May 15, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 3

Welcome to the third part of my Aurora tutorial. As we built ships last time, it makes sense to start using them, and we'll throw in a look at colonization while we're at it. This is going to mean actually incrementing time in Aurora, instead of just setting stuff up. The game is more or less turn-based, although the length of the turn is variable depending on circumstances. The turn length buttons will each try to advance the game the specified amount, although various events can cause a turn to end sooner.1 The most common is a ship completing its orders, although there are other causes, too.2

Not everything is updated every turn. Specifically, construction and other stuff in the economics window only happens when the time interval has advanced by at least a specific value, which defaults to 5 days. This is also when you get new officers, promote existing ones, and check for maintenance failures on your ships. In the early game, you may not even know these are happening, but as time goes on, you're likely to get interrupts as projects finish, ships are built, and research completes. Note that the interval on these cycles is variable, as it only happens at the end of a turn. So if you hit the 30 days button and no interrupts happen, then you're going to end up with a huge build cycle at the end. This might not be a good thing. If you had a construction project which was on track to finish 3 days after the last cycle, you've delayed getting it and preventing the factories from doing something else for the last 25 days.

There are other reasons to prefer relatively short intervals. If you're using conditional orders, which I'll explain later, calculation is only done at the end of a turn. Long turns can mean that the ship spends the vast majority of its time just sitting there doing nothing. The way to balance these two is auto-turns. The orange button in the upper right turns green when clicked, and will continue running until an interrupt happens. These can be things like orders, which will end a turn, or other things like standing orders or construction that happen at turn end. Standing orders in particular can get annoying because they interrupt every turn until you deal with them, so be sure to check the events window and see what's going on there.

But with that out of the way, we can turn our attention to actual operations. First, we need to survey our destination worlds to see what minerals they contain. To do this, we open up the Naval Operations window (the picture of the star destroyer) and go to the Survey Fleet. What you've actually got selected here is the fleet, which can have more than one ship, although this one shouldn't. The ships themselves are visible by opening up the fleet, although we don't need to do that now. Open the Movement Orders tab, make sure Moons is checked, and click on Luna, then select Geological Survey. Then go back to the main window, and press the 5 Days button from the top row. The game will run until the survey of Luna is done.3 If you open the Events Window (the calendar in the top bar) you should see a notification that the Survey Fleet has completed orders, and maybe a notification that it's found minerals on Luna.4 Now, send the ship to survey Mars, using the same process. This will take longer, both for the ship to get to Mars, and to survey it, so let's turn our attention to colonizing Luna.

Open the System Window (the one with the planets) from the top bar and select Luna, then hit Create Colony. Now, go back to the economics window and open Luna. (You may have to refresh the window by re-selecting your race in the dropdown at the top left.) On the summary page, you'll see that there's nothing on the planet. That makes sense, and we'll need to make sure we don't just dump our colonists on a hostile, airless world. Now go to the Environment tab. This is where terraforming happens, which we'll get to later, and it shows you how much infrastructure you need for the colonists. The algorithm for this is fairly simple. If you can't breathe the atmosphere (insufficient oxygen, too much dangerous gas, etc), colony cost is 2. If temperature is outside your base range, colony cost increases more or less linearly. Too much pressure also drives up cost, although that's mostly an issue if you try to colonize Venus. The highest of these cost multipliers determines how much infrastructure you need, which is equal to the cost multiplied by 100 per million people. While Luna isn't exactly the ideal temperature, it's dominated by the lack of air, so colony cost is 2, and you'll need 200 infrastructure per million people you plan to have live there.

Now, let's move some of that infrastructure. Select the Cargo Fleet from the Naval Operations window, then order it to load infrastructure from Earth (under load installations) and unload all installations on Luna.5 Hit 5 days again, and wait until the turn completes, which won't take long. The events window will tell you that Cargo Fleet has completed orders, and if you go to Luna in the economics window, you'll see that there is now 50 infrastructure, enough to support 250,000 people. Next up are the colonists, moved using (surprise) the Colony Task Group. Set it to load colonists on Earth and then unload them on Luna. Hit 5 days again, and you should see 100,000-200,000 population on the economics window, depending on how you built your colony ships last time. Congratulations. You've now started colonizing the universe. Feel free to run in more colonists if you've got the space for them, and set auto-turns (the orange/green button in the top right) until you get Mars surveyed. Hopefully there are minerals (more frequent than on Luna, but not universal) but if not, it's still prime real estate, close to Earth, and relatively easy to terraform.

OK, but don't we want to survey the rest of the solar system? Yes, but that will take forever to do manually, which is why we're going to talk about standing orders, found in naval operations under the tab of the same name. These are things the ship will do automatically, without bothering you about it. For a geosurvey ship, we'll set the default standing order to Survey Next Five System Bodies.6 This means that it will look for any unsurveyed bodies within 10 billion km, and go for the nearest five to survey them. If it can't find any, it will interrupt at the end of the turn. This can get annoying, and it's best to bring the ship home and turn these orders off if, for instance, the solar system is fully surveyed and you don't have other systems to survey yet. There's also a secondary standing order, which it will execute if the primary is unavailable. This is sometimes really helpful, but it's probably best to leave it blank for now.

But wait. The ship has limited fuel, and we don't want it running out while on survey. This is where conditional orders come in. Set Primary Condition/Conditional Order to Fuel less than 40% and Refuel at Colony (All). This means that if the ship gets below 40% fuel, it will come back and top off. Why 40%, you ask? Simple. The algorithm for this isn't very smart, and it's easy for it to end up spending a lot of fuel chasing a far-off comet. This becomes even more of an issue when other star systems open up, because dealing with a stranded ship is no fun.

So now, if we look at Mars on the main map and hit a short interval, we should see the Survey Fleet start automatically going after whatever bodies are nearby, first the moons of Mars and then nearby asteroids. This kind of automation is vital for expansion into the cosmos, and we'll wrap up here for now. Next time, we'll continue our look at colonization, with terraforming and commanders.

1 Each turn is composed of one or more sub-intervals, during which ship movement and such is calculated. If something happens during one of them, it interrupts. The length of these are set by the second row of buttons, but it's best to leave those on auto.

2 Occasionally, these causes aren't even related to what you're doing. If two Non-Player Races (NPRs) start fighting, you can be locked into in-game hours of 5-second turns. There is unfortunately no way around this, beyond setting the game to auto-run (NPR events don't cause interrupts) and walking away for a while.

3 It should finish within the interval unless you have only 1 geosurvey sensor on the ship.

4 I've run a bunch of tests, and find lunar minerals more often than not, but it's not universal.

5 If you don't get the option to unload, it may be because the ship in question doesn't have a shuttle bay. You can just unlock the class in SM mode and add it in.

6 Survey Nearest Body also works, but Next Five is somewhat more efficient. Standing orders are only checked at the end of a turn, so Next Five gets you further along when doing quick surveys before the ship goes idle.

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