The Four Branches of Research
Research is the study and improvement of materials, components, items and ships in the Limit Theory Universe. Each of these products are based on the raw materials which are found in asteroids and black box products which are generated at colonies. Minerals and other base line products are impossible to research since they are the building blocks of the LT universe.
Materials are the products that are made from the refined ores and other raw resources in LT. They are very difficult to research; taking large amounts of time and resources. Once a new material is discovered it unlocks a single material with several different traits. These special materials help distinguish particular factions from one another and can have huge impacts in regional control and faction relations.
Components are the molded products which are made from materials. Components allow for additional variety between items but do nothing on their own. They are what make two items of the same size and function have different attributes. Components have a shorter research time than materials which is in part because of engineering expertise and understanding of the materials being used in the components.
Items are composed of components which are typically bought and sold in the markets. These include turrets, sensors, engines and other items which are frequently used in building and designing starships. The discovery of new items happens fairly frequently since they depend on existing components and materials. A newly researched item may not be a huge game changer, but it will help fulfill market needs and provide a larger selection of items to choose from.
Lastly, new ship designs may range from very short to very long research times depending on the materials and components used to manufacture the craft and the overall complexity of the vessel. Ships can have a variety of roles or can be specialized for a particular role. Specialized craft typically take somewhat longer to develop than general purpose ships. This isn't always the case as ships using newly researched materials may take a substantially longer period of time to develop since the material may be in short supply and not immediately integrated into various components and items where it would be most beneficial.