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Advanced Haggling Lessons - By Cherokee
Over the past few months, I have been researching how to make the absolute MOST money possible when doing planet trades. This is the primary differentiator in who can make the most cash in a game, since it affects sales from Colonist production, SDT, Buydown/Megarob, and Buydown/RTR. Many thanks to Traitor from TW-Cabal for some of the background information that helped me figure all of this out.
I started out by observing how certain helpers and scripts attempted to negotiate, and discovered that most of them do a horrible job. I knew from experience that at "good" ports, I could make very high counteroffers and get away with it, while at "bad" ports I had to be much more conservative. All of the helpers and scripts I looked at made very conservative counteroffers all of the time, missing out on lots of additional cash potential at the "good" ports.
For example, one of the most widely used haggle routines uses a standard counteroffer of 106% of the port's first offer. As you will soon learn, even the worst equipment buying port will take 110%, and the very best will take almost 135%. The best ore ports will take 149%. So there is obviously a lot of room for improvement!
After a great deal of testing, I discovered that for each "MCIC" value, and for each type of product, there was a fixed percentage over a port's initial offer that it would consider reasonable enough to continue haggling. Over that percentage, the port would tell you to get lost, and you used a turn for nothing. This "counteroffer percentage" is the same whether the port is trading at 100% or 1%, although the actual amount of the port's offer is significantly decreased at lower trading percentages.
That's all great to know, but players have no way of knowing what the MCIC of a port is because that value can only be seen in TEDIT. To determine how high of a counteroffer I could make, I had to find some way of determining the MCIC based solely on the information a player has available, namely, the port's current trading percentage, the number of units of product being sold, and the number of credits the port offers for the product.
After much more testing, I found that MCIC (and the maximum counteroffer percentage) can in fact be derived from available information. Knowing the actual MCIC is not important, aside from having a standard way to describe how "good" or "bad" the port is. What is important is the maximum initial offer the port would make IF IT WERE TRADING AT 100%. From there, you can look up the counteroffer percentage to use against the port's actual offer. Here's what I found.
For Fuel Ore:
the maximum price/unit the port will initially offer is
Don't ask me why each product uses a different formula, I simply don't know. Also, note that these formulas tend to break down the closer the port is to its baseline percentage (approximately 11.7% fuel ore, 11.3% organics, 11.0% equipment). Luckily, you don't have much interest in negotiating at such low percentages because the prices you get are ridiculously low. These formulas work 100% of the time down to about 15% trading percentage, and there's really very little reason to do planet trades under 15%. The only exception I can think of is when you capture a recently used enemy port, and you want to know how good it is. Under 15%, I simply do not know how to accurately measure a port's "quality". If you can figure it out, I'd love to hear about it.
Now then, by applying the appropriate formula, you know what price/unit offer the port would make at 100%, so you are halfway there. The next step is to look up the corresponding counteroffer percentage. These values are provided in the following tables. (Note: I realize that using lookup tables is pretty clumsy - it would be far better to use a formula. However, a close look at the data will show you that while the numbers are -almost- linear, there are enough quirks that no simple formula can accurately model the results.)
So now you know how much to counteroffer against the port's first offer to buy your products. The next step is to complete the haggling. If the port responds to your first counteroffer with something like "We'll take them for xxxx", then you are in the "middle haggle" stage. If the port says something like "Our final offer is xxxx", then the port has skipped middle haggling, and gone straight to the final offer. Move on to the next paragraph. Assuming you are in middle haggling still, take the amount that the port's offer increased, multiply it by 60%, and decrease your own counteroffer by that amount. Keep doing this until the port accepts, or goes into the "final offer".
Once the port makes a "final offer" you have to give in a little bit more. Instead of decreasing your offer by 60% of the port's increase, you have to come down a whole lot more. For Fuel Ore, the value is 300%. For Organics, it's 270%. For Equipment, it's 250%.
Due to potential rounding errors, I subtract a few credits from my calculations during both middle haggles and final offers. Subtracting 10 seems to work pretty well, and trust me, you aren't going to care about losing out on 10 credits as much as you would care about losing a turn because your haggle got you kicked off the port.
Speaking of losing turns by getting kicked off a port... there are times when you WANT this to happen. I've been unable to determine any rhyme or reason why ports will sometimes jump straight to the "final offer", but when they do, you stand to lose out on serious cash if you complete the transaction. The more middle haggles you engage in, the more money you will make.
For example, at a -65 MCIC equipment buying port, you can top out at about 170 credits per unit when there are at least 2 middle haggles. But when the port jumps straight to a final offer, the most you can negotiate is 160 credits per unit. Now if you are only haggling 1,000 units, you only miss out on 10,000 credits, so it's not a big deal. But if you are haggling 32,760 units, you lose out on 327,600 credits, and THAT makes it worthwhile to use a few turns trying for the 170 price. Your turns are worth at most 42,500 credits (assuming you are doing buydowns with a 250 hold ship, megarobbing the cash back, and then selling the equ to a -65 MCIC equ buyer). So if it takes you 5 turns to successfully haggle for 170/unit instead of 160/unit, you make 327,600 more credits, at a cost of 5 turns which are worth only 212,500 credits.
I've found that if I complete the sale using only 1 turn, I get the best price only about 35% of the time. When I make up to 5 attempts trying for the best price, I can get it about 85% of the time. The 170/unit best price is usually hit within 3 attempts, though there are no guarantees; the number of middle haggles the port allows is purely random.
This technique is most effective at the very best equipment ports, but it also applies to a lesser degree at worse ports, and at fuel ore and organics buyers. The following table shows how much you can haggle your goods for at the best ore, organics, and equipment ports, when the port allows 0, 1, or 2 middle haggles:
I'll leave it up to you to determine when it is worth using extra turns to try for the best price, and when you should just complete the sale and move on. Or, just go download my Planet Nego and SDT scripts, available at The Grimy Trader (www.grimytrader.com). They both make good use of all of the above research, and intelligently determine when to try for a better price.
A few other notes:
My research does not directly cover ship based haggles, although it could be used as a basis for further research into that area. It's commonly understood that higher experience (up to and above 1,000) translates into better haggling, and lower experience translates into worse haggling (that's why it's easier for a 0 exp blue to get a port to megarob levels than a 5,000+ exp red). Planet Negotiations seem to be the equivalent of about -100 experience. To the best of my knowledge, the information presented here would need to be combined with more research into how a player's experience affects the haggles. However, I consider ship based haggles to be far less important than planet based haggles, so at this point, it doesn't really seem worth the effort.
Also note that the research I have conducted thus far is only valid for games in which the planetary trade percentage is set to 100%. Although the numbers would need to be adjusted to compensate for lower planetary trade percentages, the overall methods I've described remain the same.