Chapter 2:Basic Race Design
In this chapter
Let's look at how to design a race to fit your Whole Game Strategy. With all the combinations of traits and options available in race design, this isn't a simple task.
Apply a Whole Game Strategy
Now that you have your Whole Game Strategy, designing the race to go along with it is easy, right? Wrong! It's easy to say "I want to out produce everybody" but quite difficult to design an effective race that will do so. Race design is a sometimes painful procedure that will have you weighing costs to benefits, abandoning Lesser Racial Traits that you want but can't afford, and trying to find a way to get back those 1,452 points you used in optimizing your habitability settings.
Race design is also one of the most rewarding parts of playing Stars!. When that final click brings you back into the black, or you suddenly find a way to get choose that Improved Starbases trait without sacrificing your growth rate, you can sit back, smile, and say, "There, NOW I (think I) can out-produce everybody." You can't be completely sure, of course, until you playtest your race.
Race design is invariably an open-ended process. You start with a basic race and a Whole Game Strategy, run it through one or more test games, then make any necessary refinements. After refinement, there's more testing, and more refinement. The process can repeat indefinitely. Eventually, however, your race must be declared done and then put to the ultimate test: a real game. A race may go through the design/testing process a dozen times before you are comfortable with it, or you may just test it once and declare that it fits into your Whole Game Strategy.
- rule of thumb
- You should playtest your race at least once before going head to head with real human beings. Unseen pitfalls can become quite apparent in the first few years of a testbed.
Choose a Primary Racial Trait
Stars! has a Primary Racial Trait for nearly every personality type and Whole Game Strategy.
This trait is a good choice for the Simple Expansion strategy. The Hyper Expansion real growth rate is twice that of the growth rate you specify in the Custom Race Wizard (making a potential maximum rate of 40% per year at half the cost). However, races with this trait have only half the maximum planet size as other races, making their worlds small and potentially easy targets. On the upside, Hyper Expansion races are hard to beat once they gain some momentum.
This trait is the delight of the sneaky minded. Races with Super Stealth excel at cloaking, and have two scanners (PickPocket and Robber Baron) that can steal minerals from other players. They also receive a small spying bonus from all other players in the game, making technology fairly easy to attain. If you like to sneak around the universe causing trouble, this is the primary trait for you.
- see also
- Read more about Super Stealth...
Races based on this trait exceed on the offense, but are quite poor on defense. They have more weapons and more warship hulls than any other race. Their weapons are cheaper than those of all other races. Their colonists can attack better and their ships are faster in battle. If you like to ride the ragged edge of disaster, with the wind in your hair (fur? scales?) and blood on your blaster, consider being a War Monger.
- see also
- Read more about War Monger...
Some players believe that this trait creates the strongest races in the game. A race with the Claim Adjuster trait excels in Terraforming technology and can terraform other players' planets from orbit (using a remote mining device). They don't need to terraform their own planets, as any planet colonized instantly reverts to its best possible setting (making early growth for this race very easy). If their colonists are removed (by war or design) the world reverts back to its original settings, making invasion of their space more difficult. Because of their innate ability to perform remote terraforming, they have no problem gaining allies. If you like striking deals and making bargains, or just like to grow fast, then Claim Adjuster is a great choice.
This trait is the opposite of the War Monger. While the War Monger is always on the offense, the Inner Strength is always on the defense. Races with this trait have a barrage of shields, armors, mines, and jammers that makes their ships hard to kill. They also have cheap, effective planetary defenses.
- big D
- Inner Strength colonists defend better than War Mongers attack. The actual numbers are 1.65 for War Mongers on attacks and 2.0 for IS on defense. Everybody else gets 1.0 on defense and 1.1 on attack. The War Monger does get 1.5 times what everybody else gets when attacking: 1.1 x 1.5 = 1.65.
Inner Strength colonists also reproduce while in their freighters, at half the rate of growth (meaning that you will grow faster in a freighter than on a 49% world). If you like entrenchment, holding your own, and letting others fight it out, consider Inner Strength.
