Research Technical Details

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Research Time

For a basic version of this table, see Research Times.

Min.

Days

Known

At

Ave.

Days

Max.

Days

Research Project

Ave.

Good

Exc.

25 34 50 75 Laser Weapons 4 7 13
50 67 100 150 Laser Pistol 8 14 26
75 100 150 225 Alien Entertainment 12 21 39
75 100 150 225 Alien Food 12 21 39
75 100 150 225 Alien Surgery 12 21 39
75 100 150 225 Examination Room 12 21 39
85 114 170 255 Live Terrorists (4 types) 14 24 45
90 120 180 270 Alien Corpses (11 types) 15 26 47
90 120 180 270 Motion Scanner 15 26 47
90 120 180 270 Personal Armor 15 26 47
90 120 180 270 Stun Bomb 15 26 47
95 127 190 285 Live Sectoid Commander 16 27 50
96 128 192 288 Live Aliens (22 types) 16 27 50
100 134 200 300 Alien Grenade 16 28 52
103 137 205 308 Power Suit 17 29 54
105 140 210 315 Medi-Kit 17 30 55
150 200 300 450 Alien Origins 24 42 78
150 200 300 450 Blaster Bomb 24 42 78
150 200 300 450 Laser Rifle 24 42 78
165 220 330 495 Flying Suit 27 47 86
180 240 360 540 Mind Shield 29 51 94
200 267 400 600 Alien Alloys 32 56 104
200 267 400 600 Heavy Plasma Clip 32 56 104
200 267 400 600 Plasma Pistol Clip 32 56 104
200 267 400 600 Plasma Rifle Clip 32 56 104
210 280 420 630 Laser Cannon 34 59 110
210 280 420 630 Psi-Lab 34 59 110
225 300 450 675 Elerium-115 36 63 117
225 300 450 675 UFO Construction 36 63 117
225 300 450 675 UFO Navigation 36 63 117
225 300 450 675 UFO Power Source 36 63 117
230 307 460 690 Heavy Laser 37 65 120
250 334 500 750 Psi-Amp 40 70 130
250 334 500 750 The Martian Solution 40 70 130
255 340 510 765 Laser Defenses 41 72 133
275 367 550 825 Small Launcher 44 77 143
300 400 600 900 Cydonia or Bust 48 84 156
300 400 600 900 Mind Probe 48 84 156
300 400 600 900 New Fighter Craft (Firestorm) 48 84 156
300 400 600 900 Plasma Pistol 48 84 156
310 414 620 930 Plasma Defenses 50 87 162
330 440 660 990 Plasma Beam 53 93 172
335 447 670 1005 Hyper-Wave Decoder 54 94 175
350 467 700 1050 New Fighter-Transporter (Lightning) 56 98 182
350 467 700 1050 Plasma Rifle 56 98 182
400 534 800 1200 Fusion Defenses 64 112 208
400 534 800 1200 Heavy Plasma 64 112 208
440 587 880 1320 Fusion Missile (Fusion Ball & Launcher) 71 124 229
450 600 900 1350 Blaster Launcher 72 126 234
450 600 900 1350 Ultimate Craft (Avenger) 72 126 234
465 620 930 1395 Grav Shield 75 131 242

Minimum Days is the minimum number of scientist-days needed to research this project (50% of Average Days). Known At is the point at which progress goes from Unknown to a progress rating (67% of Average Days). Average Days is the average number of scientist-days needed for this project (from RESEARCH.DAT). Maximum Days is the maximum number of scientist-days needed to research this project (150% of Average Days). Average, Good, and Excellent shows the minimum number of scientists needed for this progress rating (see below).

