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Stellaris Dev Diary #127 - Trade Value and Trade Routes

Hello everyone and welcome to another Stellaris development diary. Today we're going to continue talking about the 2.2 'Le Guin' update, on the topic of Trade Value and Trade Routes. As said before, we're not yet ready to reveal anything about when Le Guin is coming out, only that it's a long time away and we have many more topics to cover before then. Also as said before, screenshots will contain placeholder art and interfaces and non-final numbers.

Trade Value
Trade Value is a new value that's being added in the Le Guin update for non-Gestalt empires, representing the civilian and private-sector economies of these empires. All Pops generate a small amount of Trade Value based on their living standards, with higher living standard Pops generating more trade value, and is also produced by a number of different jobs such as Clerks and Merchants. Additionally, Trade Value can be found as deposits in space, representing various resources that don't have a direct industrial application but might still be desirable to your population (for a real-life example, think of things like as precious stones used in jewelry). Trade Value has no inherent purpose, but can be turned into other resources by being exploited, representing taxation and tariffs imposed on the civilian economy by an empire that has the necessary infrastructure in place to benefit from it.

In order for Trade Value to count as exploited, it has to fulfill two conditions:

1) There must be an upgraded Starbase in range from the system to collect the Trade Value. By default, upgraded Starbases can only collect inside their own system, but their collection range can be extended by constructing additional Trade Hub modules, with each module extending the collection range by a single system up to a maximum of 6 hyperlane jumps away. You do not need to build an orbital station to collect trade value from planets - this is done automatically if it is in range of a collecting Starbase.

2) Once collected, Trade Value needs to be sent to your capital system. This will be done automatically if the Starbase collecting is located in said capital system, but otherwise the Starbase must be connected to the capital through a Trade Route (more on that below).

Trade Value that is successfully exploited will be converted into other resources (currently, trade value is turned into energy credits at a 1:1 conversion rate, but which exact resources it becomes is fully scriptable and may differ depending on your empire type) and added to your monthly income.

Trade Routes
Trade Routes are paths are that used to connect remote Starbases to your capital in order to exploit the trade value collected there. Each upgraded Starbase can support a single Trade Route by connecting to another Starbase, which is where the first Starbase will send all of its collected trade value. For example, an empire might have a remote Starbase (we'll call it starbase A), which is sending trade value to another Starbase closer to the capital (starbase B), which in turn sends on both its collected trade and all trade sent to it by starbase A on to the capital. The player has full control over which Starbase sends its value where, and can redraw routes, though there may be an efficiency loss on a newly drawn route for a time.

This means that if starbase A collects a value of 10 from the systems around it, and starbase B collects 15, 10 value will be sent from A to B and all 25 combined value is then sent on to C (the capital) and is successfully exploited. Any trade value that fails to reach the capital, either because of lack of collection, lack of a route, or piracy (more on that below) is wasted - the empire gets no benefits from it - so it'll be especially important to ensure any populous colonies that are generating a lot of trade value are properly connected via trade routes to your capital.

Trades routes will have a special map filter showing routes, protection and piracy, and is also planned to be visualized inside the systems, but more on that later.

(Ignore any weird visuals such as sector borders, it's just a bug)

Piracy and Trade Defense
Of course, all that lucrative merchandise being moved through space won't exactly go unnoticed by the less savory elements of your empire. Over time, piracy will begin to accumulate along trade routes, especially routes with a high degree of trade value moving through them. For each system with piracy that the trade route passes through, a certain amount of the trade value will be lost. To combat piracy, an empire can make use of a combination of Starbases and fleet Patrols. All upgraded Starbases will have a trade protection value, that is essentially a minimum amount of trade value that will always make it through any system under their protection, regardless of the level of piracy (representing heavily escorted merchant convoys). By default, this trade protection is only for the system they are located in, but can be extended to additional systems by building defensive modules such as Hangar Bays.

Additionally, any military fleet can be given orders to patrol a route between two Starbases to actively eliminate pirates and reduce the amount of piracy in the systems. The old system of spawning pirate ships in empty systems adjacent to your empire will also change - instead, pirate fleets may spawn in systems where a large amount of trade value is being lost to pirates. Overall, pirate fleets is something you will experience less often and can actively work to prevent, but will be more of an actual threat when they do spawn. We will most likely keep some sort of penalty for having a sprawling empire with a lot of unprotected connections, possibly by simply raising the amount of piracy experienced along your trade routes, or some sort of efficiency penalty. We may also have a system similar to the old pirates for Gestalts, since they do not have access to Trade Value or Trade Routes.

