In the beginning, there was an idea. An idea of a better galaxy with advanced technology. The idea led to the formation of Illuminati and since then, we have been pursuing the elusive second base and technological advancement. There are several critical problems in the progression though and, while we are struggling to survive, we still believe that it can be done. I am going to rant about our first baby steps towards our dream.
Sadly, there are no market incentives for anyone to go into T2. Why? Let’s look at the real world first. When you branch into a new industry and/or offer a new product, you do so, because you see an opportunity, you are nearly certain to have buyers. Your products would make someone’s life easier, a process more efficient/cheaper or something like that. There is nearly NOTHING like that in Settler technology. (Important note: I will completely omit Fuel, it warrants a post of its own.)
There have been multiple partial discussions, but I will try to be comprehensive, so bear with me. Let me go step by step, through some materials and buildings…
- Aluminium (ALO/AL). Several people had to bite the bullet, fly to a world far away and pray for the best. The galaxy would eventually need a lot of aluminium, but the first miners were basically doing a leap of faith. Also it either had to be new people that joined later (who mostly go for starting packages because they cannot see the alternatives) or people who restarted. At the start of the server, it would have made no sense to even try. It was more of a charity mission than a business plan and could have easily led to total bankruptcy - which is not a good starting position for this whole endeavour.
- Welding plant (WEL). Pioneer building, but only useful in higher tiers. Completely necessary for any progress. Another quite expensive leap of faith though, the only buyers of Truss (TRU) would be dreamers with grandiose ideas of progression for the sake of progression. At this stage, the WEL only makes economic sense when combined with a team, focused on advancement, and able to provide a market for its production. After a few batches of TRU, switch to Metal-halide lamps (MHL) and prepare for Hydroponics (HYF) - make 16 of them. If you somehow can afford to sit on so much money in goods that can only be sold in big, expensive batches.
Access to TRU opens up “tier 1.5” - buildings that require TRU but no Light prefabs and can be staffed by Pioneers.
3a) Chemical plant (CHP). Like WEL, it has many recipes useful later on and in higher tiers. But when it is first accessible, it cannot offer anything to anyone not having more advanced buildings. Makes sense, right? Who wouldn’t want to spend 60k on a building and start producing Nutrient solution (NS), the first potentially useful item, to have tons in store for first HYF appearance.
3b) 3D Printer (PPF). Similar problem, can only use input from more advanced buildings and can produce only one short(ish) term interesting item - Polymer Sheet Type L (PSL). PSL are needed only in batches of 36 though (for Base), so the liquid capital required is HUGE.
3c) Prefab Plant MK2 (PP2). This is the only t1.5 building that actually makes sense as t1.5, it is required to progress into t2.
At this point, we have opened LBH. Does anyone need LBH? Yep.
4a) Hydroponic Farm (HYF). The ONLY building in t1.5 and t2 that produces something t1 can immediately utilize and benefit from. The holy grail of t2, as we call it, can dish out HCP for fast C production at unmatched rate. And makes the CHP finally useful, yey! When combined with a cheap source of Nitrogen for cheaper NS, the HYF can produce HCP at for around 100 credits each - almost a third the price that a farmstead can produce it.
4b) Polymer Plant (POL). Makes PG that is needed in a ton of t2 items like LSE prefab or PSL and even higher tier things, very useful building. Except does anyone need things made from PG? t1 BMP can turn PG into SEA to settle new worlds, but we are nowhere near being able to construct new bases yet, so it is interesting only for new players (that won’t know about it) or restarting ones, tiny market in either case. And both PSL and LSE are yet another leap of faith.
PG is needed to produce LSE in PP2, which open us a new set of buildings. Also note that the following buildings need only settlers, which makes it necessary to invest into HB2 and increases consumables cost.
5a) Glass Furnace (GF). The worst building so far? Needs 80 settlers, so is very expensive to run and produces only two items. Only Glass (GL) is used in t2, very late on, for LTA prefab. Its first use is for new Base that requires exactly 2 production cycles of GL (less than 2 days of work). LTA is used in t2.5/3 buildings. No one should build it until we need these last 2 days until the fancy new Base.
5b) Weaving Plant (WPL). As the pattern follows, it is pretty useful later on, but at this moment it is only needed for Nylon (NL) to make LDE prefab. Uses PG as input, yey for POL.
Now let’s stop here! We have actually have everything we need for our fancy new base!
- Base Core Module. With 12 LSE, 16 TRU, 36 PSL, 12 ALF and 4 LTA, just founding the base costs well over 500k at the very least just for the bare Core. It requires buildings that have no immediate use except for construction of that base. The PPF needs to run for a month to get that 36 PSL and can generate no short-term profit; and GF that needs to run for 2 days and then go idle, consuming a ton of food (or prepare for the good times t3 will bring?). Given how small the player base is and how there is no way to generate new money (we still aren’t that close to selling to MM), who will be able to afford to spend like 800k at once?
Let’s look back. Before we can build this single base, we are 2 months in t2, having buildings that cannot do anything except go for more bases or t3 - both of which no one can afford.
Why would any sane player ever go down this way? I won’t go into further buildings, because I would only repeat myself. Every single one of the new buildings requires a leap of faith. They can pay off if, and only if someone gets even more advanced (and expensive) building. They do not make anything cheaper or more efficient. This whole endeavour is the complete opposite of what the real world economy does, really. T2 is not a logical extension of the T1 economy, it is more akin to an entirely new economy that has an incredibly steep barrier to entry.
So what could be changed to actually motivate people to go into t2 and allow them to do so without heavy team effort and a hundred leaps of faith?
t2 buildings need to produce something used by t1 buildings. I don’t mean it the way PG is used in BMP. One of the best ideas I have heard so far is to change the way luxury consumables work. Buildings of a certain tier should make luxuries for the tier BELOW, rather than above. At the moment, t1 Food Processor can make a luxury for settlers. Instead, some t2 building should make a pioneer luxury! Say luxury Health from CHP? It suddenly makes that t1.5 building look like a great investment with pretty much guaranteed buyers, good enough to warrant building some WEL to get the TRU and get the transition started!
Another option is to make new t1 recipes that give t1 products in slightly better yield / faster / longer yet cheaper when using some t2 materials. T1 recipes should by no means become obsolete, I am proposing just niche additions.
Random ideas include BDE being able to use some PPF plastic sheet instead of PE. BTA using GL instead of PE. OVE using COT from WPL instead of RCO. POL producing a processing aide for more efficient PE manufacture. Inventing some kind of fertilizer to speed up Farm recipes. All these things would make it quite attractive to get there higher tier buildings and once they exist, changing the production to different items and/or using the products further is still somewhat risky, but doesnt leave half of your assets locked for god knows how long.
Making Fuel refinery easier to access (perhaps LBH only) might motivate people to set up WEL and PP2 too, but producing fuel would probably require more adjustments that are beyond the scope of this rant.
Some people say we started pushing for t2 too early. I do not believe that is the case, t1 market is reasonably stable. Delaying it further would only make our charity (=ALO miners) go broke and all starting fuel would have been wasted. No, the timing was right, there simply is no economic sense in it. In past week, we could see clear signs of the deflation spiral being triggered. With fuel prices rising and everything else dropping, getting into t2 will be increasingly harder.