Tobold's Blog
Saturday, May 21, 2022
 
PrUn Log - Stardate 2022-05-21

My base on Verdant is still growing. I executed the plan I mentioned in my previous post to add a prefab plant, so now I have that plus 4 pioneer habitations, 1 oxygen collector, 4 water rigs, 1 farm, and 2 food processors. I am using 380 of 400 possible pioneers, but only 193 out of 500 area, so I still have a lot of room to grow. Still my overall net profit is just grown slightly to 11k, because the stuff I am selling got cheaper, while the stuff I was buying got more expensive. On the plus side, I can now make the prefabs that I need to expand further, and had only to import the granulate, which is very cheap right now. Also my shipping traffic to and from Verdant is now a lot more balanced, because I have heavy imports now.

I still have to play the second account as Constructor for another week before I can liquidate the company again and try out a new starting package. With every liquidation the forced delay until the next one increases, which makes my original plan to try out and blog about all starting packages somewhat impractical. Anyway, I played the Constructor long enough to be sure now that I made a mistake: The only good location for a Constructor starting base is Montem, as it has both limestone and iron, and is close to Moria station. While I am happy to have tried out the method to build a starting base on a planet that is *not* a starting planet, by moving before building the base, my choice of planet wasn't great. Having silicon ore instead of limestone and iron ore is suboptimal, and the fuel cost to Moria are greatly cutting into my profits. That base never really took off, I am barely breaking even, and still haven't built a single expansion building yet.

Part of the problem was that the Constructor option looked nice on a spreadsheet, at prices which turned out to be historically high. Once prices had stabilized to a more "normal" level, the profitability wasn't all that great anymore. Would have worked on Montem, but lower prices combined with my suboptimal choice of planet pretty much killed that project. The good news is that any regular player, who isn't already on his third base, can liquidate his company faster if he ever made a mistake like that. Anyway, I'm not going to try Constructor again, I think I learned a good amount of what that career is about, and will rather try something completely different.

On Verdant the big question is how to continue to expand my base. The previous long term vision was to make mostly rigs and food processors to make drinking water, as drinking water was more profitable than making basic rations. That difference is profitability has mostly melted away. In a way, the markets in Prosperous Universe follow standard economic theory are are somewhat self-correcting: If a good is exceptionally profitably, people will make more of it, until supply meets demand and lowers prices. Still my base on Verdant is very good, because it has multiple different streams of revenue: Drinking water, basic rations, oxygen, and now prefabs. I think I will look at a better balance between drinking water and basic rations, so that I am not too dependent on one or the other, and can be more flexible going after one or the other when the opportunity arises.

This week I didn't spend much time playing Prosperous Universe, as I was busy for 3 days with a seminar. The good news is that PrUn is exceptionally well suited to real life situations like that. If you set up consumables in advance to not run out, your base is happily producing in your absence. You just need to ship your product to the next commodity exchange and cash in, which is always fun. Depending on how your base is set up, you could even thrive during much longer absences, being eventually stopped by either inputs running out, or outputs filling all of your storage space.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
 
All models are wrong

In order to better understand complex realities, people frequently use models. Some models are very complex by themselves, but more frequently people use much simpler modeling tools, for example spreadsheets. A spreadsheet with all the income and expenditures is a simple model for the business venture it represents, and a lot easier to understand. However, that spreadsheet is most certainly wrong. If you had two similar businesses, e.g. two coffee shops in the same area, spreadsheets could tell you that one of them was doing better than the other. But chances are that the spreadsheet can't tell you why, because that might depend on complex factors that aren't in the model, e.g. one of them having friendlier staff because the boss is treating his employees better. The very reason we use models, to simplify things and make them easier to understand, always result in the model stripping away complexities, and thus not being ablet to explain everything.

Prosperous Universe is a game that can be played with a rather small number of clicks and keyboard entries per day, if you consider only the actual game client. But the list of community resources has a lot of tools and spreadsheets which you can use to model your virtual company, with the goal of optimizing it. I'm using the first spreadsheet on that list, called Rain's Master Base Planner. You enter the data of your base, like what buildings you have, what recipes you are producing, and what efficiency bonuses you have from various sources, and the spreadsheet tells you how profitable your base is. So when I have some cash accumulated, I can use the spreadsheet to simulate an expansion: Should I buy another water rig, one more farm, or rather a food processor? Depending on my situation and the market prices, the spreadsheet will tell me the best option. A good part of "playing the game" thus happens on the spreadsheet, not in the game client.

