I've spent about 100 hours in Avorion and I am really impressed with the combination of sandbox, creation, exploration, trading and story that are woven together here. I really think the Pathea team should have someone they trust take a good look at how this game handles random encounters, factions and economies and report back (as any of the development team members may find themselves hopelessly addicted, maybe put one of your managers on it
Some things I have noticed right away:
1. There are lots of randomly generated factions that have various relationships with each other (sometimes violent) and may or may not be friendly with the player at first sight.
2. It's not difficult to gain (harder) or lose (easier) reputation with any faction including "pirate" factions by either fighting, trading with or defending these factions.
3. There is a large, detailed economy that includes items that players cannot always use directly, but is part of the production of weapons that the player can craft and story plot progressions.
4. There is something to do (mining, trading, fighting, salvaging, questing) in almost any one of the thousands of sectors to explore. Encounters get progressively more challenging (with progressively better materials and gear) toward the center of the "map".
(I think the problem with PE's terrain, is that even though it is beautiful nearly everywhere and one find resources underground, there is nothing compelling the player to do more than take a screenshot and continue running past) At one time in PE there were traders scattered on the terrain who had a chance to provide something good.
5. Items available from merchants in the game have a wide variety of uniqueness generated. Each encounter with a merchant is unique and appropriate to the area. This could be alleviated with *a chance of*some nice ISOs or RNG items available at each merchant.
6. Dedicated server with many options and configurable ports.
7. Comprehensive plain-text Lua scripting allows for modding.