Saturday, April 30, 2022
Progress in Prosperous Universe
Prosperous Universe is a game about economics. You don't play a hero, you play a company. As a result, progress is not something measured in levels, but in cash, assets, and profit. The game suggests some starting careers and provides you with the materials to build your first base on one of the starting planets. For example I chose Victualler, and the game provided me with enough stuff to build a base consisting of a core module, 2 pioneer habitation, 1 rig, 1 farm, and 1 food processor. Where you go from there is up to you. The idea is to take the remaining cash and the profits from the operation of your starting base to buy the materials to build more production buildings and make more profit.
Prosperous Universe (PrUn) is a very slow game. It took me days to build my first additional building. Now you could play PrUn by just building whatever strikes your fancy, only logging into the game once or twice per day for 10 minutes or so, and not spending much time on planning. But for me the actual "playing" of PrUn is in planning to optimize your economy. And because a lot of players do that, there is a whole page of tools, apps, and spreadsheets available as Community Resources. So instead of just watching from day to day whether my money goes up or down, I use a spreadsheet to calculate how profitable my base is, and what I should do to maximize profit.
In my case the starting base with the recommended buildings produces 2.5k profit per day. That went up to a bit over 3k when I bought some luxury consumables for my pioneers. Pioneers are the lowest class of workers in PrUn. Every class of workers has a number of "essential" consumables, and if they run out of those, they stop working. And then there are luxury consumables that boost their morale and thus productivity. The tricky thing is that you buy and sell everything to other players, and prices fluctuate. So even a simple question like "should I give luxury consumables to my pioneers?" needs a spreadsheet to answer, as it depends on the prices for those luxury consumables and the value of the goods those pioneers are producing.
Then I had to make a decision on what building to do next. Looking into that made me understand something rather fundamental about the economics of Prosperous Universe: You will want to strike some sort of balance between self-sufficiency and profit. My food production base wasn't the most profitable venture out there, but it does have one fundamental advantage: It produces two of the three essential goods that pioneers need, drinking water and basic rations. As I had chosen to start on a planet that wasn't in the immediate vicinity of a commodity exchange, it takes a bit of planning to keep a large enough stock of consumables on the base. Anything you produce yourself and don't have to ship in helps. But once those basic needs are covered, there are more profitable options out there than food production.
In my case I am on a planet that other than being fertile and having water, two essential requirements for food production, also has one other resource: It is rich in oxygen. So it turned out that the most profitable option to build one more building to increase profit was a collector. That increased my profit from 3.1k to 4.7k per day. The collector "pays for itself" in 12 days, as it costs around 25k. But given that I also make profit from the food production, I could afford another collector in about a week. However, the game is a little more complicated than that: With one collector I am already using 170 pioneers, and a second collector gets me up to needing a total of 220. But my habitation modules only house 200. So if I build another collector, I run with reduced efficiency due to lack of workers, and need another habitation to fix that.
I think by now you get an idea of the initial progress path in Prosperous Universe: Build a starting base to make some profit, invest the profit to expand that base with buildings that make more profit. And all those profit numbers I gave here only apply to my particular planet and with the market prices of today. I see for example that oxygen prices are falling. So maybe I don't want to build another collector, but expand by food production instead, if the rations become more profitable than the oxygen. And I discovered that rations have one additional advantage: There is a local market for them. Apparently some other players on the planet I am on just built a base to extract oxygen, without bothering with a food production. So I can sell basic rations and drinking water to them.
And that is just the big stuff. You don't add another building to your base every day. But you can fiddle with the smaller optimization stuff as well. For example the production of basic rations needs three different agricultural products, I am using beans, grain, and vegetables. But it turned out that on the market beans are cheaper than grain and vegetables. So I increased the profitability of my farm by only growing the two more expensive crops, and importing the cheap beans. That also means that I overproduce agricultural products, and am accumulating a stock. Which could be quite helpful if I decide to invest in a second food producer, but don't have the money to buy another farm yet.
Every additional building on your base takes up space, and your initial space is limited to 500. Not a problem for me yet, I only use 112 out of that now. But at some point I need to think about investing in my headquarter to raise its level, which gives me more "permits". And with a permit I can either add another 250 area to my existing base, or I can build a second base on another planet. But a second base is a huge economic project, as I would need to buy a new core module and habitation modules as well as production buildings. And then not all planets are very hospitable with good temperature and pressure. If I want to build a new base on a planet with inhospitable conditions, I need additional materials like insulation foam. I calculated the total cost of such a base to be something like 300k. That is still quite a way off for me at my current profitability, but you can see where the path of progress in Prosperous Universe is going. It is a game to be played over months. Up to now I am having a lot of fun, but we have to see how it holds up in the long term.