I’ve been thinking about the mistakes I make in the early game, and what I should probably be doing instead.
It seems to me that the primary driver for much of the game is the quest for stability. Basically, sustainable oxygen and food production, particularly in the early game. Secondarily there’s water, power, and heat. The early game feels like dealing with crisis after crisis.
Early oxygen is algae. There’s a choice between oxygen diffusers, which require electricity and thus hamster wheels, and terrariums, which are more algae efficient and don’t need power, but which do suck up water at a tremendous rate.
Terrariums also produce a lot of polluted water. Which you need to either recycle with a sieve, or let stand and turn into oxygen with deodorizers. I’m thinking the latter is probably the better choice, since sieving requires power, and produces heat because of the 40 C fixed output temperature.
If you’re using polluted water from terrariums for oxygen, it’s going to be important to deconstruct those terrariums as PO2 -> O2 production rises. Otherwise the terrariums are going to go through all of your available clean water in no time flat.
It’s probably a good idea to create an insulated farm ASAP. One way or another heat’s going to creep into your colony, particularly once you start sieving polluted water. Mostly that doesn’t matter, except that your crops want a temperature of at most 30 C. Mushrooms can stand 35 C, but that’s not much warmer.
I knew full well that heat could kill farming in my latest game, but I still let the temperature creep up until there was no place left to farm. I ended up doing a lot of cooling with ice tempshift plates, which isn’t really a great idea for a variety of reasons.
Your Dupes don’t care about heat otherwise until the air’s above 75 C. It’s not so important to insulate your entire colony, just the area you intend to farm. Though you want to leave some room for expansion in that insulated farm area.
Toilets are your first source of renewable water, but only if you’re sieving the output and probably disinfecting it. Which means heat from that 40 C output temperature, and cooling that 40 C water is just not sustainable early. You don’t have power to spare the way you do in the late game.
You can insulate the area around the sieve / collection area for sieved water, which helps with heat, and it’s safe enough since 40 C doesn’t trouble Dupes. The heat’s still going to tend to creep out as warm water gets moved around.
Power’s pretty limited early on. Hamster wheels eat up Dupe time and don’t produce much, and coal is limited. Hatch ranches can offset that somewhat, but I’ve never gotten to the point where they produce enough coal to keep up with consumption.
Making a smart battery to control your coal generator is well worth it, even if you’re using the rock crusher to make refined metal inefficiently. Uncontrolled coal generators waste a lot of coal.
Speaking of refined metal, it’s very easy to control that heat output from a metal refinery by using polluted water and sending the output to a sieve. The first few kilos of metal can make the automation you need to recycle the water until it’s near boiling, too. This beats out the methods I used to use.
Transitioning away from meal lice for food is harder now. Bristle berries aren’t viable until you’ve got substantial renewable water, and mushrooms want slime. The upkeep cost on mushrooms is very low, but slime will offgas polluted oxygen if you’re not careful, and small pockets of polluted oxygen carry more of a threat of slimelung now.
Algae’s going to run out sooner or later, and making more by distilling slime isn’t very efficient. Actually, you’re better off letting the slime offgas and deoderizing it for clean oxygen, in terms of slime -> oxygen efficiency.
Long term oxygen production comes from water. Either in electrolyzers, or letting polluted water offgas to polluted oxygen and deoderizing it. Which means that once you’ve moved to mushrooms, finding a renewable source like a water geyser and switching oxygen production is important. Oxygen’s a higher priority for that water than bristle berries.
As you do all this the power demand is steadily rising, and coal isn’t really cutting it. Going for early petroleum can help a lot with power demands, but produces a tremendous amount of waste heat. Both from the oil refinery and petroleum generators. Those will heat up to the point of scalding your Dupes pretty quickly if you don’t have significant cooling. Insulation doesn’t help because it just traps the heat inside the industrial area and the heat becomes a problem that much sooner.
IMHO cooling a petroleum power center requires a a cooling loop using water cooled by an aquatuner, which you in turn have to cool with a steam turbine if you want something sustainable.
It’s weird to be talking turbines in the “early game,” but they’re a lot easier than they used to be, and even more effective at removing heat now. It’s workable to have a turbine-cooled petroleum power center by cycle 150 or so. The big cost isn’t the turbine, it’s the 1200 steel you’ll want for a steel aquatuner. A gold one only has an overheat temperature of 175 C, and it’s easy to exceed that.
If this ramble sometimes seems like I’m stating the obvious - well, most of it wasn’t obvious when I started playing. Everything I’ve touched on here is something I’ve screwed up in the past.