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  1. THE PROBLEM: One of the structural problems in the current economy appears to be the constraint the Euro Trader mechanic places on the growth of a nominally healthy contract market. Changes to the ET have been previously mentioned by @admin in the context of adjusting taxation: In order of priority the ET mechanic ought to be addressed first. At the present the ET places an effective boundary to price rises in core commodities used to craft ships and cannons. As the as the price of a contract to sell approaches 4x production costs the length of time to complete the contract increases. This is to be expected. But the result unfortunately appears to be that the maximum that a seller can charge and have the contract complete in a reasonable amount of time appears to range between 2x and 2.5x the production cost. This does not allow the merchant to factor in labor hours as a cost, and is not competitive vs the money to be made in the transport of dropped trade goods. It seems possible to consistently maximize hold values of trade goods at approximately 3x purchase price. This decreases the incentive for new entrants into contract markets where the ET is active. Why invest in production capacity to sell at contract when better money can be made elsewhere that does not require labor hours? There have been exceptions. There was a player who seemed to be consistently placing stone contracts Charleston at 8x production cost. I've concluded this was intended to exploit the ignorance of new players. Not all seal-clubbing occurs at sea. But then again, stone is a market with very little contract activity to begin with, which is what makes that sort of nonsense possible. The ET also appears to exacerbate price collapses in those resources where a healthy production capacity exists. As an example, the iron market is currently in overproduction in US ports and seems to consistently price below 2x production cost. But as the ET limits the price rises elsewhere there is not a lot of money to be made transporting iron out of the US reinforcement zones. The iron market is saturated and is likely to stay that way for a while as a result. Inventory appears to be getting dumped into port stocks, further depressing the possible contract price. A PROPOSAL: 1) The ET should automatically suspend operation in any port where the total sold count over time for all resource contracts reaches a set threshold. Reaching the threshold signals the existence of healthy contract markets and the ET is no longer necessary. Price rises in in production resources will then be mitigated by the entrance of new producers into the markets as the returns become competitive with dropped trade goods. Some server-side data collection will be necessary to establish the threshold, but one possible set-point might be an average of current sales contract volumes in from all capital ports on the Caribbean server. This might not work, however, on PvE, where the player population is probably too low for the average to have any meaning. 2) The ET should resume operation in any port where the total sold volume falls below the threshold. This provides a safety net in the event of a regional population collapse, allowing players to obtain resources, and limiting exploitation in markets with a limited number of sellers. 3) The UI should signal the presence of an active ET mechanic, with the appearance of some sort of flag in the shop screen. 4) Once the ET threshold has been successfully set the stamp tax can then be applied in the reinforcement zones to activate in concert with it. When this threshold is reached a healthy regional economy exists that will support taxation. The tax will now generate an outward pressure on player production toward ports outside of the reinforcement zones where applying the tax in the absence of a healthy economy would merely hasten implosion. AN OBSTACLE: There are not currently enough types of necessary or desirable production buildings. My thinking on this has shifted somewhat since posting here: At that point I thought it was possible for a non-alt player to compete in the economy against a player using one or more alts. I have since concluded that this is in reality quite difficult. Alts have an effect on the economy that reaches beyond direct competition against another player. They enable a player to opt out of contract markets, or exploit them without fulling participating. They can sell in a market, and in some cases manipulate it, but do not actually have to buy anything from it. Some players with alts might buy at contract but there is no inherent need to do so. Having (briefly) been the resource manager in one of the newer clans I am also not convinced that players with alts have any inherent incentive to cooperate in stocking a clan warehouse. But that is a separate issue. This ought to have been blindingly obvious at the time. But the effect wasn't completely clear until after I purchased the Admiralty DLC and discovered I could do something similar. The difference being the DLC provides a slight brake on this in the form of labor hours and outpost permits, but as a practical matter there is no difference between the two when considering the actual effect on the economy. Alts and the Admiralty DLC become weeds on the hull. The economy can tolerate a small amount of this but at some point, the drag created will cancel out any meaningful forward motion. Any sort of adjustments to the contract markets are unlikely to have a visible positive effect, as long as a players have a way to sell resources without being obligated to buy any. The number of types of useful player production buildings needs to be radically expanded. It probably ought to be at least double what can be controlled by a player using the Admiralty DLC, or a player using a single alt. The only other alternative to radically expanding the number buildings appears to be abandoning the contract system altogether. But this removes an entire tier of player-generated content from the game and seems to me to increase the onus on the developers to develop more.
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