Devlog: Deal-making mechanics

What makes trader a trader

While it may sound like one, Vital Deal is not meant to be a classic trading/merchandising  game. Of course you buy and sell stuff, but Vital Deal is not about seizing a business opportunity – it’s about creating it.

When working on Vital Deal core mechanics, we want to grasp that ‘feel’ of doing business in motion and under pressure. Unlike classic trading sims, Vital Deal focuses on managing relations and time, rather than scrutinizing the prices in search of the best sell-buy ratio. And if you want to strike a good deal, you’ll need to work on building the relationship with your business partner. Or you can be a cunning rascal. Anyway, in Vital Deal your character operates in the setting populated by actors that will work out their own view on PC, based on how you treat them. But the very first condition of starting a relationship is getting to know each other, and that’s where networking mechanics comes in. If you want to acquaint someone, you need to invest in the relationship – and the time is the main currency here. The more time you spend with someone, the more he is getting to trust you. However, if you wish that acquaintance to be fruitful from the business viewpoint, you’d better stick to the right people! By default, in Vital Deal, you start off with only a handful of contacts that barely recognize you, but if you do well, you’ll earn their trust and make them giving you more contacts. The more your contacts trust you, the better deal opportunities arise, and if you’re smart and well organized, you can manage multiple contacts and expand your network. In Vital Deal, your contact network is your actual working space and the paramount moments are when you strike a good deal. But working out a good deal requires some tense negotiation that may damage the relationship if pushed too far. Here is how it works.

Key parameters

When describing each PC-NPC relation four parameters are taken into account:

trust: reflects subjective quality of long-term relationship. The higher the trust, the more tolerant the NPC is toward PC and the more exclusive deals are available. It’s also easier to do the fraud. High trust allows the PC to offer relatively higher prizes and the patience penalty is relatively small if PC crosses the treshold. The trust is built in time, and is affected by the history of deals with certain NPC, PC prestige and the time spent in company of certain NPC. The PC can loose trust by cheating on NPC and burning his esteem during negotiations (see below). Exact trust value is unknown to the player, it can only be estimated based on recent history of relationship with NPC. Negative trust value means that NPC is hostile toward the PC and is actively trying to fight him on economical, social or even physical ground.

patience: reflects the subjective quality of short-term (in-negotiation) relationship. When it falls to zero, the negotiations are ceased and the PC has to arrange another meeting with this NPC. The basic patience is linked to NPC tolerance, but in can be modified by distressing the NPC for example by being late for arranged meeting, or negotiating in aggressive manner. PC can, however, ‘burn’ his esteem during the negotiations in order to block/reduce the NPC patience loss during negotiation, this however results in the penalty to NPC trust. Exact patience value is unknown to the player, it can only be estimated based on NPC facial and verbal expressions

prestige: represents objective social standing of the PC. This is calculated based on PC wealth, reputation and style; PC can gain prestige by sealing high-value deals, keeping the terms of contracts, making acquaintances with folks in high places etc. Exact prestige value is presented and known to the player.

esteem: this is prestige projection on certain PC-NPC relationship, thus it reflects the subjective PC prestige from NPC viewpoint. During the negotiation, the PC can ‘burn’ his esteem to push the tolerance limits of NPC and allow aggressive price bidding. Burning esteem however, causes the trust of the NPC to drop, thus it is a short-term strategy. The esteem is not replenished during the negotiation, it may however recover overtime. Exact esteem value is presented and known to the player.

 

Negotiating a deal

Each transaction has following phases:

