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.