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Author Topic: A new player's first experience  (Read 3493 times)

RandomName

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A new player's first experience
« on: January 04, 2020, 11:16:43 PM »


Edit: During the tutorial Ancyra's economy suffers while the jump point is blockaded. If the player takes too much time to recover the ships from Tetra, an unwinnable situation may occur whereby there are not enough supplies available within the system to repair the ships required to clear the blockade and progress. The player can then do nothing but watch their fleet decay. The tutorial does not make this possibility apparent and offers no way to resolve it if encountered.

My suggestions to fix this are either:
  • Edit the dialog with the Ancyra station commander to make the situation with the blockade and the imminent death of the system's economy clear. The player should understand that supplies will run out system wide very soon.
    OR
  • Edit the dialog with the Ancyra station commander so that until the blockade has been cleared the player can call the Ancyra station commander to receive full fleet repairs and a small supply top-up for maintenance purposes. The player is after all working directly for the station commander to clear a blockade that will imminently starve the entire system.

Original post follows.



Summary
Pros:
  • Exceptional graphics, sound and overall presentation.
  • Some good ideas in game design, such as the suspicion mechanic when trading illegal goods.
  • A game with a great deal of potential.

Cons:
  • No rock bottom start option, such as begin with a single shuttle and nothing else.
  • The tutorial is too constrained. When starting with the tutorial there is nothing else you can do but the next tutorial mission.
  • Trade is broken. Tariffs are far too high and the open market / black market concept should be reconsidered. The transponder state at the time of landing should not affect where you can shop. Transponders should only be relevant while in flight.
  • Supplies appear to be broken.


First Impressions - The Long Story

Hello all,

As a huge fan of Escape Velocity and Endless Sky I bought Starsector yesterday because it looked similar. Initial impressions were very good due to the exceptional art and sound design.

Starting my first game I was disappointed not to have any option to begin with only a single small ship. I always enjoyed earning my way up in EV and ES so to have to start with anything more than a basic shuttle removes one of the most satisfying parts of the other games. I think it's good there are multiple options for a faster start, but I wish there was also the option to start from rock bottom.

Moving on things are looking interesting; the dialog system works well with a choose your own adventure style that looks nice and seems well written. I'm intrigued by the plight of the miners turned pirates by their lack of food and drawn in to the back story of each faction in the intel screen. My first mission is from the Hedgemony, and as they seem to be the real bad guys in their dispute with the miners I decide to delay completing their mission so as to smuggle food from Ancyra to Derinkuyu mining station.

The first run is interesting. My transponder is on because the tutorial told me it was illegal to fly without it, but I bought food on the black market to avoid tariffs so was immediately intercepted and scanned upon leaving Ancyra. The patrol found nothing illegal and left frustrated. I continued on my way with a smug grin. Why pay tariffs to those bastards for the food they should supply to their own miners?

Approaching Derinkuyu I go dark because they don't know me yet and I don't want to be mistaken for Hegemony scum. I dock and proceed to sell my cargo to help the miners. At this point my first major issue is encountered; why bother with the open market? 30% tariffs is ludicrous for a much needed supply drop. I read the text stating that selling on the open market helps relieve shortages, so I choose this option and see no sign of the decision having any impact other than a loss in my profits.

So I try another run with the extra credits earned and buy more food on Ancyra to sell on Derinkuyu. This time I save before docking and sell on the open market again. No sign of any change but again a huge loss of profit. Reloading and selling on the black market provides massive profits. So I google what the point of the open market / black market system is and it appears trading on the open market is profitless due to tariffs and therefore pointless.

Thinking about it a little more it seems stupid to have the two markets. Your ship is not going to be docked at one market or the other depending on your transponder state at the time you landed. Rather it would be at the dock with its transponder off because your ship is not in flight. Meanwhile you would be at the market buying legal goods over the counter and illegal goods on the side, possibly from the same sellers. The only difference would be the legal goods are declared and you pay tariffs while the contraband you pay cash under the counter and pay no tariffs because no one is declaring the sale in any way.

