I've been working on a small project over the last week or so. I'm really taking a hard look at the mechanics of the in-game economy, and the possibility of enhancements for subscribers.
Essentially, the idea of the game is something of a survival game based on a faraway planet. Economics plays a heavy part in the game, and resource production, aggregation, and sale is going to be where players spend the most time in the game.
One of the ideas I've recently come up with, is static and dynamic economies, and giving players a leg-up for subscribing.
Since the game is based on logical futuristic economics, the cost of moving goods on and off planet is very high. The energy required to move cargo from one solar system to another is much smaller than the energy required to actually get the goods off planet.
I've determined that because of the difficulties of transferring energy on and off planet, moving goods from one terrestrial biome to another would be pretty much useless, so moving matter from one world to another would not be economically viable when there is an effectively infinite amount of matter floating in accretion disks around stars, and just bouncing around in asteroids. The energy required to move from solar system to solar system would be cheaper as well, because energy can be moved across space in wave form without significant loss, and harvested from stars themselves.
So, I've decided that the goods produced on-planet are pretty much going to be consumed on-planet, and only goods that cannot be harvested in a null-g environment would be moved off-planet.
Because of these factors, it is necessary to create three different economy rule-sets.
On-planet value (Factored by shipping cost via terrestrial vehicles)
Off-planet value (Factored by the cost of reaching orbit)
On-planet value to players (players determine shipping cost)
In order for the economy to succeed, there needs to be a static economy (Player-NPC purchase of goods), and a dynamic economy (Player-Player purchase of goods).
I'm considering giving players a leg-up for being subscribers through a system called "branding". This will allow players to gain a reputation for quality/well priced goods. Players earn reputation for the quality of the goods they sell, and at the same time earn reputation for the price of the goods they sell. NPCs are more likely to purchase by product reputation than sheer cost alone, so this will allow players to create a brand if they subscribe, and build brand-loyalty, whereas non-subscribers will only have their products considered based on baseline price and quality.
There will be a certain percentage of NPC buyout that ONLY buy branded goods if they are available, (I'm thinking around 25%), and a certain percentage of NPC buyout that buys based on price alone (Again, thinking around 25%, and the rest of the economy will factor price and quality. (mind you, NPCs purchase goods both on and off planet.)
I'm trying to come up with all the pros and cons of a system like this... Anybody got any other ideas for how I can balance subscribers against non-subscribers without giving too much of an unfair advantage to the subscribers, and without nullifying the purpose of subscription?
I'm considering making sale of goods off-planet a subscriber-only perk, so this will not only allow subscribers access to more of the market, but also allow them to make more in-game money by selling non-subscriber goods off-planet on commission, and taking a share of the profits.
Anybody got any other ways I could throw in subscription benefits that wouldn't affect balance horribly?