Races based on this trait are the minelayers of the universe. Nobody else can lay such a variety of mines with such speed. While other races have to stop a year before laying mines, the Space Demolition can start the year of arrival (making circular routes through several minefields, perhaps replenishing them on the fly). Space Demolition minefields scan for ships within their borders. They can also be detonated from remote locations, doing damage to every fleet within the minefield. Like Inner Strength, Space Demolition is for the player who wants to hold their own. Unlike Inner Strength, Space Demolition has a bit more of an offensive minded approach to defense.
- see also
- Read more about Space Demolition...
This trait endows races with intimate knowledge of mass drivers, eventually giving them the ability to throw packets (potentially moon-sized balls of minerals) at mind-numbing speed, either to deliver those minerals to a needy world, or to smash into an enemy planet. Their packets contain penetrating scanners, making finding new worlds a snap. (Just throw a packet near one or more worlds and get a complete reading). Their packets do a little Terraforming if they are not caught. If you love doomsday-type weapons (a warp 13 packet could ruin your opponent's whole day), or if you just hate mineral management, this is your trait.
Races with this trait can gate ships like no one else. They start the game with stargates, and eventually can gate any ship, no matter how large, to any distance. This makes it easy to respond lightning fast to any threat or opportunity. Only these races based on Interstellar Traveler can send minerals and colonists through their gates, making balancing of resources easy and quick. You might choose this trait only after you've played races based on other traits, are continually frustrated with your inability to gate huge battle fleets and resources, and realize that you want to make stargates a primary component in your Whole Game Strategy.
- see also
- Read more about Interstellar Traveler...
This is the most eclectic trait in the game, and will be given its own section later in this guide. This chapter will only deal occasionally with Alternate Reality.
Jack of All Trades
This trait is perfect for creating a middle-of-the-road race. The tutorial race is based on this trait, and, most likely, so is the race that you played in your first solo game. Races based on this trait can be tailored to almost any strategy. They start the game with lots of ships, lots of technology, and penetrating scanners that just get better as time goes on. Also, their planets can hold a few more people than the other standard races, making them potentially the best race if you are trying to maximize resources/planets. This makes Jack of All Trades a good choice for Hyper Producer strategies.
Personalizing Your Race
Once you choose a Primary Racial Trait, you need to go through the process of "personalizing" the race, by choosing Lesser Racial Traits, and modifying your production, habitability, and research settings. The combinations you choose will further serve to define your race for you, and make it your own distinct creation. You should again apply your primary design goal when making these adjustments. Try to focus on adjusting the race, so that it fits the "personality" that you envision for the race. It may not always be possible to make all of the choices you desire, but by maintaining your focus on adjustments that help to cement the chosen personality, you give yourself a much greater chance of ending up with a race that fits your goal.
Choose Lesser Racial Traits
When you reach the Lesser Racial Traits page in the Custom Race Wizard, you see a wide variety of lesser traits you can add to your new race. Traits on the left side are typically "advantages", and cost you advantage points in your design. Those on the right are typically "disadvantages", which means they give back points. What effect does each of these traits have on the playability of your new race? Let's have a look.
Improved Fuel Efficiency
- f i g 2.1
While the increase by 1 in Propulsion technology and 15% reduction in fuel consumption are nice, the primary reason for selecting this trait is to obtain the Fuel Mizer engine. The Fuel Mizer is a wonderful engine for use in the early game, and even into the mid-game stages. It is a ram scoop that goes warp 4 without using any fuel, and can travel at even at warp 9 for a reasonable cost (for a ram scoop). This allows races that rely on speed to make the most of the early game.
Another important consideration in the early game is that this engine costs zero Germanium. Germanium is almost always in short supply early in the game.
