Human manufacturing

They said he was crazy, but Big John was certain he was on the right track. He just needed to piss off the UEE enough so the pirates would accept him. He felt bad for the first few Merchant Guilders he pirated, but pretty soon it became routine – a means to an end. Several dozen kills and some narrow escapes from Bounty Hunters later, he was an accepted denizen of Spider, the Cathcart system’s den of thieves. Then it was time to talk to the current pirate leader about his crazy idea…

“Jobe, you’re as much of a leader here as Spider has,” said John. “I need to hire you and a dozen of your best pilots for a special escort mission.”

“Damn, Big John,” Jobe replied, “What the hell do you want a dozen pirate escorts for?”

When Big John shared his plan, he hoped Jobe’s eyes bulged at the audacity of it and not because Jobe was thinking a Starfarer Gemini outfitted as a munitions manufacturing station would be too much of a prize to resist…

In the February 22, 2013 edition of WingMan’s Hangar, CIG’s Chris Roberts confirmed human players would be able to perform manufacturing. This confirmation was “something new” for those of us very much interested in the Star Citizen economy.

I was initially worried humans might be allowed to manufacture ships. Since human ship manufacturing would remove one of the most reliable money sinks in the game, the consequences would considerably complicate the task of balancing the Star Citizen economy.

I started to write this blog entry this morning under the guess what humans would manufacture were in-game consumables and perhaps ship modules. When CIG’s Ben Lesnick dropped into chat this afternoon, I had a chance to ask. He said nothing was “set in stone”™ yet, but humans would most likely be manufacturing consumables and wouldn’t likely be manufacturing ships.

Whew, and yay!

Having human manufacturing opens up all sorts of cool roles in the game. It makes the coding orders of magnitude more complex, but CIG doesn’t seem to be shying away from that at the moment. What remains to be seen is how integrated human roles are throughout the entire supply chain.

To manufacture a missile, for example, one can imagine the required materials. Refined metals, refined fuels, electronics, and refined materials that go ‘boom’. With that list of components, it isn’t too terribly hard to start imagining the supply chain that goes with it.

Refined metals require raw ores and refining capability. Humans could fill both roles or simply sell raw ore to NPCs with refining capabilities.

The same thing for refined fuels. We already know from the 24-hour telethon the Starfarer can be outfitted with refining capability so it can collect gases and refine them into fuels on the run. I’d expect that refining equipment to not be cheap – and the Starfarer isn’t likely to be a cheap vessel either – so one would expect both gas miners and gas refiners as separate human jobs.

Electronics are a little less obvious. They could come from salvage and/or be manufactured by humans from certain ores. I’d expect electronics manufacturing to be a high-dollar enterprise dominated largely by NPCs at the beginning because of the expertise involved. It may be a permanently NPC role depending on how much control CIG wants over this industry.

For the “things that go boom” portion of any missile, it might require tricky refining of certain mined gasses and mined raw ores. From a fiction standpoint, it would make sense for the UEE to want some controls, meaning NPC involvement or at least high dollars for the necessary manufacturing equipment.

Just making a missile, therefore, necessitates a ton of different human roles in the game economy. Such variety is a good thing.

Big John in the fiction up top has what is either a great idea or a really stupid idea. He’s going to set up a munitions manufacturing shop in the middle of pirate-controlled space. He ought to be able to charge a premium for his wares, assuming he’d be one of the few dumb/smart enough to serve that clientele in their own backyard. Pirates, by their nature after all, have a transitory view of “agreements”.

(Incidentally, I have NO idea whether someone might be able to get their hands on the UEE militarized Starfarer Gemini. I also have no idea whether munitions manufacturing can be done from a ship.)

I wrote the fiction to underscore the fact location is everything. Manufacturing facilities are likely going to be attackable. Locating in UEE-policed space will be safer, but there are certainly going to be more competitors. Locating closer to the raw materials will be cheaper, but those materials may well be sourced in less protected space. It’s a balance that ought to make manufacturing in Star Citizen much more amusing than it might otherwise sound.

Not for the first time, I’m glad we exceeded the $6 million pledge mark to trigger the development of the tablet application. CIG has been pretty mum on this, though comments from Chris Roberts and Lead Designer Rob Irving lend weight to my suspicion – that the tablet app will be integrated with the game economy.

I expect Star Citizen industrialists will be able to buy and sell goods on the tablet application. I also think they will be able to contract for things like hauling, bounty, and protective escort services. If I’m right, that means pilots will be able to use the tablet application to troll for business and accept contracts they can execute when they are back in front of their PC.

Very cool.

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