I like the idea of the suspicion mechanic. It makes sense that if you're trading in illegal goods the authorities may notice you as an associate of known smugglers and shady merchants. I'm not sure exactly how suspicion works in this game, but it should increase with illegal trades and decrease over time. The higher it is the more likely you should be stopped and searched by patrols, but you should take no reputation hit unless you're actually caught with contraband.

Moving on from trade issues, I continue to do the tutorial missions and soon have new ships salvaged from Tetra. I don't have the supplies to fix them and don't want to scuttle any of the ships I've salvaged, so I mothball them and head back to Ancyra where Commander Hatfield grants me 50 supplies and a bunch of weapons. Fantastic, time to fix the fleet. But wait, I need way more supplies to fix the fleet and there are none available to buy. I check the market at every port and it's the same story. I've already scavenged all the debris fields but I decide to try again. It proves to be a net loss in supplies due to maintenance costs travelling to the closest debris field. Further losses in crew and heavy machinery are also incurred.

Ok that's not good. The entire system is out of supplies and food. Commander Hatfield did mention the miners turned to piracy for lack of food, and the last supply fleet to enter the system was their first target. Considering this it seems fair to assume the lack of both food and supplies at any market within the system is due to this system being utterly dependent on imports, rather than it being an alpha bug. The priority is clear, we need to break the pirate blockade now that we have the algorithm to get the gate back online.

So I fix the salvaged frigate and support carrier as this is all I can afford with the 50 supplies on hand (leaving a little for maintenance) and head out to break the blockade. Only problem is the battle appears impossible. Even after splitting the two enemy fleets my fleet cannot beat the first of theirs. I'm hitting them with my starting combat freighter, drone tender, light support carrier and support frigate, all equipped with the best gear available at this point, and I cannot seem to take down a single one of the enemy's ships.

Now I realise that I am a new player to this game, but Commander Hatfield did say I should be able to beat both pirate fleets together, and I am fighting only one. This is frustrating so I go online and learn that another ship is salvageable if I beat all pirate fleets in the system. I change tack and head to Derinkuyu station to eliminate the fleet there. It proves no challenge and falls to my fleet without a single one of my ships ever having their shields broken. But the decline in combat readiness from the fight leaves me with a repair bill of 11 supplies. Scuttling all 4 of my mothballed ships, including the one just liberated from the pirate fleet, yields only 18 supplies.

This change of tack cost all the ships I was hoping to repair and removed the pirate fleet from Derinkuyu along with a potentially salvageable ship. But my supply situation is actually worse despite scuttling everything. So now what? My fleet cannot break the blockade and there is no way to improve it due to a lack of any other activity beyond the next tutorial mission. There is no way to earn money and nowhere to buy supplies. Even just orbiting in space doing nothing else means my fleet will decay for lack of supplies. There is nothing I can do.

The bottom line is supply costs seem far too high. When combined with their lack of replenishment in the market and a lack of any way to earn money to buy them with, the game seems very broken despite having so much potential.

My first impression is, as a result, extremely disappointing.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 09:41:07 AM by RandomName »
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SCC

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2020, 12:15:42 AM »

Rock bottom start: go to Starsector\starsector-core\data\config\settings.json, search for "enableSpacerStart" value and change it to true. It also forces you to pay debts that never go away. Can't get much more rock bottom than this.

Why the tariff: Alex wants to discourage "find a place where a commodity is 90 credits, find another where it's 110 credits, haul it forever with nothing to do". Just use black market whenever you can, penalties are really miniscule. While economy isn't robust enough to make trading worthwhile, I think that normal trading should be acceptable, and have pirates and other outlaws jump at the player from time to time. It might be forcing a conflict artificially, but opportunistic trading, in my experience, is hardly any more dangerous. Alex will probably take a look, once enough people complain about it. Or not... In the game proper, organ and drug smuggling is very profitable.