No Ram Scoop Engines
- f i g 2.2
No Ram Scoop Engines takes away all engines that travel without using fuel faster than warp 4. Note carefully that if you have also selected Improved Fuel Efficiency, the Fuel Mizer is still available. The Interspace-10 engine is available only to those races that choose No Ram Scoop Engines, and it is the lowest tech engine that can safely travel at Warp 10.
The Interspace-10 can provide a battle advantage for those races that want to be aggressive in the early game, as well as those who intend to travel long distances. Keep in mind, however, that non-ram scoop engines tend to be more expensive than their ram scoop counterparts. Did we also mention that how much fun it's not to run out of fuel in enemy territory?
- f i g 2.3
Total Terraforming allows races to improve the habitability of their planets to a greater extent and at a cheaper cost than what can be achieved without this trait. The tradeoffs include a requirement to research Biotechnology, which is typically not researched often, and (generally) a loss of benefit if one or more of the habitability factors have been set to immune. This trait is therefore most beneficial to those races that would otherwise encounter a higher number of planets that are marginal in habitability.
Because races with Total Terraforming tend to have high Biotech levels, it's a good idea to set Biotechnology research costs to "Costs standard amount" or, even better, to "Costs 50% less". Space Demolition-based races will need to research Biotechnology for their minelayers, so Total Terraforming may fit more naturally into their research strategy than it does for other races.
- Research costs are set on page 6 of the Custom Race Wizard. Research in Biotech also gives you access to the various "smart bombs" in Stars!.
Cheap Engines reduces the cost of engine components by 50%. However, the engines will fail to engage 10% of the time when attempting travel at speeds above warp 6. This can represent serious problems for some races, and less for others. The advantage is that a greater number of ships (especially small ships) can be built at a lesser cost. The downside comes when your race has a critical need to intercept ships, or to retreat from interception, at high speed.
Advanced Remote Mining
- fig 2.4
This trait is a good choice for those races looking to gain a large fraction of their minerals from planets that they do not inhabit (and for Alternate Reality-based races, which do not actually inhabit any planet). This trait provides very nice, small and affordable ship hulls and mining robots at the beginning of the game. Later on, a single mining ship will be able to pull a disgusting (to other players) amount of minerals from an uninhabited planet. Also, the mining robots available to races with Advanced Remote Mining are generally cheaper and far more effective than mining robots built by other races.
This trait is best for races with a lower overall habitability, or with poor planetary mining settings.
Only Basic Remote Mining
- fig 2.5
This trait tends to be the choice for races that wish to avoid remote mining operations altogether. This trait reduces your choices of mining robots to one, fairly ineffective, robot. However, if you choose this trait, your planetary capacity will increase by 10%, allowing you to build a larger number of planetary mines. This trait is best for races with broad habitability settings, or races with good planetary mining settings, or both.
This trait will make two additional starbase hulls available (the Space Dock and the Ultrastation), reduce the cost of starbases by 20%, and add 20% cloaking to boot. The Space Dock is an excellent, early-game starbase hull, since it provides refueling and light shipbuilding capabilities at a very low cost. This makes the Space Dock optimal for frontier worlds, which often are lacking in resources and minerals. Later in the game, the Ultrastation will provide a very powerful defense.
This trait is for races that either intend to expand over large distances, or who plan to inhabit a large number of planets, or both.
No Advanced Scanners
This trait takes away all penetrating scanners from the race (the Ferret, Dolphin and Elephant scanners), in exchange for doubling the range of conventional scanners. Note carefully that this does not remove any benefits of your Primary Racial trait. For instance, Super Stealth provides the Chameleon and Robber Baron scanners, which have other abilities besides penetrating scans. Jack of All Trades-based races also retain their intrinsic penetrating scanning ability.
- The No Advanced Scanners trait has no effect on advantages provided by your primary racial trait.
The lack of penetrating scanners can hurt races that intend to be involved in planetary battles, since they will lose the ability to see fleets in orbit without having one of their own fleets present. If you do not have penetrating scanners, other races have a better chance of colonizing worlds within your empire (perhaps next to your homeworld!) where you do not have a scout on lookout.
