New technology is not cheap. There is a lot of associated costs to new technology. That is often used in stories as excuse not to just blow up rampaging technology, or to make an item more important as a setup to get it destroyed or rescued
. This approach also allows to have some items better than others without making plot holes or contrived limitations like Super Prototype
. Why not to simply have a whole lot of certain tech item — like just few flying suits rather than everyone in certain group having them? Not enough resources. Which art-wise makes a justification for the greater variety of used designs. And if the author ever decides to change designs, raise the stakes or avoid going too far with The Worf Effect
or Redshirt Army
, the mass upgrade "at last" improves the continuity
instead of taxing it.
Here's partial possible reasons list for expense:
- Research costs
- Specialized engineering
- Specialized materials
- Power source requirements
As this is extremely common, please limit examples to subversions, aversions, taken Up to Eleven
, or if it becomes a major plot point.
Anime and Manga
- In some canons, one of Spider-Man's major plot is budget on the expensive chemicals for his web shooters.
- In Spider-Man 2, when Doctor Octopus' tentacles convince him to try to build his fusion generator again, he specifically mentions needing to be able to fund it, which results in him robbing the bank where he has his first fight with Spider-Man.
- Despicable Me: A huge part of the plot involved getting loans and necessary capitol in order to create the evil inventions for the evil plots. They had their own Villain Bank.
- In Contact, a terrorist attack destroys the first device. There are plans, but building the device was so expensive for the entire world that the prospect of building a second one (especially since it would invite yet another attack) is summarily dismissed. It is then that a second, backup device is revealed to have been built in secret. It is explained with the Crowning Moment Of Awesome line:
"First rule of government spending: why build one, when you can build two, at twice the price? Only, this one can be kept secret.
- In Einstein's Bridge, the expense of SSC were used as one of reasons to close that project.
- Part of the issues in the war between the People's Republic of Haven and Manticore in the Honor Harrington series. Courtesy of their control of the largest known wormhole junction in the Galaxy and a massive merchant marine Manticore can afford to run a robust R&D program in the middle of a shooting war while the bankrupt PRH can't, even if their educational system wasn't hideously crippled.
- Justifies the Schizo Tech in the Belisarius Series: both opposing forces have men armed with everything from spears to volley guns, due to the expense of trying to fight an industrial war using a preindustrial society.
- In one of Doctor Steel's songs, "Build the Robots", Dr. Steel laments about building a high-tech giant robot army:
I need assembly lines
A crew and much more time.
The money's all mine
And my funds are getting thin.
I'm gonna have to rob a bank again.
'Cause I'm spending every dime and
I'm spending all my time to
Build the robots.
- Genius: The Transgression goes a little overboard in insisting that Geniuses be able to account for how, exactly, they pay for those wonderful toys. It stops short of having the Storyteller request an itemized budget from the players, but only just.
- Strategy games sometimes have "miniaturization" effects - an eventual reduction in cost of hardware that isn't new as the player climbs higher on Tech Tree in corresponding fields, which leaves it a viable choice for some time.
- Stars! makes each item cheaper by 4% per Tech Level prerequisite (if it has any) exceeded in all appliable fields, until its resource cost drops to 24%. "Bleeding Edge Technology" trait, doubles the cost of new technologies until Tech Levels are exceeded, but improves by 5%/level with 20% bottom. This sucks on highest-level items, however, since there's no room left for improvement and you're just stuck with double cost until the end.
- In Master of Orion 2 "miniaturization" lowers both the cost and size of devices, and empty levels at the top of the Tech Tree exist to allow extra miniaturization of top-tier tech (and score points).
- Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri has prototyping, where the first unit of a new design has an added initial cost before you can even produce any. This cost is ignored by the Spartans and at bases with a Skunkworks.
- Prototypes have a special advantage, as well: because prototypes are typically entrusted to experienced personnel, these units gain a boost to Morale (i.e. XP). Significantly, this still applies when the prototype is built at the Skunkworks...but not for the Spartans. Not that they need the boost (they start at +2 Morale, so giving them the extra boost would just be overkill).
- Sword of the Stars II also introduces prototyping. You can't start mass-producing new ship designs until you build the prototype. Prototypes are subject to the Random Number God. Certain qualities (firepower, armor, energy production, etc.) can be slightly better or worse than the mass-produced sister ships, which is why the designers saw fit to give prototypes nicknames reflecting their qualities.
- In the Halo universe, the Spartan Laser costs as much as A 400,000 TON WARSHIP.
- In Mass Effect 1, it is observed that for what the Systems Alliance spent on the Normandy SR-1, they could have built and outfitted an entire flotilla of standard frigates. The Normandy is of course a Super Prototype with unmatched stealth capabilities. In Mass Effect 2, the Normandy SR-2 is indicated to be even more expensive and capable than her predecessor.
- The Lazarus Project brings Shepard back from being frozen and brain-dead, but is so incomprehensibly expensive that even Cerberus can't do it again.
- The Thanix cannon is another solid example. Developed between the first and second games from the reverse-engineered wreckage of Sovereign, in Mass Effect 2 you can obtain one prototype cannon fitting for your frigate, and that only because of your high-level contacts with the turian government — and they still make you build parts yourself. By the endgame of Mass Effect 3, they're bloody everywhere; Cerberus has them mounted on Omega, the Alliance and turians field entire fleets equipped with them, and the volus built a dreadnought with Thanix technology.
- Civilization IV uses this as part of their approach to the series' traditional Tech Tree. While you don't have to research all of the prerequisites for certain technologies, doing so reduces the research costs.
- Inverted in Civilization V: Brave New World with the "Scholars in Residence" UN edict, which makes technologies cheaper for other civs after the first one researches it. Old Tech Is Cheap.
- Narbonic features an extended time-travel subplot which establishes that it is difficult, but not impossible, to change your own history. Physical time-travel takes all the energy that exists in the Universe or, as it turns out, in some other universe that's just out of luck.
- Averted by another method that transfer your consciousness back or forward in time into your own body, and you can undergo changes as a result of altered behavior. For instance, Dave never smoked.
- Inverted in this Melon Pool strip. It's because of the OLD technology (engine) that required expensive fuel.