Dev Diary #6 - Mining and Manufacturing

Crafting, like trading, is a mechanic that has emerged in innumerable games over the last couple of decades, and for good reason - it is a powerful mechanism to allow agency and progression on the part of a player.

In ORG, there are actually a wide array of crafting-like mechanics, but the most recognizable of these for most players lies in the operation of the Commercial category.

As with each of the five categories of Org - Commercial, Cultural, Political, Military, Research - the fundamental structure of the Commercial category lies in the execution of tasks.

For the Commercial category, the creation of a finished, usable item is (usually) a four step process:

  1. Mining tasks generate one of five basic unprocessed materials: Carbonates, Silicates, Hydrocarbons, Metals, and Fissile Materials.
  2. Refining tasks convert unprocessed materials to their constituent refined version of the material. Refining generally requires either Refined Hydrocarbons or Refined Fissile Materials in addition to an amount of unprocessed materials.
  3. Manufacturing tasks turn refined materials into components for ships, while Fabrication tasks turn refined materials into traits, which are slottable abilities that can be applied to ships and facilities. (Agents have traits too, but these are made through other processes in other categories).
  4. Assembly tasks turn components into ships, while Construction tasks turn components into facilities.

Here's a somewhat simplified example of the process in practice:

  1. Assign agents and facilities to the Mine Carbonates task in the Borealis Basin region on Mars, using up one of the org's limited Commercial task slots until the mining is complete in 30 seconds.
  2. At any point after the task is complete, the player can return, seeing whether the task was successful or not. For a routine task like this, anything but a straight success would be a surprise, and indeed, in this case it is a success with the player receiving 1000 units of Unrefined Carbonates ("Unrefined Carbonates" represents various organic compounds including water, carbon and other similar substances).
  3. The player then assigns agents and facilities to the Refine Carbonates task - again, in the Borealis Basin region, since that is where the unprocessed carbonate is, so the player won't need to transport it. This task takes longer - 5 minutes - so after the task is complete, the player again returns. This time, instead of a simple success the player receives a critical success; for a refining task, this means that the org produced exactly as much of the refined product - in this case 10 Refined Carbonates - as it would have normally, but used fewer of the unprocessed raw materials than it normally would have.
  4. With the Refined Carbonate in hand, the player next decides to Manufacture Organic Mainframe. Agents and facilities are again assigned, Refined Carbonate is deducted from the org's stockpile in the Borealis Basin region, and after the task completes - presumably successfully - the player will have an Organic Mainframe component.
  5. The player decides to assign the Organic Mainframe - and a lot of other components they have stockpiled up or acquired from other sources - to an Assemble Research Vessel task.
  6. With a successfully completed task, a new Research Vessel will be constructed. Research Vessels, like all ships, facilities, and agents, start with a single negative trait and a random number of fixed positive traits and/or open trait slots.
    1. In this case, the new Research Vessel is a green (uncommon) quality vessel. Quality affects chance of a task's success or critical success, but this particular Research Vessel need not stay green quality forever - use it enough and eventually it will promote to the next highest quality rank, which for it will be blue (rare) quality.
    2. For its automatic negative trait, the new Research Vessel also begins with the Mercenary Crew trait. Mercenary Crew, like a number of negative traits, is not strictly speaking always a negative. In this case, every time this particular Research Vessel is used the utilizing org must pay a modest cost in Solars - the common currency of the solar system - but if the task is a type that generates Solars, Mercenary Crew means it will produce +10% more Solars than it normally would.
    3. This particular new Research Vessel also begins with one fixed trait and two open trait slots that the player can later fill with whatever traits they can acquire. In this case, the one fixed trait is Efficient Engines, which reduce any fuel input costs for any task this ship is assigned to.
  7. With the Research Vessel complete, the org decides to simply sell it. Since in this case the player does not have sufficient Reputation with one of the non-player national polities, the remaining option is to trade it directly to a friend or member of their alliance, or put it up on the open market. This Research Vessel was made on Mars; if another player who is based on Venus purchases it and wants to use it in the Venus orbit, that player will need to assign a Transport task to move their new Research Vessel to the Venus orbit, which with the large distances between planets may even take a day in real time or more.
  8. Once the new player has transported their new Research Vessel to Venus, it is then ready to be used in whatever tasks their new owner wishes to slot it into. Probably to release viral bombs on Eastern Federation outposts on Mercury. Not judging. I am sure Mercury had it coming.

There's actually another wrinkle with all of this; many tasks - and Mining, Refining, Manufacturing and Assembly tasks are among them - require the org executing the task maintain a degree of expertise in appropriate areas; in this case, that means Mining Expertise, Refining Expertise, Manufacturing Expertise, and Assembly Expertise.

Gaining expertise in these areas is an automatic by-product of conducting these kinds of tasks, though the more advanced types of production will require higher amounts of expertise. While mining, refining, manufacturing and assembly don't eat up expertise like they do unprocessed carbonates, refined carbonates, and organic mainframes, expertise will - over longer time periods like weeks - slowly decay, meaning a player will need to spend a little time keeping up with the newest improvements and innovations in the fields of expertise they are engaging in.

Expertise rewards players who choose to specialize in a subset of the commercial gameplay, while still keeping it possible for a player to change their minds and adjust their org's long-term focus.

There is also another, optional type of expertise that players can choose to invest in - in this case, Research tasks that grant types of expertise such as Carbonate Expertise, Silicate Expertise, Hydrocarbon Expertise, and so on. These kinds of expertise, like their Commercial cousins, decay, but they reduce task completion time at high values rather than being a prerequisite.

These two types of expertise do two very different things; Commercial expertise encourages specialization in types of production tasks - such as Mining versus Manufacturing - while Research expertise encourages specialization for types of material - such as Carbonates versus Metals.

The details, of course, can get quite a bit more complicated, as none of this went into slotting requirements or the consequences of various task results - not every task, even routine task, will be a success.

Similarly, there are rare occasions where a component might use an unrefined material directly, or a component might require multiple refined material types, or even a rare component to make it in the first place.

This basic mechanic of expertise and task chains to generate usable items is used in other categories, as well, though each of them does this in a different way and using different patterns with different category dependencies. (Wait until we talk about using the Political category to speed up the process of promoting ships and agents, or xenoarchaeology, or creating artificial memes...)

EDIT 5/7/2014: Expertise section has been updated to reflect internal design iterations.

Updated the expertise section

Updated the expertise section to reflect internal design iterations.