This choice favors those races that intend to do research in all fields, including the often-neglected Biotechnology. This choice will apply half of your annual research budget to the field of your choice, and 15% of the remaining budget to each of the remaining 5 fields (yes, this adds to 125%, giving you a research boost). However, if you are attempting to concentrate on a single field at the moment, it will take twice as long to achieve a given level in that one field. In addition, if any of your research categories reach maximum, the research allocated to them will be wasted.
- Generalized Research gives you 125% of the research budget you would normally have available, providing a research boost along with the research distribution.
This trait is best for races that intend to balance their research plans, or for races that just don't want to bother managing research. For example, you could set your primary field to weapons, and watch all of your technology grow. Any strategy that involves researching Biotechnology (such as Total Terraforming and Space Demolition mines) could benefit from this trait.
Low Starting Population
This reduces the colonists that you begin the game with by 30%. Over time, the compounding effect of this reduction can be large. This can represent a substantial setback to certain races, particularly those with a low growth rate. Races with higher growth rates will find it easier to recover from the impact of this trait.
Races that intend on creating large numbers of small ships, or expensive ships, might consider this trait. It returns a higher fraction of the minerals that went into the initial construction of ships, when those ships are eventually scrapped. In addition, some of the resources that went into the construction will also be returned for reuse, giving your race the ability to actually export resources from one planet to another (by building ships specifically designed to be scrapped), at least on a small scale.
This trait is also a good choice for races that intend to regularly upgrade their ships or starbases, since their scrapped ships will be worth more, and their starbase hulls will be cheaper to upgrade.
Bleeding Edge Technology
This trait increases the discount on components requiring substantially lower technology than what the race has at the moment. However, components that meet one of the tech requirements will cost twice as much as for other races with the same technology level.
Therefore, this trait favors those races that intend to perform a great amount of research, or those who prefer the volume approach to building large numbers of older technology ships. This trait can hurt you in the endgame, as anything that is of technology level 26 (the maximum level) will always cost twice as much as it does for everybody else.
This is not a terribly popular trait, since the costs involved for actually producing minerals via Mineral Alchemy are prohibitive. For a normal race, it takes 100 resources to create 1kT of minerals, while for a race with Mineral Alchemy, it only takes 25 resources. However, this means that for a world producing 4000 resources (which would be a very productive world indeed) Mineral Alchemy would give you 160kT of minerals, which wouldn't even fill a Medium Freighter.
Mineral Alchemy may be marginally useful for a race that intends to inhabit only a small number of worlds, and who lacks effective remote mining capabilities.
This trait is for those races that intend to have large numbers of small ships that can be shielded. This choice will increase the strength of all shields by 40%, and shields will also recover 10% of their maximum strength during each round of battle. However, armor components will have their strengths reduced by 50%. Note that the base armor of the hulls remains the same.
- The Regenerating Shields trait has no effect on the base armor of hulls, only on value of armor components. The base value is shown in the Ship Designer. The component value is shown in the Technology Browser.
While races with either the War Monger, Inner Strength, and Alternate Reality primary trait tend to make the most of this trait, it should also be considered by any race that plans on developing energy (and therefore shield) technology faster than they develop construction (and therefore armor) technology.
Where and How You Live
While the Lesser Traits lend you personality, they still are not enough to significantly distinguish your race from others. There's still habitability and growth rate, resource utilization, and research costs to fiddle with.
The controls on page 4 of the Custom Race Wizard define which planets will be most hospitable to your race. You have three different ranges to modify: Gravity, Temperature, and Radiation. You will also choose the maximum growth rate for your race. These four settings work together to determine how effectively your race will inhabit different planets, and fill them to capacity over time.
For each of the three habitability factors, the colored band represents the range of values that your race can tolerate, and still survive. The wider the colored band is, the greater will be the number of planets that have a value for that factor which falls within your range. The narrower the range, the less likely it will be that any particular planet will have that value fall within that range.
