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New Version Delay

The release has been further delayed until Friday. On the upside, the NPCs and escorts are quite cool and complex in how they are placed in the universe (more complex than we originally planned for this release). On the downside, they don't work quite right and are piling up unexpectedly in some sectors. We hope to sort it out fairly quickly on Friday (afternoon/evening) and then have plenty of time to babysit the server and make sure everything is working.

At it stands right now, the new NPC traders are allocated to a set number of trade routes that exist in the universe: point-to-point routes between a pair of given stations. The routes begin with a certain "threat" level, and the traders attempt their trade run. If pirated, the "threat" level will be increased on the given trade route, and more escorts will be allocated per NPC trader on successive attempts.

In addition, the traders are best-fit to whatever the allocated route requires to be moved. If only 150cu of cargo needs to be moved, it may show up in a few transports or marauders; if 1500cu needs to be moved, mostly Behemoths will appear. It's pretty obvious how we can expand this to also include NPC freighters of a "capital" scale, and tie it into a supply and demand driven dynamic economy, where NPCs respond to given needs (which in turn creates interesting situations where you can blockade a station to drive up prices, and so on).

At present there are (I think), only four types of NPC "traders" which will appear somewhat at random in the first iteration: the 22cu Bus variant, a marauder, an atlas and the behemoth. Three types of "escorts" will be somewhat randomly chosen to guard them, including the Centurion Mk III, a Vulture and a Warthog.

In the future, it's our intention to expand all these "pools" of possible transports and escorts (and their weapon loadouts), and choose them in ways that make sense according to the cargo, nation of origin, faction affiliation, and threat/danger of the particular route. Thus, an "itani ambassador" might be escorted on his trip to the UIT by a pair of itani military capital ships and several Valk/IBG wings, while he stays on board his armored civilian heavy transport. Alternately, an effort by Corvus to deliver stolen technology to a nearby corporation might take place with a nondescript Atlas guarded by a wing of heavily armed Vulturius fighters. All of this would, it is intended, be tied into the mission system and other gameplay to create interesting, dynamic situations that can potentially be used to trigger faction-related or universal story-arc progression, and lots of other fun stuff.

But first, we have to make them not get all confused and wander around randomly. So, first things first. At any rate, that's what we're shooting for tomorrow. We hope you'll join us for the release. Sorry to all those who have come online in hopes of being present for it over the last two days. Best laid plans of bugs and game development..