After some hits and misses using the spreadsheet to plan bases, I realized why in game some of the base builds that the spreadsheet said were fine didn't actually work out all that well in the game: The model of the spreadsheet was based on market prices, as if those markets had infinite capacity and frictionless trades. Apparently the previous "universe" actually had commodity exchanges on planets, so people on these few select planets could directly trade between their base warehouse and the market. And if you are a new player, and make a relatively common product in small quantities, your trades aren't going to have a huge impact on the market price. So the spreadsheet "worked" as a model to some extent.

In the current universe, commodity exchanges are now on orbital stations, so even people on planets in those systems have some shipping cost. And the further away you are from the 4 main commodity exchanges, the more important shipping becomes. You can actually design a base full of PP1 prefab plants a few jumps away from the next market, and the spreadsheet would tell you that it is very profitable; only that the amount of iron and limestone you would need to import is actually more than you can handle with your two ships, so the base isn't really working. You can also, on the spreadsheet, design a very profitable base mass producing some rare item; but if you actually did that, you'd find that there isn't all that much demand for that rare item, and your real profit would be much lower, or even non-existent. The spreadsheet also uses prices as they are right now, so unless you start overriding those market prices manually, market risk of changing prices isn't well covered.

Once you understood the limitations of the model, you can still put the spreadsheet to good use. You just need to look out for more things than just net profit: Import and export volumes, an "off sheet" estimation of shipping cost, manually putting in some alternative prices to check sensitivity to price variations, and the like. But the question I am asking myself is how limiting it is to the model that intermediate goods are considered to be at market price. That is not something that a real world company necessarily does: It is often much easier to treat intermediate parts as being worth whatever it did cost to make them, rather than being worth what the market would pay for them.

One example in Prosperous Universe would be the production chain leading to padded work overalls PWO. Now PWO are a so-called luxury consumable, but for the most basic form of workers, pioneers. Thus a very large number of people use PWO to increase the efficiency of the workforce. Only that if you run the numbers in a spreadsheet, the production of PWO from cotton fabric COT is not profitable at all. However, that is because there is no liquid market for cotton fabric. It seems most people who make cotton fabric, a material you need more advanced workers (settlers) to make, also have the less advanced building that turns COT into PWO. One would arrive at a better model for the profitability of the whole chain by treating each intermediate (water -> raw cotton -> cotton fabric -> padded work overall) as costing only whatever labor cost goes into them. By treating the intermediates as "cheap", all the profit of the overall chain appears on the last step, the production of PWO, which is the good you actually sell.

My observation in Prosperous Universe is that when I am trying to find a production that involves settlers using the regular base planner spreadsheet, none of them are really profitable. Which is counterintuitive, because obviously there are a lot of final products around that involve settlers in one of the steps. I just haven't figured out how to make that more clear in the spreadsheet / model that I am using.

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Monday, May 16, 2022
 
PrUn Log - Stardate 2022-05-16

My main base on Verdant is looking pretty good: 4 pioneer habitations (which is already 1 more than I actually need), 1 oxygen collector, 4 water rigs, 1 farm, and 2 food processors. The whole thing is balanced so that I use most of the raw water, making drinking water my most valuable export, supported by oxygen and rations. Net profit is 10.6k per day.

For the blog I have special permission to play around with a second account, going through all the various starting packages. The latest is a Constructor base, which is making building materials. On paper, or rather on spreadsheet, the profits are nice for a starting base, 3k net profit per day. In practice, the thing is rather complicated, because the net profits are the result of 10k revenue per day balanced by 7k cost per day. The daily cost of my Verdant base, which is much bigger and more profitable, is just 1.2k, because I am largely self-sufficient. The shipping activity of Verdant is mostly about exporting, with the most valuable export, drinking water, not even being the one taking the most shipping space. On the return trip, I tend to carry very little, just the few consumables I'm not making myself, the beans I don't grow because they are so cheap, and occasionally some building materials for the next expansion project. On the Constructor base I import more weight than I export, and I make exactly those building materials for base expansion.

Hmmm, about merging those ideas?

So my next expansion idea for Verdant is to build a Prefab Plant MK1 there. While those prefab plants are nicely profitable, in practice I probably wouldn't export much, but instead mostly make building materials for myself for a good deal cheaper than the cost of importing them. The addition of the prefab plant to Verdant would perfectly balance my import and export shipping volumes. That is interesting, because everybody else on Verdant has more exports than imports, so that there are a lot of shipping contracts from Verdant to Moria, but none for the return trip.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022
 
Board game bloat

Board games on Kickstarter are frequently very different from board games you can pick up at your local toy store. Kickstarter games are often more complex, thus have more parts. And many of them come with a large number of miniatures. Furthermore in a store you probably just buy the base game first, and check that one out before you decide to buy any expansions. Kickstarter board game campaigns work on FOMO (fear of missing out), and try to sell you all-in pledges with several boxes of expansions and deluxified materials. All of that has consequences: If you pick up Settlers of Catan at your local toy store, the box weights just about 1 kg. An all-in pledge of the latest Kickstarter game can be easily over 10 kg, with some getting up to 25 kg. For some games, e.g. Frosthaven, already the base game box is 10 kg.

