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Lessons from failure


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It's late November, the vegetables have run out, I'm down to a piddling amount of grain, and it's hit -16ºC. I'm clearly not going to survive the winter without constant starvation issues, so I'm going to abandon this world I've spent over 30 hours on, but first I need to analyze where it went wrong. Who knows, maybe I've got a few tips people haven't thought of?

Location, location, location!

This is the big thing: I picked a bad location to settle. "It's near my spawn point, it's defensible, there's water nearby, this should be fine." Except I was in the mountains, even though I thought the valley at the entrance wasn't. Maybe the polar bear that showed up in my farm should have been a clue, instead of dismissing it as a freak occurrence. Also, it had slight temporal instability, though I hadn't learned to keep an eye on the gear in the HUD yet. And maybe I was a little too optimistic about getting the metal tools needed to work the rock.

I should have gone for a spot to the southeast that was flatter, closer to my source of cattails, temporally stable and warmer.

Get the farm going early and keep expanding it.

I delayed getting a farm going too much. I kept looking at the low fertility soil and thinking "I should be able to find some terra preta around here." There wasn't any. By the time I realized it wasn't happening and I had to settle for low fertility, it was too late. I wasn't able to get most of the crops harvested before the snows started in October (again, bad location!). And when I kept pulling in more seeds, I didn't expand the farm more, thinking what I had would be good enough in the harvest that never happened.

In the fall, crop options are turnips, rye or nothing.

When I got a crop of turnips in September, I thought I had enough time to get some much-needed flax in before it got cold. Nope. I failed to account for the slowed growth on low fertility and would have been better off leaving it fallow. If I hadn't just done a turnip crop in those plots, the turnips would have been a good choice to get another quick harvest in. Also, I should have expected that rye would be good in the cold climate: it doesn't get damaged until the temperature hits -15ºC, and you only lose 25% of the crop instead of 50%.

Get charcoal production going before you even think about metal tools.

Once again: bad location in the mountains with rock making me want to rush towards the copper age. In my haste, I glossed over the 1084ºC smelting temperature of copper, something that can't be reached with firewood alone. When I realized that problem, another appeared: a lack of sufficient firewood since you get less than a quarter back as charcoal. Also, the nearest forest had unbearable problems, so I had to go a different direction for trees.

I did figure out a good use for all the sticks I got from breaking down shrubs for tree seeds: firewood substitute in cooking. Three sticks burn as long as one piece of firewood, you only need firewood when starting a brand new firepit and you can save three of the four pieces if you quickly substitute in the sticks. And on the note of saving firewood...

A crude shield is better defense than improvised armor.

Before I was thinking about charcoal, I used some of my firewood to make the improvised armor, believing it would help. What a fool I was. It's first test was a bear I accidentally ran into (why don't they make any noise before they spot me?) and I quickly died. After retrieving my items, I decided to see what that did to the armor. It was gone! When I managed to get some more firewood, I tried another set of improvised armor. I lasted a little longer, died to a big drifter spawn, and when I checked my stuff, the armor was gone again. Does it just disintegrate on death? That's not helpful.

Later, I spotted the crude shield in the handbook. Cheaper at just 3 cattails and 6 sticks, I gave it a try. It works well against surface and deep drifters, and it doesn't break on dying. I'm always carrying the ingredients around, so I can make a replacement as needed. Survivability went up. Still not good against bears though.

A wooden club is a better melee weapon than flint spears.

In the beginning, I thought the spear was a fine weapon: cheap and good at hitting things at just outside their reach. I didn't realize how slow and flimsy it really was until my first temporal storm. I wasn't sure I'd have enough spears for cleanup after the storm waned, so I made a club as a backup. Now I know I should have made it early, and probably made more instead of the copper falx. The tin bronze falx is still better.

Tin bronze tools you can make now are better than bismuth bronze tools you can't make yet.

When I got most of my copper through panning, I also had a decent amount of sphalerite. I thought "All I need is some bismuthinite and I can make some good tools that will save some tin." I had it backwards, cassiterite was much easier to find than bismuthinite. And I spent too much time searching (and dying) in caves that I could have used on fixing my food problems. Speaking of caves...

If you can't see the cave going into a metamorphic or igneous layer from the entrance, it's not worth spending much time on.

I don't mean to dump on the sedimentary layer, hell, I found ruins with a translocator and some aged crates (eased some inventory problems) in a claystone layer. A quick peek for anything nearby is fine. But all the good ore the prospector pick tells you about is further down, and if you aren't getting down there quickly, you'll end up spending too much time fighting drifters and locusts and running back out because of low stability.

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As one who plays permadeath, yeah, location is a big deal. You probably care more about retrieving your stuff on death than I do. I accept that will never happen for me. Thus, my goal is to avoid death in the first place.Which, somewhat paradoxically, means a lot of sprinting through heavily overgrown and even forested areas. That's because you can bob and weave around the bushes far better than wolves or bears can. If you are on flat ground, you are probably toast. If you are in bushes, you can pretty much always give them the slip.

