more than grain, etc.). In Stonehearth, I’d like to see that when your settlers sell goods to market, most of the value goes straight into your coffers, while a fraction of the value enters trade circulation. An example would be if you sold a unit of fox pelt worth 5 gold a piece, you get 4.5 gold immediately, and the half a gold piece goes into the active trade stream.

So, what happens when there’s finally dough floating in the node? Well, here’s where things get a bit complicated. Trade in EU4 flows like a river. There’s a source node that flows down and branches off into other nodes. An example of a source node in EU would be Siam and other nodes in Asia. Also, there are end nodes, where trade stops and cannot flow downstream anymore. An example would be Seville, or Venice, and to a lesser degree: London, Bordeaux, and Lubeck.

When money is entered into these nodes, the player has two options: Collect from trade and Transfer trade downstream. Collecting from a node is mostly only advisable if the player’s capital city is in the node; that node would be called his/her home node. Transferring trade is done when collecting isn’t ideal, which is most of the time. When someone transfers trade, they shuffle the wealth downstream. An example would be if I owned 50% of the trade power in Zanzibar, which has approx. 15 gold in it, when I transferred trade, it would shuffle 7.5 gold to the next node, which would be the Cape of Good Hope. Ideally. you’d use many different merchants to have trade cascade down from node to node, until the trade from around the world piled up at your home node.

Now that we have the basic trade mechanism explained, how does the player gain power in the nodes? The most basic answer is having land in a node. Within these lands, the player may construct buildings that increase their trade power in the node even further. In Stonehearth’s case, it would be building and expanding the player’s main market, where goods are sold and bought. I’d like to see a merchant as a possible class. The merchant would devote his career to promoting your city’s trade. The better the merchant, the more trade flows into your city. I think it would be interesting to be able to send your merchants to other cities to shuffle trade away from them.

As mentioned before, I think that Stonehearth can improve upon this model. In EU, trade routes are static. Even if the nations clustered around Venice aren’t rigorously trading and are extremely weak, trade will still naturally flow there. In Stonehearth, I’d hope to see dynamic trade routes. The wealthiest and diverse cities would get trade naturally flowing towards it. Those cities might decline due to raids and trade stagnation, and trade might flow away from it over time. I think it would also be awesome if chaotic npcs such as goblins and the like would try and sap some of this trade away by raiding caravans, which would encourage the player to keep well patrolled borders and to flush out hidden goblin camps.

Now, I’d like to state my opinions on the overall role of trade in the game.

I truly think that Stonehearth should have a very complex and dynamic trading system. The most recent Desktop Tuesday got me a little anxious when the subject of trade came up. It sounded as if the only reason trade will exist in the game is for acquisition of goods when none are available. This trade system seems very, very basic and leaves little room for interaction with the world and competition. I pray that this is only an extreme abstraction of their concept. If Radiant actually goes through with that idea, I would be grossly disappointed by them.

The idea proposed in the first half of this post is something that I would put into the game if I was developing it. But since I play only a small part among the masses of the community, I can only make suggestions.

Stonehearth requires a trading system that encourages interaction with the game world and npc factions, competition, and one that is very dynamic and player-driven.

I implore the devs to not see trading as an afterthought, but as a core mechanic of the game. The trading system should be as if not more fleshed out than the combat and building mechanic by the end of development. Please take this into consideration when you start writing the first line of code for this.

I’d love to see constructive criticism and your thoughts of what trading should become.
Thank you for your time.


Wow! That was an exceedingly well-thought out and articulate post! Your position is quite solid, and though I honestly hadn’t given the trade system in Stonehearth much thought beforehand, you’ve won me over! As a player, I’d have to say that I wouldn’t give the trade system as much attention as you would–it’s not really my style. However, I see no drawbacks to your suggestion, only a vibrant and entertaining part of the game for those who wish to enjoy it!


Thank you very much! I actually started writing this months ago, but I was motivated to finish it after the Desktop Tuesday earlier today.

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I like it, also even though it sounds complicated, in theory it should be quite easy to implement into the game. Especially with the current town system, that has the ability to measure wealth. Also doing this, will make people more keen to have some alliances and not just go on a full rampage (It won’t stop them from doing it if they want to though because of the nature of the game). This is because the more towns, you have an alliance with or atleast a trade agreement with, will bolster your economy, bringing more money into your town since you’ll have access to richer citizens with higher demand.

This is how i think it’ll look in the game. A merchant or caravan will plot it’s routes automatically using a priority system, that prioritizes 2 main things.

  • The wealth of a town.
  • Distance of the nearest town.

The richer a town is the more caravans will go to it, also when a caravan leaves and goes to distant towns, it’ll plot it’s course to the farthest away towns by visiting the wealthiest towns on it’s way there. This would create a very dynamic system, that is influenced purely by market forces and push the players to grow their towns and accumulate wealth, to attract much more merchants, caravans and travellers.

This system would also have an effect on the world, the poorer a town is the less caravans will visit (caravans will visit eventually since they want to visit every town atleast once every few cycles). This will in turn stagnate the town or drive it to work harder or drive it to desparation (raiding, looting, killing etc).