But there is another big difference between board games in a store, and board games via Kickstarter: Logistics. A store gets many games delivered at once, which is more efficient and cheaper for shipping cost. A Kickstarter backer gets his pledge delivered individually. Which means that he has to pay for shipping individually. That has always been a problem for people living in far out places, but shipping costs used to be reasonable if you lived in the "48 contiguous states" of the USA, or in Europe.

But shipping costs have gone up dramatically during the pandemic, and recently there have been lots of stories in the board game crowdfunding space that show the effect of that. Usually a Kickstarter campaign comes with some shipping cost estimate, and the actual shipping cost is calculated later, when the game is ready to ship, and the game company charges that shipping cost to its customers via the pledge manager. Some companies simply shrugged their shoulders and charged their backers the full new shipping cost, way above the estimate. CMON estimated the shipping cost of Marvel Zombies all-in to the UK to be $110, now it's $272 (including the VAT one needs to pay on the shipping). Needless to say, some of the backers are pretty outraged right now, especially since the communication about it from CMON wasn't very good.

Other companies have done better communication, and some basically agreed to pay part of the increased cost by using all of their profits, but then still needed to go begging to their backers to cover the remaining shipping cost. Some small board game companies delivered their games, and then went out of business, because as nice as it looks if you agree to make a game without profit, the unsustainable it is.

Needless to say, this mostly affected board game companies that made those heavy big box games with lots of miniatures and components. And there are still a lot of crowdfunding campaigns that have already been funded last year, where we don't know the impact of shipping cost yet, because the project isn't at that pledge manager stage yet. But between you having to pay much more, and you having to pay a bit more but then the game company going out of business, there aren't really any good options here. And that has a chilling effect on future board game Kickstarter campaigns, because if companies now make better estimates of shipping costs at current rates, these games look a lot less attractive than before.

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Friday, May 13, 2022
 
PrUn Log - Stardate 2022-05-13

You are only allowed to have one account on Prosperous Universe. But for the blog and my series on the different starting packages, I got special permission for a second account. Of course I don't cheat, and the two accounts don't "trade" with each other. But it turns out that from a learning the game perspective, a second account has been an advantage.

The most important lesson from my experiment as a Constructor was that you need not only look at how profitable a certain production is, you also need to check how much import and export it necessitates. The more cargo you need to transport back and forth between your base and the commodity exchange, the more important the distance between the two becomes. So for Constructor a base in the Moria system is a huge advantage. Fortunately for my main account, Victualler on Verdant, being 5 jumps away from Moria is not a big problem. A lot of what I produce, like water and agricultural products, is used directly on my base to make higher-value products. And I don't need to import very little, mostly consumables, and even there I make two of them myself.

But in my previous log, I was hesitating between building another water rig, or building another oxygen collector. With what I learned since, it turned out that making a lot more oxygen would not have been a good idea. While a single collector on Verdant at today's prices makes over 2k profits on its own, it also produces 40 tons per day of oxygen to export. If I scaled my base up to maximum oxygen production (for an area of 500), I could run 19 collectors, but would produce 750 tons of oxygen per day. With a ship holding only 500 tons or 500 cubic meters of cargo, and needing 3 days for a round trip to Moria, I simply wouldn't have the shipping capacity to do that.

On the other extreme, if I built up my base to maximum drinking water production, with 21 rigs and 9 food processors, I would make about the same profit (40 k net profit a day for a full base), but only need to ship 50 tons of product per day. I'm not demolishing my collector, but for the moment I'll rather build more rigs. With the profits I made since the last log, I am now at 1 collector, 3 rigs, 2 food processors, and 1 farm. And while previously my food processors were making drinking water only 17% of the time, that production is now up to 55%. And I am still producing and excess of basic rations, that I can sell as well. So my net profit per day with this setup is 9k, which is already pretty nice for a company that is only 20 days old.

