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Announcements post #79: Rogue refineries and autofactories.

<pre>From: Ilyos, the Arbiter
Subject: Rogue refineries and autofactories.

Greetings Starmourners,

Going forward, you might run across some new entities in space, marked with "$" on your map. These are refineries or autofactories operated by rogue organizations of the Starmourn sector (pirates, smugglers and the like). While they pose no passive threat to any wandering space explorer, nobody will really mind if you try and take the goods in those installations for yourself (well, the owners will...). To that end you may proceed and attack these refineries/factories. If you do attack them, a number of things will happen:

- The refinery/autofactory will immediately deploy defensive systems which will, naturally, attempt to reduce you to a pile of smouldering debris
- The area becomes OPEN PK! and this will be announced on the Conflict channel (giving the exact location)
- The area will remain OPEN PK until combat ends or the refinery is destroyed (the destruction of one of these things is also announced on the Conflict channel)

You may continue your attempt to take down the pirate installation. Destroying it outright will leave some finished goods / parts or processed commodities for you to scoop up (or for anyone in the area, really. Remember that OPEN PK bit). Alternatively, if you get rid of the installation's defenders, you may DOCK at the installation and hack the terminal you find within. If you manage to hack it, you'll send the installation into overload and it'll soon blow up by itself. Overloading it will have the refinery/factory leave behind more resources than it would if you were to shoot it down directly. Just be sure to launch out of the place BEFORE it explodes...

Now then, the refineries/autofactories themselves come in a number of sizes (from small to huge) and pop up randomly throughout the game month. Their size determines the reward and the power/number of the defenders. As time passes, some of these installations will be spotted by wandering travelers, space explorers or patrols and their location will be reported to all factions. While at a station, you may check STATION PIRATE REFINERIES and get a list of all discovered installations. If you manage to find one of these installations in space before it's been discovered, the yields from destroying it / hacking it will be greater. It can really take a while from when a refinery/installation spawns until it gets publicly discovered.

We're going to rely on you all to let us know how you find this system, especially in terms of the firepower needed to bring their defenders down. Bring some friends at first!</pre>


  • Did anyone find a rogue refinery yet? How did it go?
  • edited August 2019
    We found one, and I shared the results/first impressions on the SM discord yesterday. I wanted to reserve judgment until we were able to find some other samples, but I have a fair idea of what the two types we didn't do would look like, so I'll just go ahead here.

    We found a medium tritium refinery. When we attacked it, it spawned 3 generators (they're not called that, but that's what they are) that seemed to be maybe level 4 or 5. Since we had to restart at one point, we know that they probably spawn exactly the same way every time: in a line, all clustered together. This means that in order to do optimal damage to just the outer one, you'll be forced to tank all three or bring other tanks to share the burden. We chose the latter option and blew them up. We didn't have anyone else show up because at the time, it wasn't properly displaying the zone on the conflict channel. I think that's since been fixed. 

    Each generator drops a sizable portion of junk (ours was worth 1k-2k for each one), so that was fine. After docking and hacking to overload the refinery, it dropped 32 refined tritium. I can't really comment on whether that's a worthwhile reward, because the economy isn't my thing.

    If I had to speculate, I'd say that the 'small' refineries/autofactories spawn 3 level 1ish generators, and the 'large' ones spawn 3 level 7ish generators, in the same formation. Again, this is just speculation and it could be different. But based on our experience with the medium refinery...

    I don't know that I find this system particularly accessible to people who don't have larger ships. Like yes, you're going to have an advantage if you bring a big ship to any space thing, in theory, but it's an expensive requirement in order to participate in systems like this, and like Cosmpiercers puts pressure on the people who do own those things to carry their team.

    What I'd rather see, and what I sort of thought was going to happen for some reason, is some version of an incursion spawning in the area, with ships of varying classes (not just interceptors, which are used in hard incursions), and possibly more spawned at once than in standard incursions in order to encourage teamwork but not require one massive ship.

    The reason we haven't gotten to test beyond that first refinery is that they're sort of just a thing that you stumble upon or wait for NPCs to discover (I haven't seen any NPC-discovered ones yet in the 24+ hours since release, so still not sure how reliable those are). It's fine that they're hard to find, but it makes poking and prodding at the system thoroughly a little more difficult. If/when we find more, we'll see if the system is more robust/accessible than I'm giving it credit for.
  • edited August 2019
    Okay, we've done more.

