Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri & Alien Crossfire > The Theory of Everything
Treatise on hurrying by Maniac
originally posted by Maniac on January 14, 2006 on 'The Column', an ex-feature of Apolyton CS.
"Energy is the currency of the future." -- CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Centauri Monopoly"
Hurrying is an important part of the game for anyone who wants to rise above beginner level, as it is one of the methods available to gain turn advantage when wisely used. Therefore of course a treatise about the subject cannot be absent from the ultimate Survivalist's Guide.
Hurrying involves the use of energy credits to gain minerals and speed up the production of a certain item being constructed in your base. The amount of credits you need to spend per mineral depends on what kind of item you are building: a unit, base facility or secret project. The exact formula are all very well explained in this document, but to make it easier for the reader I will also provide a short summary here.
For secret projects the energy costs for hurrying are as follows:
* Four credits per remaining mineral if at least four rows of minerals have been accumulated.
* Eight credits per remaining mineral if less than four rows of minerals, but ten or greater minerals have been accumulated.
* Sixteen credits per remaining mineral if less than ten minerals have been accumulated.
For base facilities the equation is even simpler:
* Two credits per remaining mineral if at least ten minerals have already been accumulated.
* Four energy per remaining mineral if less than ten minerals have been accumulated.
For units the matter is a bit more complex, as the hurry cost is not linear. Instead the energy cost per mineral depends on how many minerals are still missing for unit completion. You could of course have a look at the reference chart I provided a link to, every time you want to partially hurry a unit, but personally I find it easier to just have a calculator nearby and do the following: take the full hurry cost, divide it by the number of minerals still missing, multiply it by the number of minerals you want to hurry, and then round up to the next integer number. Voilŕ, you've got your hurry cost!
The main purpose for this treatise is certainly not giving yet another summary of hurry costs though. I rather wanted to discuss tricks and methods that make the hurry costs lower than those you see described above. While these methods - some might say exploits - were probably not intented by the game desigers, the good news is that they have become commonplace and accepted in the SMAC multiplayer world, so you can use them freely as much as you want! Those "tricks" I talk about all involve either using crawlers, using unit upgrading, or both of them combined: upgraded crawlers!
CALCULATING UNIT UPGRADE COST
So before I begin to explain some cheaper hurry methods, let's first explain what affects the upgrade cost of units, on which the cheaper hurry methods are largely based on. The formula is pretty simple: to upgrade a unit you must pay in energy credits the following amount:
* Ten credits per mineral row the unit design to which you upgrade, is worth.
* Ten credits per weapon and/or armour level the upgraded unit design has more than the old unupgraded unit design.
Two things that should be noted:
* Your SE Industry rating doesn't play any role for the upgrade cost. This makes upgrading a relatively more lucrative method for Industry-poor factions (like Sparta) than for Industry-rich factions (eg the Drones).
* The mineral cost of the old unit design doesn't matter at all. Neither do special abilities in the old design have any effect. So only the weapon and armour of the old unit have an influence for the upgrade cost.
To give an example, upgrading a 0-1-1 supply crawler to a 0-2t-1 trance synthmetal crawler (8 min rows) would cost 90 credits. Why?
* 80 credits because the new unit costs 8 mineral rows.
* 10 credits because the armour level rises by one: from one to two.
* The "weapon" - the crawler module - stays the same, so no extra cost fort that.
Now we are aware of this, we can move forward to actually discussing the cheaper hurry methods.
originally posted By Maniac on January 21, 2006 on 'The Column', an ex-feature of Apolyton CS.
HURRY SECRET PROJECTS -- THE USE OF UPGRADED CRAWLERS
Let's begin with the simpliest and most commonly known: hurring secret projects! While it is possible to hurry secret projects directly with credits, it is very expensive: four credits per mineral, and only if you have already accumulated four mineral rows. For that reason cashing in crawlers is a more preferred method for hurrying SPs: while units normally only provide half their mineral cost when disbanded, for crawlers their full mineral cost is added when cashing in for a secret project or unit prototype production. As one mineral -> one mineral is considered a better exchange rate than four credits -> one mineral, the choice how to hurry secret projects is quickly made.
