Elite: Dangerous's trading systems detailed by Frontier

Phil Savage at

Andy's got you covered if you want to know about Elite: Dangerous's more exciting elements, like ship combat or Oculus implementation. But stick with me if you want juicy details about the real hot action. In a recent newsletter for the upcoming space sim, the development team have detailed the intricacies of trading. I'm breaking out into sweats just thinking about it.

"The rules are, of course, simple and universal," write Frontier, "buy goods cheaply, where they are made and there is plentiful supply, and then sell them where prices are high, in a location that has a high demand for your cargo. Of course that may be easier said than done because of people who have honed their combat skills and are not averse to a little piracy as they spot you travelling from A to B."

The economy is powered by commodity markets, of which thousands exist throughout the game's many star systems. Each system has its own economy—the developers list Agricultural, Industrial, Hi-tech, Extraction, Refining and Service as examples—and each main type can be further specialised through sub-economies. As most markets will only produce a few specialised commodities, players are encouraged to explore for rare goods and low prices.

"As in today’s world, supply and demand drive prices," write Frontier. "Elite: Dangerous’ galactic market uses a server-based background trading simulation as a foundation. Initial supply and demand levels are influenced via trading between local systems. In this way, markets are not isolated but affect their near neighbours; if there is an increase or decrease in the supply of a particular commodity it will have a knock on effect on the pricing in other local systems too, as traders (AI or player) rapidly level the prices a little based on supply and demand."

Markets can also be affected by players. The smaller the economy, the more an individual can impact upon it, but even larger financial systems can feel pressure from groups working in tandem.

The system is further complicated by governments. "The type of government in each system helps define the legality of individual goods in that particular market; ranging from anarchies where ‘anything goes’, to theocracies who have their own idiosyncratic strict proscriptions." This is perhaps the thing I'm most looking forward to. Trade, by itself, isn't the most exciting prospect, but instantly takes on a different meaning when it's part of a black market smuggling run.

You can read the developer's full update here.