  1. Know your contact – result of networking mechanics in social system.The PC must have a contact to his contractor in order to start the transaction. Once acquainted, the PC knows where and when to reach the contractor. When acquainted, a trust value is assigned to this certain relationship based on PC prestige. Key parameter: prestige.
  2. Schedule the meeting– PC schedules the meeting based on NPC availability calendar. PC arranges a meeting within NPCs availability time-slots. The higher PC prestige, the wider are the slots of NPC availability. Key parameter: prestige.
  3. Arrival– PC has to attend the meeting on scheduled time. If PC is being late, the NPCs patience is gradually dropping. If NPCs patience reaches zero before PC arrives, the meeting is cancelled. As a general rule, the NPCs patience is proportional to NPCs trust towards PC, so a trustful NPC is willing to wait longer for the PC. Key parameter: trust.
  4. Negotiations – PC and NPC are making a bargain, each side is attempting to make a good deal. The object of negotiations (the contract) is irrelevant from the mechanical point of view, price is the thing that matters. The delivery details are defined within the contract. The character with higher prestige has a right to decide who will present his price offering at first. The NPC has a nominal value of bargain, which is hidden to the player, there is also a tolerance margin from nominal value, and the rule is that the higher the trust, the higher the margin. When PC bids above NPC tolerance margin, the NPC patience is reduced proportionally to excess value over the margin. In turn, NPC presents counteroffer, and the whole process is repeated until NPC patience reaches zero (negotiations are cancelled), both sides agree on the bargain (the deal is sealed) or the PC withdraws from negotiations. Key parameter: patience.
    1. Pressing the negotiations – the PC can decide to overwhelm the NPC with his presence and gain some forced advantage. When offering his price, the PC may choose to ‘burn’some esteem which makes the NPC tolerance margin to go higher, but also reduces NPC trust. In general, burining the esteem is a strategy that sacrifices a long term trusted relationship for the sake of quick profit.
    2. Altering the contract – the PC can modify the parameters of the contract in order to manipulate its value: for example he can reduce the expected delivery time and raise the price. The ‘real’ value of the contract is recalculated off-screen and the player must guess the price as usual and risk missing the tolerance margin.
    3. Cease the meeting – this can be done either by PC by withdrawing the negotiations at any time, or by NPC when his patience reaches zero. When the meeting is ceased, the NPC trust is reduced a bit, and the PC needs to arrange another meeting.
    4. Seal the deal – the deal is sealed if PC accepts NPC offer, or when PC bids within NPC tolerance margin
  5. Delivery – the PC must organize or perform the delivery of goods at time at place defined in the contract. If PC is late with delivery, the trust penalty is applied for relationship with ceretain NPC, as well as player prestige. Key parameter: realisation time.
  6. Payment – depending from the NPC trust, the payment can be done up-front or after the delivery. For high trusts, the PC has an option to take the payment up-front. Not delivering the cargo after taking the payment results in severe penalty for certain NPC trust and PC prestige. In this phase, apart from money transfer, all resulting prestige and trust boosts/debuffs are applied.

This messy illustration below summarizes the general rules of negotiation mechanics:

Dynamics

The following dynamics build an overall VD experience in terms of exploiting the game mechanics:

  1. Managing time – schedule appointments, organize deliveries, watch deadlines
  2. Buying goods – pay money, get stuff
  3. Selling goods – give stuff, take money
  4. Bartering – give stuff, take stuff
  5. Negotiating – know your client and use this knowledge wisely
  6. Giving goods – earn local loyalty by giving away your cargo or selling it for cheap
  7. Cheating – take the money up-front from trusted contractor, and get away with the cargo
  8. Generating supply – donate local farming community and increase the food production
  9. Generating demand – sell spoiled food to locals and wait for demand on medicine
  10. Manipulating prices – buy a shit load of medicines during epidemics and watch the price going up
  11. Fueling conflicts – sell/give a lot of guns to locals
  12. Boosting the progress – deliver lot of hi-tech to locals
  13. Leveraging profit – risk your reputation in short-deadline deliveries, or take on hazardous deliveries
  14. Smuggling – optimize your costs by trading goods without concession or use shady concession available at hand, up the stakes by transporting goods that are illegal in the area

 

Example case

You arrive as a newcomer to the city of Zubar, with only a handful of contacts, some loose cash and cargo of guns hidden in stash in the desert. First thing you decide is building up your prestige – you buy some fancy suit, reflective shades and put a new paint on your dronecar. Then you visit some local bonzos and try to spend some time with them, rubbing shoulders, earning some trust. Finally you get the message that one of your fresh contacts – a local ganglord Zed Zando is willing to buy some firepower (X guns, to be exact). You call him and schedule the meeting. You don’t know each other well, so you assume he doesn’t trust you much – thats why a timeslot proposed for the meeting is dangerously thin. The meeting will take place in smugglers den in commoner district. Arriving there takes you some time and it seems that you need a positive opinion of gang-thugs to let you in. You need to hang out a bit with them, to earn some trust, but it takes you some time and makes the ganglord awaiting you a bit angry (slight patience penalty for being late on meeting). Luckilly, your pumped-up prestige and resulting trust, makes a patience loss less painful. You know the contract conditions and bid your price. It seems you missed a price tolerance of ganglord, which results in further patience loss – his face is starting to look almost enraged. You decide to play it rough. You burn some of your esteem and press the negotiations – ganglord patience is locked for this round and his price tolerance is expanded, but along with your esteem you burn ganglords trust. You’re determined to take the risk and rebuild the trust by professionaly completing this contract. You alter the conditions of contract scheduling really quick delivery, and while the ganglord doesn’t trust you much there is not much freedom in altering the place of delivery. You only have about 10 real-life minutes to deliver the cargo to abandoned LC military base. You rent a cargo dronecar with some porters, leave your personal dronecar on the lot, and rush to your hidden stash in the desert. You load the cargo with help of porters and fly over the desert to the abandoned base. You make it just on time, and after unloading you receive a fat money transfer, prestige boost and significant bonus to ganglords trust toward you.

And that’s it for today. Keep your eyes out of next blog entries!

Opublikowano w Devlog | Zostaw odpowiedź

O Adam Wołoszczuk

co-founder, chief technobabble officer. Aspiring creator who is yet still struggling to let it go. Even though he’s firmly convinced that it’s mechanics that makes the game, he does write good texts. Comes up with fun game mechanics ideas, though if you get to see his thinking processes from up close, you really wonder how.

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