    Huge resources autofactory - 4 platforms, not quite level 7? but definitely higher level than the mediums; reward: 30 tethers
    Medium processors autofactory - 3 platforms, same as the other mediums; reward: 52 arrays
    Small helium-11 refinery - 2 platforms, slightly lower level than the mediums; reward: 30 helium
    The junk was in the same range for every platform, across the levels, 1k-2k per generator.

    From this, we've learned that small refineries/autofactories can definitely be soloed by a battleship, which isn't a surprise. It also looks like it would be manageable with smaller ships, since it's just the two platforms right next to each other. It would be dicey if you don't have enough dps/tank, but it's a lot less intimidating than the mediums and huges.

    I don't have any other information to add right now. I'm still unsure how I feel about the system, but the barrier for participation is at least marginally lower than I'd guessed it would be. 

    Two of the three pirate things we found above were listed on STATION PIRATE REFINERIES, so if you're at a station and you're interested in checking these out, use that periodically. I'm assuming they get listed there x hours after spawning in, so we should start seeing more listed.

    Edit: We definitely triggered some sort of bug where incursion ending messages run globally after destroying a refinery/autofactory. It seems to stack, so right now there are three lines showing each time. The staff is already aware of this but I figured I should let everyone know why it's happening in the meantime.
  • I have done Huge Alloys Autofactory solo with a battleship. It required a few times to avoid and replenish shield but it was easy enough since the generators did not reset.

    I have used kinetic batteries since there is no difference on organic targets. I might have been wasteful slightly so my general expenditure was 22 kinetic batteries. If we count some half-used ones in the weapons as well let us say I used 25 batteries. So the operational cost was 4750 marks (taking per battery price as 190 due to current market) while the junk I recovered returned 7781 marks netting a 3031 mark profit.

    On top of that I did not care about docking to hack and blew up the refinery as well. This yielded 54 transteel. 

    Of course the refinery I tried was literally at the south-eastern edge of the map, so it took a bit of a time without use of voidgates. But if you stumble upon these buildings it is profitable to take them down because the real profit is not limited to what you get but also you get to skip stages of mining, refining and producing which gains you time.
  • edited August 2019
    We've done several more refineries/autofactories since my last post.

    Small batteries autofactory - 27 em (hacked) (NPC discovered)
    Small batteries autofactory - 36 gravitic (hacked) (NPC discovered)
    Small batteries autofactory - 21 em (blew up) (NPC discovered)
    Medium repair autofactory - 25 repairkits (hacked) (NPC discovered)
    Large? repair autofactory - 50 repairkits (blew up) (pirated, which is why I'm not sure what size or if it was NPC discovered)

    Some impressions:
    • There doesn't seem to be a remarkable, if any difference, between the reward for autofactories/refineries that were NPC discovered and ones that were stumbled upon. We'd need a lot more data points to confirm it, but I'm not seeing one.
    • There doesn't seem to be a remarkable difference between the rewards for blowing up an autofactory/refinery versus hacking it. Again, we'd need more data points.
    • Pirate autofactories seem far more rewarding than pirate refineries right now, since the value of the manufactured things you get is generally much higher, though the quantity is around the same. I'm not going to make suggestions on which needs to be adjusted and in what direction, just pointing out that there's definite disparity, to the point where I won't generally bother with refineries unless they're something rarer.
    • You can most certainly take the time to solo larger autofactories/refineries, but you're taking a pretty big risk that you'll be discovered and pirated, especially considering the amount of repairkits and batteries you're burning through. For reference, it cost me around 2921 marks after factoring in voidgates (8460, which is three uses in a typhoon battleship) and the junk I recovered from the platforms (5539), not factoring in the 50 repairkits I gained and the dozen or so shots I fired off to chase away the discoverer, so in general these are pretty worthwhile competing for as an aggressor. The losses can be pretty big as the discoverer if you come unprepared, which seems fair. Don't go unprepared to an open PK zone.
  • edited August 2019
    For the completion of your information: Large repair autofactory was NPC discovered as well. And it was definitely a decent risk for me to shoot close to Song territory. I tried to swifly cut through the platforms, but that really left me weak on the shields upon your arrival.