I must admit that joining a corporation helped. With my base only needing one ship for import and export, my second ship is frequently doing shipping contracts for other players in my corporation. And my corp mates pay better than the shipping contracts available on the free market. The additional income from shipping helps me to finance the next building faster, and that sort of growth is self-accelerating. After accumulating production for a few days, I have a ship on the way to Moria with 50k worth of cargo. I'll need to restock on 12k worth of consumables, but I can still afford another rig and a 4th pioneer habitation from that.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022
 
PrUn alternative start - Constructor

This is part of my ongoing series of comparing the different starting packages in Prosperous Universe. This time I will talk about my start as a Constructor. Which I might have messed up, but hey, that's the way one learns. The reason why I was interested in the Constructor career is that they make construction materials and prefabs, which are needed to make new buildings. Since the Steam Early Access release of PrUn, a lot of new players have joined the game and played through their first week or two, so they now buy a lot of these construction materials to expand their starting bases. Prices are high, and that makes this an interesting career choice, at least for the moment.

Now the first starting planet recommended for constructors is Montem. And in hindsight that is where I should have started. But instead I was kind of trying to combine testing constructor with testing the option of taking a starting planet that is not on the list by flying there before building a base. I looked at Montem, saw that the concentrations of resources wasn't great there, and decided that I could find a better starting position. I found a planet just 3 jumps away that had a really good concentration of SIO, which is one component of making gravel. A constructor starts with iron, limestone, polyethylene, and silicon ore as starting materials, so I thought that being on a planet rich in SIO would be a great start.

Well, it wasn't. I should have stayed on Montem, for the limestone, which is used more than SIO. But more importantly I should have stayed to be in the same system as the next commodity exchange, and not 3 jumps away. As it turns out, a lot of the stuff you need as a constructor is rather heavy. And as I mentioned in my previous post that means that you can't load very much onto a ship, and thus have to fly back and forth more often. This is an interesting change of pace from the Victualler, who has longer production chains and lighter goods, making shipping less frequent.

I would consider Constructor a more difficult start than Victualler. As a Constructor you only get two buildings, Basic Material Plant BMP and Prefab Plant Mk1 PP1. So you don't extract any resources at the start, but need a lot of materials to make goods. And the starting package doesn't last very long, just a day or so, depending on what you make. So the early game as a Constructor absolutely needs a spreadsheet to calculate what materials you need to buy to just make it over the first week, and then it turns out you don't even have enough money for a week's worth of materials. So you need to sell your production quickly, and fly several times back and forth the commodity exchange just to keep the wheels turning.

Having said that, the initial profitability making MCG and BSE, at least with current prices, is higher than that of the Victualler. And, having two ships and *not* using them to do shipping contracts for other players this time, I decided to not sell my goods at Moria station, but go for Hortus station, where the prices for the prefabs I make are higher, and the cost of food and water is lower. The different factions are designed to have a role in this universe, Moria is about heavy industry and construction, Hortus is the breadbasket. So for optimal profit, I need to buy my consumables in Hortus, and the metals and minerals in Moria.

I didn't have a perfect start as Constructor, but I will still try to play that career for a bit and try to turn it around. The Victualler starts with a building more, and doesn't need much cash at the start to get going, so he can build a 4th building relatively quickly. But as Constructor I can make the construction materials to build a 3rd and 4th building myself, as soon as I have stabilized my economy and accumulated a comfortable buffer of materials and consumables. The start is more difficult, but I might still make it!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022
 
So I quit my day job ...

Yesterday was my last day at work. Technically I am on holiday until end of June. And then a 3-year period begins, in which basically my company pays for my inofficial "early retirement", until I can officially retire and receive a state pension. It's a weird construct of European labor law: After me having worked for over quarter of a century for the same company, I have very strong legal protection against being fired. Thus making a deal with me where I stay a home ("released from work") in exchange for a reduced salary is cheaper than firing me. But putting aside the legal details, I'll just say that I am retired from now on.

Maybe, if you don't know me very well and read that title, you thought that I decided to quit my day job in order to put more time and effort into my influencer career on social media. I have seen a lot of YouTube videos like that over the past year or so. It is part of what has been called "the great resignation", a movement where at least some people were prompted by the COVID pandemic to rethink their lives, and ended up quitting bad jobs in order to do something else. On YouTube that "I quit my day job" announcement is usually directly followed by begging for money, via Patreon or YouTube subscriptions. Don't worry, I'm not asking you for money. I'm fine, financially. I only have a rarely used "buy Tobold a coffee" button on my blog, and am not at all counting on any income from the internet.