(Yes, we know the grammar/spelling is wrong, no need to point it out - the icons are also placeholders)

That's all for today! Next week we're continuing to talk about the Le Guin update, on the topic of Decisions and Planetary Bombardment

EDIT: Since it keeps being asked, at this point we are not ready to talk about how trade trades/trade agreements with other empires will work, only that they will exist in some form.
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Nice, this is the DD I've been waiting for :D
Each upgraded Starbase can support a single Trade Route by connecting to another Starbase, which is where the first Starbase will send all of its collected trade value.
Can a starbase receive multiple trade routes, or is there some other way to create forks in the trade network, like a special starbase upgrade?
It's great to get some more information about trade routes, all the teasing have been killing me, Le Guin looks to be an amazing update.
Wait, so there aren't any international trade routes? That's... a bit disappointing, honestly :(. A great feature otherwise, though.

EDIT: Wiz said that they're still looking into international trade agreements and possibly non-capital collection points, so there's still hope. :)
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I'm really liking that starbases are getting even more attention.

Currently, at least for me, starbases are merely anchorages or "energy" bases. With the odd Bastion here or a few black hole observatories. But with trade coming into the game, it seems as though it might be less important to build all "energy hubs" and instead focus on building an actual network.

Will hyperlane registrars (the starbase module) have an effect on trade value? I can see them being able to %boost value, as it makes movement faster and making a "spine" of bases through your most populated regions of space could be equivalent to a trade "highway".
Very interesting.
So when controlling an enemy system, like when you are at war, what happens to the trade routes? Do you steal their trade value? What if you control an upgraded space station? Can you, temporarely, redirect the trade?
Looks great!

A bit unfortunate that there dont seem to be any trade-routes between empires or members of a federation. But the system sounds like something that could be expanded upon with a later overhaul to diplomacy :)
WOOOOOO! Ahem. Great dev diary!

I imagine war will indirectly make your trade go worse due to you needing your fleets on the battlefield? That is one amazing way to make the economy struggle a bit during war, well done. Props to that!
Excellent! Trade is something I've wanted added to the game pretty much from the get go and I am very pleased with how it is going to be implemented. It is very similar to how I thought it was going to be done, but I think in a much better way then I had conceived. I also like the idea of needing to use your fleet to guard trade routes, makes obvious sense of course, but I like the idea of doing something with my fleet other then have it sit around waiting to go to war. Now if we could just get some peace time raiding going that would be great. Also sounds like you'll need to carefully manage your fleets when you do go to war. It would be a disaster if you have a carefully crafted trade network within your empire only to have it fall into chaos because your navy is off fighting a war allowing pirates to plunder your trade routes. Oh and that brings up the idea of privateers. Spending resources on increasing pirate activity within a rival empire even when you're not at war.

Oh man. I am super excited for this trade system now! I can't wait for the next expansion! It sounds absolutely amazing!
Would there be anything we may do diplomatically to connect two empire's trade networks? If so, what are the benefits? Or will everything just be isolated networks of internal trade and then a big central hub of the Galactic Market? Will trades move downstream? Will my network be benefited if I am at a downstream position from another empire to the Galactic Trade Market?

Will we also see "definite" trade goods?

And, will the fleet interface be overhauled? I can totally imagine every player spamming fleets of 1 to 3 Corvettes to guard the trade routes.

One last question: Will there be a "demand" at all? If we just have so much trade values, wouldn't our capital be not enough to demand all these trade goods at all? What excess production may go to waste? Or will our capitals be the bottomless end node so we just don't even need to think about it anymore?

Edit: grammar
Really good work guys. Seems like a combination of EU 4's and Sin's trade system. I imagine these trade routes can extend into open borders or allies territory? Will we need a special trade agreement with them?
Looks great!

A bit unfortunate that there dont seem to be any trade-routes between empires or members of a federation. But the system sounds like something that could be expanded upon with a later overhaul to diplomacy :)
Especially since I think one of the precursors was part of a federation with a lot of trade, and when they started to fall they had a huge spike in piracy which didn't help!
This is very cool. Does this mean we can plunder trade routes during war?

Plundering trade routes is something we want to do but haven't yet figured out exactly how it will work. At the very least you can cut their routes by targeting starbases.
Looks great!

A bit unfortunate that there dont seem to be any trade-routes between empires or members of a federation. But the system sounds like something that could be expanded upon with a later overhaul to diplomacy :)

There will be some sort of trade agreements between empires, but we're not ready to talk about that yet.