The Exploration Economy

When the drunk in that Haven dive bar kept blabbing about ships just disappearing in the Xi’an’s Shaanxi system, I figured he was telling old stories of Xi’an/UEE border skirmishes. Then the bartender told me he hadn’t heard of any Xi’an ship firing on a human vessel in months. I figured the chance was next to zero the Xi’an hadn’t charted a jump hole in Shaanxi given its proximity to Titan’s UEE ‘science’ outposts. I went anyway, figuring maybe the interstellar gods recently decided to decided to plunk one down. When my sensors finally detected the hole, I was – as my Great (x5) Uncle Sinclair used to say – so far off the beaten path it would take two bloodhounds and a Ouija board to find me. I’d never seen readings like that and, sure enough, it was the roughest ride I’ve ever had in the dozen holes I’ve charted. Truth told when I popped out here, the cockpit was smoking and I was just happy not to be sucking vacuum. That lasted the 60 seconds it took for the nav computer to figure out ‘here’ was so close to the central planets. Then I was happy because I knew I was going to be very, very rich.

One of the beauties of the Star Citizen universe is the potential to make money in a wide variety of roles. Combat fans can be bounty hunters, mercenaries, or pirates. If you like making something out of nothing, gathering fuel or mining minerals is probably your calling. Trading goods, servicing ships, hiring out as crew – all are likely to be viable ways to make significant sums on the Galaxy Server.

Perhaps no role in a space game is quite so romantic as the explorer. Despite days or weeks of doing little more than staring at sensor readings, the explorer’s life isn’t boring. Top-end sensor equipment isn’t cheap, which means explorers are tasty prey for the opportunistic. Being on the galactic edge all the time means you’re always running into Xi’an, Vanduul, or Banu ships – or other explorers more than willing to take you out to eliminate competition. Woe to the explorer who skimps on speed, shields, or firepower for their spacecraft.

The pay is likely quite handsome, however. Finding a jump hole saving travel time for a lucrative trade route will bring big dollars from the mapping companies – who turn around and sell those nav pack updates to hundreds of thousands of other pilots.

The fame isn’t bad, either. Find a jump hole and you can name it. If there is a new system at the other end, you can name that, too. (With CIG’s blessing on the names, of course).

I expect there will be sponsored missions for explorers just like there are for mercenaries and merchants – maybe even an official “Explorer’s Guild” in the game. The game’s AI or even human players could contract with explorers to chart asteroid fields or planets for useable minerals. When new systems are discovered, it will be a literal land rush to figure out how to make money – and explorers will probably have NPC and human customers willing to pay for that information.

I expect the lump sum paid to explorers for finding new jump holes and new systems will be among the largest payouts in the game given the economic potential and rarity of the finds. On a credits per hour basis, who knows where exploration will fall. But when an explorer does make a find, it will be a happy payday.

I do have one significant concern about the exploration economy, however, connected to CIG’s steadfast support for the modder community.

Let’s say I create a private “exploration server” of the Star Citizen universe. I dial down the combat settings to make combat very rare. I make ships and powerful sensor equipment cost next to nothing. I dial up the speed of those ships by a factor of 10 and increase sensor strength by a factor of 100. With my private server thereby optimized for rapid exploration, I would be able to locate new jump holes and systems much more rapidly than would ever be possible on CIG’s public Galaxy Server.

Once I have the coordinates of a new jump hole or system from my exploration-optimized private server, I could log into my separate character on the Galaxy Server and travel directly to the exact point of discovery – no days or weeks of searching and no relying on tips from drunks in dive bars. Just a direct path to significant cash payments and my name plastered all over the public Galaxy Server.

This will be a problem CIG has to solve. Simply randomizing grid locations for new jump holes isn’t enough. Even knowing that new System X is connected to existing System Y via the exploration-optimized private server gives the operator of that private server a huge advantage over people who stick with the Galactic Server. As GI Joe always says, “Knowing is half the battle.” That’s never more true than when exploring.

My guess on the way CIG will handle it is to give mod server admins the power to create their own “hidden” systems and jump holes, but update “official” new jump holes and new systems only after they are found on the public Galaxy Server. This might not be popular with modders who want to keep perfect private replicas of the Galaxy Server, but I believe it is necessary to preserve the integrity of the exploration economy on the public Galaxy Server.

Providing mod server admins the tools to populate their server with hidden systems and jump holes of their own design is likely to be a common request anyway. Doing so is a win-win, fulfilling that modder desire and maintaining the exploration component for private servers without “giving away” lucrative locations on the Galaxy Server.




One thought on “The Exploration Economy

  1. It’s worth noting two days after I posted this entry, CIG published a Spectrum Dispatch entitled: “UEE Queries: Jump Points”.

    Looks like both the fiction I started my post with and the blog content match what CIG published pretty well.

Leave a Reply