Honestly, it scares me if young people decide to go for a full-time influencer career. The general public on social media is the shittiest employer imaginable, providing zero stability, being highly demanding, and often being rude about it. An influencer career today is what a career as sports star or rock star was for earlier generations: The glamour of the few very visible successful cases hides the sad reality of the many people who try and fail. And even if somebody achieves a modicum of success and manages to pay the bills at the end of the month with his YouTube / Twitch revenue, that might change any time, when suddenly the subject he is streaming about becomes not popular anymore.

Having said that, being retired I might have a bit more time for blogging, and especially for playing games, which is what I am mostly blogging about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
 
Blockchain gaming

Blockchain games up to now have been a complete failure. The most successful one, Axie Infinity, is basically a pyramid scheme preying on people in less developed countries. Ubisoft's venture into this area has been a PR disaster. And Square Enix has been widely ridiculed for selling of valuable intellectual property to invest in blockchain gaming. I always find it astonishing how quickly people forget about rather recent history, and are unable to learn lessons from it. Because what I learned from years of MMO gaming is that yes, blockchain games *could* be a massive hit, if certain conditions were met.

If you go through the now nearly 20 years of archives on this blog, you will find numerous blog posts about people spending real money on virtual items in MMORPGs. For years this was a kind of a war, where developers would try to prevent players from trading virtual goods, and players would try to do it anyway. The prevention of trade is the reason why your raid epics are "bound" to the character that picked them up. There is strong historical evidence that if players care very much for a game, and there are items in that game that make your character stronger, these players will be willing to pay real money for those items.

With blockchain technology, each item in the game can be a non-fungible token NFT that can be freely and safely traded between players using the crypto currency used on that blockchain. With the devs now in on it, the game can be designed to be real-money trade friendly.

So what about the examples of the failed NFT games? Well, any such game need to answer the question where all that money is coming from. If *everybody* in the game is just in it for the money, because the game itself just sucks, this can't work. You need some players who want to sell virtual goods, because they like money, and some players who want to buy virtual goods, because they want those goods for their characters. And that is where the Ubisoft Digits went wrong: They were just cosmetic items in a game with just a 58 Metacritic rating.

But if you apply the technology to a more popular game, and you make all items in the game NFT, not only the cosmetic ones, there will be demand, and there will be trade. There was demand, and trade, in games that tried to restrict RMT, so if you remove those restrictions, the trade will flourish. Of course, strictly speaking, if you buy the Sword of Uberness from another player instead of getting it from a lootbox, this is still Pay2Win. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the hardcore gamers will be surprisingly quiet about that, because they will be earning good money from that.

Have blockchain games up to now been horribly bad? Yes! Is that an inherent feature? No! As soon as somebody makes an actually good game that allows players to trade virtual items via the blockchain, that could become quite popular and profitable. Maybe Square Enix is onto something. Or it will be somebody else who makes the first actually good blockchain game. But the idea isn't unworkable: There is a lot more intrinsic demand for powerful items in virtual worlds than there is intrinsic demand for pictures of bored apes. Analysts found that only a very small number of people actually trades NFTs, and most of those trades are "wash trades", faked to make an NFT appear more profitable. Virtual items in games will certainly not be worth millions, but there could be actual demand from a much broader base for them.

Monday, May 09, 2022
 
PrUn alternative start - The weirder options

In my First Day Start post I am describing a typical start in Prosperous Universe: You select a starting package and a starting planet, then build a base and set up production. But that is just the recommended and usual start. PrUn is very much a sandbox game, and you aren't actually limited to play like that. You have other options, and that includes not building a base straight away.

What if you don't like any of the starting planets on offer? Well, no problem, as you don't start the game with the starting planet already settled. Everything you own is loaded onto your two ships, and you can fly them elsewhere. Obviously you don't have the materials to settle on planets with harsher conditions, like low/high temperature or pressure. But that leaves over a hundred possible planets you can start on, and only 19 of those are official "starting planets" you can select from the company creation menu.

Of course all those other possible planets aren't next to a commodity exchange, but neither are all of the official starting planets. I would consider up to 6 jumps away from a commodity exchange to be still manageable, you just need to plan your trips a bit more carefully. With my second "test stuff for blogging" account, I am currently trying this strategy to start on a planet with higher silicon oxide concentration than any starting planet, just 3 jumps away from Moria Station. Planets with good resource extraction make for a good start, and the higher the concentration, the bigger the profits.

There is an even more extreme alternative: How about playing Prosperous Universe with no planetary base at all? The building materials for your starting base can be sold instead of building that base. And that would give you a nice chunk of cash to start a career as a space trader. Buy low, ship the goods elsewhere, sell high. You can always build a base later if you change your mind, as long as you haven't lost your money.

