Mail Order Economy
I floated this idea a few months ago on the Steam forum. Having slept on it a good long while, I strongly feel it's worth serious consideration.
I propose a basic money system based on player credit wallets, fixed price trade systems, and jump drive technology. Two new blocks would serve as the cornerstones of the Space Engineers economy.
The first new block is the Commodity Exchange Transponder. This device, when attached to a conveyor system, allows players to buy and sell ores, raw materials, and components using connected cargo container space. Once a valid transaction is selected, the transponder expends its stored charge to create a jump-tunneling pulse, teleporting goods to or from connected containers and debiting or crediting the appropriate player's wallet. The transponder could not be used again until fully recharged.
The second new block is the Vehicle Delivery Transponder. This device is similar to the CET, except it handles large and small grid vehicles instead of conveyor cargo, and uses grid projection. Large and small grid transponders would facilitate their respectively-sized ships. A vehicle's value would be based on its components, plus a flat percentage representing labor cost. Purchasing a vehicle would involve loading a blueprint into the transponder and aligning the projected grid, just as an engineer does with a projector. The finalized transaction would cause the projected blueprint to materialize. Selling a ship would be similar, but somewhat more involved. A rather than selecting from their own blueprints, the engineer would select a build order from a list generated by the game. These build orders would be derived from the Steam Workshop blueprints. The engineer would align the order's projected blueprint in the same way as before, and construct the ship like a normal projection. When the transponder reads the projected grid is complete, the engineer finalizes the order, removing (jumping away) the completed blocks and paying the engineer for his work.
Transponders would have a fixed exchange rate between credits and ore, raw materials, and components. By default, the prices for buying and selling would be weighted slighty against players, but this would be an adjustable world setting. Each player would have their own wallet. To accommodate factions, players would be able to share some or all of their wallet with their faction, allowing the faction's leader or appointed officer to hold its purse strings. A trade screen would allow players to trade materials, equipment, and credits with others as they like, both from personal inventories and between connected ships.
I believe these additions would add context and variety to the SE experience, even allowing new play styles. Without the need to start with a refinery and assembler, minimalist-starting pioneers would be able to begin games with almost nothing, trading hand-mined ore for vital supplies. Ship manufacture and build orders could replace mining as a source of income, giving players a break from drilling, and introducing them to blueprints they would never otherwise see. Privateering engineers would be able to chop captured prizes and sell their components, allowing them to travel light unburned by their hard-won booty. Unavailable materials could be traded for easily, prevented players from being roadblocked by uncooperative RNG.
These additions would not be small tweaks. Effectively, they comprise a completely new gameplay system, likely to change the game dramatically. However, Space Engineers needs such gameplay systems. I view this one as sort of "trunk" system from which many other branches can sprout.
I also had several further refinements, explanations, and expansions further on in the thread, which can be found in this link.