On Transcend, the AI's special dispensation on ecodamage is coded somewhere in the .exe and hasn't yet been located, right?
Induktio doesn't know where it is. I don't know if anyone else
knows or knew where it is.
Yitzi isn't around to ask, and I'm doubting his work is structured in such a way that you could just examine his code to figure it out. It would definitely be a project.
around to ask. He's also been working on some kind of map of SMAC functions for a long time, but he never gets around to making a public release of it.
Either way it does not seem solvable by pure .txt modding, either with alphax.txt or the faction files (eg. by giving player factions an ecodamage grace not allowed to AI factions), without essentially removing ecodamage from the game entirely. Is this correct?
That is correct. In Induktio's March development release of Thinker mod, he's shipping an alphax.txt that cuts eco-damage in half for everybody. For the AI that's half of almost nothing. For the human player that's half of what you'd usually experience on Transcend. I don't know if that removes eco-damage from the player's experience entirely
. TBH I'm not that interested in testing it, as the design trajectory is "well we'll just make it a lot easier for the player", rather than make the AI pay anything for all the abuse it's doing.
Second: brute-force removal and replacement terraforming verses working with the existing biota (fungus utilization).
I see this as a technological and philosophical choice, which could be available as either/or but probably best as a mix-and-match. The balance of benefits and downsides and when each are available in the tech tree looks like yet another matter that would require extensive testing to discover the fallout on players and the AI (big surprise there).
Since it is a basic (if somewhat underdeveloped) feature of the original game, refining it to be more useful as a strategy without dramatically changing the game would be something I'd be willing to work on/assist with.
Well here's how it currently is. Fungus starts out as not
good. Even the Gaians, with their faction's +1 nutrient bonus, can't start an empire by relying on fungus. They have to make forest and farms same as anyone else. Fungus is a security risk when it's right next to your cities. Mindworms can attack your cities directly, and faction enemies can use it to sneak up on you. So removing some fungus is a good idea for most factions. If you are a PLANET friendly faction, then you aren't so concerned, as you'll probably be actively patrolling the fungus with early captured mindworms.
In my mod by the time you get B3 Ecological Engineering, fungus produces 2 food. If you're Gaian, that's 3 food. I have found it will actually help empire growth. In my just completed test game that I wrote up, when I'd click on the middle of my city's picture to have the computer allocate all the workers, it would often choose to work 1 fungus square. It was typically offsetting my forests, which produce more minerals but not so much food. I've never seen this happen with a faction other than the Gaians though. And it's only 1 square. I see it as a buffer or reserve of food. Gaians are not likely to be driven to starvation by anything.
As time goes on, fungus starts being worth minerals. You get +1 mineral at B5 Advanced Ecological Engineering. You get +2 at Matter Editation, although in the course of explaining all of this, I've found a bug where it's not currently happening. I'll have to fix that. I was wondering where all the minerals went, now I know. Anyways you get +3 at Threshold of Transcendence. My timing on this is a bit different than the stock game, but the total amount of minerals you get out of fungus by the end of the game is the same. Once you've got AEE, every
faction will use fungus. It's typically giving you 2-1-1, the value of an early game farm without having to do any work. It may even give you 2-1-2, depending on what other tech's you've got.
I notice it a lot in ocean squares I haven't terraformed yet. Since the ocean is minerals poor for most factions, it's often a good policy to just leave that fungus alone. However if you're in the ocean, you need to eat kelp. That kelp eventually displaces the fungus. I've never really tried deliberately colonizing next to a large patch of fungus after AEE and then never planting kelp. By that point in the game, I've probably long since established all the cities I'm going to. I may conquer cities, but they will have terraforming around them that the AI did. There's going to be kelp.
On land, the fungus is useful enough that I don't typically make Mines anymore. I have all these various jobs to do with my Former fleet. All kinds of game pressures, particularly with Thinker mod. I typically send 1 Former onto a piece of Rocky terrain to cut a road, so that I'm not wasting movement for a lot
of Formers trying to get to that dig site. I think of that road cut as a "deferment". I don't build a Mine yet
, that does eco-damage, and I often don't have the food to work anyways. I've established a place where I could build a Mine later, if I have the Formers and the interest in doing so. Quite often, in the real world, I never get around to making the Mines at all. I find we're entering late game, and I just go back to all those Rocky places and plant fungus on them. It's like I planted a farm, although I can't put a solar collector on it, or a soil enricher.
But there's a reason I don't care. If I build the Manifold Harmonics and go +3 PLANET, I get another +1-1-2 on top of all that. Fungus becomes crazy good land! I think by game's end you can get 5 minerals off these damn things. Better than a Mine and doesn't do eco-damage for the existence of a Mine, although you may do eco-damage for minerals increase.
So that's the progression of what fungus does for you. Starts out bad, becomes low effort ok, and by the end of the game is better than any other land out there.
So the question becomes, what would you want to do differently? Making it easier to profit from fungus, can easily just throw the game, especially when we're talking about making minerals easier.
Fission Armor mod makes the Manifold Harmonics available fairly early in the game. That's a pretty big giveaway. I currently have it at the more boring late game time. One of my concerns is, there are a lot of Explore techs in front of it. I think there are aspects of the narrative that don't make any sense if the Manifold Harmonics comes too early.
I went back and studied the mineral progression of the stock game. It's +1 at Centauri Genetics, +2 at Matter Transmission, and +3 at Threshold at Transcendence. I use Advanced Ecological Engineering instead of Centauri Genetics, as it came at a similar point in the game and is more clearly minerals oriented. I use Matter Editation instead of Matter Transmission, as I've moved things around a little at the end of the game. In short from a minerals progression standpoint, my changes are pretty minor. When they're not bugged.