It has to be said, however, that as a space trading game, Prosperous Universe is quite risky. If it takes a day or two to fly to the commodity exchange where you want to sell, the high price for your cargo there might have dropped before you arrive. Other players see the same opportunities as you do. And trading goods between commodity exchanges not only costs time, but also fuel, so you need to make a certain minimum profit with your cargo to just break even. Also, each good has a volume and a weight. For example iron oxide weights 5.9 tons per unit, so you can only fit 84 into your hold, which is limited to 500 tons or 500 cubic meters, whichever is smallest. With iron ore also being rather cheap, it is pretty much impossible to make more money than the fuel cost by hauling it from one exchange to another.

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Saturday, May 07, 2022
 
PrUn Log - Stardate 2022-05-07

Prosperous Universe is a game in which much of the fun of "playing" comes from planning things. The actual execution of the plan is inherently slow, and thus not so exciting. But at the end you see whether your plan worked. In my previous post I was talking about a series of transactions that enabled me the materials to construct two more buildings on my planet. A second food processor, and, because that one pushed my need for pioneers to 210 and I only had space for 200, a third pioneer habitation. So, now the materials have been delivered to my home planet, Verdant, and the buildings constructed. Great!

The one thing that isn't so great is the unpredictability of the player-run economy. It tends to be self-correcting: If prices for something are high, more players get into that business, which then drives prices lower. So in my previous post I had announced that having identified the most profitable option for me to expand my base, my net profit per day would go up to 7k. But by the time I actually did the expansion, my net profit per day now is a bit lower already, 6.5k, with prices for the goods I am making trending downwards. Anyway, it's still an improvement, I'll just have to fiddle around more with optimization.

My base now has 3 habitations, 1 water rig, 1 farmstead, 1 oxygen collector, and 2 food processors. The food processors can either turn the crops from the farmstead into basic rations, or the water from the rig into drinking water. But the water from the rig is also used to grow those crops. And the production from just 1 rig and 1 farm is more than 1 food processor needs, but less than the consumption of 2 of them.

So the first thing I did was to optimize my farmstead. I make rations out of a mixture of beans, grain, and vegetables. But for some reason unknown to me, beans are a lot cheaper on the market than the other two. So I switched my farm to grow only the more expensive grain and vegetables, and I am buying the beans at the commodity exchange and ship them in.

The more difficult part was optimizing my food processors, determining the best ratio of rations vs. drinking water to produce. I ended up with 83.3% RAT to 16.7% DW, which is a double-recipe of RAT and a single recipe of DW, both set to recurring. At this production, I am using up only slightly more grains and vegetables than I produce, and with the reserves I accumulated from the time I only had 1 food processor, I have grain and vegetable reserves for over 70 days. Going high on rations means I consume less water, but I am still consuming 7 units more than I produce. Again, I have reserves from earlier, so I have 26 days of water left at this rate.

The more obvious pathway of further base improvement would be to build a second water rig, as this is clearly the missing resource I could most easily produce right now. And with a second rig, I could change the RAT:DW ratio to something like 2:1, and produce more of the more profitable drinking water. However, there is currently a huge spread between drinking water ask and bid price, and it isn't obvious at what price I would actually be able to sell by the time I improved my base, produced, and shipped that drinking water.

So another option might be to first invest in a second collector, to gather more oxygen. That production has absolutely nothing to do with my food processing chain. But oxygen is used in various smelting processes, and Verdant is closest to Moria Station, which is a central hub for the metallurgy industry. Basically my oxygen production is me diversifying away from just doing food processing, and up to now has good profitability on its own. I might do the rig first, simply because it is the cheaper investment.

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Thursday, May 05, 2022
 
PrUn alternative start - Carbon Farmer

As I said in my previous post, I am planning to look at all the different starting packages of Prosperous Universe, and comparing them to the Victualler that I already discussed in detail. In this episode, we will have a look that the Carbon Farmer.

At first glance, there are a lot of similarities between Victualler and Carbon Farmer. They both rely on agriculture, and thus both prefer the same kind of starting planet: Lots of water and good fertility. So Hortus - Promitor (VH-331a) is again a good option for starting location, and it makes it easy to compare the two starting packages if we remove the influence of the location.

What changes if you take the Carbon Farmer starting package is the set of recommended buildings. You now get the materials to build 2 habitations, 2 farmsteads, and 1 incinerator. As you will have some hydrocarbon plants HCP in your inventory, you might be tempted to have your farmsteads grow more HCP, and burn that in the incinerator. However, if you do it that way, you produce very little carbon, and far too much HCP. So to balance your production you need to produce high-carb maize MAI and high-carb grains GRN, and burn a mixture of HCP, MAI, and GRN in your incinerator, which cuts production time down from 1 day to just under 8 hours. On Promitor, your 2 farms produce enough that you can balance the production of 2 farmsteads making HCP, MAI, and GRN with the consumption of 1 incinerator. It just takes some adjustment, as the different recipes don't have the same speed.

