"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." — Charles Darwin
Each technology in the game is assigned a cost in research points. The player is then required to spend money towards obtaining each technology.
Once 50% of the research cost has been spent towards obtaining a selected technology, the player begins to have a chance to make a breakthrough in the research of that selected technology. From 50% through to 150% of the designated research cost, that chance is checked for every turn that research occurs on that selected technology until the breakthrough occurs. Any technology that reaches the 150% research cost will automatically have a breakthrough.
Research is normally paid for by selecting how much of your per turn income will be diverted to the appropriate laboratories. The only time research has a stopping point before the money is spent for the turn is when the cost of researching the technology hits 150%. Consequently the only time a player gets money that was spent on research back is when passing the point of automatic breakthroughs ( 150% research ). Money allocated to research past that point is returned. Correspondingly, money allocated to research which successfully completes before reaching 150% of the technology cost is not returned.
Randomised Technologies Edit
Players will have their own uniquely generated technology tree. This prevents the development of an optimal technology progression and adds strategic challenge to your game — what do you do if you rush to get, say, Bursters, only to find that they do not appear in your technology tree?
All players of the same faction will share the same statistical weights on each branch of the technology tree, but whether the "dice" give that branch or not is determined independently for each player.
Not all branches have random weights though. There will always be a central core of vital technologies all players will have in every game. These core technologies comprise a not insignificant part of the technology tree. While it is possible to only have core technologies or to have all techs that are available for your race, it is very, very unlikely. "It's possible like winning the lottery is possible...random chance does allow it...BUT that is MUCH different than saying you are likely ever to see it."
You only learn what a tech leads to once it's finished and any mandatory pre–requisites for the subsequent tech are met. For example, you won't know if VRF Technology leads to Point Defense Tracking until you've finished VRF Technology, and you won't know if Mass Drivers leads to Bursters until you've got a ship that can hold large turrets. Randomised technologies that you do not have access to in the game do NOT appear in the Tech Tree at all. And there will be NO indication in the tree which techs are random and which are not. Each game is an island unto itself.
The technology tree is set during game initialization.
The game "rolls" for each link on the tech tree until it comes to a dead end (a "failed" roll) and it stops rolling for that branch. This effectively sets the remaining techs on that branch to null chance. The game then moves on to next branch where, if that branch has a link back into a previous branch, it may result in a previously null tech being introduced to your tree with subsequent techs on that branch now rolled randomly until that fails and nulls any remaining techs on that branch again. This is repeated for every branch in all the Technology Categories listed below.
One of the more curious side effects of this is that techs with multiple tech requirements can be rolled for even if you don't roll up all the requirements. Missing requirements that don't give links to a tech don't stop rolls for the links to that tech from happening. For example, Arcology Construction requires both Polysilicate Alloys and Environmental Tailoring but is only linked to by Polysilicate Alloys. So if the roll for the link from Polysilicate Alloys to Arcology Construction succeeds but the roll for Environmental Tailoring from Atmospheric Adaptation fails, Arcology Construction won't show up in the Tech Tree. But if you acquire Environmental Tailoring later in the game ( say through Salvaging ), Arcology Construction will then show up and be available to research as normal.
After game initialization, the only way to get technologies not in your tech tree is through Salvaging or by allied Empires offering to trade technology with you.
Research projects will generally have prerequisite technologies that must be researched prior to researching a given project. For example: Before you can research Integrated Sensors, you must research Battle Computers.
As a result, the technology tree is more of an interconnected web than a linear progression.
See the Research Interface for screenshots and more details.