Part 3: Learning the Essentials** Note: I'm doing something with the 'spoiler' section that I should have done a long time ago probably. They are meant to be read, but just hide me commenting on what happens in a video so that it's a lot easier to watch the video (if you choose to of course), then read what I have to say about it without accidentally doing that in reverse just because it comes next on the page as you are perusing. There are no actual spoilers in the spoiler tags, it's just the best way I can think of have the video links as part of the update without prematurely giving away what they are about and so forth.
Learning the Essentials
Time for our empire to get it's feet under it and actually do something. Before that though, there's lots of 'Turn' button hammering to be done. And I do mean lots of it.
Four turns later. Compare this shot carefully to the one in the last update, and you'll notice something - the planets are rotating around the star. Not only that, but the innermost ones rotate more than those in the more distant orbits. This is the kind of small thing that I really appreciate - such attention to detail isn't hard to do, but it's a lot easier not to. Bravo!
Turns pass basically instantaneously in this game, at least on any vaguely modern computer, and things happen more slowly on a per-turn basis, especially in an early start like this one. Population growth follows the same basic idea that a half-full colony will grow the most, but the overall gain per-turn is a LOT slower in keeping with the whole 10 turns per year deal. Because of that, I find it requires a lot more discipline to play well. This will actually be the first game I've ever really done 'carefully'. In this case though, we really have nothing whatsoever to do until we get our research done.
So now it's time to talk about Leaders. You can also see that our luck with the research has been quite bad. This is one of the things that we'll spend those BCs we're accumulating on. You always get one approaching you sometime in the first handful of game turns, and then periodically afterwards. Typically there is an initial hire price and then a regular wage to be paid each year, which varies with the quality. That first option is almost always a low-level one.
Captain Tyranous says he'll wait, because he's a patient fellow, and we don't have 140 BC yet. Much like MOO1, it is a good idea to maintain a decent Reserve level, though I don't have a great handle on exactly how much that is here. That way you can afford to spend on these opportunities if you like.
This is the Leaders display, one of the bottom row selections in the GCI. On the left, we can have up to four domestic (Colony Leaders) and four military (Ship Officers) leaders active at any one time. Like you, they are immortal - so if you hire one, they will do your bidding until you fire them. Right now Tyranous is giving us a 30-turn countdown until he is no longer available, so we've got to decide what to do in that timeframe or he'll just disappear. He's a proper merc, with bonuses to boarding actions (security), ground combat (commando), and ship attack (helmsman). In this he'll work well to illustrate the possibilities here, as he has skills that are useful both in fleet and army actions.
On the right, though it's perhaps not immediately obvious, the top section is for selecting from our fleets and the bottom one for selecting a star system. A leader can be assigned to either of these. They are bound to the specific location they are assigned to, and will not benefit the empire elsewhere so it's important to give them a job where they will do the most good. Once we start hiring some, this screen will begin filling up and it'll be important to cull unwanted candidates. They may or may not return at a later date, so if you want someone it's best to Hire them when you have the chance. In this case, we are far from being concerned about any imminent combat so it's not worth the money.
Next turn, this guy shows up to tell us all about what we've just discovered. He'll do that same three-second animation for as long as we let him. When you get done wondering what gravity-defying effect causes that loose-fitting jacket sleeve halfway up his forearm without falling down to his wrist, you can click anywhere and pick a new research option to pursue.
Sticking with computers as noted, we're going Optronics.
** Dauntless Guidance System provides IFF capability to missiles and torpedoes. Not that we, you know, have any. They'll retarget if their current target is destroyed, a helpful thing indeed.
** Optronic Computer does the same thing as the Electronic one we just researched, but twice as well a +50 bonus.
** Research Laboratory is what we're here for. +5 Research at a planet whether we have any active Scientists or not, and also +1 base research for each Scientist at any planet that has one built.
We're making a beeline for the research lab because it'll speed up the necessary starting research we need to do in other areas to get our feet under this fledgling civilization and start turning it into a proper empire. This is unfortunately one of those times when the question must be asked: why would anyone do anything else? It's important to have balanced techs under a fixed, exclusionary system, and MOO2 is hit-or-miss on this point.