So in a sense, the “nodes” you mentioned will be created by the movements of the caravans, a town may not be very wealthy but it’s the only town for miles around untill the nearest wealthier town so it gets more caravans. Furthermore the caravans are influenced by the effort of the towns to accumulate wealth, especially if they are surrounded by other towns, they will attract and divert the caravans towards them. Then finally the environment will affect trade, if a disaster hits a town, it’s wealth will drop, and if a town was located on a particularly rich seam of iron or coal then it’s much easier to accumulate wealth.

Stonehearth already has the necessary tools to make this happen, in real time, without the use of a “trade simulator”. The caravans will carry gold and goods between villages using the priority system and thus buy more and sell more to the towns they visit and transfer wealth, and it would be dynamic since it doesn’t follow a specified downstream or upstream course, it’ll work more like gravity or magnets, attracting merchants based on their wealth.

If a caravan or merchant is killed or robbed, those goods and gold would be carried away and stored by the thieves, ready to be reclaimed and placed into circulation again!

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I while I do think the innate wealth estimator is nice to have and would be convenient for your proposal, I think it would benefit the game better if it had a few different wealth measurements, so your town could be entirely dependent on trade wealth.

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Perhaps it shouldn’t be that limiting, being entirely dependent might mean it’ll be harder to get where you want in terms of building and getting stronger. I’m sure that if you choose to build an infrastructure on trading you’ll be dependent on it, but thats a choice you make while building your city. Otherwise people should be free to take the self sufficient route, even if it’s slower. Also i can imagine different wealth measurements would be nice, the more information you get when playing these kinds of games the better! But what do you think of the overall proposal of the towns working like magnets that attract caravans that must travel to all the corners of the globe, thus creating this “river” as you put it. A river that is not limited to nodes, but are affected by real-time changes to the environment.

For traders/merchants: I really have to give a shout out to Banished on this one. The game utilizes trading posts for traders to arrive at. You can also set auto trades and trade requests to make sure you get what you need. Furthermore, a “Merchant/Trader” class could really tie into the Game Master system, allowing players to express their economic desires so the game can respond accordingly. Plus it would be cool to have a building that you can assign where traders arrive and watch them roll in with your goods. :smile:

I feel like Stonehearth will really need a solid trade system - especially when you’ve grown to a “city” and resources might become scarce or far away. From the latest Desktop, it looks like they have a great foundation under way. Great ideas, everyone. Keep ‘em comin’!


You’ve clearly put some time into this–very valid points. As much as I hope for at least a degree of the systems and nuances you are suggesting, initial trade is unfortunately likely to be overly simplistic and “use to get item ‘X’”-oriented. It has to start somewhere, to be fair.

Once the team gets farther along in development and they start to turn towards NPC establishments and less player-centered game activity, I feel that they could look into deeper trade. I agree that trade would be a huge gameplay opportunity, especially considering that combat is not the sole focus of the game, unlike many real-time strategy games.

Regardless, seeing the beginning of trade in Stonehearth is exciting. Here’s hoping for serious potential in the future for the economy-driven players.


Really like the idea!

Almost sounds like you might need to add a Banker/ Treasurer/ Diplomat Class type as a - gate mechanic - to show your ready as a settlement to join the supply and demand market (to receive the perks). That way it will give people time to establish themselves a bit before just getting all the gains it could bring.

Maybe they could also add that your competitors (as you start to corner a certain market) will try and sabotage you in some way - sending bandits to raid your village, caravans with your goods ?!


I think that in September 2014 it was definitely a bit early for the developers to give any consideration to ideas like this, however, the discussion was great. I think that ideas along these lines are very much important for the future of this game; without a plausible and exciting game economy, Stonehearth will not be able to live up to itself and the promise of creating epic RPG kingdoms in a fantasy world would be lost. It being 2017, I’m starting to get anxious that Stonehearth will never progress beyond a village simulation. This discussion is highly pertinent, therefore I’m bumping it. What does the current player base think about Stonehearth trading?


Thank you. Even two years later this still means a lot to me.

To be honest I kind of forgot about Stonehearth for about nine-ish months until I got an email saying someone responded to this post. Not that I’ve been actively ignoring it, but rather a plethora of other reasons have really lured me to observe and contribute towards the development of other games.

I’ve grown pretty cynical about SH’s development over the past few years, unfortunately. In 2014 everyone had lofty ambitions for the game like politics, trade, religion, etc. You can easily see in my post that I was very eager to see grand strategy mechanics folded into the game. In fact I still play Europa Universalis IV to this day. Stonehearth on the other hand is kind of a dead game in my library. Nearly three years later and the building tool is pretty clunky and not very satisfying, the AI still has some pretty deep kinks, and the Heathlings still don’t have eyelids. I get that game development can sometimes be slower than molasses and even soul crushing, but one would expect some pretty foundational stuff to be spot on, or at least be usable.