So, is Carbon Farmer a good option? I don't think so. Of course, my analysis is based on prices current at the time of this writing. Most importantly, carbon right now only sells for about 250 credits on Hortus Station. You can get more if you fly further away, but unless you could get 400 per carbon somewhere, the Carbon Farmer is just making less profit than the Victualler. Also, because you use all the output of your farms to burn it, and you have neither rig nor food processor, you are neither producing the water needed for your farms, nor the basic rations and drinking water for your pioneers. Which means that you need to import a lot of stuff. Building a rig as your next building helps a bit.

My recommendation? It might sound strange, but if you want to become a Carbon Farmer, your best option might be to start as a Victualler, and use the profits of that to build additional farmsteads and an incinerator.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2022
 
First Day Start in Prosperous Universe

This is a rather detailed step-by-step guide of your first day in Prosperous Universe, getting you from the very start to having a running production. I will use the Victualler (food producer) career path as example, as it is one of the easiest choices. In the future I plan to discuss the start of other career paths, but will refer back to this post for all the steps that are common for each career. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the screenshots are not from my main account, and normally you can't have more than one account. My thanks to Molp from simulogics for allowing me a second account for the specific purpose of this blog series.

So, you want to play Prosperous Universe, you created an account, and hit the Play Now button. You will be greeted by the Apex Company Creation Assistant, on the starting package tab. As I said above, for the purpose of this guide, we will choose the Victualler starting package. If you find the screenshot below too small, you can click on it for a larger version.
On the next tab, starting location, we choose Hortus - Promitor (VH-331a). Why that one? There are 3 criteria here: One is the table in the lower right corner, showing that the closest commodity exchange, Hortus Station, is "in system", and thus can be reached relatively quickly with just slower-than-light flight. The second is the concentration of water on the planet, which is very important for farming. The third is soil fertility, which is obviously also important, but the exact value here is less important than the fact that there is soil fertility at all. You can't farm on planets without any soil fertility.
Now you can go to the company details tab, and enter a name for your company, and a 3- or 4-letter code. If you try to be clever and use something like FOOD for your 4-letter code, you'll find that somebody else already thought of that. Finally there is the last tab, Early Access Disclaimer. On this tab you need to click on "Click here to confirm that you have read and understood this disclaimer.". Then you can hit the Create button. If at this point in time nothing happens, you need to go back to the company details tab and choose a different name and code. This section is still being worked on as I write this, so you might not get a proper error message telling you what exactly went wrong, but it usually means you tried a company name or code that is already in use. Once you found an original name and code and hit Create, the following screen appears:
The box with the header "Welcome licensee!" is a short tutorial on the APEX user interface. I would very much recommend you actually read what it says in those 12 boxes and follow the instructions. We are going to use that information later in the guide to create some new screens. After that, we are going to create our first base.
As it says in the Hints box, you need to press the START BASE button at the bottom of your starting planet's info tile. That would be the mostly blue tile in the middle. And the button is lower down than what you can see on this screenshot. So you need to scroll that tile lower, until you find that button:
After clicking on START BASE, another window opens, on which you click BUILD BASE. Congratulations, you are now an inhabitant of this planet. Before we go any further in expanding our base, we are going to make a new screen that will help us manage our inventory. For that you need to press the ADD button on top of your screen, next to the SCRNS button. You type in a name, description is optional, and press CREATE, and you will land on a large, empty window. Hover your mouse over the gear symbol in the upper right corner of that tile, and click the vertical bar to split the large tile vertically into two smaller ones. Than do the same with the horizontal bar on both new tiles, to create a total of 4 smaller tiles. Now press the INV button in the sidebar to the left. A new buffer window opens up. Buffer windows aren't permanent, so you now drag the inventory by the blue bar on top to the upper right of your 4 tiles. Close the now empty buffer, and click on one of the three OPEN buttons of the list of inventories. That opens one of your inventories, which you can now again drag and drop into another one of your 4 tiles. At the end you will have created a useful screen with information about all of your inventories:
As you can see, everything you own is in the cargo spaces of your two ships, and your base inventory is open. So now you drag and drop each one of the colored squares onto the square marked ALL in your base inventory, that only appears while you are dragging. The final result should look something like this:
While doing this, the Construct Building Hints window will pop up. The important part here is that it reminds you that you have choses the Victualler starting profile, and that the buildings recommend to build are 2 HB1 pioneer habitations, 1 RIG to produce water, 1 FRM farmstead to grow crops, and 1 FP Food Processor to turn those crops into basic rations RAT. In this case I would recommend minimizing that buffer window, because before we construct these buildings, we will first prepare one more new screen in the APEX user interface. Like before, ADD screen, call it something like Planet (because Base is already taken), and split it into 4 tiles again. Press BS on the bar to the left. Press View Base and drag the resulting base overview holding the blue bar on top onto the first empty tile.

