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Starsector 0.9.1a is out! (05/10/19); Blog post: Skills and Story Points (07/08/19)

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Author Topic: Resource management sucks  (Read 1284 times)

SCC

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Resource management sucks
« on: September 17, 2019, 06:28:53 AM »

Let's have a look at resources you can get in the game.
First, by how they are used:
  • Supplies: you spend them on maintaining ships and repairing them (constant use), surveying planets, building space infrastructure and settling planets. Can be simplified to "you need it to do anything".
  • Fuel: you use it for traveling in hyperspace and for emergency burns (nearly constant use), and also for bombarding colonies. Can be simplified to "you need it to go anywhere", which you need to do for most things.
  • Crew: required to maintain your maximum CR and lost when ships are damaged. Almost always required, but in a boring way.
  • Marines: used for raids.
  • Heavy Machinery: required for salvaging and surveying, used for salvaging, settling planets and building space infrastructure. Not as necessary as previous three, but you still always want it, unless, for some reason, you are not interested in salvaging (free loot!).
  • Metals: used for building space infrastructure.
  • Transplutonics: used for building space infrastructure.
  • Volatiles: used to run neutrino scanner, which means that it's vendor trash in some runs.
  • Food: vendor trash.
  • Domestic Goods: vendor trash.
  • Luxury Goods: vendor trash.
  • Drugs: vendor trash.
  • Harvested Organs: vendor trash.
  • Heavy Armaments: vendor trash.
  • Ore: vendor trash.
  • Organics: vendor trash.
  • Transplutonic Ore: vendor trash.
  • Volturnian Lobsters: vendor trash.
Right here we can see that many commodities are useless to the player and that supplies and fuel are mutually redundant, metals and transplutonics do things that supplies do already and that crew is almost entirely redundant after ship acquisition. Not good.
However, perhaps those similarly used goods differ in the way the player can obtain them reliably?
Notes: by "colonies" I mean "for sale on colony markets", "after-battle loot from trade fleets" and "player-owned colony resource stockpile". I just don't want to write all of that every time. "Exploration (in small quantities)" relies on dismantling randomly generated space infrastructure. "exploration to some degree" means it's not exactly guaranteed to be always gained, but it's still frequent.
  • Supplies: colonies, after-combat salvage, exploration.
  • Fuel: colonies, after-combat salvage, exploration.
  • Crew: colonies, exploration to some degree.
  • Marines: colonies.
  • Heavy Machinery: colonies, after-combat salvage, exploration.
  • Metals: colonies, after-combat salvage, exploration.
  • Transplutonics: colonies, exploration (in small quantities). I am not sure if it can be gained from usual after-battle loot or not, I don't remember it right now.
  • Volatiles: colonies, exploration (in small quantities).
  • Food: colonies, exploration to some degree.
  • Domestic Goods: colonies.
  • Luxury Goods: colonies.
  • Drugs: colonies. Different in that you have to smuggle it in most places.
  • Harvested Organs: colonies. Different in that you have to smuggle it in most places.
  • Heavy Armaments: colonies.
  • Ore: colonies, exploration to some degree.
  • Organics: colonies, exploration to some degree.
  • Transplutonic Ore: colonies, exploration to some degree.
  • Volturnian lobster: a unique colony.
There are only three categories of resources here: those you get from everything, those you gain from colonies and exploration, and those you can gain reliably only through colonies. The most boring way is also the most common and reliable.

I just can't help but ask why? Why are there so many resources, if most of them can be gained in the same way, are used in the same way and you are hardly ever forced to choose one resource over the other.
If I were to remove everything but supplies, there would be only few gameplay changes and none of them would be ground-shattering: tankers and liners would be pure lore ships (which doesn't hurt, since they just aren't very interesting in the first place), Safety Procedures 3 and Navigation 2 would lose a little impact (since there's no fuel anymore) and, finally, after a bad fight you aren't crippled until you go to some colony and buy more crew.
While it's intuitive to most people that there would be several resources in the game, I just can't help but notice that most are too similar to one another not to be redundant and their presence just doesn't bring much to the game. You can take the easy route and remove redundant resources, do it the hard way and improve resources so that they are gained in different ways, spent on different things and giving different gameplay challenges, or do the lazy thing and just leave it as it is. Either way, I need to think more about the best thing to do, and you most certainly need to think even more.

