From: The Big Nowhere
1. Food production is an essential yet missing component. Farming supplies the needed food component that every race has need of (in some form…while human food is veggies and meat, mechanoids might need to grow renewable sources of lubricants, etc).
2. Farming can be kept simple or made complex.
A. Simple Method: Food production is directly tied to colony development. At development levels <100 the colony must import food, at =100, the colony is self-sustaining, and at levels >100, the colony produces surplus food. At the producing levels (>100) the resource ‘Food’ is produced at the planet and can be picked up and transported by freighters, sold to alien empires, etc. The production rate for food would be exactly like other resources, only that it must have a minimum of 101 to produce…each 1 point of development above 100 would equal to 1% food production (similar to mining). Since I believe planet quality has a direct bearing on development, it would have a direct bearing on food production by default in this method.
B. The complex method would require gathering raw resources and ‘refining’ them into a finished product. The complex method will become more clear once you read the Manufacturing section below. The complex method would require new components and new resources (such as grains, etc).
I'm not sure that I agree with farming being a factor in colonization. You're talking about a culture that can whisk between stars with the ease we take a train to the next town (except in America, where "public transport" is an urban myth); yet you're suggesting that being able to grow food is an issue? Despite all the doomsayers predicting widespread famine from overpopulation since the 60s, we haven't seen the famine they've predicted. Instead, we've seen increased productivity in farming methods and more recently, genetically tailored crops that produce more food-per-bushel than anything natural.
What is the basis of that limitation? Given our current technological level, we're able to make meat in vats, the largest barrier to which is the profitability (land and cows are cheaper than vats and electricity). Given the enormous cost of building, manning and maintaining a colony ship to another star, equipping that ship with a few of the food production vats seems pretty trivial. Remember, what we CAN do is different from what IS PROFITABLE to do.
Also, I'm not sure that the idea of selling food to alien empires makes any sort of logical sense. What you see as "food", an alien may very well see as toxic sludge. Gizureans, for example, might use arsenic the way we use salt - it's all down to biochemistry which is bound to be radically different.
I'm rather fond of abstracting the habitability of planets into "quality", and manufacturing output with the colony's population (though I'd rather see differing qualities for each race, given the same planet). Adding food production to the mix seems to make things more complex, less realistic and doesn't ultimately improve the game.
It's not so much the inability to produce stuff in vats...its getting the raw resources to start with. When a colony is established, you have people building the needful things, starting the family farms, starting up the mineral extraction, etc. As the colony grows, its becomes less and less dependent on imports because the things that didn't exist at all when the ship landed are now becoming common-place.
Its nothing to do with the ability to can goods (look at how efficient we are at that now) its more about the ability to get the resources in the first place (one bad drought in any given country on this planet causes major food disruptions). Plus not all planets you colonize are going to be high quality, and these planets will likely always be reliant on imports.
It is (and I really hate to apply this to a game) realistic. That is, not every planet is going to be the greatest and you may need to import food to make up for shortages. From a game play point of view, this is just another layer of depth, that should help solve some problems we already encounter. The two that come to mind is the ability to colonize far too quickly, and the fact that resources are so plentiful things are too cheap (the too much money complaint).
Distant Worlds Fan
'When in doubt...attack!'