Now we have a construct button, with which we can construct our base. Press it and build a pioneer habitation, twice (not more!), on the Infrastructure tab of the construct window. Switch to the Resources tab and build a rig. The hint to start producing pops up, but you can minimize that. Then switch to the Pioneers tab and build both a farmstead and a food processor. Your base screen should now show 120 pioneers working. Press the buttons Workforce, Experts, and Production, and drag the new tiles that open by their blue bar into the empty tiles on your screen. Your screen should now look something like this:
You can click on the ACT for activate button for the 1 expert that isn't assigned yet, but otherwise you won't need the expert section for now. We can now go back to the Hints window on starting production. If you minimized that, it will be at the bottom of your screen, showing as some number next to NEW BFR. If you closed it, don't worry, you can type HINT in a new buffer to get the full list of hints back. Let's first have a look at your inventories, by hovering the mouse pointer over SCRNS at the top of the screen and opening the inventories screen we created earlier. You will notice the blue building materials from the inventory are all gone, you used them all up to construct those buildings. In green there remain icons for the two types of fuel for your ships, for faster than light FTL travel and slower than light STL travel. In light red you will see basic overalls, basic rations, and drinking water, the essential goods that your pioneers consume. In darker red and light blue you will see high-carb grains GRN, protein-rich beans BEA, and triglyceride fruits VEG, as well as some water H2O. We will now make more of these goods, but the ones you have allow you to start production queues in all three of your production buildings.
For that we will go back to the Planet screen we created and look at the tile with production. We will now start a NEW ORDER for each of the three production buildings. Let's start with the rig. Press NEW ORDER under Rig.
As the rig can only make one possible recipe here, you can simply click QUEUE ORDER. A hint about trading commodities will open (you can minimize that for now), and one production of water will appear on your rig.
Yes, that is 6 and a half hours of production in real time. It's a slow game. Feel free to hit QUEUE ORDER 5 more times to fill up the production queue. Note that you could set order size in the production window, but for the moment I would advise against it. Yes, you could put up to 20 orders in a single slot, giving you 160 water instead of 8. But it would take over 5 days, and you only get the water at the very end of this. As we need the water you produce earlier for the farm, stick with single productions for now. 

If you click on NEW ORDER under farmstead, a very similar window opens, with a pre-selected production template turning 1 water into 2 beans. Don't do that. Instead press the downward pointing triangle next to that recipe and select the recipe that turns 6 water into 4 beans. While that looks like a much worse deal, this produces beans a bit faster. Only QUEUE ORDER once, then change to a different recipe. This time we turn 4 water into 4 grain, again just queueing one single order. Finally we select the recipe to turn 3 water into 4 vegetables. You will have to scroll down, potentially moving the buffer window up to reach that recipe.
You now have a day's worth of production scheduled for your farm. You still have 3 free slots in your queue, so if you want, you can repeat the same sequence BEA/GRN/VEG. 

Finally we set up the production of our food processor. For the time being we use 2 different recipes: One to turn 10 water into 7 drinking water. The other to turn 1 BEA plus 1 GRN plus 1 VEG into 10 rations. In order to balance your production of water with your consumption, for the start on Promitor I would suggest queueing up 1 drinking water DW order followed by 2 orders for basic rations RAT. You can do that twice:
Congratulations, you now have a running food and drinking water production. On Promitor, this will produce a small excess of BEA, GRN, and VEG, but I would advise against selling that excess, you might need it later for a second food producer. You will also produce about 5 more DW and 24 more RAT than your pioneers consume, per day. The only thing your pioneers consume that you are not producing yourself, is basic overalls. Your workforce window shows that you consume 0.6 per day, and your inventory starts out with 4, so you have enough for 6 days. You will probably want to fly a ship from Promitor to Hortus Station to buy more overalls. But you could wait a day or two before you do that, and take your excess rations with you for selling. But that is a story for another day.

If you have further questions, feel free to write them in the comments section below, or open a new buffer in game, type USR Tobold, click CONTACT USER and chat with me in game.

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