The t2 Conundrum


#1

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

  1. 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.


#2

Thanks @Sharlindra for this extensive feedback! Please don’t take our silence as “no-one-reads-my-post”. We already started discussing it within the team and find it very valuable.


#3

How building also using upgrades to buildings as a solution?

For example if a T2 Glass Furnace (GF) can build an upgrade to T1 farms ( “Greenhouse” ) which permanently improves growth by +x%. I bet many would be happy to pay quite a bit for that.

When it comes to economy my feeling is also that the upkeep cost ( basic consumables ) could be better spread out across the various industries. Right now farms/water/agriculture is the basis of all consumables while maintenance of buildings or tools earlier could provide a larger “secured” base demand for other types of industries as well. The drastic approach would be to have all buildings have a “weekly” or “monthly” maintenance cost of a certain % of their buildcost, but that would probably require a lot of re-balancing.

The reason why Montem and Promitor is where everyone settles seems to be mainly about access to cheap consumables giving a business large advantage and security. If the game is to be about trading it needs to be easier to trade so that anyone easily can go to Promitor and buy cheap food in bulk or go to Montem to buy cheap iron, or to System X to buy cheap goods Y.


#4

what about using space constraints to push folks into t2?

pioneer buildings could be large enough that only a few fit on the faction (named) planets

higher tier buildings could produce the same outputs but be more compact

plot size of player bases could be smaller on the faction planets with exchanges, larger elsewhere

would need more fertile planets, probably


#5

When it comes to economy my feeling is also that the upkeep cost ( basic consumables ) could be better spread out across the various industries.

Excellent point. @dbltnk is currently rebalancing consumables and should at least consider this note in my opinion.
(Edit: He’s on it already!)

The drastic approach would be to have all buildings have a “weekly” or “monthly” maintenance cost of a certain % of their buildcost, but that would probably require a lot of re-balancing.

This could be where the added upkeep from non-food industries comes into play. It wouldn’t be more of a rebalancing than adding non-food needs to the population operating the building.

For example if a T2 Glass Furnace (GF) can build an upgrade to T1 farms ( “Greenhouse” ) which permanently improves growth by +x%. I bet many would be happy to pay quite a bit for that.

what about using space constraints to push folks into t2?

These two suggestions basically go in a direction I suggested myself a couple of times: ultimately, higher tiers within an industry should be expected to yield more profits. Put differently, a base containing Scientist buildings should be able to generate more cash per square meter per minute than one containing Pioneer buildings. However, @martin tends to shoot down suggestions going down that path as “bog-standard progression systems” that contradict the sandbox idea at the game’s core.

What that tells me is: Someone who wants to get rich by staying in the mining business should have the possibility to do so with a similar chance of success as somebody who sells microchips with their Scientist-tier population. And it especially tells me that higher tiers should not be strictly better pertaining to the same activities (e.g. mining) than lower tiers. However, given that, I find it hard to economically incentivise moving to a higher tier (other than the desire for collective progress by breaking new ground). Switching tiers would essentially come down to switching from one industry to another (not inherently more profitable) one, e.g. because one identified the need for its products in the market.


#6

I like the idea of non-food consumables, having building upkeep alongside population upkeep would make sense even from real world point of view.

I see the problem with having higher tier buildings being able to produce lower tier goods. No, that would make lower buildings obsolete and that is not a good thing. No building should be replaced.

BUT I very much like the ideas of buildings add-ons and/or support buildings. I do not feel like it would go against the sandbox spirit. If someone wanted to earn their living by mining, why not! We will need a ton of ores and minerals for sure! But they could just buy the high tier things to build their add-ons as easily as they are buying their consumables. It would be more incentive for some people to push into higher tiers and it would add more inter-tier interactions. Even from the real life POW again, we still have farms and people earning their living by farming. But they don’t use ox to plow anymore, right? So why couldn’t a specialized miner get titanium drills for his Extractor when the technology exists in the galaxy he has to trade with anyway?


#7

As a note (and at the risk of harping on about it), when it comes to the concept that higher tiers shouldn’t be strictly better than low tiers the precedent is kind of already in the game in the form of resource extraction.

Yes, there’s not a higher tier version of e.g. an extractor that produces more, but higher tier technology allows building bases on superior worlds where that same extractor does produce more - when those higher tier worlds are colonised, any resource extraction buildings on lower tier worlds effectively become obsolete and need to be demolished as it’ll now cost them more to run the building than the output will sell for.

(the precedent is also kinda there for HCP and VEG due to the HYF, but farms can switch to other products that HYF can’t produce)

Not really sure what you do about that though, besides allowing buildings (and bases) to be packed up and relocated for minimal cost.


#8

That might happen, but it depends on the resource distribution in the game world and other production factors like support buildings.

In the current test there is an easily colonizable planet that has a H source. As soon as gas giants will be colonizable the Collectors on the first planet are out of order since the concentration on gas giants is way higher. That is the most extreme example I could find.

With other resources the outlook is better. Shipping costs are a major factor in production. The closer to a comex the cheaper it is. Mining Iron Ore (even at high conentrations) may not be viable if it happens > 10 jumps away. Even when refining the ore on site to reduce the costs may not reduce the price since every wrought product will need to be shipped to the outpost.