What this means is that getting either of the other two options depends on either a rival AI race being Psilons to acquire it from later, or one of them making a bad decision to get it instead. If neither one of those things happen, the first two options are thrown on the ash-heap, never to be seen or considered again. Sometimes the best option can vary, but you always want research labs because of how much of a difference they make.
Naturally things get more expensive as you go up the tiers. There aren't the same amount in each field, but here we've tripled the cost so the estimate is 18 turns. At our homeworld, we're up to almost 8.6M, so it'll be a few more turns there as well until we get a new worker 'grown'. In between, we'll hammer that Turn button and quite possibly not do anything else.
Stardate 3501.3, and Administrator Galis offers his services. He's basic but cheap. We continue to bring in the cashola. As a Financial Leader, he boosts the BCs we produce at any colony by 10% - which basically means right now he will almost pay for himself. It's a close call whether he's worth it - as our population rises he'd eventually be a net positive on a larger colony. At the moment I'm not convinced it's worth parting with even a small amount of our savings though, which I'll be using for other things eventually. Galis is rejected. If you have the money to hire a leader, you have to choose here before doing anything else.
One more turn, and Sol I tips over the 9M mark. We have another citizen! That gives me cause to visit the ledger, aka the Colonies screen - left-most button in the GCI's bottom row. And that means it's time to stand up and applaud MOO2, because this screen is near-perfection.
Not only can we click through to any colony faster this way than selecting it's system first, but this screen itself has control functionality. I can move around the workers/farmers/scientists as I see fit, go directly to the build screen by clicking on the 'trade goods' text there, or buy whatever's building by clicking that circular icon on the far right.
You want info? Check. At the bottom of the screen we can see the key factors of the planet - I'd like a more detailed current population so I know if a planet is about to grow again, but other than that all the key elements of the environment, production, etc. are there. The galactic minimap and imperial information synopsis ensure I don't have to leave to see the key elements of the big picture.
Sortability? Got ya covered there too. Seven different categories to select from so we can quickly identify and fix problem areas or address overall needs. No longer are we restricted to the MOO1 way of 'look, this is the order in which the game stores your planets, so you will view them in this order and only this order until the end of time. It's Galactic Law'.
Our new citizen has been put to work as a Farmer. We can either leave him there and have one food go to waste with a 67k growth rate, or go one food short, get more research done, but see that growth drop precipitously to 17k. As important as it is to get research done and I mean now, I think it's better to keep getting more population and leave things how they are. Also note that with the extra citizen, we are up to a +6 annual income. Mo money!!
We're 25 turns into the game by the time we finish the lab research. This'll change things up a bit.
We're now headed to the Construction field of study. Same reason as before - what we really want isn't available till the next tier.
** Anti-Missile Rockets have a range of 15, fire once per turn, and an accuracy rating of 85%, -5% per square of distance. Which means at their maximum range, they aren't hitting much of anything. You can tell by this that we're going to be dealing with a much bigger space combat map than before, since that's like twice the size of the entire thing in MOO1.
** Reinforced Hull triples the amount of damage a ship in general and the drive system specifically can take.
** Fighter Bays equips a ship with four fighters for each bay that is included. Fighters use the best available PD beam weapon - again, we'll deal with more of that at another time - and can fire it 4x before they have to return to reload their power cells or whatever at their 'mothership'.
All of these choices are attractive. Missiles are a big deal early-game, more survivable ships are obviously a plus, and I have a big personal soft spot for carriers. MOO1 didn't have them, which makes me want to do it. Objectively Reinforced Hull is too good to pass up, and fits that 'look, this is the best choice period' criteria. Triple HP is a LOT. There are more advanced bays we can have for carrier-type operations, but those don't show up till late in the tree and we may not even get to them in this game. It's wrong, but I'm taking my fighters and you can't stop me. If it costs me the game, well, I did it my way and we'll learn from my mistake.
More than anything else though I just bloody want to go with the hull reinforcement and then come back for fighters at my leisure. I need my WAAAAAAMBULANCE!! Ok I'm fine now. Mostly.
Next, back planetside, I need to build a Research Lab now so I'm dividing up our efforts. Two workers is the most we can sustain without incurring pollution penalty. Also, we now have 4 Marines and 1 Militia. It's gone up by one Marine in 25 turns.
Yep, definitely calling BS on this explanation. It is most assuredly NOT how this is working. I'm thinking maybe it goes up to half your current population or something.
