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One thing that has bothered me for a long time is the lack of immersive life and meaningful activity in the OW. What I'm going to propose is something that will hopefully make even those "dead" NPC traders interesting to OW hunters, and at the same time something that may appeal to the aspiring merchant mogul. Traders all know the bore of sailing for a long time in the admittedly rather dull OW of Naval Action, and OW hunters all know how unsatisfactory it is to capture NPC traders even if they carry valuables, simply because it has no impact on enemy players, therefore I propose hauling contracts in three different variants: Internal hauling contract: The Player will use own ship(s) and crew. The ship(s) will be fully controlled by NPC on the OW from point A to point B as well as in potential instances. External hauling contract: The Player puts up a contract for goods to be transported to a specific port. Time limit as well as class range of ship(s) required specified by the Player. Ship(s) provided and controlled by the taker of the contract. Contracts can only be taken by same nation players having the specified ship class (and fleet) ready; you can't leave port without the right configuration. Payment on delivery. Upon failure, the contract taker will pay a compensation specified in the contract - the contract can't be taken if this amount is not owned. Escort hauling contract: The Player provides the hauling ship(s) from his own dock with his own crew. Time limit as well as escort class range of ship(s) required specified by the Player. Escort ship(s) provided and controlled by the contract taker who is to lead the hauler(s) to the destination. Contracts can only be taken by same nation players having the specified ship class (and fleet) ready; you can't leave port without the right configuration. Payment on delivery. Upon failure, the contract taker will pay a compensation specified in the contract - the contract can't be taken if this amount is not owned. Now, all of this will be very handy for the traders and crafters, but it will be a boon for the OW hunters as well. Instead of players being limited to one trade run at a time they can now delegate to NPC and other players willing to do the hauling/escorting. This will mean more traffic in the OW, and meaningful traffic at that. No longer will the hunters pass by those boring AI traders without a second thought - perhaps they're carrying a precious load sent out by an enemy player! Furthermore, this addition would benefit from some changes to outpost management - these have already been partially requested - but I shall briefly outline how I envision it: All outpost warehouses, docks, and production buildings can be managed from anywhere - even at sea. This may sound unrealistic or immersion-breaking etc. but if you consider it for a while: does production stop when the owner is away? Is there no staff at hand that can see to it that it is kept up? We must imagine that the Player doesn't only control his navy officer (or equivalent) but also his estate and dock managers etc. It should also allow you to make hauling contracts anywhere, so you can get produced goods hauled from far away outposts without personally going there. Another thing that is connected to this is the "tow ship" mechanic. I think this has to be rethought. Either it should be the hardcore way, meaning it has to be sailed, if not by you or another player, then by NPC (similar to the hauling contracts with the possibility of a strong escort, while not having to do it yourself). The moderate version may be to make it take a very long time to reach its destination, though the more mechanics we have that bypass the OW, the more dead it will be. A hurdle to get past is of course the NPC pathfinding on the OW, but I have every confidence that this can be solved by the developers, and even that it is something that they intend to improve in any case. I'd love to hear your opinions on these suggestions.
All hauling MUST be done on the open sea. At least thats my opinion. Therefor it does not matter if stuff is hauled by NPC or PPL. I am aware of the impact a fully AI driven real time hauling system can have on the server, so I recommend to limit NPC hauling ships to a fixed amount, i.e. 10 or 20 for each port (it really depends on the server load). Those hauling NPCs should not have a specific base harbor, they will do the hauling as it is scheduled by the players. To prevent players stacking hauling contracts, each player can place one hauling contract every 30 minutes. Example: A player places a hauling contract from Port A to B wich will be placed in the schedule. The server looks if there is a hauler available. If all haulers are in use. If a hauler is available, a ship will be generated by the server and starts to travel from A to B, having exactly the cargo on board, that was ordered for delivery. If the hauler reaches its destination, the server will "delete" the ship and proceeds with the next hauling contract in the schedule. While this is gonna happen, the player might get notified, once the procedure starts and once it arrived or - in worst case - once it was lost on the OS. [optional] Escorts: The player should also have the possibility to decide whether he wants to add an escort to the hauler or not. Escort should cost an extra fee. [optional] Insurance: The player should also have the possibility to decide whether he wants to have his haul insured or not. Insurance should cost an extra fee. So instead of having all the NPC ships sailing around without having anything to do and beeing just there for the grind, make an AI with a job. If you can do so - and I bet you can - you will solve 2 issues at the same time: Having NPCs sailing around acting as a target for player and having a proper "real time hauling system". For the player this system will be easy to use, so i cant see any game design issues. If i missed something feel free to show me. Cheers and happy dicussing. Brog