Technology: Planetary Economics

“The Morgans fear what may not be purchased, for a trader cannot comprehend a thing that is priceless.”

— Sister Miriam Godwinson, “The Collected Sermons”

Planetary Economics is a sixth-tier economic technology. It depends on Environmental Economics and Intellectual Integrity and represents the creation of the local infrastructure capable of supporting a globally-integrated economy. By this point, I imagine the economy is roughly of the scale and sophistication as a First World economy on modern Earth, with increased technical capacity substituting for the much smaller population.

In the game, it unlocks a couple of economy boosting options: the Hybrid Forest base facility; and the Ascetic Values secret project. It also allows the player, if he is the Planetary Governor, to propose that the U.N. enforce a global trade pact.

In order to explain what that last one actually does, it’s worth taking a minute to step back and explain the commerce subsystem in SMAC. To begin, the game maintains a list of each faction’s bases, ordered by their total raw energy produced. Then, whenever two factions sign a Treaty of Friendship, their lists are compared. The top bases on each list are paired off, and then the next pair are connected, and so on until one of the factions is out of bases.

These pair-connections are what the game considers trade routes. For each trade route a city has, the game determines the value of the route by combining the energy values of the cities with the commerce rating of the faction that owns the base. Then the city is credited with extra raw energy based on the modified value of each of its trade routes. Since this is raw energy, it is then split based on the global econ/labs/psych sliders for the faction and then multiplied by the infrastructure of the base.

One of the key things to notice here is that factions profit differentially based on their commerce rating. And though this concept is referenced several times throughout the interface, it’s never directly displayed to the player. He just gets a sense of it by looking at his bases, where each trade route is displayed with the energy value to his base along with a note of how much energy he is granting to his trade partner.

Under the covers, this commerce rating is determined by a few factors. The most important is the number of “core” economics technologies the faction has mastered. These aren’t all the technologies that are marked gold in the interface. Instead, they’re the handful of ones that are intended to model key breakthroughs in economic sophistication, like Planetary Economics: Industrial Base; Industrial Automation; and so on.

Then this number is modified by any additional commerce modifiers the faction has. The Morganites get one for free, because as Miriam says, the Morgans are traders. It’s in their blood. Then any faction that has more than a +2 on the Economy social engineering scale gets additional commerce rating bonuses. The factions that can run Free Market, Wealth, and don’t have any inherent Economy malus can achieve this. The faction leader that’s elected U.N. Planetary Governor also gets a bonus along with free spy reports on all the other factions.

Then that value is subject to a couple of potential doublers. The first is whether or not the two factions have signed an alliance (called a Pact of Brotherhood in the interface). And the second is whether the U.N. global trade pact is in force. I believe these stack to 3x energy instead of 4x.

This bonus is scaled so that at the very beginning of the game trade provides no income to anyone who isn’t the Morganites. By the end-game, each trade route can be worth something in the range of twenty raw energy a turn to a faction with a strong energy focus. This bonus is why the AI Morgan in the game is so willing to pay energy credits for peace. He comes out ahead from any deal, but anyone he partners with profits as well compared to the other factions that aren’t involved in the deal.

OK. So let’s wrap back around to the quote. By the advent of this technology, we see that railing against the “1%” on Planet now makes sense in a way that it just didn’t before. And, intriguingly, this quote shows us that it’s Miriam who takes up that mantle in canon. She’s not attacking the idea of market economics here, per se, but she’s definitely railing against Morgan’s claim that maximizing energy capture is the point of life. Cultivation of the soul, through loyalty, piety, and other such traditionalist virtues must be placed above such merely materialistic concerns. They are treasured precisely because they are inherent and inalienable.


2 thoughts on “Technology: Planetary Economics

  1. Robin

    Thank you for breaking down all the commerce modifiers and such – I had no idea this is how it worked! Did you get these concepts from the ingame help, through trial and error, or from an outside source?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nick Stipanovich Post author

      This is my understanding of the rules as I gleaned them from the in-game help and trial and error back when I was playing it all the time. But there are a couple of resources on the Internet that I found while I was trying to confirm my memories.

      This one claims to have the precise formula used by the game:

      I didn’t cite it directly because I’m not certain if it’s right. In particular, I’ve never checked both sides of a trade route in detail to confirm the factor of 8 they mention.



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