Are ranches over powered? In-depth analysis below.

Are ranches over powered? In-depth analysis below.

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digitCruncher

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Tl;Dr
Ranches are a food-producing DLC-only building that require no technologies to research, and the in-dome variant outclass hydroponics farms so severely in almost every category (notably including water efficiency and food output) that they make hydroponics farms completely useless for food production if you have the DLC. For my next trick I want to compare outside ranches with fungal farms, and then compare in-dome ranches with normal farms.

Note, I use the abbreviation 'HF' for Hydroponics Farms, because I say that a lot.


Overview

So if you have the Project Laika DLC, you can make ranches, which come in two flavours: a 10-tile inside variant, and an outside variant which I haven't tested or ran the numbers on (although the outside variant could be compared quite nicely with the Fungal Farm in the future). Neither variant has any tech requirement, and the inside variant has 4 options to choose which animals you want to breed and eat. I built one when running my second game, and found that the ranch was really, really good. Then I ran the numbers and found that HFs are almost always worse than ranches. Note that since the inside variant of the ranch is 10 tiles in size, I have compared 1 ranch with 3 HFs. For my first comparison, I compare 3 leaf crop HFs (highest output, longest growth time time, and highest resource consumption) with 1 turkey ranch (highest output, longest growth time, and one of the highest resource consumptions). I have listed the HF upgrades, but not the ranch upgrades (if applicable), because I don't know what the ranch upgrades are. However, even with this handicap, HFs come up way short.


HF Pros
  • Consumes 1.3 less oxygen (-0.3 per hour instead of 1)
  • Harvests 1 sol earlier (4 instead of 5)
  • Uses one less tile, so they can be split into multiple big tiles, or put in the little 3 tile triangles in the Barrel Dome (which IMO is the best dome to start with)
  • Can be upgraded to produce algae, which is the best oxygen producer in the game
  • Can be upgraded to produce rice, which produces 50% more food per sol, at the price of 50% more water consumed per sol.
  • Can be upgraded with automation, which negates one of the Ranches pro below

Ranches Pros

  • Produces 33% more food (12 per sol instead of 9 per sol)
  • Uses unskilled labour instead of Botanists
  • Uses 33% less labour (6 people instead of 9). This is negated once you automate the HF.
  • Consumes 50% less water (0.9 instead of 1.8).
  • Consumes 66% less energy (5 instead of 15)
  • Uses 66% less maintenance (1 metal instead of 3 metal)
  • Church of the New Ark does not have the crippling 50% output penalty for Ranches, but does for HFs.

Other comparisons between ranches and HFs

The only other difference between the two are that 3 HFs cost 12 metal and 6 polymers, but 1 Ranch costs 10 concrete, 5 metal, and 1 machine part. It is very difficult to compare those two costs and determine which is better, but IMO they are about the same. As you can see ranches produce more food cheaper and with less labour (and unskilled labour to boot!), making them superior.

What's even worse is that in the Steam page, ranches are described as "consum[ing] more water than crops". But lets compare the most water-efficent HF crop (micro-greens) with the least water-efficent ranch animal (geese). This is the only situation in which 3 HFs consume less water per sol than a single ranch, and what's worse is that not only do geese produce 11.25 food per sol (compared to 7.5 food per sol for micro-greens), geese are still better at converting water to food (Geese produce 0.39 food per unit of water consumed, while micro-greens produce 0.347 food per unit of water consumed.)


Conclusion

Obviously something is funky with balance. I still need to compare outdoor pastures with fungal farms, and in-dome pastures with farms, but at a bare minimum, ranches should not simply be a more efficient HF. I have a few ideas (maybe increase water consumption significantly, or add a new 'animal feed' resource that is easy to grow in large quantities for cheap, and can be turned into 'people food' in ranches, or maybe make ranches a 'hybrid food producer / service building' (if that is possible with modding), that also boosts 'luxury' for non-vegans?), but first I need to see if I am overlooking something obvious, which is where you come in. Also, if someone could run the comparisons that I didn't do while I sleep, that would be great.
 

