Basic Economic Management

There are 3 resources. Energy, Metal, and Buildpower (Your constructors). In order to build anything, you need all three, at a 1-1-1 ratio. Metal is the most important resource, you should always acquire it ruthlessly and spend it as soon as possible. This means you should always have a small amount of excess Energy and Buildpower, in order to ensure you can spend any sudden increases in metal income- but try to keep your resources in rough equilibrium.

So, Stall metal, Excess Energy, Excess Buildpower.

Guard/Repeat Method to a Smooth Economy

  1. Press F11 and turn on the 'factory guard' widget. This will make all constructors guard (and assist) your factory.
  2. Press the 'Repeat ON' button on your factory. Your factory should almost never be idle, and repeat greatly reduces the amount of micro you need to manage your fac. It also allows you to mix units more easily.
  3. Queue up offensive units and constructors. Constructors should generally comprise around 1/4th of all your spending, but this varies by map and situation. Having every 3rd unit or so be a constructor allows you to react to a varying and slowly expanding economy.
  4. Expand with your constructors, guarding them with units and building defences as you go, gradually and smoothly increasing your metal income. Make energy when you need it, with lot of cons around this is easy.

That basically it. These 4 small hints will make your economy as smooth as silk.

  • When you have too many constructors working on your factory and you are stalling, send some out to expand, reclaim, make defenses, and repair.
  • If you ever find yourself heading towards an excess of metal, or if your factory gets clogged by too many constructors, make nanotowers (this the only time you should make nanotowers, rely on constructors otherwise), or try branching out into another factory.
  • Always make a bit more energy than you need.

That's the practical advice. Now, some theory:

Metal

Metal is territorial. It is probably the most important resource, and is directly tied to territorial acquisition and military conquest.

Metal Extractors are the most efficient way to get metal, and can only be placed on metal spots. As such, you should expand quickly and rapidly get as many metal spots under your control as possible. Metal extractors are cheap, and pay themselves back quickly. Remember that any metal spot that doesn't have an extractor on it is just wasted metal.

Reclamation is incredibly vital to running an economy, and is too often overlooked. For everything that dies, a corpse is left behind with up to 60% of the metal it took to produce the unit. Securing an area after an assault and getting the reclaim is often the source of victory. Since it takes a constructor to reclaim things, you can think of reclamation as a way of turning buildpower directly into metal- reclaiming is a very good use of an excess of buildpower.

You can Overdrive your mexes to get more metal out of them, with diminishing returns as you pump more and more metal into them. Its good to have excess energy, and excess energy overdrives your mexes, so you will want to do this. However, the more mexes you have, the more effeciently you can overdrive them, and the more metal you get for invested energy- so always try and take territory.

Energy

Energy can be made anywhere. It is built in your base, and having energy is required for a number of things, including making almost all units and structures. It is also required to run a variety of weapons (such as lasers) and units (jammers, shields, etc). Note that constructors also produce a decent amount of energy (another reason to build a good number of them), although, of course, not as much as dedicated energy structures.

Solar Panels cost no energy at all, meaning if you have a lot of metal but no energy, you should build solar panels. They are the least efficient energy structure in terms of metal, but they are cheap, have good HP and are usually the backbone of the energy economy, especially in the early game.

Wind Generators have a variable output. In order for them to be competitive with Solar Panels, the wind needs to be an average of about 9. However, due to the fact wind is fragile and takes a lot of space, its usually better to make solar panels unless the average wind is higher then 10 or more. Building wind on higher altitudes raises the minimum that they produce. A tall, flat mountain can be of great economic value on a windy map. You can find the wind rate by pressing i, and when you build a wind generator it will show you the altitude bonus to its generation in the tooltip. Wind is very fragile, so its best to space it out rather than build it in tight blocks- it will chain explode. You might wish to also have some solars as backup, due to the fragility and unpredictability of wind.

Tidal Generators can only be built in the sea, and are usually very efficient on most maps (better than wind if tidal is at least 45% higher than the average wind, even with solar at 13 tidal, and even with advanced solar at 15.26 tidal).

The following table lists the efficiency of units in terms of energy production, measured in terms of wind. These assume 100 energy per metal, and are based on r1460.

Just because the table says something has a lower/higher efficiency does not necessarily mean you shouldn't/should use it in a particular situation.

Unit Efficiency
Wind Wind
Tidal Tidal*0.69
Solar 9.03
Adv. Solar10.53
Fusion ~13
Adv. Fus. ~16
Geotherm. ~27
Prude 33.17
Moho Geo. ~41
Con. Air. ~3
Con. Veh. ~4
Con. Kbot ~5
Con. Ship ~5

Buildpower

Buildpower is infrastructure. Every constructor builds at a certain rate, and that is its buildpower. While the other two resources are global and can be used anywhere, buildpower is local and linked to the constructor itself. Buildpower is mostly used for spending metal and energy, but it can also be used to reclaim, which gives you metal (reclaiming for energy is inefficient) and to repair, which costs no resources. You can also think of moving buildpower around as a way of 'using' it that doesnt require you to spend other resources. You should always have extra buildpower around, as it regulates the rest of your economy. Metal gluts can quickly be turned into solar panels with buildpower, and metal stalls can be alleviated through reclaim or mex expansion with buildpower, but getting more buildpower requires a factory or a constructor (and then only logistically fixed nanotowers), and all three resources.