I know that people have discussed the maximum units allowable during various updates of the game, and I suspect this topic has also been discussed, but I haven’t found it on several searches.
Short version: What happens when the galactic trade terminal gives you a negative number of units?
According to what I have read, the maximum number of units one can have in NMS is determined by a 32 bit integer. It has been a long time since I dabbled in programming, but I believe that 32 bit signed integers occupy a range of −2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647. If you use 32 bits to represent an unsigned integer, it gives you a range from 0 to 4,294,967,295, with the last value representing the most units a person can have in NMS. In earlier versions I understand that when a player hit maximum, the units rolled over, so that if you were at the maximum and earned another 10 units, you would have 9 units. In later versions of the game, from what I have read, once you hit the limit, earning more units does not increase the number you have.
I don’t know how accurate all that is, because I have never tested any of it myself, nor had the resources to do so.
With the advent of multiple bases, I constructed a monstrous multi-base factory to churn out high priced products. I admit that building the factory has been a lot more fun than running it, but it runs well. While the process is tedious, it feels less like a grind than older methods of picking up large amounts of currency. I had originally planned to max out the number of units, then to focus on exploration, creative base building, and cataloguing species. But now, because running the factory is feeling more like grinding, I decided to sell all the product I had made and free up storage for other pursuits. After some research, I found a system that would give me a decent price (less than 10% below market.) I hauled the lot of them to the station to sell them.
I’m pretty sure I made several mistakes at this point. I took them to the trade terminal. I don’t know the effect of selling them to pilots, but it may have had less impact on the price offered at the trade terminal. Also, I didn’t make a point of saving before I started such a large transaction and overwrote the autosave before I considered that saving and trial and error could have answered my questions.
I went to sell the products, and the trade terminal offered me a large negative number of units for the load. I had never considered that the trade terminal might use signed integers for units. What would have happened if I had completed the transaction? I played with the number of products until I could see that when I had enough product to go over the size of a signed 32 bit integer, it rolled over and continued counting up from the negative limit. So instead of 2B units, it was offering -2B units for the load.
In the end, I decided to do it in two transactions, lacking the courage to try to unload the entire inventory without a guarantee that it wouldn’t saddle me with years of galactic debt. When I went to sell the second load, the price had dropped more than 50% below market value, so I abandoned the project for now.
So the question is this: what would have happened if I had ignored the negative number and sold the entire load?