Developer Frontier has explained "one of the most important features" of Elite: Dangerous in their latest newsletter update; the trade system. How does one exchange goods and/or services for space cash?
Blasting each other to bits is fun and all but what about capitalism? Each star system in Elite has its own "basic type of economy" that traders will take note of, and exploit accordingly.
Some of the examples of these economies are Agricultural, Industrial, Hi-tech, Extraction, Refining or Service - but some will have a mix of these as a Jack-of-all-trades system.
"In Elite: Dangerous there are thousands of star systems with commodities markets – and some with multiple markets. Each of these markets exist in a starport – generally an orbital station or stations far above the planet surface," explains Frontier. Buy low, sell high - the policy of any good space merchant.
"The core economies also have further variety, as there are more specialized sub-economies - for example an Aquatic Agricultural economy is focused on marine activities and will not produce Grain or Meat – though the locals may still consume it, so there will be demand for those goods."
"Most markets will only produce a few of the many different possible types of core commodities – and in some places exotic variants of them – so of course you need to explore this fabulous galaxy and discover your own favourite trade runs!"
Governments also play a role in what types of commodities are considered legal or contraband, and this can swing prices in different directions. "The system population determines the scale of production and consumption and capacity of the market - this can be modified by the type of government, too."
"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."
Trading will be rolled out with Alpha 4 of Elite: Dangerous. Frontier have been using something they've dubbed 'MiniElite' to help them refine the galactic markets using the game's AI to test optimal trading routes.
Check out thefrom Frontier to learn more of Elite: Dangerous' upcoming trade mechanics.