    Regardless piracy is a legitimate activity in Starmourn from now on. Both busting the pirate installments and busting the people seems quite fun!
  • Rhindara said:
    • Pirate autofactories seem far more rewarding than pirate refineries right now, since the value of the manufactured things you get is generally much higher, though the quantity is around the same. I'm not going to make suggestions on which needs to be adjusted and in what direction, just pointing out that there's definite disparity, to the point where I won't generally bother with refineries unless they're something rarer.
    I'd put this a step further - the type of the autofactory matters a lot too. 50 repairkits is like, whatever, but 50 arrays? Oh boy, sign me up.
    On one hand this means potential pirate hunters can afford to be picky because they know what to expect in advance, but on the other, perhaps some normalization would be good here.

    My other concern is that from what I see, potential PvP is limited to ship fights. At least in cosmpiercers you have to disembark to hack terminals over time. Here, it seems to be a "one terminal and you're good" kind of deal, which means the window for on foot PvP is very narrow - that's if the other people don't decide to just blow up the factory from space.

    Still, generally speaking this looks very good. Another thing to do in Starmourn, and one with potential of getting lots of players involved.
  • edited August 2019
    I think that the absence of ground pvp here is fine, since it's a pretty transparently pure space endeavor. We definitely need more opportunities for ground pk, but while there is a very slim chance here, I don't know that we need to expand upon it in this particular system. Ideal circumstances for ground pvp would be something where travel time isn't substantially long and getting back at least a few times before it's over is totally possible, not something where you get exactly one chance to wipe and then you're done.

    That aside, I'm pretty optimistic about where this can go, with some tweaks.
  • edited August 2019
    I wanted to get some more data together before posting again post-changes, and then more changes went through. So I only have a few, but I think it's a fair enough sample to maybe get some other people into it now that there have been some tweaks.

    Small stesium refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 47 stesium
    Large bots autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 20 umm
    Medium helium refinery, player discovered, hacked - 292 helium11

    Since player discovered pirate things have a substantial boost (x2, according to Ilyos), they're without a doubt superior to NPC discovered ones, but they're very difficult to find naturally, space being as big as it is. I don't have specific suggestions towards that, just reiterating for people thinking about trying them: they're great, but it can be time-consuming if you go looking for them.

    I'll also go ahead and post other basic stats just for fun.

    Small refinery/autofactory - 2 platforms, 600 shield damage per hit at optimal range, level 10 terminal
    Medium refinery/autofactory - 3 platforms, 750 shield damage per hit at optimal range, level 12 terminal
    Large refinery/autofactory - 3 platforms, 900 shield damage per hit at optimal range, level 14 terminal
    Huge refinery/autofactory - 4 platforms, 1050 shield damage per hit at optimal range, level 16 terminal
  • edited September 2019
    Okay, this is going to be my last results post, unless there are any significant changes made to the system.

    batteries autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 30 thermal
    magnaril refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 61 magnaril
    vandium refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 78 vandium
    bots autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 11 umm

    qpc autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 31 qpc
    bots autofactory, player discovered, hacked - 32 astromechs
    bots autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 16 astromechs 
    alloys autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 34 paristeel
    repair autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 122 repairkits
    resources autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 58 probes
    diamene refinery, NPC discovered, blown - 103 diamene
    titanium refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 149 titanium
    processors autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 19 arrays

    stesium refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 103 stesium 
    iriil refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 227 iriil

    The numbers at least appear to be fair across the board. There's a massive bonus for just stumbling upon these vs finding them on STATION PIRATE REFINERIES, which is great. And I haven't seen any huge pirate things at all since the changes, but I can only imagine the rewards for those are similarly fantastic.

    The main problem I've noticed with the system is that, like cosmpiercers, it 1) requires a large, tanky ship to engage with the system, 2) it relies on one party to start the conflict, giving them a substantial headstart, which is relevant to: 3) it can take ages to get to the contested zone, even accounting for voidgates. This means that you can reasonably expect that whenever you see 'A pirate refinery/autofactory is under attack!', the raiding party probably has at least one massive ship, so even if you're able to get there in time, you'd need to bring one of your own to compete. Since the game still only has a relative handful of big, battleworthy ships, this is an issue.

    There are probably several things you could to do to make these more competitive, but the one that comes to mind first is that, instead of just listing NPC discoveries on STATION PIRATE REFINERIES, they could be announced on the Conflict channel whenever they're first discovered (and possibly periodically, like once an hour or so). From what I've noticed, NPC discoveries update on the hour, but not every hour, and there can be long stretches without anything on the list. Announcing their location on the Conflict channel and giving everyone online a chance to race to them could be a good step towards getting more people interested and blowing each other up. 