- fig 2.6
As you explore, seek out planets with values closest to the center of the colored band: these represent the ideal conditions for your race. Values that are deep within the band you choose will give the planet in question a much higher habitability percentage, making the planet more valuable to your race. You can also slide the bands away from center. This can reduce your competition with other races for the same "ideal" worlds.
- homeworld values
- Your homeworld is an example of THE optimal world for your race.
Where you move the bar affects your effectiveness at terraforming. If you move the bar closer than 15 mouse clicks to a side, you will cut your Terraforming ability for that environmental factor a little. 10 clicks away is fine, while five is probably too close. Conversely, moving the bar more than 15 clicks is a waste of Advantage points (unless the ranges are very wide or you have Total Terraforming), as the farther from the center you are, the more points you get back.
The narrower you make each band, the more you can increase a world's value with each point of terraforming. As a general rule, habitability settings twice as wide will produce half the effect in terraforming. Very wide habitability could require several terraforming units to increase the value of a planet by one percent. On the other hand, a skinny habitability range may make one point of terraforming increase the value of a planet by more than one percent. In extreme cases, over 10% value can be gotten from one terraforming point.
You can also elect to set one or more of the ranges to immune, making that factor perfect for your race, under all conditions. This is a rather expensive choice, but will greatly increase the number of worlds that are good for you. Notice that a setting of immune is different than expanding the band all the way across. If the band for Temperature goes from -200 to 200, a world with a temperature of 200 degrees will be tolerable but very poor. If your race is immune to Temperature, then 200 degrees will be considered perfect, as will 0 degrees, and 200 degrees.
As you adjust these ranges, you should note the text near the bottom of the Wizard. It will give you a rough approximation as to the fraction of all worlds that will be habitable to you initially. Choosing settings that give a very low fraction of habitable worlds will make it much tougher to find new places to live. Settings that are too wide tend to consume too many advantage points.
Using these controls, and the maximum growth rate control, try to achieve a combination which gives a reasonable fraction of planets for the style of play you like, and still gives a growth rate high enough to allow you to effectively expand. Playtesting will show you what growth rates you can live with, but a general rule is keep it above 10% (at the bare minimum) and try for 19% if you can afford it. Why not 20%? Each click from 15% to 19% costs somewhere between 50 and 70 points, but the click from 19 to 20 costs over 100. It is probably not worth the extra points for that one last percentage of growth. This is an example of a breakpoint (an area in the race wizard where you can save a lot of points and still get almost what you want). There will be more discussion of breakpoints later in the chapter.
Races with narrower habitability, say 1 in 7, should be able to afford a much higher growth rate than a race which can inhabit virtually all worlds. These are part of the compromises you must live with when you design your race.
Make Production, Factories and Mines Efficient
Moving page 5 in the wizard, you see many interrelated controls that affect how efficient your population is at creating resources and running factories and mines. These controls all have an inter-related effect on the eventual resource and mineral output of your race. As you tune these settings, also keep in mind how fast your race will grow and how many planets your race will probably be able to inhabit.
Resources Generated per Colonist
The resources per colonist control allows you to tailor how effective your people are at producing resources, without regard to factories. This control defines the "base" level of resources that a new colony starts with, for a given number of colonists. Setting this value too high reduces the available resources from "people power", making it more difficult to successfully start a new colony without importing a substantial number of colonists. Setting this value too low costs a lot of Advantage points.
The Factory settings include efficiency, cost, number operated, and minerals needed.
The factories produce resources control governs how efficient each factory is at producing new resources. This will help to define the top-end of your resource output, as well as how quickly factories can produce other factories, compounding your resource output.
The resources to build each factory control is next. Lowering the cost of factories increases how quickly they can be built, speeding up the compounding curve. Setting the cost too high significantly increases the time it takes to grow a new colony to full production capacity.
