I would say regarding Oolite's balance and general playability that there are three general strands of thought for what sort of game Oolite should be:
- as faithful a reimplementation as possible of the original Elites (inc Elite+) on modern hardware
- a modern reimplementation of Elite with its own extensions and feel
- a space trading-combat game loosely in the spirit of Elite
Generally I think in practice it fits somewhere between the 1st and the 2nd, and given what the project is moves towards the 3rd would be immensely controversial.
The first view is just a dead end. Sounds entirely resistant to change. If you want a purely nostalgic experience, there are always emulators.
Equally moving towards the 3rd would make the game much more bland to me, without the history of the original game to build upon.
Is there a 'recommended modpack' to add to the base game that improves these issues? If so I failed to spot it...
2) The trade goods are pretty boring and don't take system danger into account, and there's really only two economy types and one plausible trade good each way
+ many other interrelated issues.
Or rather, ditch the idea that the player picks and chooses their cargo, item by item. Seriously. Dump it. Forget the economics of interplanetary trade, forget supply-and-demand: the in-game economy has only one purpose: to allow the player to earn money, to keep their ship flying and to afford more and better stuff.
I wouldn't throw out the simple trade system from the original game without at least trying to fix it first.
In an Adder, trading progress is very slow
Adder was always an oversized system shuttle. Being able to witch jump just means it is also a scout ship. Like a large sidewinder. Neither were implied to be capable of trading I think.
Even the elite manual made trading sound as though there were better prices to be had at the more dangerous systems. My ship variation oxp (WIP) makes trading a little more interesting based on sytem inhabitants. Astrobe's point about the game becoming easier rings true here.
This is exactly the point I would make to anyone complaining this is going too far away from the original game.
Such an improvement would be fully supported by the original lore of the game.
Agricultural planets invariably have excess produce at reasonable prices, and food sells well at industrialised, middle- to high-technology worlds. Raw materials, and ores, will sell well to middle-tech worlds, which are usually able to refine them. and the refined product can fetch excellent prices at worlds of very high tech status.
The rules are complex, and anarchy and piracy has its effect on causing the rules to change.
In trading with a planet, consider its economic profile:
Agricultural worlds need specialist food and raw materials, but mostly basic machinery and spare parts. If they are rich, they need luxuries and high tech industrial machines. They produce food in quantity, raw materials and specialised 'organic' items, like some textiles.
Industrial worlds need agriculturual produce; raw materials (for refining); resource exploitation machiner; (if rich) high tech goods. They produce basic items of need for civilised worlds: beds, seals and gaskets, power storage units, basic weapons, mass produced fertiliser, mass produced medicines etc.
Think about a planet's needs.
Think what might make the society function.
Don't trade expensive trivia to a hungry world.
Lave is an agricultural world, and Enzaer an industrial planet, but a similar principle operates on both surfaces. There are two trading standards, that of the people and that of the Aristocracy. Standards of living are artificially generated, a veneer of progress, and luxury goods, machinery and textiles sell well - usually. The great demand, however, is for basic commodities, especially foodstuffs, clothing and raw materials. These will sell well when the voice of the People has been raised in protest.
(Concerning Anarchy planets):
Anarchic worlds will trade readily in narcotics, slaves, firearms and exotica, and the price will be good... if you get a price at all.
These worlds pay heavily for goods they cannot produce themselves, because they know that traders avoid them. Their own products need specialised, illegal outlets: weaponry, narcotics, eavesdropping devices... if it's covert, then anarchic worlds are producing it. Trade in these items and you will get rich quick, or dead quick, or at least become a 'Fugitive'.
Always felt that the game was intended to have a much more subtle trading game than what it had. Perhaps due to time or memory contraints it was cut, but reading the manual heavily implies that it was not intended to be just a 2 system type galaxy, and both economy type, wealth, government type, and tech level would all affect different commodities to different degrees.
In such a system, trading commodity X from system A to system B might make good money. But equally it might be that system B has no cheap option to sell back to system A, encouraging the player to look for a new trading path time and again as he explores the map....
But expecting so much back when 'gameplay balance' was likely not even understood is perhaps a bit much?