I think a lot of this stems from a complete lack of focus. At least when looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, the team is opting to add “stuff” instead of meaningful and deep systems. For example, when it was implemented, farming simply wasn’t very fun and did’t add much to the game. This could have been mended by having irrigation, climate, soil PH, and fertilizer play into the mix. Even if it didn’t make it fun it would have at least given the players a long term project to work on once they got tired of making dioramas. Well, Radiant’s revolutionary idea to make farming fun was to add carrots pumpkins. Yeah, they just added more “stuff”. Carrots and pumpkins. Cool. Again, this is from an outsider’s perspective and I’m hoping the devs are hard at work developing complex and fun systems to fool around with it. However, if the devs are hard at work just cramming in more “stuff” into the game, and that’s the best they can possibly do, then as a community, we should abandon ship since this is obviously the peak of what SH can be.

I’m pretty sure SH is sort of having an identity crisis, as it doesn’t know whether it wants to be The Sims, Banished, or Dwarf Fortress. At the moment, it lacks the charm and verity of The Sims, the focus and satisfying difficulty of Banished, the systems of Dwarf Fortress, and any meaningful complexity that would come up to at least the ankles of any of the previous three. If the dev’s answer to this identity crisis is to encompass the mechanics of all three, then I’ll be seeing you guys in 2024 where the Hearthlings still don’t blink like they’re in that Dr. Who episode who’s name I forgot.

I’m aware that the team is working on focusing their work into a few key areas, but making the game map look like a storybook won’t change the fact that their game is rotten to its very foundations.

Is it a bad game? No, especially for early access. Additionally, the devs have been extremely responsive which is fantastic. I would have abandoned all hope long ago if their communication hadn’t been so consistent. But it’s certainly not the game I kickstarted back when I was still a high school junior. I may make a new post outlining my general dissatisfaction of the overall game loop if I can work up the time and effort.

I really, truly hope my fears are baseless and in two years, we’ll have trade, religion, flowing water, and agriculture that’s actually meaningful and not a tedious and unsatisfying grind.

My hope is that Radient will reevaluate their priorities with Stonehearth and make interesting, complex systems that will make me want to stick around for more than thirty minutes.

Sorry for coming of as really cynical;. This game may never reach its potential but hey, at least we’ve got ogres so that’s kinda cool I guess.

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It’s funny; it seems that right now a game development cynical generation is being produced. Not saying there are so many people within this group but my personal experience: I discovered KickStarter when I was 12 in 2012 and was amazed that game ideas which had been all but ignored by AAA developers were seemingly becoming a reality on this one site. I didn’t possess a debit/credit card so I couldn’t back anything but I still spent hours poring over Limit Theory, Godus Stonehearth and planetary annihilation.These were game’s whose vision so precisely aligned with what I wanted to play that it was like a drug. Nowhere else could I find this stuff. So, over the course of the years, I’ve been on and off following the games. Sometimes, I’ve checked up on a game every day for a month, while other times I’ve not looked at any of them for months. What I have noticed is that each of these games has had a different story of failure. Godus was definitely the most conspicuous - development stopped, whole community incensed, none of the selling features realised, shady practices. By the time development stopped, I really didn’t care about Godus because they had been systematically killing off the vision that had enticed me. This vision was much the same as Stonehearth presented but the team never got to doing anything about it whereas with Stonehearth, the outcome of the next year will tell us whether our waiting will be rewarded. With Limit Theory everything seemed like it was magic; a one man team, Stanford CS grad, daily Dev logs, monthly videos (highlight of month), shiny graphics, loads of gameplay ideas, systems and features developed at break neck speed. It’s still a shock to me that given this track record, it’s 2017 and in terms of gameplay, the game is still essentially at the same place as 2014. What’s even more surprising is that the developer is still working on it! He is still a tech genius and I still believe his promises - I know how difficult game development is (I spent a month or 2 developing my own failed game). He had disappeared for stretches of nearly half a year due to anxiety and self created stress. He was too much of a perfectionist, what he didn’t realise was that the game didn’t have to be anywhere as good as he imagined for it to be fantastically better than any other game in competition with it. In fact, most just wouldn’t appreciate its perfection. However, coming from the perspective of a 2012 KickStarter backer, this game has spectacularly failed, many backers will have allowed this game (despairingly) to fall into the void of times bygone. Now Stonehearth. To most Stonehearth seems to be in good health. In terms of output it is. The game is being consistently developed. But somehow, what’s being produced isn’t what many of us felt the KickStarter had promised. In a quest (admittedly noble) to simulate everything precisely and create the most polished experience possible, I feel that the raw potential of the game is being lost and no one seems ready to admit it. All 3 games have travelled different courses, and I with them. It’s interesting that I grew up with them, the course of my life has been shaped by these years. I am what is to come and this is what I have seen. I wonder what this will do to the next generation of game development.


Don’t forget we are in Early Alpha, so Bugs and Glitches are expected, with added and removed changes, think of the game as a kid, this kid still needs to hit multiple stages in life to be an adult, like the Rebellious Teen phase, some changes won’t make the cut, or will, or maybe removed in the next alpha release, If I remember on a post while back, the Kickstarter things will be added soon…