The number of factories operated control also has an effect on your planetary production. Increasing the number operated requires you to actually build those factories first before you'll see the benefits. Increasing this value, of course, costs fewer points than increasing the efficiency (number of resources produced).
An additional consideration is the Germanium cost of each factory. By default, one factory costs 4 kT of Germanium to build. By selecting Factories cost 1kt less of Germanium to build, you will either be able to build more factories, or have more Germanium available for other purposes. While 1kT doesn't seem to be too much, it represents a 25% reduction in the Germanium cost for each factory. Germanium will almost always be a limiting factor in how quickly factories can be added to worlds, and it is also needed to build other things. At a cost of 58 Advantage points, this checkbox is a pretty good deal.
Let's look at some example settings, and see how long it would take for one factory to produce an additional factory. This is a good indicator of how quickly a colony will a viable resource for your empire.
With the default settings, 10 factories produce 10 resources per year. That gives you one resource per factory. Since new factories will cost 10 resources, it will take a ten-years for a factory to produce a copy of itself, based purely on its own production.
What happens if you raise the power of each factory to 14, and reduce the cost to 7? Now, each factory produces 1.4 resources, but only 7 are required to build a new factory. This means that only FIVE years are required to reproduce each factory. At first glance, this appears to be twice as good as the initial settings, and at a cost of 386 points it may not seem worth it. Keep in mind, however, that there is a compounding effect at work here. With the default settings, a single factory will grow to about 8 factories in thirty years, while the modified settings will produce about 56 over the same period, since each of the extra factories produced immediately goes to work producing additional factories. The result is a reasonable compromise, at an affordable cost.
The settings for mining can also have a critical impact on the success of the race you are designing. You encounter the same three choices for mines that you experienced for factories. You can adjust the power of each mine, the cost of new mines, and how many can be run. These choices will work together to determine how quickly and how cheaply you can extract minerals from your inhabited planets.
The mining "power" is adjusted by raising or lowering the number of kilotons for minerals that each mine can extract each year. Attempting to increase the power of mines tends to be a fairly expensive proposition. Lowering the cost of each mine, while also increasing the number of mines which can be operated, can give you minerals quickly, at a lower advantage point cost. However, you will tend to reduce the planetary concentrations of minerals more quickly by doing this.
It is important that you notice the added words "up to" in the mine settings. What those words mean is this: For a world with a 100% concentration, 10 of your mines will mine this many minerals. For the average world (50% concentration) you will only mine half this amount. For your homeworld late in the game, you will only mine 30% of this amount. For normal planets, by the endgame you will get almost nothing.
Choose Research Settings
The final page in the Custom Race Wizard allows you to adjust the cost of research in each of the six areas. Adjusting these settings will help you to choose the areas where your race will excel.
Each of the research areas has a separate control, allowing you to choose from three settings: Costs 75% extra, Costs standard amount, and Costs 50% less. The cost you specify for a particular field of research will help you decide which type of technology your race will lean toward (also keeping in mind the Primary and Lesser racial traits you selected).
For example, a race based on the War Monger trait might want to select Weapons research at Costs 50% less, since they will be building a large number of attack craft, and will want to maintain weapons superiority. You can either accept the advantage point cost of making this selection, or you can make a different and possibly less important area correspondingly worse.
If, for each field you make cheap, you make another expensive, you will exactly balance your research costs, for you gain as many points for making a field expensive as you lose for making another cheap. In the War Monger example, raising Biotechnology research to Costs 75% more will give you back the points you spent on improving Weapons. Since a War Monger has little use for Biotechnology, you have just gained weapons technology for almost nothing.
Let's look briefly at the advantages of adjusting each area:
Energy research affects your shield capabilities, planetary defenses, and mass drivers. Also, for the Alternate Reality race, Energy governs the race's resource output. It also affects Temperature Terraforming capabilities. Energy is also one of the areas required for scanners, jammers, computers, ram scoop engines and mine layers. Because the technology listed here is often so important to winning, it's usually a good idea to leave price it at standard cost or at 50% less.