    Another opportunity for opening these up would be allowing for the already existing pirate incursions to have a random chance per incursion to reveal an already spawned pirate refinery/autofactory to everyone via the Conflict channel. I've noticed that pirate incursions are a relatively rare spawn as it is, so this wouldn't be occurring very often at all, but it could add a little more thrill and chances for excitement.

    My final suggestion is the most involved, because it would nix the generator/platform system in favor of spawning full incursions in a given pirate zone. I realize this could get messy if they spawn in a zone that already has an incursion in it, so that would have to somehow be accounted for. Ideally, though, these incursions would consist of around maybe 30 minutes of ships of varying strength/numbers spawning, and when they're cleared, only then can you dock at an autofactory/refinery to hack it or blow it up for its resources. This option would create a standard for time required to plunder, allowing multiple parties to participate if they really want to. It would also at least theoretically take the pressure off of battleship owners, since you would no longer need one to participate, and in fact something so clunky might be a detriment when trying to maneuver around both incursion ships and other players.

    I'll end by saying that I love the concept of this system and it's absolutely lucrative as-is, it just needs a few more tweaks before it's also fun, engaging, and accessible to more than just a few.

    Edit: One more critique - You're currently able to blow up the refinery/autofactories before all platforms are destroyed, which is sort of lame. It means that if you can tank it, you can run in, down the thing, grab the cargo, and skip away without bothering with the platforms at all. It's less cargo, sure, but generally still a great haul for the effort involved. So yeah, there should probably be some kind of shield that goes up around the refinery/autofactory after it gets attacked initially (as long as we're doing the platform arrangement, anyway).
  • I kinda disagree with the shield thing. It gives a smaller party a /chance/ at getting the goods if the opposition brings multiple battleships. I prefer a small chance for any side over zero chance to the smaller side. Especially when you can start one, just to have larger numbers show up to steal it. The shield idea offers zero recourse in that situation 
  • edited September 2019
    Having gotten another direct comparison finally, I think it's time to scrutinize the values for resources gained from blowing up refineries vs. hacking them.

    small vandium refinery, NPC discovered, hacked - 78 vandium
    small vandium refinery, NPC discovered, blown - 63 vandium

    This difference is okay, since it's certainly less, although I feel it's still a lot considering the substantially lower risk involved. 

    medium processors autofactory, NPC discovered, hacked - 19 arrays
    medium processors autofactory, NPC discovered, blown - 19 arrays

    There is no difference here. I realize there's some rng involved here and I probably just got lucky/unlucky on one, but the range must be awfully close, and I definitely think there should be more disparity. I honestly expected there to be a flat-out 50% reduction in yield, and I don't think that should be out of the question here.

    The entire point of making activate pirate zones Open PK is to encourage ship combat, but right now it's so easy to just snipe a facility and move on. This is exacerbated by a few things:
    • You don't currently have to destroy all platforms before you destroy the refinery. Solution: Give the refinery some sort of barrier that comes up after the initial attack that doesn't go down until all platforms are destroyed.
    • There's a weird bug where the platforms won't change their aggro right away (or at all?) unless fired upon, which means it's even easier to swoop in and kill the refinery while other people are tanking, scoop up the cargo, and make off without a fight. Solution: I don't know mechanically what the fix is, but ideally they'd behave the same as regular generators in terms of changing their aggro.
    • You're able to destroy refineries while people are on board hacking, instantly killing the person and gaining access to the cargo. This is fine in theory, except that a) the person hacking gets 0 notification that their facility is under attack, b) even if they were given some notice, the refineries go down in just a few rounds, in as little as 5 seconds, and c) since there is very little to no disparity, you're absolutely going to want to blow up the thing because you're not missing out on much and you're eliminating whatever competition you might have had. Solution: Instead of instantly destroying a refinery once it's been 'defeated', maybe trigger a countdown to detonation, similar to the one made by hacking (probably shorter). Alternatively, just alter the rewards as mentioned and make sure hackers have some kind of notice that they're under attack, though it's obviously always going to be safer to hack if you just bring a friend or know no one will oppose you.

    The tl;dr here is that there is inherently a lot of risk in hacking and very little in blowing up refineries, but the rewards appear to be very similar. Widening the disparity between the two would, at the very least, make people think a little more carefully about how they'll approach a situation, and may even lead to more ship combat (which we need more of to highlight what's fun and what isn't).
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