Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planetary Interaction

The entire Applied Physics crew and I have been following the latest developments in planetary industrial automation with great interest. You'll find the full rundown here, but if you'd rather look at the "tl;dr," bullet-point version, look no further.

The first stage in planetary interaction is, of course, finding something worth extracting from the surface. (Personally, I had always thought that the fuel costs of crawling one's way out from the bottom of a gravity well largely rendered planet-bound resources economically uncompetitive with orbital industries, but then I guess that's why they've got orbital tethers, right? That, and have you ever seen a cattleyard in a space station? Not a pretty sight.) Unfortunately, the above link doesn't have too much information on how this will be done, other than that it will involve something called spherical harmonics:
If you know what the heck this is all about, you get a cookie.

There was significantly more information on the kinds of automated planetside facilities, known tentatively as Planetary Interaction Nodes (PINs), we can expect to see. They look like they'll correspond roughly with existing moon-mining structures, albeit in a sub-orbital context. Here they are:
  • Planetary Command Center PIN - Pretty much what it sounds like. Your base of operations, as well as your link back to the heavens. Orbital transport capabilities can also be upgraded by a space port PIN and, if we're lucky, a space elevator PIN.
  • Extractor PIN - Basic resource extractor. Like a moon-mining array.
  • Storage PIN - What it sounds like. Equivalent of POS silos.
  • Process PIN - Equivalent of Reactor/Assembly Array. Seems like it will operate according to the BPO/BPC model.
  • Trade Hub PIN - Allows planetside trading with other facilities, as well as trade treaties to automate complex interactions and allow for greater economies of scale.
  • Links - Last but not least, you'll want to create connections between all of your planetside facilities. These connections will have varying bandwidths. Equivalent of coupling arrays.
The inveterate gamer in me sees that these "links", with their varying bandwidths, are where skill and finesse will come into play. The person who can create a network that creates the fewest bottlenecks using the fewest links will be better equipped to undercut his neighbor on price. In low-sec or null-sec, where competition over planetary resources will necessarily be more limited, this skill will be less important. In hi-sec space, on the other hand, the most efficient planetary supply-chain managers will quickly rise to the top of what I expect to be, initially, a super-saturated market. But this is all just idle speculation until the PINs (or whatever they end up being called) show up on the markets.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that I've heard of this game before.


  1. Heh, I've just finished my rundown on this dev blog for my weekly breakdown (out every Friday) and didn't make the Catan connection. Its pretty obvious once you think about it.

  2. Yup, and Dust514 will be Der Ritter (or Knight if you play the English version).