Weapons research affects which weapons are available to your race, which bombs are available, and your Radiation Terraforming capabilities. This is another field that should not be made expensive. Many races choose to make it cheap, even those whoe set all other fields to expensive.
Propulsion research affects the availability of engines, Maneuvering Jets, Overthrusters, and Gravity Terraforming capabilities. It also has an effect on stargate components, as well as capital ship missiles. Races that have chosen Improved Fuel Efficiency can sometimes justify setting this field to expensive, and rely on the Fuel Mizer engine to power their early and mid-game starships. Races that expect to use ram scoops other than the Fuel Mizer may want to avoid setting this field expensive, as it requires a high level of Propulsion technology to get a decent ram scoop.
Construction affects the ship and starbase hulls, the mining robots, stargates and the armor components that are available. Races that take the Regenerating Shields lesser trait may want to consider making this field expensive. Many game strategies rely on getting the Privateer hull early, so if this field is set to expensive it would be wise to check the 'Starts at 3' box at the bottom of the screen, making Privateers only one research level away.
Electronics govern your scanners, jammers, and computers. It also affects which of the LBU bomb components are available. For races based on the Jack of All Trades trait, every gain in Electronics technology increases the scanner range, so they may want to make this field cheap.
Biotechnology is required for all forms of Terraforming, especially Total Terraforming. It also governs the production of mine layers, Smart Bombs, and certain armor and scanners. The organic armor is the lightest armor available in the game, and also the best protection for its weight until you reach Construction level 16. Races based on the Space Demolition trait need it for their mines.
Races not including any of these elements in their Whole Game Strategy can justify stopping Biotech technology after level 4.
Giving Expensive Research a Boost
There is also a check box that allows you to start all of your "75% more" categories at Level 3 (or 4, if you have selected the Jack of All Trades trait). Keep in mind that this selection always costs 60 points, regardless of how many or how few fields are set to "75% more". Therefore, it is a good bargain if all of your fields are expensive, but probably not a good choice if only 1 or 2 of them are.
By making careful choices on the Research page, you can add a distinctive flavor to the race you are designing, and perhaps get back a few points (or a lot, if you elect to set all fields expensive).
Spend Leftover Points
Lastly, you turn back to the first page, and notice that you can spend any leftover points on different items. This is usually a small choice, but as all choices in the Custom Race Wizard are important, no matter how small, let's investigate your options:
For each point left over, you will get an extra 10kT of your rarest mineral. This can either give you a boost in your initial factory building (if you happen to be unlucky enough to start the game with low Germanium) or at the very least give you some extra Boranium to look at. It does not increase or decrease the mineral content of the planet.
For every two points left over, you get one extra mine to start with. This could be a good idea if you have very high mining efficiency, and is also a good idea if your mines are expensive. Note, if you have an odd number of points left over, you 'lose' one point by choosing this. Also, if you only have one leftover point, you get nothing (while choosing 'Surface Minerals' would at least give you 10kT of something)
For every five points left over, you get one additional factory to start with. With 50 leftover points, you would start the game with 10 more factories, doubling your factory output in year 1. Note, however, that like mines you don't get anything for leftover points. If you have nine points left over, you still only get one factory. If you have four or less, you get nothing.
For every 10 points left over, you get one defense. This has the same drawbacks as extra factories does, with the added downfall that in the early game you really don't need planetary defenses that much. At most, all you could get is five, and if you have nine points or less, you get nothing.
For every three points left over, the poorest mineral concentration is increased by 1%. At first this looks like the best choice, as you could get an increase in Germanium (if that was the lowest mineral) by up to 16 percent, which would put you way ahead of the competition. However, homeworld mineral concentrations, while they can fall below 30%, are still treated as 30% for your mines (a diversion from reality that is very welcome, as it makes homeworlds produce minerals faster in the beginning if they happen to start low, and also makes them prizes worthy of massive conquest in the endgame when all other worlds are depleted of minerals). This means that if your world starts out with, say, 10% Germanium content, and you raise it 16% to 26%, you've taken a mining ability of 30% and raised it to 30%, using your extra points for nothing. Basically, it's a gamble that may or may not pay off.