Stardate 3502.9, and we have a 10th citizen on Sol I. I didn't adjust them - the game put them in as Scientists automatically. Let's all applaud the fact that it is making a serious effort to deploy new citizens intelligently. Also, population growth isn't down as much as I would expect as we approach the maximum here. The curve for that is clearly a lot flatter than it is in MOO1. I make no adjustments.
The next turn the lab is halfway done, so I'm going to buy it as this is the most efficient time to do so. We've got over 200 BC by this point. Our profit margin will be cut into slightly due to losing another BC annually to maintain the lab. Well worth it of course, and I switch back to maximum scientist employment. When the lab finishes, that pushes us up to 25 RP - 5 for the lab, 4 each for the five scientists. That's a two-thirds jump from the 15 RP before it went up.
Two more turns, and Advanced Engineering - Fighter Bays is a thing.
Automated Factories are the next must-have. They do for Industry what the research lab did for Research - automatic +5 without workers, +1 base for each worker.
** Heavy Armor - negates armor-piercing effects and triples the armor value of a ship. The fact that you pretty much gotta have the factories here is another reason to go with reinforced hull on the previous choice - now I'm bypassing two effective ship-survival techs.
** Planetary Missile Base - 300 'space units' of our best missiles, with unlimited ammo, can be fired. Note the singular - unlike MOO1, one doesn't built dozens of these. We can build one per planet. Missile defense is not even close to enough to fortify a world.
Messed up the shot, but at this point we got a new leader app. Howdy there Captain Jarred! He's got quite the range of skills, increasing ship attack and defense, improves diplomacy, and the Navigator skill is a heck of a thing. It improves ship speed by 1, while also allowing normal travel through nebulae and near black holes. Nebulae basically do what they've always done - slower travel and shields don't work - while black holes are new and typically there is an enforced 2-parsec no-fly zone around them. Your antiquated laws of space-time distortion don't apply to Captain Jarred the Explorer though.
He's more tempting than the others, but I still have more pressing matters to attend to.
Stardate 3504.0. Factory research is in. Now we need to get some basics for warp travel. Note how in the Power-Nuclear Fission field we have arrows pointing to all three, meaning we get them all. This is what it is like to be a Creative, but there are three starting fields that are similarly mandatory. Chemistry and Physics are the other two. After that, we'll start to be less sure of what the best course of action is.
The Nuclear Bomb and Nuclear Drive techs are, as you might expect, basic entry-level versions of those weapon systems just as they were in the first game. Freighters need a bit of talking about though. They are MOO1 transports on steroids, and far superior in implementation. This is one of my favorite MOO2 mechanics, a great example of expanding a feature without ruining it.
Any time you need to export or import food or colonists you need to use a Freighter to do it. They are essentially civilian-operated transports. You have to pay to build them, but they only cost maintenance to the degree that they are used. Inactive freighters cost none; any active ones cost 0.5 BC each year. In this way there is both a setup and an operational price tag for moving stuff around, something to consider when deciding whether it's really worth doing.
As before, I put a couple of workers into Industry, then buy it at the halfway point so I can max out Scientists once more.
Chemistry is next, providing entry-level missiles as well as the fuel and armor requirement for starships. Also note the newly-revealed Cold Fusion tier. That's another everything-must-go set and we can't expand beyond Sol without it.
By default, this pops up whenever something is built somewhere, or another 'event of note' occurs. There are options, but for now I'll leave it on. Pretty rare occurence right now, but later it'll be a constant drip each turn. Clicking on the message takes us to the surface to make adjustments, and the window will still be there when we return in case there are other notifications requiring our attention.
Forgot to put this in for a turn or two; I've got a Freighter Fleet (50 Industry to build) set up followed by a Spy (100 Industry). That's just to get one of each ready but more to do something useful with the Industry. Since we've got the Automated Factory now, and you can see the landscape getting decidedly more busy than it was initially, you're always building something. Need to make sure it's what I want it to be, or else it will be trade goods by default.
After Chemistry arrives, Cold Fusion is the next step. We have everything we need for warp travel. If we find anything out there in the galaxy, this will be required to exploit it. That means ship design, exploration, etc. are all next on the agenda. We're now almost to the point where an Average tech-level game, or a MOO1 game, would begin.
Stardate 3504.8 with 210 BCs in the reserve.