Startopia


The RTSC Guide to Startopia
Part 4: Energy does Matter


To build a thriving and successful Station, you must attract ever increasing numbers of visitors to it and gently relieve them of their hard earned cash. Occasional bonuses can be scored from medical emergencies, reforming criminals, religious conversions, passing groups of tourists and pilgrims and trading with merchant vessels. At the same time, you must plug inefficiencies in your economy by minimising your costs and recycling any junk or unwanted material.


Energy

The heart of your Station: the  Energy CollectorStartopia uses an energy economy. e is used to power, build and fund everything on the Station and is stored in an impressive contraption called an Energy Collector (left). Each one of these stores up to 100,000e and are the hearts of your Station - losing all of them results in a loss. If you opt for the violent solution against rival Administrators, either capture the segment with their last Collector in it or just blow the device away for that decisive victory. The size of the floating glob of mercury in the middle shows how full your Collectors are: when they're down to a pinprick you know you're in trouble. Increasing e storage means building or capturing more Collectors. However, regardless of the number of Collectors you have, you'll still only collect the same amount of energy during a Solar Flare event in the game.

Energy and matter are interchangeable. Startopia borrows heavily from Star Trek and gives you a Transporter to beam stuff to and from the deck. Running in the background is a Matter Replication system that uses e from your account to conjure up the necessary cargo, supplies and requested facilities to build if the right crates aren't available. The Transporter system has a Pattern Buffer that can hold up to ten items. Anything that is dead or inorganic can be plucked off the deck and stashed here. This system is indispensable for editing and rearranging your station, cleaning litter, potting plants, and especially good for neutralising bombs.

e is automatically used to replace anything you run out of: building materials, cargo crates, and electrical power for Station facilities. If you ever run out of something don't fret - the Station is now digging into your energy reserves to replicate the missing supplies - provided you actually have sufficient juice in the bank, of course. Using cargo is really all about Station efficiency and maximising your profit ratios, not a matter of life or death. Although if you do let you energy levels drop, you will certainly feel the pinch. Using straight e for everything will almost certainly keeps you poor early on. You're far better off using the right supply crates in the long run.


Power

An Energy Boost. Gosh!Collectors only store energy; electrical power still has to be generated to actually run the Station. The amount of e in your account also doubles as an energy rating: if, for example, you have 50,000e, that counts as 50,000 power points being "generated" every second. If the collective power rating of all your Station infrastructure seriously exceeds what's currently in your account, blackouts will occur: various buildings and rooms will start to shut down. So, to increase your power rating you need to build Energy Boosters (right) everywhere, preferably near vital buildings if things get tight. During a power squeeze, buildings are allocated power according to how close they are to a Booster, so set up these small machines near important facilities on both lower decks.

So power isn't that literal. You won't see your e slowly dribble away when you build a few rooms and start using power. All a Booster does is up your "power rating" by 20 000e when it runs. Each Booster charges 25e per half minute when they're running (depending on how hard you've set the economy) so they will eventually start to get expensive when you install large numbers of them. You're better off in the long run investing in a few more Collectors.


Power Failures

Running low on cash is basically the same as having a power crisis. Every building - including the Boosters - will start to power down automatically, and the lighting literally goes into the red. Going deep into debt utterly, utterly paralyzes you - everything will shut down! There's nothing worse than desperately trying to get back on your feet - difficult when nothing runs, no one can be rehired and nothing can be recycled or restarted since you simply have "negative" e. Basically, you are fucked at this point until you can demonstrate some administrative true grit and claw your sorry arse out of trouble before your head is served up on a plate. Some hints: filling the Recycler with trees, corpses, or even buildings and furniture, can scrape you through.


Power Disasters

Catastrophic power failures are usually the result of warfare gone horribly wrong - the actual power failure itself can make it almost impossible to field any enemy action. About the only way out of this situation is to pray that Arona will want to buy some of your goods (most likely a sacrificed building, cargo, entire Bio-Deck forests - anything!). Just bear that in mind when you sally forth to kick heads next door. A rich, powerful Station Administrator can become a drooling economic basket case in no time! Casualties in a fight (or any kind of fatality on your turf) results in a 1000e payout per death to the next of kin. Losing armies of Station staff in a fight not only rapidly drains your energy but takes out your best medics, Recycler workers, communications and security personnel right when you need them most. As you can imagine, striking successfully into enemy territory can be devastating, but fraught with risk.

Main Startopia menuThis may irritate control freaks who like their numbers, but there's not a single visible rating or bar graph anywhere in the game, other than a few global ones found in a few menus. You sort out your power needs - like everything else in the game - by feel. There is one graph you need to keep an eye on, and that's the horizontal indicator under your numeric e display. This shows the "efficiency" of your part of the Station in energy terms. Full green means you have a large surplus; red means you are starting to get dangerously low and blackouts are looming. Building Boosters and Collectors will up your efficiency rating. 100,000e may seem a lot to start with, but its easy to blow your budget and stall. If you're used to complete and total control over your gaming you'll find the indirect management nature of Startopia frustrating during a crisis. Like any real time strategy game, you still have to develop your economy and infrastructure in stages, and keep some spare fat in the system, just in case.

Unchangeable or rigid Buildings, such as Space Inns or Lavatrons, consume a pre-set amount of power. Resizable or adjustable Rooms like Berths, Sick Bays or Discos are charged per square of floor space. On top of that each piece of furniture also eats up a little power, so making a huge room and stuffing it to the gunnels with furniture will eat into your power rating more than a sparsely furnished small one.


Recycling

The Recycler in actionOne way you can get a little back from what you've foolishly spent is to recycle any old junk, litter, crates, buildings and even corpses. The Recycler converts any matter dropped into its hopper back into e and shoots the result back to your Energy Collector via a cute little ray gun affair sitting on top. The process isn't perfect and only 25% of the building cost of the recycled item, but a little is a lot better than nothing.

Each Recycler is manned by a crew of up to four Salt Hogs. Its wise to have extra workers per building so you can run constant shifts without wearing out your workforce. These machines are completely automatic - or rather, their productivity depends on the performance of your workforce. With a gang of Scuzzers prowling the Station collecting litter and emptying bins, or by beaming it directly into the Recycler's tray yourself if you're really desperate, you can just hang in there by your fingernails if e is perilously low and you're struggling to acquire any Boosters. If worse really comes to worse, you can sacrifice a whole building and all its furniture to the Recycler to gain some urgent cash. Or some trees from the Bio-Deck. However, the e won't become available to you until the Salt Hogs have processed it. And watch out - criminal Hogs pocket the recycled e for themselves!



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Last modified Tue, Oct 18 2005 by Lindsay Fleay.