What does all this mean? Surface Minerals is a sure bet, and Factories are a good choice, but Mineral Concentration could pay off in the long run, especially if you have good mine settings. Depending on how many points are left over, Mines could be a good choice, but probably only if you have poor mine settings. Defenses are almost never a good choice.
Choose Breakpoints and Bargains
Invariably, when going through the design process, you encounter a level of frustration associated with trying to make the choices you desire. This frustration is created by the advantage point costs of each of the different factors in the design. This is very deliberate. The advantage point costs in the Custom Race Wizard have been balanced as much as possible, to take into account the expected effect on the performance of the race in actual games, in conjunction with all of the other selections you have made.
Choices that cost a great number of points tend to provide a large advantage to the player. Likewise, choices that give back a large number of points will tend to have some kind of crippling effect on the performance of the race. Examples of these are Total Terraforming, Ultimate Recycling, Cheap Engines, Only Basic Remote Mining, and No Advanced Scanners.
The choices that tend to cost only a few points, are choices that are more stylistic, rather than ones that have a major effect on the playability of the race. Generalized Research, Bleeding Edge Technology, and Regenerating Shields are examples of stylistic choices.
It will be up to you, as a designer, to decide whether each choice that you make is worth the cost. One of the things that can be done in this process, however, is to adjust other parameters in small ways, to help you balance out your costs, and get you back into the positive side of the advantage point ledger. Additionally, you might be forced to go back into your design, and accept weaknesses to go with the strengths you desire.
One of the more effective things that you can do, when trying to balance out your points, is to look for bargains in the Custom Race Wizard. Try adjusting the various controls one click at a time in each direction, while paying close attention to the effect on the advantage points for each click. By doing this, you can often find settings which give you most of the benefit that you're looking for, at a cost which is more acceptable to you.
Let's look at an example of this effect. Let's say you are trying to increase your factory capacity. If you look at the cost of producing new factories, you will notice a breakpoint that occurs when transitioning between a cost of 9, and a cost of 8. If you start off with the cost fairly high, say at 15, and proceed to lower them it click at a time, you will see that each point reduction costs you about 18 or 19 advantage points. But when you try to lower the cost of factories to 8, suddenly the jump costs you about 60 points. This clearly represents an opportunity for you, if you are willing to design around that setting. If you set the cost to 9, you can use the points that you would have spent on lowering the cost, on other aspects of factory settings, like raising the power or lowering the Germanium costs, or raising the number of allowed factories.
There are other breakpoints in other places in the Race Wizard; here are a few of them:
- In the Growth Rate dialogue, going from 19% to 20% costs nearly twice as much as going from 18% to 19%. Settling for 19% growth instead of 20% saves you, depending on other factors, somewhere between 100 and 150 points, for almost no reduction in growth rate.
- Going down to 900 colonists/resource (A 10% cut) costs a whopping 200 points, while raising it to 1100 gains you a measly 40 points. In fact, each click upward gains you 40 points. To gain 200 points from raising it, you'd have to go up to 1500 colonists/resource (a 50% increase). It seems 1000 colonists/resource (the default) is a breakpoint.
- To go up to 11 resources per 10 factories, you loose 43 points. To go to 12 you only loose 40 points. To go up to 13 suddenly costs 62 points. 12 resources per factory is another breakpoint.
- To bring mines down to requiring 4 resources to build (a 20% reduction) costs measly 23 points. Going down further to 3 resources (a 25% reduction) costs 22 points. To get down to 2 (a 33% reduction) costs 134 points. Mines cost 3 resources is a breakpoint.