Free traders

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This page is part of the Unknown Horizons Design Document. Please discuss everything concerning this topic on the "discussion" tab of this page. If you're not sure whether your ideas are fitting the Unknown Horizons style, either use the related discussion page or ask us. Please don't directly edit the article!

The Free Trader is a simple Artificial Intelligence in the game whose main topic is trading. He is a supply for goods - each deal however needs to yield profit. By establishing trading connections with all involved parties and with the Old World, too, the Free Trader is a valuable connection and good relations to him can decide a match.



The function of the Free Trader is to ensure the availability of goods which under normal circumstances are needed, but can not be produced at all or as extensively as necessary by the player in early stages of development. An example for this necessity are Tools.

Trading terms & Cargo control

The Free Trader needs to optimize the limited space of the ship's hold, the stock slots and the overall weight of goods to reach highest possible efficiency. Therefore remainders have to get sold quickly and surpluses are not welcome, player's offers and demands need to be analyzed. In general the Free Trader's purpose is to earn much money with little effort.

Cultivation of FT's Base Post

Possessing enough money and construction material, the Free Trader is able to extend storage capacities. Later in the game the Free Trader is also able to build shipyards, producing self-required ships (merchant/escort) and other ships to sell them. Players can have their their ships repaired at the Free Trader's shipyard as well, but it is more expensive than repairing them in an own yard. We should discuss the possibility of the traders putting up own buildings (like farms or improvement buildings) to produce goods on their own. [ The trade colonie is rising up all the time, it exist out of storages and harbours and also out of weir systems to defend the base against pirates or adverse players. ]

Trade ...

... on island

[Depending of the size of a port, the free trader as a different mount of slots for selling. The free trader will sell there remainders and other goods, which not easy to sell.]

... with natives

The Free Trader can highly benefit from bartering with natives. Thus the AI tries to bargain over best contract conditions and then exchanges the maximum quantity of those goods. Furthermore, if the Free Trader sees advantages in it, he also may offer support to the natives and help them extending their settlement. This often happens if they can provide badly needed goods which promise high profit margins.

... with the Old World

From time to time, ships of the Old World arrive to supply the Trader with goods and deal with colonial produce.


The initial mood of the Free Trader towards any player is 'Neutral'. Players can increase their reputation by selling goods which are barely needed, cutting deals of which the Free Trader benefits a lot or some other factors (to be added). Increasing the reputation leads to the Free Trader preferring to trade with the player, trading ships more frequently stopping by and, of course, having better chances of fair deals. Pirates however are initially set as 'Hostile'. There will be bounties put on them depending on the heaviness of particular threats the Free Trader encountered. Annihilating whole Pirate Islands is also rewarded well.

Legwork (and Quests?)

Having the Free Trader's mood increased, the player may get asked to provide informal support sometimes. Accepting this job, the player tries to afford specific goods and deliver them as fast as possible.


The Free Trader needs some conditions to act well. Those are, first of all, a list of all player's settlements (updated after each new foundation, release and extinction) and a list of all goods' average prices. It is advantageous for the Free Trader to possess an own storage, but he can work on-the-fly without having any base, too.

List of Demands&Offers

One table for each city. Entries are one row per trading operation and the attributes are as following: BUY/SELL - AMOUNT - PRICE - DATE Goods which are not bought or sold receive blank entries or do not show up at all.

Starting Procedure

At game start the Free Trader creates the city list and then visits all branch offices to connect them with data. This being done, job choice starts.

Job Choice

As soon as the current job is completed, this routine takes effect. The following steps are executed in this order and determine what happens next.

  1. Current branch office offers good-value-goods: Buys goods which are sold below the popular price if close enough to a branch office and own stock does not already have enough of this good. The amount which already is in stock should modify the decision-making.
  2. Ship stock full: As the ship's load reaches 85% of maximum limit, the Free Trader sails to his base and unloads the goods which were in stock longest time and are needed nowhere. If there are goods aboard which can be sold profitably, the next step follows.
  3. New settlement founded: Encountering a new settlement not present in the list of cities, an entry is added and the Free Trader visits this city. Then the lists are filled with data. Job finished after visiting all new-founded settlements.
  4. Lucrative business possible: If one city offers goods at good price or there are goods in ship stock / Free Trader storage and another city is buying those goods expensively (exceeding average value), this deal is cut. If target branch office offers cheap goods as well, those are bought, too.
  5. Default: If none of the above is true, the Free Trader visits the branch office he did not visit longest time.
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