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Disposable income Mon, 02 March 2020 04:44
magic9mushroom is currently offline magic9mushroom

 
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Registered: May 2008
There are more than a few guides and posts around the place that make reference to the concept of "disposable income". Some people don't entirely understand what that is, and I must confess I didn't really get it - at least in the case of AR - until relatively recently. So, I'm writing a bit about it.

What is disposable income? It's the portion of your resources (both in the strict Stars! sense and to a lesser degree minerals) that you can throw down the drain (in any of various ways) without adversely affecting your economic growth. You can do anything you like with these resources and your curve won't know the difference (unless you get invaded Razz).

So, in the strict sense, disposable income is resources you can't spend on your economy. In a slightly looser sense, it's resources you can't spend on your economy with an appreciable rate of return.

What counts as spending resources on your economy? In rough order of directness, and assuming a relatively-standard race:

*Factories (directly gives resources)
*Mines (to improve your mineral output, which improves how many factories you can build)
*Terraforming (to improve your pop growth, which improves your future resources)
*Freighters (up to the amount you need to manage your pop and - for factoried races - Germanium; this is to improve your pop growth and to improve how many factories you can build)
*Colony ships (to give valid targets for your freighters)
*Scouts (to find targets for the colony ships)
*Economic technology research (i.e. that necessary to unlock better terraforming and better freighters, up to the point at which each is sufficient for current purposes)

(Note that some of these also need minerals; those minerals aren't disposable.)

Everything you can't spend productively on any of those is disposable income. In theory, nobody has disposable income until they've maxed out their terraforming tech and have the best freighters possible at maximum miniaturisation, but the last levels of terraforming don't have an especially-high rate of return (unless you're CA) and neither does freighter research beyond "LF that can go Warp 9 with a decent load" or even "privateer that can go Warp 9 without a zillion boosters".

Of course, removing some of these from the equation will increase your fraction of disposable resources. Some examples:

*-f don't need to build factories (which also drastically reduces "economic" mineral demand and thus the need for mines)
*CA don't need to build terraforming
*IFE and HE don't need to research Prop 9 to get "good enough" freighters

And now of course we come to the trap: Alternate Reality.

It's easy to think that AR has a ton of disposable income since they have no planetary installations. It's also wrong. Here's what you can do as AR to better your economy, again in rough order of directness:

*Research Energy (directly gives resources)
*Terraforming (directly gives resources and improves pop growth)
*Colony ships (to spread your population, which directly gives resources, as well as getting more minerals)
*Bigger starbases (to improve your pop growth, which improves your future resources)
*Freighters (to manage your pop and thus improve your pop growth, as well as recycle colony-ship minerals; there's also a direct spreading effect but it's not super-huge)
*Economic tech besides Energy (unlocks terraforming and bigger starbases)
*Remote miners (to get more minerals, although AR's innate mining fulfils most of its economic needs if you're good at recycling)
*Scouts (to find targets for the colony ships)

That's a different list, but it's still quite a list, and two of them (Energy and colony ships) are extremely open-ended and can be built by any planet. In the strict sense, therefore, an AR has zero disposable income until they reach Energy 26 and have colonised every planet available. In the looser sense, they still need to colonise every planet available (Pinta-ing a red has a payback time in resources of ~3 turns + travel time with Energy 10) and get Energy well past 10 to a point dependent on economy size (with an economy of 50k it's energy 12 for a 10-turn payback and energy 14 for 20-turn, but with an economy of 100k it's energy 14 for 10-turn payback and energy 19 for 20-turn; recall that the Feds' factories have a 9-turn payback and IS orgies 20-25 turns). AR have a lot of powerful tools with which to improve their economy... which means, of course, that their testbed resource numbers are the result of all those tools being used to maximum effect (assuming the testbedder isn't lazy or ignorant Razz). This is why pure-resource AR testbed results are so infamously optimistic; in stark contrast to a standard -f race, they have less "disposable" resources than even your average HP, so if they need resources for something military (weapons/elec/prop research, plus remote miners, then actually building the ships), it's coming straight out of their curve. This is also part of why they hate AccBBS so much (the other part being that it doubles their starting econ but quadruples that of everyone else); AccBBS gives you pop, but it doesn't give you the effect of all those resources spent on the economy. -f love that because they have minimal economic resource expenditure; AR loathe it because their requirements are enormous.


[Updated on: Mon, 02 March 2020 05:12]

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