Damian Walker

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Resource Stockpiles: Planet or System Based?

Thursday, 23rd November 2017

After my progress on game map and planet generation, I started to hit the kind of road block that shows I need to do more planning. A few issues I hit were: having a realistic distribution of large populations; making small population planets useful; and where resources are stockpiled.

The first one is one I haven't solved yet. Currently population on each planet is random, but I think that gameplay would favour a limited number of civilisations to interact with, and lots of unpopulated planets and systems ripe for exploitation. The actual numbers are what elude me: perhaps 21 or 49 civilisations out of 147 systems, including the players' civilisations, would work. That's a 1 in 7 or a 1 in 3 chance of encountering a civilisation at each star system, and I might not find out which is better till playtesting. Or maybe I could make it a game setting.

The second problem stems from the fact that I don't want to have huge population movements in a short time. But many interesting planets with valuable resources will start the game with few or no inhabitants. If, as I had originally planned, exploitation is done by having varying numbers of populations working in mining, agriculture, refining, how does one extract value from a sparsely-populated world? One idea I've had is investment in robotics. A secondary "robotic" population would increase gradually with investment and time, allowing a planet with tens of thousands of people to eventually do the work normally done by billions.

But finally the issue that I mention in the title. Where should all the mined, farmed and refined materials be stockpiled? My natural inclination is to reflect physical reality by having a stockpile at each planet. But I've started to wonder if it would be adequate to abstract the information and keep a stockpile at each system instead.

While interstellar travel can take a number of turns, it may or may not be a reasonable assumption that travel between planets would be much quicker. So would it add anything to the game to model the transfer of resources between one planet and another in the same system?

In favour of this idea is simplicity: an AI star governor need only make sure that the farming planets farm, and nobody in the system will starve. The refineries do their job, and ships will continue to move. Similarly with mining. It removes a whole level of complexity for both human players and AI not to have to worry about shunting resources around between planets.

Against this idea is planetary individuality. Planets can be allied, conquered or otherwise annexed one by one, so what would happen to a collective stellar stockpile if one of an empire's planets were taken? If materials are stored on a planetary basis, then the composition of booty for the invader is clear.

I may have come to a simple solution: that resources are stockpiled at the planets, but that they can be transferred within a turn to other planets should they be needed. Players or an advanced AI might then decide to stockpile at heavily defended planets if danger threatens.

I already abstract the transfer of information by imagining a conceptual fleet of courier boats or ships that neither the player nor the computer has to manage. The transfer of goods, within a system at least, can be abstracted in the same way if one imagines space barges constantly moving between the planets. If the space barges are imagined as privately owned, then a charge can always be made for transfer of goods, but this is going further than I have time to properly consider now.

Much of this speculation about ship movements tells me that it's about time I started thinking about ships and combat. That's one area that I've only had sketchy ideas on so far.