Xeorm

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Tile size? Like the only reason to ever build HF's in the first place was it took up a smaller size for when you had a small section free and nothing better for that space, or when you wanted food and couldn't build the farm. It's pretty crap, and I know I try to build the farm first for those reasons.

I looked at the numbers in another thread. Ranches are decent, outside ranches especially, but farms provide some notable advantages. Namely being better as you tech into it and not upsetting vegans and farms being more water efficient, especially if you use spires. Then there's the tech advantages as you go. Spires to reduce water usage, automation, and increasing the domes comfort are all pretty good advantages.
 

digitCruncher

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Ha! Whoops. I did actually search for that topic beforehand and found that post, but didn't read it as the OP was a discussion between HFs and Farms and was made before Project Laika dropped. I'll continue the discussion in https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads/farming-options-a-k-a-nerf-farms.1174788/ . For what it is worth, I agree: Farms are a direct upgrade to HFs, but that is how Surviving Mars is: you research tech and gain efficiency. My concern was that Ranches were highly efficient and didn't require any research.

[Edit] Do HFs boost comfort when you research the appropriate tech? I always thought that tech only boosted the comfort of houses in the same dome as normal farms?[/Edit]
 

rittstar

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Other comparisons between ranches and HFs
The only other difference between the two are that 3 HFs cost 12 metal and 6 polymers, but 1 Ranch costs 10 concrete, 5 metal, and 1 machine part. It is very difficult to compare those two costs and determine which is better, but IMO they are about the same. As you can see ranches produce more food cheaper and with less labour (and unskilled labour to boot!), making them superior.
it definitely depends on gameplay wise i think, but from my perspective and experience is machine parts easier to get a stockpile then polymers for me, for every full manned machine part factory i have to have two full manned polymere fabs, considering already researched out and indoor upkeep reducement, even though i highly work with wind turbines until fusion reactor comes avail and also i am a huge fan of Arcology which i start using from begin on in almost all small domes

with your examination in mind, i think the ranch will be better for me then, havent tested it yet, but HF is in any case not my style in any regard in question of invest and outcome, especially if playing church of ark, so that means that playing church of ark is a bit easier now if the research table is against you not offering farms right away
 

Zaskow

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Animal ranch realization in game are silly, because animals can't live on water and O2 only. I hope someone will create mod where animals need to consume food for growing and can die without it.
 

Xeorm

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Animal ranch realization in game are silly, because animals can't live on water and O2 only. I hope someone will create mod where animals need to consume food for growing and can die without it.
They can graze. Ranching as a source of food works pretty well when you're turning low quality plants like grasses into something that humans can eat. It's historically been very efficient in terms of human labor, at the expense of requiring a larger area. Doesn't make as much sense though when they're using the same area, but in theory them requiring more water and oxygen over regular farms would make sense.
 

Zaskow

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They can graze. Ranching as a source of food works pretty well when you're turning low quality plants like grasses into something that humans can eat. It's historically been very efficient in terms of human labor, at the expense of requiring a larger area. Doesn't make as much sense though when they're using the same area, but in theory them requiring more water and oxygen over regular farms would make sense.
Graze... On flourishing Mars surface around 50 sq. m with 0 terraforming stats, right. Ranching without addition any okish bio-material (seeds, food) is silly.
 

Xeorm

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Graze... On flourishing Mars surface around 50 sq. m with 0 terraforming stats, right. Ranching without addition any okish bio-material (seeds, food) is silly.
Right. But something like a large outdoors ranch that takes a lot of concrete and relatively few workers would work thematically. Or an indoor ranch that took 2 triangles that produced 1.5x a farm for a good worker to food ratio would make them thematically useful. I'm not sure they'd be taken, but it'd make sense.
 

sortulv

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It would have made sense if ranches required a certain level of vegetation (terraforming). Most of the animals we have would eat grass - so it would make sense that ranches would be very worker efficient, but require us to have some grass as source of feed.
For indoor ranches, maybe have a low requirement of seed to provide the nourishment for the animals. Such a change should reduce the number of workers on the ranches though.