Now that crops mature slower in 1.18, you can still live through a start where you don't get your first farm in sometime in May. It's just quite a bit harder. You can probably accomplish it a little easier by making rabbit traps as you head south, so long as you plan ahead and leave before it gets too late. But there's food everywhere. If you are traversing virgin territory, it's not at all difficult to harvest enough wild crops to survive until you get south, particularly if you take a cooking pot and bowl with you. You can probably even survive running east or west. Never tried it, because my goal was always to establish a homestead somewhere south, but the food is there if you choose not to..

I do charcoal any time I don't know what else to do, or while I'm waiting for something or other. Particularly wild bees. You can carry 16 logs in a slot, and eventually be able to produce 15 charcoal or so, or you can put the wood in the ground right off the bat and carry nearly 5 times that.

Armor, including shield, is a losing strategy. Work on your evasion skills. The improvised armor is fine, it costs you nothing, but on default settings, I wouldn't bother with anything more until you can do full gambeson. Yes, improvised armor is gone after a couple hits. So focus on not getting hit. Unless you decide to play arctic. Then you kind of need to be able to take a hit from foxes if need be, and you are counting on lucky drops from ruins, anyway.

Prospecting pick is your friend. Until you are good at combat, caves are just not worth it. Just look around for the highest surface reading of whatever you need at the moment. Very High is fine. IME, you will likely find something in 3-4 vertical shafts. If not, check somewhere else. Yeah, you won't be able to build ore blasting bombs, but that just means things happen a little slower.

IMO, sleeping is never a good idea. Near as I can tell, you gain nothing, not even a slower burn rate on food. If you want to do it for realism reasons, fine, but recognize that winter doesn't really care if you were faithful to realism.

I think prioritization is the key. Figure out what it is you need to make it through the winter, and focus on that. You don't have all the lead glass windows you wanted for your house? Fine, so long as you do have a greenhouse that will buy you an extra month or so on the growing season. Once you have enough food to tide you over the winter, knock yourself out.

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10 hours ago, Thorfinn said:

Armor, including shield, is a losing strategy. Work on your evasion skills. [...] So focus on not getting hit.

This assumes you will always be in a position to evade. Sometimes you can't. How about clearing the outside of your house after a night of apocalyptic rift activity? Evasion doesn't work so well if you've got half a dozen drifters throwing rocks at you. It's much easier and safer to bottleneck them so you only fight one at a time while crouching behind a shield. You might even get some of them fighting each other.

10 hours ago, Thorfinn said:

Prospecting pick is your friend. Until you are good at combat, caves are just not worth it. Just look around for the highest surface reading of whatever you need at the moment. Very High is fine. IME, you will likely find something in 3-4 vertical shafts. If not, check somewhere else.

I was in a copper-poor region with good amounts of cassiterite. I felt that cave diving would be better than wasting pickaxe durability on shafts, and I did happen find a good deposit of cassiterite in the walls. The area where I was getting good readings on bismuthinite was the problem: the sediment layer was really deep.

11 hours ago, Thorfinn said:

IMO, sleeping is never a good idea. Near as I can tell, you gain nothing, not even a slower burn rate on food.

I'm going to disagree on the "never sleep". If I'm stuck at home due to rift activity and I've got no projects I can work on inside, being able to skip time instead of sitting on my hands listening to constant moaning is helpful. I do wish it reduced the hunger rate and increased healing, however.

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4 hours ago, Bossman said:

This assumes you will always be in a position to evade. Sometimes you can't. How about clearing the outside of your house after a night of apocalyptic rift activity?

That's an easy one. Can't happen if you don't have a house. Houses just tie you down, man. ;) Back when I used to build houses before late summer or so, I'd just duck out the back door, run away, and let them despawn. The only drifters that might be worth it are double-headed, and that's only if you really want to activate some translocators. But if you followed your first rule, location, location, location, you already are where you want to be, so what's the point?

One of the guys who works for me came up with an ingenious solution inspired by wind turbines, and built on top of a pole that goes clear up into the 100% wind region. Rifts form at surface level. At least he said he's never known a rift to show up there. And I'll give it this -- it's a landmark you just can't miss, and it's got a killer view. And as a bonus, food lasts longer up there.

I'm starting to think I had too much fear of apocalyptic rift activity. I used to hole up and do clayforming and knapping, or cooking and preserving food, or smithing and smelting if it was an option, but I've come to accept that it's not nearly as bad as I had imagined. It might take a little longer to find somewhere far enough away from rifts, so you want to get scouting while it's still light out, but sticking is a viable apoc rift night activity, particularly if you are generous in torch placement. I've even been able to dig 4 full stacks of fire bricks (16 stacks of fire clay) before it occurred to me there was no way I was ever going to use them all up.

