The Myth of Eternal Growth
Guest contributor: Walter Wall
Thursday 12th January, 3303
Readers of the daily blog will have noticed an unusual story this week. Colonia Research Division in Eol Prou VY–R d4–443 went straight into an investment state from boom, ignoring the expansion state it had pending. In other words, it failed to find a system it felt was a suitable host for a new branch. Factions in the Nebula have been expanding into new market areas for the past six months without problem. What went wrong?
Expansion – a short introduction
Relatively recently, the faction expansion process was amended to follow these basic tenants:
- Only start the expansion process once a factions commands at least 75% influence in a system.
- Look for a suitable system no further away than 30ly.
- Make sure there are no more than six factions already present in the system.
These simple rules have transformed faction development. Before they were changed a faction would pick a system at random as it’s expansion targetand often stretched support lines to the maximum and also sometimes placed the faction in a system where they would be pitted against eight or nine other factions for the same resources. It made no economic sense, especially after spending 2-3% of resources per day over five days to fund the extension, and that following three or more days basic planning.
Having expanded once, there is nothing to stop the faction from developing it’s branch to the point where it too can consider expanding, so a faction can develop a network of sites, a daisy chain of markets.
It is so expensive to expand that it is only possible to expand from one system at a time and only a conflict can be allowed to interrupt the process once it’s under way.
Investment – to compensate for crowded space
If a new home can’t be found within these rules, many factions take more time – still investing their resources – by going into an investment phase lasting a further five days. During this period the faction will extend the range of it’s search. If no suitable system can be found, there is no point in throwing good money after bad and the search is abandoned, but it will continuously repeat the exercise on the off chance that something has changed.
Retreat – the price of failure
However, sometimes things just don’t work out and if a faction fails to maintain more than 2-3% influence, it’s generally time to reconsider it’s position and retreat. This has happened a couple of times in Greater Colonia, most notably when Colonia Mining Co–Operative was forced to leave Eol Prou LW–L c8–133, which had been previously considered it’s home base.
Colonia, of course, is special
Things get complicated out in Greater Colonia as the ‘Colonia Council’ faction has a unique setup, as they control all six of the stations that are distributed along the ‘Colonia Highway’.
These ‘Colonia Highway’ stations are essentially little islands of refuge in huge areas of emptiness and as the Colonia Council collects all income in these bases, it is constantly planning expansions from these oases: looking for a new base, failing and investing further, failing . . . and taking a short break before starting again.
While one of the ‘Colonia Highway’ branches is on this endless cycle, the ‘Colonia Council’ in the Colonia system very rarely gets the opportunity to even consider leaving it’s home system, but if it could, it should be possible to predict where it might expand into.
Centering on the Colonia system it is a simple task to list the nearest systems to which any faction could expand into. Jaques, the ever–grateful receiver of extravagant bounties and the only other faction in the Colonia system, has already expanded into all the systems shown in blue. The systems in red are those which have been surveyed and are due for colonisation in the very near future but are not yet accessible.
Here is the same table but centered on Eol Prou VY-R d4-443, where Colonia Research Division’s anticipated expansion came to such a dramatic pause. The only other resident in this system, The Tang Clan, joined CRDiv in Eol Prou LW-L c8-133 a short time ago.
Notice how CRDiv has skipped the Colonia system. This is because ‘Colonia Council’ has special protection.
As it already has a presence in Eol Prou LW-L c8-28, CRDiv should then have moved into Eol Prou YD-W b17-1, but didn’t. It’s within the normal range, there are only four factions, but the leading faction is ‘Colonia Research Department’. Could it be that CRDiv and CRDept have a mutual understanding to avoid confusion?
Eol Prou LW-L c8-76 should be the next consideration; all the parameters are within the criteria, why not set up shop here? In all expansions to date, no faction has considered this system as it wouldn’t make economic sense: there is no functioning commodities market. Even Jaques gave it a miss as the first table shows.
Eol Prou LW-L c8-306 is excluded as a target as it has a full complement of factions.
So does Eol Prou YD-W b17-5, the contender at greatest distance.
CRDiv is putting special investment into searching beyond the 30Ly boundary, but it’s a search that is going to be in vain. The only other inhabited system, Eol Prou LW-L c8-138, is not available as it too has all the factions it can carry. CRDiv has reached its limit – there’s nowhere else to go.
Soon, the Greater Colonia region is going to be extended. There will be the original nine systems under the guidance of CCN, and ten newly colonised systems, with new factions, markets and opportunities. These are the systems labelled in red in the above tables, that have been surveyed and are pending colonisation.
But Colonia Research Division of Eol Prou VY-R d4-443 is doubly unfortunate. The red flashes in the table above suggest that while the system might well be politically within the original nine systems, it is physically amongst the systems to be newly colonised – it’s nearest neighbours will be second generation pioneers, eager to extend their business domains at CRDiv’s expense.
Where does this leave the systems where the incumbent Colonia factions reside? Given the CRDiv’s example, expansions will continue until no more are possible – but as we have seen, that won’t stop the system leaders from continually trying.
It is expected that most of the systems around Greater Colonia will support the maximum seven factions, a situation which frequently means that most of the seven will be competing at the lower end of the local league tables. Inevitably, this will lead to many wars and elections, with the occasional faction forced into retreat, perhaps making way for another.
There are several ways this scenario might play out in the long term: the emergence of a determined group which does not accept the idealism of the controlling groups is just one factor that could change the political direction.
But that’s another story.
Figures provided by Cmdr Ian Doncaster & images provided by Cmdr Walter Wall, used with permission.