Pic of the day: Compare this picture with yesterday and earlier pictures in the same series.
This picture is finally different. One thing is the fog that has begun to obscure the stars. We have zoomed out so much that the interstellar hydrogen clouds are starting to show up.
The other obvious change is that there suddenly are many more small flags. In addition to the one for my home planet, there is now one for each of my colonies. At this point I did not have all that many of them, but my little "stellar empire" was still nearly the average size for the computer-played empires that surrounded me. In all fairness, I am playing in Easy mode, there are two harder ones. And one of my allies had an empire probably twice as long. At the time of the picture, I could probably hop across between my two farthest colonies in two jumps with the best star drive. (I believe it is the best - none of the planets I trade with have any better, and they usually just have the better stuff grayed out if I have not got enough badges to buy it yet.)
If you expand your empire to more than about twice this size, it becomes hard to defend. Even if you manage to keep peace with all your neighbors, there are still pirates trying to raid your spice, especially the most rare and therefore valuable spice. And occasionally a fleet from the Grox empire shows up, either on one of your planets or an ally, and you have to drive them away. Grox is a huge empire of arrogant toads close to the center of the galaxy. Reaching the center of the galaxy is the "win" condition of the game, but these guys make that hard. Luckily you can buy planetary defenses that will repel casual invaders. And as you terraform your planets, you can add more defense to your cities there as well. Playing the easy level, I can probably afford to put planetary defenses on all my colonies and just ignore the pirates, but I haven't tried.
Anyway, the point is that "twice this size" isn't all that much, as you can see from this picture. On the other hand, look at the sides of the picture. See how much darker space is there, as if a river of stars run through it. This is the first point where we can actually see that we are in an arm of the galaxy, at least if we already know it.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.