Salvaged ships from Tetra: I think what happened is that you didn't buy additional crew, like the game told you to do. If you don't, you will lose too much CR/supplies for your fleet to be battle ready. I think that was the fatal mistake, because the difference between getting as much crew as you can and not getting it is the difference of your ships being mostly repaired by the time you reach Ankyra and your fleet having CR in thirties, because you had not enough crewmembers. Additionally, after you get those ships, you will get access to Ankyra's storage, where you can find 50 supplies and weaponry. This should be enough, if you go from Tetra to Ankyra on sustained burn.

Serenitis

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2020, 01:13:52 AM »

Salvaged ships from Tetra: I think what happened is that you didn't buy additional crew, like the game told you to do. If you don't, you will lose too much CR/supplies for your fleet to be battle ready. I think that was the fatal mistake, because the difference between getting as much crew as you can and not getting it is the difference of your ships being mostly repaired by the time you reach Ankyra and your fleet having CR in thirties, because you had not enough crewmembers. Additionally, after you get those ships, you will get access to Ankyra's storage, where you can find 50 supplies and weaponry. This should be enough, if you go from Tetra to Ankyra on sustained burn.

I'm almost 100% certain that the supplies you are given to restore your fleet are based on the active ships in your fleet, regardless of crewing level.
So because RN docked with most of thier fleet mothballed, there was only a couple of active ships, so only enough supplies to restore those was given. Which was not enough for the rest, which made the next step far harder than it should be.

Tbh, there should never be any need for the player to mothball ships at any point in the tutorial. You are given enough supplies to do the things you're asked to, and there's several debris fields to salvage for a bit extra.
Once you get sent to Tetra you should have just enough supplies to salvage everything and return to Ancyra with a bit to spare. No mothballing required.

Maybe the ability to mothball ships needs to be locked in the tutorial, and only given once this stage is passed as this isn't the first time it's come up.
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Grievous69

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2020, 01:36:00 AM »

I just want to add that it's weird hearing someone new found the tutorial constraining, almost everyone else complained that it's too hard and that there are multiple ways to ''fail'' it. And yeah supplies are a *** when you're just starting out, just gotta get used to it. Although I recall Alex saying he'll take a look at some supply problem in tutorial (forgot what exactly it was).
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Lucky33

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2020, 02:20:46 AM »

Somebody actually plays tutorial apart from the using the Transverse Jump exploit. What a wonderfull thing.
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SCC

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2020, 02:38:45 AM »

Tbh, there should never be any need for the player to mothball ships at any point in the tutorial.
After getting mudskipper, you can get 160 crew, but that's not enough, if you recover the Condor. The player might still feel that they should mothball something. It's much worse if the player doesn't actually buy crew. Perhaps there should be another step that forces the player to do it, before he goes to recover ships fom Tetra graveyard.
Somebody actually plays tutorial apart from the using the Transverse Jump exploit. What a wonderfull thing.
You are forced to finish tutorial at least once, before you can skip it.

Lucky33

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2020, 02:52:23 AM »

You are forced to finish tutorial at least once, before you can skip it.

I'm officially confused. When did it happen?
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Serenitis

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2020, 04:00:47 AM »

I'm officially confused. When did it happen?
P. sure that's been in a long as the tutorial has existed.

After getting mudskipper, you can get 160 crew, but that's not enough, if you recover the Condor. The player might still feel that they should mothball something. It's much worse if the player doesn't actually buy crew. Perhaps there should be another step that forces the player to do it, before he goes to recover ships fom Tetra graveyard.
Yeah. That's a bit of a failing. Regardless of how much (or little) crew you have you don't need to mothball anything. But I can totally get why someone might think you do.
The lack of crew might actually help here as the ships will stop using supplies sooner when they hit thier lower readniess caps.