But there is a way to hurry secret projects faster than by having to build and cash in a whole bunch of 3-row crawlers. Namely by upgrading your crawlers before cashing them in.
This method makes use of the very favourable credit->mineral exchange rate you usually get by upgrading units. Consider the example I gave above: a 0-2t-1 crawler. To upgrade the unit from a 3-row to a 8-row model, you have to pay 90 credits. That's 90 credits for an extra 5 mineral rows. Or in other words: 1.8 credits per mineral assuming you're running 0 SE Industry. That's a whole lot less than the 4 credits per min you usually have to pay, and even less than the 2 credits per min you have to pay when hurrying base facilities. This favourable exchange rate even improves as you can (due to special abilities, higher armour etc) design more and more expensive crawler models. As a result, after getting IndAut (crawlers), IndBase (synthmetal armour) and SotHB (hypnotic trance - usually the first ability you can put on crawlers), building secret projects usually merely becomes a function of having enough credits in reserve and getting the required tech first.
HURRYING UNIT PRODUCTION -- THE USE OF SKUNKWORKS
Besides secret projects, there are also methods to get units faster and cheaper than you would get by normal credit hurrying. For example if you need a strong (and thus expensive) military unit very fast, instead of building and hurrying it the normal way, you could build a cheap 1-1-x "unit shell" and then upgrade it to the desired configuration. Many people even make it a standard tactic to just build a whole bunch of high morale and clean 1-1-x unit shells; and when someone declares war on them, they can just upgrade the shells as desired for an instant elite army.
Besides the straightforward method of upgrading unit shells, there is also a way to hurry unit production using crawlers, just like you would use them to hurry secret projects: adding their full mineral cost. This method envolves the Skunkworks base facility. That facility has an undocumented advantage besides cancelling the +50% prototype cost: in the base the skunkworks is built, it allows you to switch production between items of the same kind (unit, facility, project) without the usual mineral penalty.
This feature can be used as follows. Initiate production of a unit prototype. Next cash in a few supply crawlers (upgraded for an even bigger benefit): just like for SPs crawlers add their full cost to prototype hurrying. Thirdly switch production (without any penalty) to the unit you really wanted to build. Now your desired unit is under production, with already lots of the required minerals accumulated. Should be very handy if one wants to build expensive units.
The only catch is that you have to be able to build a unit prototype to use this method. This means denying yourself your best weapon, armour or a chassis type. After researching Orbital Spaceflight (and missiles) this problem is somewhat alleviated though. You could for example always keep the planet buster weapon unprototyped. While an effective weapon against annoying enemies, it has lots of downsides and isn't really crucial to win the game. So after acquiring those you could always use your best convential weapons and armour.
THE "MANIAC MANOEUVRE" -- HURRYING ALL PRODUCTION
The Spartans suffer from a problem though. Probably because they don't have to pay prototype costs, they can't build the Skunkworks facility either. This wouldn't be a problem, if it weren't for the fact that Firaxis (accidentally??) added an undocumented feature to this facility. Because of this the Spartans can't use the method described above and would have an unfair disadvantage towards all the other factions.
There is a way around this though, called the "Maniac Manoeuvre" or simply crawler-hurrying in Spartan ACDG circles. If you are building a unit in a base, but then go into the unit workshop and retire that design, the base production is switched to "stockpile energy". If you then set production to something else in that base, the minerals you had accumulated before the design retirement still fully stay.
This can be used in combination with the method described above. Set production to an unprototyped unit design, cash in a few (upgraded) crawlers, go into the unit workshop to delete the design. and then switch the base production to whatever you originally intended to build. For this method you don't need Skunkworks. And what's more, while with Skunkworks you can only switch to a different unit, with this "retire unit design" method you can switch to anything, including facilities. Taken together, this implies - under the condition that you have a unit you can prototype - you could use crawlers to hurry ALL production, and no longer only secret projects. It also negates the 50% production penalty normally connected to switching production. So in theory you could set production in all bases to a unit prototype - allowing you to switch production whenever you want - and only change to your real intended production item the turn before it would be normally finished.
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