#9

I think some sort of “upgrades” or “improvement” to low tier buildings that can be traded and bought is a good solution to sandbox and allowing someone to stay in low tier businesses. That means it’s fine and fair to stay as a tier 1 producer but you can buy the same upgrades that anyone that progressed to higher tiers can make use of, and those that progressed to higher tiers can make money selling them.

The big game design question I think is if such “upgrades” should be permanent ( which might mean their demand is drastically reduced after everyone got them ) or if they should work more like luxury consumables in that they are not necessary, but can boost output.


#10

came here to say this. I wasn’t suggesting each tier give better outputs than the one before (bog-standard progression systems), but rather that going one tier up can improve stuff unlocked at the previous tier.


#11

I admit my perspective & concern is a little skewed towards the current H setup (:stuck_out_tongue:) though I did consider the Iron Ore scenario and agree the difficulty shipping would make that less of an issue (that’s part of what makes Vallis a poor choice just now - the advantage of slightly higher FEO concentration is largely negated by the fuel costs). Although, I also look to the (otherwise quite exciting) planned player designed and built ships, where depending on the options implemented they could potentially mitigate that transport issue, immediately pushing FEO (or similar products) back into a “high tier obsoletes low tier” scenario.

However there’s various other resources that fall somewhere in between which this supply could apply to depending on how the resource distribution turns out (as it did with H this time around).

I appreciate that if it happens at all it’ll likely only be for one or two resources, but my concern is that it turns those particular resources into newbie traps (I definitely wouldn’t start with H again if the current setup were the final release). As I say though, not really sure what can be done about it.

(in case it wasn’t clear, I’m on board with the idea that higher tier stuff shouldn’t be strictly better than lower tier stuff, which is why I’m concerned about the one or two places where that is or could become the case, especially if it’s only apparent to experienced players).


#12

I think we need to start moving away from viewing Tiers as a progression mechanic. I know that I have been a proponent of referring to tier progression as an act of technological advancement. I now feel this is somewhat of a misnomer.

What I feel we are really after is resource diversification, and by extension, increased recipe complexity and variety.

The game already abstracts concepts and whole production lines into “generalist” facilities. Recipes are the abstraction of the processes used to produce output. This means we do not need to specialize facilities, which is a very good thing for us.

I feel that new players and companies should play an important role in the economy, and established players should not be viewed as adding more value to the economy based merely on longevity. Rather, a company’s value is determined solely by its capacity to produce meaningful resources.

To this end, I feel that an Extractor should maintain the same production capabilities for all players, regardless of how long the company has been in business. I am strongly opposed to permanent upgrades for facilities.

That leaves a problem though, how do you increase the production capacity of a facility? I feel there are (at least) two meaningful responses to that question:

  1. Recipe variation. Additional recipes should be added to all facilities to allow production in larger batches using additional materials as inputs.

Using the extractor as an example, a “Coolant” resource could be required for a recipe that has an increased yield. Following along with viewing recipes as an abstraction of production process, this would simulate more advanced drilling methods.

  1. Consumable facility modules. If anyone is familiar with Factorio, you will likely recognize this fairly quickly. Each facility could have a number of specialization module slots. Modules should come in a variety of flavors, or multiple tiers. The most basic would be a production efficiency module.

Modules would have a production life, which would be consumed during the production process. That is, for example, a module may have a lifetime of 100 hours. Each production cycle reduces the remaining life of the module.

Where PrUn modules would differ from Factorio modules is that they would out of necessity be specialized towards particular resources. A standard “Efficiency” module may work whereby cycle times can be reduced. However, most modules would necessarily be specialized to a particular resource as a way of abstractly representing a facility being geared towards a particular production line.

For example, a GRN production efficiency module could be installed in a farmstead. This would provide a decrease in cycle times and represents the farmstead being geared towards GRN production. Out of necessity, a corresponding increase in production cycle times would be felt if other recipes were to be used.

Extractors could use modules that specialize it towards particular resources, with a reduced or nill yield of secondary resources.

I believe a combination of both approaches should be used. This allows new players to immediately utilize more advanced methods where they have access to the required materials. However, it still gives a large advantage to established players who may have the capital, network, and experience to achieve higher output values.

I feel it is very important that new players/companies are in no way disadvantaged simply because they are new. Of course, lower capital is a disadvantage, but this does not only affect new players.

As a tangent, I feel that recipes should be grouped together based on their output. When starting a production cycle, you should choose the desired output, then select a specific variant recipe to run.


#13

On a business trip right now, so I don’t have the time to reply in depth. But just wanted to leave a note saying I very much appreciate your well thought-through and eloquent feedback :slight_smile:


#14

“Consumable” meaning “non-permanent”, correct? Providing a temporary bonus like a miniature, one-player CoGC program? Sounds good to me.


#15

Yes, temporary. The proposed module would be consumed based on the length of time for which it is applied.


#16

Well a consumable upgrade is just another way to say “upkeep cost” or “maintenance cost” for a permanent upgrade.

The end result is identical. You need to pay something / time for a benefit.


#17

A maintenance cost for a permanent upgrade becomes compulsory and, so long as upgrades are permanent, a player cannot recover from a poor choice.

A temporary upgrade does not give an ongoing liability. This provides more flexibility, and I believe is more congruent with the overall design goals.


#18

Why would you implement it in such a way that it becomes compulsory? That sounds silly.

If it’s not paid you don’t gain the upgrade efficiency, same as with luxury consumable…