Powerlines: Observations, Rules, Guide and Fun

DinkelsenDinkelsen Graz Join Date: 2015-10-05 Member: 208309Members

I was playing around with powerlines in my last game as I used them for a purpose they were probably never meant for - it resulted in a series of very long power lines - there more to that part at the end of the post. But I made a few observations and thought, I'd put together a post about power lines.

Power Line Rules

Powerlines follow a set of rules when they are created by generators and power relays
These are the rules I managed to observe:
  • Power supply lines are created at a generator and "hop" to the the next reachable taget.
  • The next reachable target can be a power relay or a base.
  • A power line ends at a base but a power relay "activated" by a generator will try to transmit its power to its next available target. This is how long power lines are created.
  • The "next availlable target" is always the one that has the least distance to the source - it is not necessarily the one that makes the most sense.
  • A power line will not connect to a power transmitter that is part of its own power line. So, power lines will not go backwards in their own path or in circles. (this also applied to connected power lines)
  • The maximum distance that power can be transmitted is 100m for power relays and 15m for power generators.
  • If a generator or an active power relay cannot find any available target the power transmission line stops there. (But if a power transmitter or a base is built it will check if the power line can be extended further)
  • Terrain is completely ignored when constructing power lines. You can build a power transmission line that goes right through solid rock, no problem at all.
  • A power line seems to be able go over any amount of power relays (tested a maximum amount of 57 power relays)
  • There does not seem to be a maximum distance for segmented power lines (built a 3000m line from mountain cave to Blood Kelp zone)


If you look at the image above you can see power lines forming from the right to the left. Every link is created by connecting to the nearest power relay. This way a meander is formed instead of simply bypassing unnecessary power relays. There is also a connection in the image which brings us to a very interesting topic:


It is possible to connect two (or even more) power lines under certain circumstances. There can only be a Y-connection that connects muiltiple sources to one target. It is not possible to have a single source transmit power to multiple targets.

Y-Connections can be tricky. The trickyness isn't necessarily setting up the power lines, but setting them up in a manner that they will survive loading a savegame. Power lines themselves are not saved, only the generators and the power relays (and of course, the bases...) The lines themselves are then created in the first seconds of gameplay. If you start a game next to a complex powerline intersection, you can watch it reconnect (if you are fast enough)

I have put together two images to make it clear:


The setup is that two solar panels are supposed to power the base "Base A". In this image the "good" case is illustrated. It was taken right after loading a saveame and it shows Base A powered by the two solar panels. Base B is only there to illustrate what happens in the failed case, but more to that later.

Note that the distance A in the "good" case is shorter than the dinstance B. This is important as when reconstructing the powerline the direction of the powerline needs to take a "left" turn "from the solar panel in the middle. Remembering the rules how powerlines form this can only be achieved by making distance A shorter than distance B. I could not find an exact rule in what order the power lines are reconstructed but I tried around 7-8 loaded savegames and in these the power line originating from the central solar panel always reached the connection point before the powerline originating from the right solar panel. So I had to make sure that it took the "right" turn.

(Usually the distances between the power relays are much larger but its impossible to take a picture of that...)


This image shows the "bad" case where the powerline from the central solar panel takes the "wrong" turn and turned right because distance B is shorter than distance A. In this direction the powerline can only reach the other solar panel. In this setup the powerline can find a valid target from where the two powerlines meet and create a connection - Base B - so it connects to it. But in other cases, when the distances are large the power line might not find a valid target and then it can look as if both solar panels are connected by a powerline, but the base is not connected and there was a bug. (I had exactly that case, distance B was like 90m and distance A like 95m - took me a while to figure that out.)

Navigation System


Fun with Power Lines: So this was the use I had in mind when I abused the power line system: I wanted a navigation system that connected my bases and tried to use as little beacons as possible. Back when the beaons could not be hidden they tended to ruin my screenshots but I still wanted a way to find my bases especially when they were in dark, hidden places.

It works well although it can be difficult to follow a line in the Cyclops especially if you are descending - visibility issues all the way.


  • DinkelsenDinkelsen Graz Join Date: 2015-10-05 Member: 208309Members
    reserved for possible additions
  • lorcogothlorcogoth belgium Join Date: 2015-09-14 Member: 207943Members
    edited February 2016
    never really used these things to expensive and its difficult to build them on cliffs but this a great tutorial/intro for them.
    Nice work!

    might start using them now.
  • SPIRIN1224SPIRIN1224 Moon Join Date: 2015-04-15 Member: 203469Members
    Very helpful guide. I will definitely look back at this.

    Man this game is interesting!!!
  • Kyman201Kyman201 Washington State Join Date: 2016-01-23 Member: 211880Members
    lorcogoth wrote: »
    never really used these things to expensive and its difficult to build them on cliffs but this a great tutorial/intro for them.
    Nice work!

    might start using them now.

    I was trying to use them to chain power from some solar panels down into my Grand Reef Base (Backup for the Thermal), and found out a trick for building them in cliffs.
    1. First, don't start by building a relay. Build a foundation into the wall of the cliff face, so that the foundation is halfway into the cliff.
    2. Then deconstruct the foundation. You'll be left with a divot in the cliff face.
    3. Plonk a power relay spike on the surface of that divot.
  • TIEbomber1967TIEbomber1967 California Join Date: 2015-09-23 Member: 208109Members
    Well done Mr. Dinkelson! I appreciate that you shared this info with us, it will come in handy. And, now I know you can't split the beam to two different bases (I was going to try, but now I don't have to).
    A quick thanks to Kyman201 also, for his cliff building tip.
  • Kyman201Kyman201 Washington State Join Date: 2016-01-23 Member: 211880Members
    Yeah, I built the foundation hoping I could slap a relay on the foundation... Then turns out, you can't, since it'll just jump right to the foundation to power the base. So I removed the foundation, tried to plant the relay, and saw that I could put it in the surface left behind.
  • lxhlxh Austria Join Date: 2015-03-13 Member: 202074Members
    edited February 2016
    Interesting system analysis task. To me, it appears as a recursive function started by source after source. That off course is not how it would work in real. I'd try to code it the other way round, base by base, means by consumers. I bet this would enable us to build a main power line where an arbitrary number of bases can be linked in.