Research Time Basics

  • The game starts with the average hours needed (from RESEARCH.DAT) and rolls to see how long a specific project will take (±50%). Laser Weapons take an average of 50 research days, but in practice can take from 25 to 75 days. The time it will take is determined when the project is started, and is stored in PROJECT.DAT.
  • Projects only progress and check completion at midnight, so what scientists are doing the rest of the day – traveling between bases, on different projects, or sitting in the coffee room unassigned – is irrelevant. All that matters is what (if any) projects they are on at midnight. This single check also means projects take a minimum of one day.
  • Each midnight, the game subtracts the number of research days according to how many scientists you have assigned to that project; the project is done when the counter reaches zero. If a project will require 31 man days and you have 10 scientists assigned, it will take four days to complete (and you have wasted nine). You could assign a lot of scientists until you reach the point where it might be completed, and gradually taper them. But without cheating, there's no way of telling just how long it will take.
  • The efficiency increases as the number of scientists on a project decreases. If you run several projects in parallel, you'll waste fewer man days overall. In the extreme case, you'd assign only one scientist on every project and would be sure that not a single man day will be lost, but it would take months or years to get anything done. You decide.
  • Even if you do "waste" scientist-days on the last day of a project, you may well get the opportunity to regain much more time than was wasted, due to the Research Rollover bug.

Research Progress

Known versus Unknown Progress

The game stops showing progress as Unknown when you have completed two-thirds of the average time needed to complete a project. By itself, this doesn't tell you much.

However, the roll for your project's actual time can be anywhere from 50% to 150% of the average, so if you roll less than 67% of the average time, the progress of your newly-created project becomes immediately known - and you know you just got a good roll. It happens a sixth of the time (50% to 67% is 1/6th of the 50% - 150% range).

  • If your project is immediately known, it will take a mean of 58.33% of the average time to complete (7/12ths, halfway between 1/2 and 2/3rds).
  • If it's Unknown, your roll is from 67% to 150% of the average, with a mean of 108.33% of the average (13/12ths, halfway between 8/12ths and 18/12ths).

Thus, a sixth of the time, it takes ~58% of the average research time to complete. The rest of the time, it takes ~108% of the average time. That's less than twice as long as initially-known projects, on average (13/7 = 1.86x).

In a nutshell, Unknown projects take about as long as the Average. But a sixth of the time, you get a double-speed gift (a Known project).

You can't cancel a research project at a given base, so the only way to exploit Knowns "honestly" would be to try the project at additional bases. However, it would be a hassle to set up labs at lots of bases, especially given the fact that it only takes 3+ Labs a few months to do most of the research (see Total Time, below). But if you want to be cheesy, you can save and reload if you get an Unknown.

Progress Ratings

Once your progress becomes known, ratings appear that correspond to a specific percent of the effort needed versus the average time for the project, as shown below. The minimum number of scientists needed for each rating is shown in the table above. The reciprocal of the percent shows how many days would be needed to complete the project with the minimum scientists for that rating, on average. "Inefficiency" is the percent of scientists wasted, on average, at that rating. It equals half of the percent assigned (sometimes you might hit the nail on the head and not waste a single scientist day, other times you might barely miss the mark and waste almost all your people the last day... but on average, you waste half of what's assigned on the last day of the project).

Progress

Rating

Percent

Assigned

Max.

Days

Percent

Inefficiency

Excellent 26% 3.85 13%
Good 14% 7.14 7%
Average 8% 12.50 4%
Poor only needs a minimum of 1 scientist. If no scientists are assigned, progress will say None.

Insights into Research Progress

Scientists Assigned versus Time To Completion and Efficiency
Although the research system allows for some insights, ultimately they're not very practical; you can't readily use them to become much more efficient.
  • If you closely track scientist days, you can compute the maximum number of research days left. If the project approaches this max, you can use the info to avoid a lot of waste right toward the end. (If you know there's only 10 days left at most, don't keep 50 assigned.) However, you'd have to track every project even though it'd only wind up being useful for the small number that last real long.