4 hours ago, Bossman said:

I was in a copper-poor region

Like you said right off the bat, location, location, location. You can muddle along and do as well as you can with a bad situation, or you can pick up stakes and find somewhere better. Or at least build a secondary camp somewhere that's copper-rich, then come back when you have so much copper it's gonna make you puke. ("I don't wanna puke.")

Don't fall for the sunk cost fallacy. If you really like that location, that's one thing. But it didn't sound like it had much going for it.

4 hours ago, Bossman said:

If I'm stuck at home due to rift activity and I've got no projects I can work on inside, being able to skip time instead of sitting on my hands listening to constant moaning is helpful.

 Agreed. So don't end up without anything to do? If you can't do anything to improve your tech level, you can at least improve your home. Granted, improving the home doesn't really apply to me, but if you are going to have a house and all, you might as well have a nice cobblestone one. You can always upgrade it, or build a full-blown manor house on the hilltop and use this one for your guesthouse. You wouldn't want a crappy-looking guesthouse to drag down the property value of your estate, would you?

But, yeah, I can see that if you ended up in those circumstances, with no clay and no flint, you would just want the night to end.

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I'm not an expert in the game, but I'm still pegging it, for me the mistake was to stick to high fertility land, I would rather have aimed immediately at medium land, it certainly doesn't perform as well as the other one, but it still helps to to grow cultures in more acceptable times.
When I start a game I always try to do two things at the beginning, a dirt shelter and immediately the agricultural fields, even if small, but everything makes gold in a VS survival especially at the beginning.
But now you're in winter and you have food problems, the only thing you can do is hunt, or take into consideration the roots of cattail, which are still a valid alternative, if I'm not mistaken they give 100 satiety if cooked or 80, I do not remember.
running towards copper is never bad but you need charcoal, so one thing I do at the beginning is to think before cutting all the fronds by hand in order to get the seeds to plant then closer to my house and then cut the trunk, this allows me not to travel great distances every time to get the wood. It seems to me that pines are the fastest to grow but maybe I'm wrong eh.
Anyway going back to copper, it's never a bad thing to have it first, but maybe it's better to make sure you're in a position to do it (perhaps a good amount of superficial copper), otherwise in my opinion it's better to try to think about your own survival by looking for more and more seeds , then if in the meantime you find copper then all the better :D
Also remember that building a house and crops in high places implies that it gets colder and colder, so it would be better in those cases to have two fields, one near the house at the top where to put the seeds more resistant to the cold and the other further down where put everything else (or plant everything there).
The initial zone with fixed temporal instability is not that I advise against it, but it certainly puts the player in an awkward situation and at this point perhaps it would be better to consider moving or restarting, also because every time you will have to move to recover the stability, might as well Therefore ... :)
And then, why doesn't it surprise me that there is a bear groping the player at his house right from the start of the game? :D

However, I'm of the opinion that this game should never be rushed unless the game offers you plenty of resources to afford it :)
My opinion is clear :)

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im not expert but there are few neat things that can help new player.

Make fruit juicer and barrels as soon as possible , berries last only few days , 7-14 in cellar , juice lasts 28 days in cellar , wine lasts 55+7 days(it takes 7 days to make not taking any spoil rate) and it seams most easy and abundant source , settingup berry farm takes no effort , takes no fertility or seeds(just bush)

save grains for winter , stored in cellar it lasts ages , and cellar and storage pots is another thing i build like 3rd day at most if i can , berries spoil really quickly unless you shove them in cellar

Full meals supress hunger drain for few hours(who can be game changer when comes to food) so getting first pots , bowls , and cooking utencils are vital

farming might not be high prorirety but its good to setup flax sooner or later

copper is easy to get once you learn about "surface rocks"(as there are deposits below so make markers till you get pick) , i usualy find lots deposits or sometimes just stumble on it in caves , i usualy not have luck with tin tho silver and gold is easier to find due it generates in quartz , who seams most common sufrace ore

dont be afraid to hide , when drifters are roaming around my base i lock myself in cellar and do pottery or sqeeze juice or cook , i know some players scoff at this but i not care.

throwing spears is immo best early weapon , you can make 3 , 6 , or 8 easily , latest save blessed me with obsidian , and it takes 3 spear throws for pigs , rams , and normal drifters , it deals large damage , and you can pick them up quickly by sprinting(most of time even if another drifter is there he wont even hit you) , if you throw them fast you can kill most these threats with 0 risk of it fighting back

you can save food by healing yourself , horsetail or whatever forest herb is can make makeshift healing items

prospector pick is best friend , i found lots ores by just randomly prospecting moutains or rocks as i "explore , go somewhere or gather stuff"

charcoal usualy was not problem for me as i ether found brown coal , or got coal from ore pots , and it takes only day to make so its not big deal


i personally not found locations as important as "survival skills" of a player i just settled where its pretty tho this game i settled close to obsidian




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