    Edit: Off course they've coded it source by source. It appears as the 'normal' way of building power lines. So it would be necessary to implement both functions, but the consumers after(!) the sources.

    Edit2: The source function should search for the next transmitter only, the transmitter for the next one and break the function if that is already powered, the consumer function should search for the next transmitter line (until it connects to a powered one) -> [Y-connection] and all reachable but unconnected sources.
  • DinkelsenDinkelsen Graz Join Date: 2015-10-05 Member: 208309Members
    Honestly I do not know if it is a true recursive function. You can watch the connections form after a game was loaded (if you are fast enough) I had cases where I watched the solar panels alternately add one segment to their powerline until they "met" at the junction point, while I would expect a true recursive operation to add the whole line at once for a solar panel and then add the whole line for the other solar panel.

    In one other case I watched one line form completely before the other line even started, but it was after I messed with the setup, so its hard to say how it is done internally.
  • lxhlxh Austria Join Date: 2015-03-13 Member: 202074Members
    Yep, 'true recursive' might be the wrong term here. I guess it is the result of an inherited object function, started by found object after object. The problem is the serial sequence.
  • DinkelsenDinkelsen Graz Join Date: 2015-10-05 Member: 208309Members
    lxh wrote: »
    Edit2: The source function should search for the next transmitter only, [...]

    I do not know if "should" is the right word here. I am quite sure the vision was a group of small bases each with an independant power supply and not a world spanning powerline network (of doom) like the one I created.

    And it does work well for the assumed vision, the - lets call them "artifacts" - appear if you push that system to its limits.
  • lxhlxh Austria Join Date: 2015-03-13 Member: 202074Members
    Well, my suggestion doesn't exclude the initially vision. Both 'visions' are possible side by side.
  • ArtylicArtylic Join Date: 2016-01-07 Member: 211050Members
    I wish the Cyclops would hook up to this. Or something of that equivalent
  • lxhlxh Austria Join Date: 2015-03-13 Member: 202074Members
    Hehehe, this would be funny. Cyclops powered by power lines like an electrical locomotive. LOL
    But I guess that's not our Devs' vision. I think they'd like us to dock for charging.
  • JacaraJacara Washington Join Date: 2015-06-11 Member: 205391Members
    I have a base that is powered by Solar panels, and thermal. I had to run probably 500-1000m of lines to get power to the place lol, its only used as a emergency base for food or water (have a aquarium and to water generators in it) when exploring the deep. I plan to add a Cyclops recharging station to it once it gets added.
  • paradineparadine usa Join Date: 2015-09-18 Member: 208004Members
    I wonder if the devs could add the ability to power more than one base from the same power source.
    Then I (or any one else) can build a solar array at a shallow location, a thermal reactor in the mouth of a geyser and a couple more at the thermal vents then have a bio-reactor somewhere in the middle all to power 3 or 4 different bases together (cross-linked to share power).
    This will allow you (if your like me) to have 2 seamoth docks and leave 1 seamoth at each base to charge and be used just for around that base while the other seamoth is used to go between the base and cyclops (until they get a dock for the cyclops added to the game).
    It will also allow you to use the same power to run stuff like your water filter system, fabricator, fish tanks, etc all at the same time.

    (I have had as many as 7 panels going to one relay near them then that sent power to a relay halfway between the array and a second one before sending to the base further down the hill side.)
  • rhys_elcinsrhys_elcins UK Join Date: 2016-01-26 Member: 212148Members
  • zetachronzetachron Germany Join Date: 2014-11-14 Member: 199655Members
    The rules are quite simple, but you made an impressive power line tutorial for beginners and those who missed the importance of those power lines.

    Personally I'd think the devs should do some clipping filter when power lines try to connect and block each attempt to connect if there is a clipping. But I think the distance for clipping calculations would draw too much processing power, so it works from distance because it doesn't have to care about surface geometry. The devs should do precalculations when the nodes get placed or moved and processing power for clipping is available. Then store the connection information in the power nodes, so later they can access these node infos and don't need to calculate in real time again based on clipping.

    Another thing is the missing power loss that would happen when you transport energy through distance or through nodes. Again the nodes should calculate the power loss and store the loss info in its nodes. And I'd even build that glowing network without any power use - just for navigation help. So without power loss (or only minimal loss) maybe one day we could connect base to base and have them share / distribute their power supply / usage.
  • paradineparadine usa Join Date: 2015-09-18 Member: 208004Members
    Make it even more simple, have each node reduce the final power level by 0.25 so if you have 100 power being produced by solar at one end and have 8 relay nodes then you only get 98 power units to your base.

    Another option would be:
    input power = i
    distance transmitted = t
    relay = r
    final power at base = p

    (now figure the math as follows)
    i - r = x
    t / 1.2 = y
    x - y = z
    z - 0.01 ~ 0.09 = p (0.01 ~ 0.09 is the power loss at the base power receiver (adjusted to allow it to equal the nearest but lower full number)
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