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The latest Kickstarter update from Owlcat Games talks about the intricacies of the trading system in Pathfinder: Kingmaker and describes the process of creating the game's vendor UI that stays true to the spirit of the pen and paper Pathfinder game. An excerpt:
Today we're telling you all about how we're designing the interface you'll be using to interact with the merchants of Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
No cRPG is complete without a merchant. Whether you need to replenish your rations, stack up on potions or purchase a rare magical blade, this classic character is always there for you. Of course, the merchant is also more than willing to help you unburden your bags of all the unwanted loot, and will reward you handsomely for your trouble.
It should be noted that when we speak of “merchants”, what we mean is not a special kind of NPC, not an honorary title and not even a separate occupation – many characters can be considered merchants simply by virtue of having goods to sell. Thus, when we talk about merchants we mean exactly them, the characters of our game, and they are much more than just a list of items to buy and sell. Whether it’s a hermit mage trying to fund his arcane research by selling scrolls and wands or an actual professional merchant from the capital, you will interact with both of them through the vendor interface.
Many ways to implement a trade interface have been developed to this day, and we are no innovators in this area. Drawing on the principles of convenience and immersion, we have decided not to go down the path of invention and to steer clear of exotic solutions. We wanted to make sure that once you saw the vendor interface, you would quickly understand how it works based on your experience with other games. Apart from that we tried to preserve the immersiveness of the Pathfinder universe, which meant we had to stick to certain technical frameworks and develop a vision of the future artistic layout.
However, this doesn't mean that creating a trade window is a simple task. As with all of our interfaces, we are doing a lot of analytical work here. In order to better understand how the interface should look and work, we looked at all the possible use cases and carefully examined the existing solutions. This approach has enabled us to pick out the most convenient features, as well as to determine the ones that cause grief and find a way to fix them. Building off the hallmarks of the Pathfinder system and the players' needs, we have gone through multiple phases of information design, identified necessary features and defined functional interface groups. As a result, we've decided that a barter trading system was the way to go.
While barter may be a bit more complicated than other, more streamlined trade systems, we believe that swapping the loot you’ve found in the wilderness for a masterwork weapon newly delivered from the civilized world will fit better with the atmosphere of the Stolen Lands. And just as you bring them new items from your travels, merchants will also sometimes surprise you with new wares. Their list of available items grows throughout the game, often because of you selling them these items, at times because of regular shipments, and other times based on your decisions and actions, including the recent developments in your kingdom. Most of their stocks might be pretty mundane – rations, standard scrolls and potions, and maybe a +1 Longsword or a Ring of Protection here and there. However, a merchant may sometimes get their hands on a rare or unique magical item that is bound to catch the eye of even the most seasoned adventurer.
The update also informs us that the Owlcat Games forums are now up and running, so if you're interested in discussing Kingmaker with fellow Pathfinder enthusiasts – now's your chance.