Maybe if temporarily locking the fleet settings isn't something you want to do, and there isn't some underlying thing which could be done to take into account all the ships rather than just the active ones, the commander could give some advice about not bringing mothballed ships back because his 'procedure' says he's not authorised to allocate supplies to inactive ships etc. So make sure to not bring any of those back, kay?
But how many people will skip through text?
You'd hope none, but that would be wildly optimistic.
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Lucky33

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2020, 04:25:42 AM »

I'm officially confused. When did it happen?
P. sure that's been in a long as the tutorial has existed.

There were only basic control and command tutorials in the beggining. Maybe they counted towards completing campaign one.

Anyway. If its forced now it means its only natural to abuse the Transverse Jump feature.
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SanHolo

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2020, 06:50:11 AM »

I'm new too. Just wanted to say that trade is confusing at first but makes perfect sense after you get used to it.
There's a lot of frustration because lots of the mechanics are fairly situationnal, but the game is good at making those situationnal pro/con relevant at some point. It isn't very clear when starting out "how and why" stuff works the way it works.

Usually if something looks like a fake choice, do it again and again and you will encounter a situation where the choice suddenly makes perfect sense.

It's like the game as a "base" state where all profit opportunities are closed and sometimes it open a window that enable you to profit from a situation for a given, usually short, period of time. This obviously will pay more if you use the black market. Those situations arises from the simulation, conflicts, etc.
The "procurement missions" are a newbie friendly way to highlight and secure an opportunity and a (generous) margin for a given situation. But in many cases, even without a procurement mission those opportunities can exist.

Since all stations/colony orbit their stars, and jump points are limited, lots of convoy must go through the orbits to reach the JPs. This means that in some cases , those convoys will cross other worlds, potentially patrolled by hostiles forces, which will destroy them and create loss of accessibility, loss of import/export and eventually shortages. And it can spread to colonies that rely on those import/export. This is the "engine" that creates "windows of opportunities" for the player. (there also are patrols, raids, hostilities, etc). Pirate and Luddic pathers gives guarantees about the instability : either the system isn't very strong and pirate raids/activity will kill convoys and destabilize colonies, or it is very strong with lots of infrastructures and productions, but then I think the luddic pathers will create shortages with inside jobs to destabilize it.

The transponder thing is smarter than it looks : some mission requires you to dock with the transponder "off" (I.E. smuggling stuff to the local underworld) - and in some cases, this is very difficult to do due to patrols, or takes lots of IG days to slip past said patrols which makes the mission deadline more relevant.

Some colony are super easy to smuggle from/to, some are very complicated or nearly impossible.
Tied in with the procurement missions, if you need 300 recreationnal drugs and you have 10 days left, you might not have the time to "sneak in" (especially in systems with sensors arrays that crushes your ability to do so), and will be forced to buy from a black market while you are docked in with transponder on, which will tag you as a smuggler and will push patrol to scan you, running the risk of losing rep, losing the cargo, and failing the mission.. And worse, if the smuggling procurement requires you to have the transponder off when docking, but the target colony is nearly impossible to dock with transponder off, you must consider destroying any sensor array first, then consider how to lure away patrols, etc. This goes in the same direction : deadline suddenly doesn't feel that comfortable at all anymore.

And if you do enough of those missions, you will build up "suspicion" on yourself that will complicate subsequents runs : the same "source" of goods will becomes way more difficult to use because you might still be tagged as a smuggler by a colony and a fast picket might scan you at a jump point or at another colony's port in the same system, even a few days after. 

So you end up thinking about storing some of the goods that are complicated to get (I.E. smuggling small quantities to keep suspicion to none or to minimal each time you get the chance to do so), but then you realize it can be expensive becauses of the storage fee, which push you towards considering establishing your own colony to store and trade....and that makes "reputation" with other factions very relevant, as well as shortages and surplus, which ties back to the open/black market thing :)

Without that kind of stuff, the trade and events would be uneventful and boring. There would be no decision to take at all and no consequences when taking "shortcuts". It also allow the game to reward the player for learning the stellar systems, patrol routes, convoy routes, hiding in asteroids belts, using transverse jump, etc. And still, sometimes you get caught because the planets were aligned and bad luck slaps you in the face. It creates some kind of narratives which is the purpose of that kind of "living" universe.


