June 26, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 14

Now that I've covered combat in Aurora, it's time to once again turn our attention to colonization and the economy. My earlier introduction was focused on the mechanics of how to do things, and occasionally skimped on what to do, an oversight I now intend to rectify.

How to manage your construction facilities is a matter of personal taste. There's a lot of options, depending on what you want out of the game, and you'll be in a much better spot to find and fix bottlenecks than I am. I've had games limited by construction capacity, by shipyards, by minerals, and by officers. There's also a couple schools of thought on how to build things. Steve seems to prefer focusing on one or two things at a time, and queuing the next thing to get built behind them. I tend to favor having everything building in parallel at once. Either way can work.

One of the biggest hazards in the midgame is mineral shortages, which can sneak up on you. This can be mitigated by switching the focus of your industry (if you're low on Gallicite, for instance, then consider building fewer ships and missiles) but it can only be resolved by extraterrestrial minerals, usually harvested by automated mines. Be sure to check both quantity and accessibility of the mineral you want before you start mining. There's nothing wrong with mining a body that has a lot of a mineral, even if the accessibility is low, but know that this can actually make a mineral shortage worse in the short term as the mining facilities you move are actually producing less. To move the resulting minerals to Earth, use mass drivers. The destination can be set in a dropdown in the mining window, and beyond that, there's no real involvement on your part. Just check the mining colony's stockpiles occasionally to make sure you have enough mass drivers, because each can only handle 5,000 tons/year, and anything past that gets added to the colony's stockpile. Oh, and be very sure not to steal the last mass driver from Earth, because that way lies an accidental kinetic bombardment.

And now it's worth turning to interstellar colonization. There are a number of reasons to colonize. Maybe you've found a world with enough valuable minerals and a low enough colony cost that it's worth shipping in people to work the mines. Maybe the planet is just inherently habitable, and you want to make your species multi-planetary. Maybe there's ruins from an ancient race, and you want to study them. Maybe you need a forward base to support your fleet. In any case, there are a few things to look for.

First, how easy will it be to terraform the planet to habitability? A planet with a small percentage of a dangerous gas like CO21 in the atmosphere will have a colony cost of 2.0 even if it has perfect weather, gorgeous beaches, and an ant-like species that for some reason builds resorts you can just move into. Making it habitable is as simple as shipping in a couple hundred infrastructure, some terraforming equipment, and the people to run it, and then waiting for a couple months. Then there are planets which have too much or too little O2, but are otherwise fine. Building an atmosphere from scratch obviously takes the longest, but it's doable, particularly if the body is small. Once you get a breathable atmosphere, things get a lot easier even if you still have temperature or hydrosphere2 constraints. Each bit of terraforming at that point reduces colony cost and raises the population cap, making it easier to grow the colony. It can even get to the point where infrastructure is being freed up so fast that the colony ships fall behind. But it's also worth keeping an eye on planet size, because large worlds can take an awfully long time to terraform.

Second, what is the mineral situation? It's extremely rare to find a non-homeworld planet with a full set of minerals, and I generally prefer to ensure that any world with construction facilities has that. The solution is obviously to assemble a full set out of other bodies in the system, although this isn't guaranteed to work, particularly in small systems. This isn't to say you can't accept some limits on what you can build in a system, or just use the system for mining or trade and not industry.

Now that we've found a colony, what does building it up look like? Obviously, you start with infrastructure and colonists, along with whatever installations you want the colonists to run. Keep an eye on your available workers as you send in industry. It's not a big deal to be a little bit short, but you don't want to end up in a spot where you have 10 million jobs and 5 million workers, because that's a lot of stuff sitting idle. My general rule of thumb is to wait until there's enough free capacity for half or so of what I'm going to send in. It's safe to assume that you'll need about .05 million workers per standard cargo bay the installation takes up. You can of course freely ship in stuff that doesn't take workers, and it's probably not a bad idea to send in some deep space tracking stations and maybe a refueling station before it gets too big. I often send in a spaceport when the colony is in the 5-10 million range. It takes a million workers and 80 cargo bays, but gives full surface-to-orbit access and speeds up loading times.

