The Trading System in Fireside
As you might have heard already, we applied for funding at the beginning of February and are happy to announce that we will receive funding from the FFF Bavaria to develop a vertical slice of Fireside. In preparation for the application, we not only added Ilona to the team as our new writer (read about it here), but we also fleshed out a lot of systems.
One of these systems is the trading and gifting mechanic. In this post, we will share our current design and plans.
First, let’s talk about the goals and requirements of the system. Since Fireside places you in the role of a merchant travelling the land and helping people, we do not want to rely on a simple currency that can be exchanged against every item (like gold coins). Instead, we want to focus on the exchange of items. This is closer to the vision of a wholesome atmosphere at a campfire than thinking about money. It also requires the player to think about the needs and wants of their trade partner.
Let’s see how the value of items is calculated in Fireside:
The player can carry seven items in their inventory, but identical items can be stacked up to five times in a single inventory slot. The player can either find items at the roadside, receive them as quest rewards from an NPC, or trade an item for a different one. Some items directly help the player on their travels (e.g. special gear to overcome roadblocks), while other items are useful to the player because other characters are interested in trading them.
To decide what is a fair trade, the system needs to have a way to compare the value of two items against each other. We designed the following system to achieve this: Each item is part of a category (like tools, food, or drink). Each category has a hidden meta currency that allows to set a certain value for each item in this category, that is directly comparable to the value of other items in this category.
- 4x Apples ⟺ 1x meta Food
- 1x Steak ⟺ 2x meta Food
- 1x Pickaxe ⟺ 1x meta Tool
To allow trades between categories, we define an exchange rate between the meta currencies of the categories (each category has an exchange rate against every other category).
- 5x meta Food ⟺ 1x meta Tool
With these values, we can calculate the equivalent value of one item in other items.
- 20x Apples ⟺ 1x Pickaxe
- 2,5x Steaks ⟺ 1x Pickaxe
A similar result could be achieved by giving each item a value in a hidden currency. But we think that our system makes it easier for our designer to create and balance a believable and coherent price structure.
The second thing we need to address for our trading system are the character’s individual needs:
By categorising our items into various groups, we are able to give a character a need for a certain category of items (e.g., food). For a character with a need for food, any food item will have a higher value. Thus, they will accept trades that give them food even when the trade is not fair under normal conditions. It is also possible to incorporate different situational influences into this system. An example would be the heightened need for food during snowfall. In that case, everybody needs more food, which increases the value of food items. However, this could also go in the opposite direction: The presence of a farmer, who just harvested his field, will decrease the value of food items due to an oversupply of food.
So how can you calculate the fairness of a trade offer in this system?
It is a simple multiplication of all factors.
Based on this fairness value. the trade partner can decide whether they accept (0.9 – 1.15 fairness) or reject (< 0.9 fairness) the trade. When an NPC rejects a trade offer, the player loses interaction points (stay tuned for more information on this feature) spent on making the offer, but there are no other penalties. A trade offer with a fairness value over 1.15 can lead to a strengthened relationship with the character and generates soul energy (also a topic for another post).
Lastly, let’s have a look at bartering within this system:
We already talked about the advantages of an item against item trading system in comparison to a normal money-based system. But there is also a downside to this concept. The player does not know the value of an item in comparison to another one, especially at the beginning of the game. In the case of a classic money-based system, there is always a price associated with an item. To avoid the problem and focus on the interesting parts of the system, we plan to implement a scale that shows the objective fairness of the current trade offer. This scale will show the fairness of the current offer but without taking the situation-based factors into account. So, in order to judge the situation, the player must listen to the characters and what they have to say to make a trade that helps everyone.
This is not the final UI design but it shows how we imagine the player can interact with the system.
We are quite happy with this design for now but have not started implementing it, so if you have any ideas or tips to improve the system, you can leave them below or discuss them with us on our Discord or via Twitter.
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