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Megas

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2020, 09:09:48 AM »

The tutorial is forced for the first game.  I could not skip it during the new game options when I first installed the first 0.8a release.  It is just as Serenitis says.
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Chaos Farseer

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2020, 09:17:06 AM »

There were only basic control and command tutorials in the beggining. Maybe they counted towards completing campaign one.

Anyway. If its forced now it means its only natural to abuse the Transverse Jump feature.
You know there's a button to skip the tutorial, right? It's in the new campaign setup menus, right after choosing the game difficulty, if you've started a game with the tutorial before.

The tutorial is pretty good at introducing mechanics, though. Once you know the game it makes sense to skip it, but it hardly seems like a bad thing for a new player.

As for the OP, yes the tutorial is pretty linear. Once you complete it, the game removes all the constraints and lets you tackle any mission or visit any star system. All of that is right behind the two fleets guarding the jump point. So, I hope that you at least give it another shot, or maybe you can create a new campaign and choose to skip the tutorial this time; you've basically seen everything the tutorial has to say.

If you want to win the tutorial, it might be best to start with a new campaign and follow all the missions without getting distracted. You might be able to save some supplies if you don't attempt to trade, for instance; it's not really viable in there. And, I believe you should be able to salvage a Hammerhead destroyer? You'll want to bring that if at all possible. It should give you a major advantage, especially if you can fight one of the jump point fleets at a time again. If you need combat practice, you can try some of the missions in the main menu or play around in the simulator, which is accessible from the refit screen. Otherwise, there's plenty of people here who can provide combat tips.

Thanks for sharing your impressions, even if they weren't good ones! Hopefully you can see the game in full and comment on that!
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Lucky33

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2020, 09:37:55 AM »

The tutorial is forced for the first game.  I could not skip it during the new game options when I first installed the first 0.8a release.  It is just as Serenitis says.

Well... When how did I get past it? I have no idea.
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Flashmek

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2020, 11:07:04 AM »

I am really new too however did not have an issue with the tutorial, i will admit i quickly learnt going dark is your friend and getting the skill to improve it will help you drastically to do your dodgey trades.

Drugs and guns are your friends you can make $500 a unit selling arms to luddic path in some cases or nearly $100 a unit on drugs.... cant go wrong just pick your planets wisely, if you are trading "normally" you are wasting your time it takes forever to gain decent capital compared to other options, looking for stuff to run in bars is good also or that person who sells good from the officers mess for cheap, its how i started early game to build up whilst my burn rate was 10 and i could get out of most situations.

I found early fights were overly frustrating especially when i picked up a slow ship without realising at first and being caught by some of the bigger pirate fleets.

Supplies in this game also are an absolute nightmare if you dont realise why your loosing them or how to avoid it, never run out of supplies, especially if your light of funds early game its just a downwards spiral, first few runs especially if im exploring / surveying i got caught out, neutrino stars murder your supplies if you land wrong for example......

Its been a fun curve so far still learning which ships i love and hate, still sitting at cruiser level and below favoring carriers because i am a fan of that type of idea anyways.

Just keep at it, play again, find issues and find solutions and try again, i did save scum my first run to get the hang of things so i did not mess up multipul play throughs but thats me 

Great game plus mods to keep it extremely varied beyond the already many choices.
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RandomName

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Re: A new player's first experience
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2020, 06:38:27 AM »

Rock bottom start: go to Starsector\starsector-core\data\config\settings.json, search for "enableSpacerStart" value and change it to true. It also forces you to pay debts that never go away.