Edit: during a brief walk with a dog I've realised I've made a slight mishap and forgot what I was writing in the middle of it. I meant to list only reliable ways of gaining resources, not all of them.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2019, 07:16:56 AM by SCC »
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Histidine

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2019, 07:04:55 AM »

Commodities are also used in the economy's production chains, sometimes in different ways (e.g. food shortages cause instability). In general, they also need to exist for something-like aesthetic reasons: to make the Sector feel like an actual place where actual people live.
Which isn't to say that we could introduce more things for the player to do with them.
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Final

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2019, 07:06:09 AM »

I fully agree with OP
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SCC

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2019, 07:16:34 AM »

In general, they also need to exist for something-like aesthetic reasons: to make the Sector feel like an actual place where actual people live.
From pure gameplay perspective, however, they are all just as useless. It's simply bloat and could be removed without much issue and it's why I made this thread. "Lore"/Immersion take is helpful, but it doesn't remove the issue, except by saying it's not actually an issue, I guess.
The part about economy is true and commodities could still be there, with the player loot being abstracted into "useful stuff" and "vendor trash" resource. It's not very nice way to do it, but it's effective. Additionally, I feel that resources being completely useless for the player fleet, while being only situationally useful for colonies is underwhelming as well.

intrinsic_parity

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2019, 09:12:53 AM »

I don't see any downside to having a few redundant resources for aesthetic reasons though. It's not necessary but it also doesn't detract from anything.

On the colony management level, there are differences in which buildings supply/produce stuff. That could maybe be a bit more fleshed out. I also would like more ways to interrupt/boost production (i.e. cause shortages and surpluses) on AI worlds so that the player can make money buying/selling opportunistically.
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Crimson Sky Gaurdian

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2019, 09:24:03 AM »

From pure gameplay perspective, however, they are all just as useless. It's simply bloat and could be removed without much issue
So we should also remove all the graphics, and go back to an asteroids-style "hitbox and simple shapes"?
After all, "from a pure gameplay perspective" cosmetics are merely bloat, or so I've heard.
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CommandoDude

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2019, 09:34:10 AM »

Might be nice if metal was used to repair ships instead of supplies (so that keeping ships running and fixing them require two different things) or food is used by crew (have too much crew? eat more food)
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Sinosauropteryx

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2019, 09:48:23 AM »

Maybe a bit of a tangent, but the thread said "resource management sucks." While I agree with the OP, I think the far bigger hassle I've had is the hundreds of weapons that accumulate like bilgewater in my hold. There are always just enough rare weapons I'm short on that I don't want to stop picking up weapons, but there's also no quick way to sort them by quantity owned, so I end up doing huge dumps into my colony storage, which takes dozens of clicks (and there's no reason it should take that many). At least the other resources have the decency to be compact on your screen and sellable with a single click.
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SCC

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2019, 09:49:07 AM »

So we should also remove all the graphics, and go back to an asteroids-style "hitbox and simple shapes"?
After all, "from a pure gameplay perspective" cosmetics are merely bloat, or so I've heard.
Classes of ships are significantly different and should be graphically different. What different functions does food and organics do that they deserve to be separate items for the player to loot?

Crimson Sky Gaurdian

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2019, 10:10:43 AM »

What different functions does food and organics do that they deserve to be separate items for the player to loot?
The same function as the planets looking different, as the ships looking damaged, as anything having graphics.
As I said, we could just replace the ships with simple polygon hitboxes, give them a letter inside if that's not enough to distinguish them.

Diverse item types adds immersion, which is a big factor of gameplay.
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Wyvern

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2019, 10:13:15 AM »

so I end up doing huge dumps into my colony storage, which takes dozens of clicks (and there's no reason it should take that many). At least the other resources have the decency to be compact on your screen and sellable with a single click.
Look through the main settings file, there's an option to turn on that lets you 'sell' stuff by holding down alt and waving the mouse across it.  For some reason this defaults to being turned off; turn it on and storing weapons will be much less of a chore.
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Wyvern is 100% correct about the math.