When a colony's population hits 10 million, it becomes fully-grown in the game's eyes. Three important things happen. First, it now produces the full range of trade goods, although in limited quantities. It's worth taking a peek to see what your civilian lines might be carrying. Second, you gain the ability to set the population to stable, where it no longer automatically gets colonists, or even source, where colonists will be taken from it. Stable colonies are useful when you want the shipping lines to focus their efforts elsewhere, instead of just adding more people to Luna or Mars. There's nothing to stop you from growing a stable colony manually. The lines will even ship in infrastructure if the colony is short, although demand drops a lot when the colony is stable. Third, it starts to demand protection from the Navy. Any world with a population above 10 million that isn't the capital (or recently conquered) wants warships in the system to protect it. How much depends on the size of the colony, and the demand is expressed in Planetary Protection Value (PPV). The value of a ship in PPV is simply the total HS of all the weapons onboard, and at a population of 10 million, demand is usually in the single digits. This is easy to meet, and my current favorite tactic is specialized fighters (because I don't have to devote a shipyard to them). All they need is enough engine to get to their destination, some engineering capability, and as many box launchers as I can cram in. It's probably best to send in maintenance facilities to keep them up, although this isn't an absolute requirement. A bigger world (say a conquered alien homeworld, having reached full citizen status) can be harder to convince of your protection, and doing so is the only good use I know of for plasma carronades. PPV is strictly limited to a system, so your main fleet base at Earth counts for colonies on Luna, Mars or Pluto (should you be mad enough to colonize that body), but the biggest fleet in the universe is useless if it's two systems away.

If a planet isn't protected, it will have unrest, which reduces industrial efficiency. The other big cause of unrest is overcrowding from insufficient infrastructure. Unrest can be reduced by ground troops, but not to zero. It only goes away when the core problem is resolved.

I think that's most of what you need to know about colonization and economics, at least for now, and with that, this series comes to an end, unless I happen to get more ideas at some point. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, even if you're reading this series in 2022 or something.

Lord Nelson and I close on a house next week, so the RTW2 game won't be returning until sometime in August. I'll probably have something up most Fridays, but I can't say exactly what.

1 CO2 wasn't dangerous in VB6, and I think the planet generation code still makes mistakes about this from time to time.

2 Note that hydrosphere terraforming is pretty slow, as you have to wait for the water to drop out of the atmosphere and onto the ground.


  1. June 27, 2020Alexander said...

    Nice work with the series, and good luck for your move! I look forward to August and more RTW2.

  2. June 29, 2020huscarl105 said...

    If you think about it, trans-Neweton minerals are an addictive substance for you empire that is in somewhat limited supply. In 10-20 years you will run out of the easily accessible ones in your home system and the only way to get more is to expand. But expanding requires more TN minerals which means you have to expand more in an ever accelerating pace. And every time as ship moves, a factory, shipyard of fighter factory builds you have less than you did before. And loosing ships in combat is even worse, just firing missiles is a notable loss. If things go well you end up like a star with no hydrogen left in the core where still most of the population is but flashing brightly in a middle ring with an ever expanding outer shell. At worse you drift off into space like an forgotten brown dwarf.

  3. July 02, 2020echo said...

    Got my first glorious victory over the enemy to commemorate the final tutorial. Closing to beam range and maneuvering squadrons is way more exciting than watching waves of missiles vanish.

    Thanks again for getting me into this game, although it might turn into cursing you after a few thousand hours.

  4. July 03, 2020bean said...

    Congrats. I might post some of my ships next week as a worked example, although they're from my current high-tech flagship game.

  5. April 01, 2021Matt said...

    Thanks for writing all this! I was looking for a comprehensive written guide and this is the best I have found.

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