Perhaps, then, the only real insights are simple and fairly obvious:

  • Know what you're doing if you assign a high number of scientists (more than minimum needed for Excellent). You might want to track projects if they are important, and are using a large percent of your scientists.
  • Initially-known projects only need about half the average time; progress ratings under-estimate by 2. (Assigning the minimum for Average progress to an initially-known project gives it about 16% of effort, not 8%.)
  • Just be aware, in general, of the relationship between Progress Rating and efficiency of scientist use (see inset). Average or Good progress is also a good balance between time needed and efficiency.
    • Poor progress can drastically increase the time needed, for only tiny efficiency gains.
    • With Excellent progress, you might not finish it any faster no matter how many scientists you pile on - but you will become more and more inefficient.

Using PROJECT.DAT

PROJECT.DAT is a binary file placed in each save directory. It stores the research days remaining on each project as 2-bit entries, lower-order value first (e.g., if the two values starting at address 0C read 41 01, you have 65 + 255 = 320 research days remaining on Plasma Rifle in your first base). Should you desire to go this far in managing your research, PROJECT.DAT can be used to retrieve this information, redistribute scientists to prevent waste, and grab bonus research when projects finish.

  • At midnight, the game runs down through the entries in the file in order, awarding progress where scientists are invested. Helpfully, your base's research area displays its ongoing projects in this very order.
  • If a project completes, the game temporarily halts reading at that entry to throw you dialogue screens; Allocate Research, Allocate Manufacture, et al. Progress made on the entries before this one is saved, whereas progress on entries beyond this one is not read at all until the next step.
  • After the dialogue screens, the game resumes where it left off, reading only scientist assignments on entries below that of the completed project.
    • If you shifted scientists farther down the list, you stand to gain progress in additional research.
    • If you shifted scientists up the list, then sorry; the game has already read these entries, and they will not contribute further research today.

Overall, this mechanic tends to compensate people wasting scientists in ordinary play. If Joe Commander finishes New Fighter-Transporter with 150 scientists, but he only needed 21 on the final day, there were technically 129 wasted scientists. But assuming that he immediately reallocates his entire team to Ultimate Craft (a lower entry than the transporter) when given the prompt, he accomplishes a total of 171 research that day, with no complaint. In the same situation, though, Commander Maximizus might have run 129 scientists on a higher entry like Blaster Launcher and 21 on Transporter that night, before moving everyone onto Ultimate Craft—picking up a total of 300 research.

Total Research Time

The total average time needed to complete all research topics is 27,713 days. This includes the 576 to research The Minimum Three, plus 6,498 to add every alien species, ship type, and mission type entry to the UFOpaedia (a minimum of 35 aliens, dead or alive).

The 82 projects have an average length of 338 days. There are 51 unique projects; ones that need repeating are for terrorists (4), corpses (11), and live aliens (19, not counting the Sectoid Commander, which is its own unique project).

  • It's easy to have excess aliens in Alien Containment that will not result in any new findings. As long as you haven't finished all topics they can contribute to, you will capture them. They will then still appear as something for you to research - but there will be no result. Excess aliens like these have not been included in this total.
  • There is a least one topic that can be hacked to be made available, but only normal topics are included in the total here.
  • This total is only a total of the average project time. Actual time will vary.

In terms of game time to research all topics:

Scientists 1 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500
Days 27713 554 277 185 139 111 92.4 79.2 69.3 61.6 55.4
Months 909 18.2 9.09 6.06 4.54 3.63 3.03 2.60 2.27 2.02 1.82
"Months" are defined here as 30.5 days long

Because only a fraction of research topics are critical, and because it takes a while to be able to support multiple labs, most players only make 3 or 4 labs. If you're thinking of having lots of labs:

  • Be aware of the 256-scientist problem. If you don't want to deal with it, the practical limit for scientists is 250 (per base).
  • Going from 4 labs to 5 labs only saves you about a month — which is about how long it takes to set up the lab!
  • If you want to use the Research Rollover bug/exploit, you might need considerably less scientists. A high number of scientists can make quick work of a lot of research, particularly all the live (and dead) alien research.

See Also

UFO Badge X-COM: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense
Research:BasicsPopular Sequences and TipsTreesLive AliensTechnical Details