SCC

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2019, 10:19:39 AM »

The same function as the planets looking different, as the ships looking damaged, as anything having graphics.
Food and Organics being different commodities with different looks means they are identifiable at a first glance, but what does that mean? Just that you remember to press F1 on both of them, if you bother.
Planets looking different does provide a little information. Habitable planets look different from one another and from uninhabitable planets
Ships being damaged do actually convey important gameplay information, this one being that they are damaged, where they are damaged and how much they are damaged, which influences your decision making (by avoiding full strength ship, engaging the damaged ones, seeing where the holes in the armour are and so on).
Stop trying to force an equivalence, where there isn't any. Vendor trash is called vendor trash because it has only one purpose: to be sold to traders in games, because the player has no use for them. Also stop pretending graphics aren't part of the gameplay, because they are, but different attention should be paid to important things, and different to something barely noticeable.

On the colony management level, there are differences in which buildings supply/produce stuff. That could maybe be a bit more fleshed out. I also would like more ways to interrupt/boost production (i.e. cause shortages and surpluses) on AI worlds so that the player can make money buying/selling opportunistically.
That much is true, but you don't necessarily always have a colony, and even if you have one, you don't necessarily have shortages that require you to go hunting for those resources. They are fine for economy, but when it comes to player fleet, most of it is sell-only junk.

Sinosauropteryx

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #12 on: September 17, 2019, 10:30:11 AM »

@Wyvern Thanks a ton! This effectively adds hours to my lifespan!
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Q8

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #13 on: September 17, 2019, 11:10:26 AM »

Im afraid, that this problem can be only solved by going bigger. Cutting half of the resources, even tho, i agree, that they are trash for the most part, would make a pretty big hit on immersion.

That said, few of them could be cut, i guess... wtf are organics anyway?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2019, 11:13:32 AM by Q8 »
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Thaago

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Re: Resource management sucks
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2019, 11:18:16 AM »

I think you are mistaken about supplies and fuel being redundant. "Time spent" and "distance traveled" are two very different things: all in system exploration spends no fuel, but continues to spend supplies. Hunting for a probe mission in the "outer reaches" requires having extra supplies because it might take a while. Doesn't require any extra fuel though. Bouncing between black holes/nebulas/neutron stars looking for research stations? Thats pretty quick, but involves lots of travel. Etc.

Even more important is how other game mechanics interact with fuel and supplies. Taking battle damage depletes supplies, but does not affect fleet range (or else a disastrous battle would leave ships both broken AND stranded!). Hyperspace storms allows faster speed and lower fuel consumption at the cost of supplies (surfing). Orbital bombardment takes fuel, and in such extreme quantities that sometimes it requires purchasing tankers. Halting repairs/mothballing reduces supply usage but not fuel usage: again the range that ships can fly is much less impacted by the player and/or dire events. There are probably others.

Fuel being relatively separate from campaign events is also critical to one of the best planning tools the player has at their disposal: the "range" overlay on maps. At present, it is relatively accurate, though a wise player knows that detours happen. However, in 'emergency mode' IE ships mothballed/repairs off, desperately trying to reach civilization, the overlay fails positive: the player can get as far as indicated, and maybe even farther if they storm surf. If supplies and fuel were the same though, any random event would make the overlay inaccurate to the extreme and useless for planning.

Making supplies and fuel the same resource would be terrible and require massive reworks to CR, campaign level events, and the UI.

I agree that there are several types of resources that are, from the player fleet perspective, all vendor trash. However, having several different types plays critical roles:
1) Immersion. This can be argued, as having the generic "Trade Goods" is at first glance just fine. However...
2) Colony supply chains/shortages/conflict. The resources fulfill different requirements and require different buildings. Being short of different ones causes different effects (depending on building mostly). More importantly, having different resources will put different factions into conflict with the player: no one cares about food production as its a big market, but making a major fuel center sooner of later will make Sindria attack.
3) Illegal goods/smuggling: Having some goods be illegal incentivizes avoiding scans, sneaking into ports, etc. This is a major section of gameplay for some players. Having different goods be illegal in different places encourages the player to visit more, different, systems.
4) Contract fulfillment. If the only trade good was the generic "Trade Goods", then players could ALWAYS just have a bunch in their holds and fulfill any contract that pops up. Boring. With the current plethora of goods, while its possible for a player to say have a stockpile on an abandoned terraforming platform and draw them out as needed, both the cost and space required is multiplied by the number of different goods. More goods incentivizes attempting to procure them on the fly when a contract appears rather than stockpiling. Procuring on the fly means visiting a system the player wouldn't normally - this is an opportunity both to see more of the sector (more flavor text/lore/immersion) and to get into conflict with more enemies depending on what they are doing.

So I disagree that the goods should be condensed: having multiple types is a net benefit to the game.
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