A* has been around for ages, yes - I'm quite well aware of that. There are as many variations of it as there are implementations, though - since that largely depends on how you do your map.
My observation was based on two statements:
"obstacle avoidance is one of those nastier low-level implementation details that can be tricky"
"space sim AI is a good bit simpler, and affords the programmer more time to worry about the "cool/fun" part of AI (high-level) and worry less about"
You seem to think that pathfinding is a big part of your game's AI - where it isn't. Look at any flight combat simulator - once the physics model is done to simulate their flying - the nasty bit of how they fly comes into question. Bank left, right, pull an Immelmann? In your case, will they play dodge-em around asteroids or try to hit your flanks while you focus on one of them? What goods the NPC traders are carrying and to where - That's where your "real" AI starts to come in.
Sorry, I never intended to suggest that pathfinding is a big part of my game's AI...and just so we're clear, here's my statement: pathfinding and obstacle avoidance are trivial in this game. All I said is that it frees up more time to work on the high-level AI.
I understand the "how to fly" might seem like a difficult problem if you haven't implemented it. The truth, however, is that it's fantastically simple. The underlying methodology is that, at all times, you have several AI "substrategies" that get to submit votes on a heading. The votes are aggregated as a weighted average, and the current heading is exponentially smoothed with the new heading, as determined by this aggregation. Now, to determine heading, we have several different types of behaviors. Dodging around obstacles, as you mentioned, is implemented by performing a proximity query on the ship, then selecting an obstacle that is relatively close, choosing a random point on the surface of it's world-space AABB, then voting for a heading in the direction of that point. This provides compelling "dodge-em" mechanics. Trying to hit your flanks, of course, is completely trivial - one sets the heading to point towards the target ship. Or, better yet, a random point on the surface of the target ship's world-space AABB, which provides interesting variation when the target is a large ship. Now, there are also concurrent substrategies submitting votes to achieve obstacle avoidance, or for maintaining a formation, or whatever other behavior you'd like. In either case, I'd be happy to explain to you exactly how the heading is computed if you think it's difficult.
As for trading. Here's a simple model: suppose the NPC has a set of known locations. Randomly select some subset of these locations (for variability). Choose some subset of trade goods (perhaps the NPC deals in a certain type of good; it's trivial to generate such a set). Compute the good with the largest price differential among the locations, or, perhaps, the largest price differential per unit volume (again, it's obviously simple, just an outer loop over goods and an inner loop over locations). Now, invoke a "trade" strategy, where the good is the chosen good with maximal price differential, the "source" is the location with the lowest price, and the destination is the planet with the highest price. Other AI strategies, e.g. "TravelTo" will perform the rest of the work. Of course, this is a very simple algorithm, and the algorithms in LT are more complex. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly valid way to determine "what goods the NPC traders and carrying and to where."
Now, I invite you to point out where exactly the complexity lies in either of those tasks.
Burying your resume somewhere on the 20th page of a forum post or some obscure Wordpress blog isn't being honest about things. You don't put it on your Kickstarter page, do you? You don't put it on your ltheory.com page, do you? If I look in the places normal people look, I can't find it. That's worrying.
What? My resume is as plain as day on the website that is my namesake, which is indeed linked under my Kickstarter page under my profile...if you find it, I guess you'll see that I have little to hide. Many people have already commented on the resume..?
My experience? When I come asking for $50k in donations, I'll happily release my details. The fact is that I'm not and you are. But you've got some $89k in pledges already. More than enough.
Ah, of course. I guess that answer doesn't surprise anyone ;)
But wait - Elite: Dangerous is a project proposed by one of the very same people who made the original Elite - he invented the whole genre. Yet he - a seasoned professional who's actually done it - has budgeted $1.25 million. You claim to be able to do largely the same thing for... 4% (1/25) of the budget? And you seriously expect people to trust you at your word? If I propose to build someone a car that'll go like a Ferrari for 4% of the cost of a real Ferrari - I'd expect to be laughed at and openly mocked.
No, I don't claim to be able to do "largely the same thing." There are some immense difference between E:D and LT. For example, all content in LT is procedural. This slashes the development cost by a good bit already, as I have no need for artists. But, most importantly, LT is not multiplayer. Another huge slash in dev cost. Yes, you're right, I guess I would laugh if you claimed to be able to make a Ferrari for 4% the cost. Luckily, I'm not offering to do so. Hopefully you'll refrain from such straw-man comparisons in the future.
Oh, that's precious. Coming from someone who has zero professional experience. You made my day. Biggest giggle all day. Abandon the game and go into comedy - it's clearly your calling.
Kayoz, the more you protract this argument, the more it becomes clear to the readers of this thread that you have not done your homework, nor are you interested in a real debate. At every opportunity, you avoid the real meat of the argument and instead rely on undermining my "experience" or the ever-winning sarcasm. Given that your attitude suggests immense practical knowledge of game development, I think both me and the other readers would appreciate it if you would explain exactly why I can't make LT for $50K, or at least why AI is so difficult. Again, I would like to hear something that indicates that you actually know what it takes to implement one of the concepts that you've discussed, but, thus far, I have only heard imaginary complexities.