Thanks, I'll take a look at that. Escape Velocity starts you with a small shuttle and a bit of cash. Endless Sky starts you with a small loan and nothing else. Personally I found the loan more fun, as it allowed the player to choose how much of a tight budget they spent on a ship, outfits and cargo. If you didn't spend it all you could immediately pay back the rest. Or you could put it all into cargo and make the debt work for you as a trader, with the risk that pirates could take your cargo leaving you with the debt.

I would like to see the option to start with nothing but a small loan in Starsector, but I would not want the loan to be something you can never pay off as you describe. That just seems like an artificial difficulty penalty to me. Also, starting options should all be available without tinkering with game files. Modifying a game makes it feel invalid to me.


Why the tariff: Alex wants to discourage "find a place where a commodity is 90 credits, find another where it's 110 credits, haul it forever with nothing to do".

Escape Velocity had a simple trade system that worked as you describe with no supply or demand modifiers. On the first play through it felt like you could work for a living hauling cargo as just one of many paths available to you, and it was fun. With more experience it became clear that reinvesting everything into an ever larger fleet of haulers meant exponentially growing profits. This was fun to discover but then quickly made money seem pointless. It also made new games feel like the only sensible path was to rapidly grow your cash through this method then buy the best gear before actually playing the game.

So I agree with Alex that something needs to prevent this. However some further testing today makes it clear to me that trading on the open market is seriously broken. In my opinion if a game has an economic trading system it should work and be fun to engage with. The current implementation here artificially punishes the player for engaging in trade and this is very poor design especially for a game in this genre.

Many players coming to Starsector will expect trading to be an option because it is in similar games. Here they'll find a fully functioning interstellar economy and markets reacting to supply and demand. They'll be impressed and keen to engage. They will buy cargo ships, view market information, identify a potential trade opportunity and travel to the system to buy their first cargo. Ultimately they will be disappointed to find they've lost money after delivering their cargo. When they unravel how the system actually works, and find it's intentionally rigged to prevent players using it, they will be frustrated and disappointed.

Personally I think it's better to remove the market system completely, rather than wave it in front of the player and punish them for using it. But I hope it gets revised to a functional state.


Salvaged ships from Tetra: I think what happened is that you didn't buy additional crew.

I had 180 crew, which is the maximum possible for the ships I was given and required hiring more than the 100 the mission text said to hire. If the player has 180 crew then recovers the hammerhead and carrier first, a dialog displays warning the player they have insufficient crew for all ships. The dialog advises opening the fleet panel and mothballing additional ships until more crew can be hired.

Without enough crew for all ships, and with supplies running low, I chose to mothball all 5 ships recovered from Tetra until returning to Ancyra. I don't recall how many supplies were available on Ancyra before heading to Tetra, but there were none available upon returning to Ancyra. The mission reward grants 50 supplies regardless of how many ships are mothballed and how many are active (I tested this today on a new run). This is not enough to fix all the recoverable ships intended to be used to clear the pirate blockade.

The problem arose from my decision to role play and the subsequent trading runs I made to ferry food from Ancyra to Derinkuyu Station. This decision was made at the very start. Having read the faction intel before taking the first tutorial mission I had decided I didn't much like the Hegemony. So when the station commander at Ancyra told me the miners only turned to piracy for food, I decided to help them.

Delivering food to Derinkuyu Station cost time and with it supplies. Testing today reveals that with the gate out of operation Ancyra consumes supplies and will run out early to mid July provided the player does not interact with the market. This varies because if the player sells goods on the open market in Ancyra, its economy gets a boost and more supplies become available for purchase.

I actually tested letting their supplies run down then selling everything I owned to Ancyra on the open market, including all my ship weapons and salvaged loot but not including my own supplies. After waiting a week Ancyra had a huge boost to stability and the open market had large stocks of everything including supplies.

The bottom line appears to be, that if a player takes too long and hordes their loot then Ancyra will run out of supplies and the player may find themselves in an unwinnable situation. I did not test but perhaps selling on the black market accelerates Ancyra's decline by not providing the economic boost that the open market does.
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