Growth and population concerns

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Apheirox
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Growth and population concerns

Post by Apheirox » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:16 pm

Hello everybody!

I think while the 'locked' growth model is an interesting, radical idea it unfortunately doesn't work in its current form. There are also a number of balance concerns attached to population. Let me just list the problems:

1) Because growth is completely out of your control and will always happen at the same exponential rate for all players, any early hiccups will put an empire a huge number of turns behind everybody else and essentially cost them the game. If, for instance, you expand out from your initial city, have that city gain a few points of population (many from migration) then get unlucky or careless and have that city overrun by aliens then that is effectively game over unless the opponents also make some big mistake: The opponents could now have some 20+ turn advantage which will be decisive in a game that has completely unrestricted exponential growth. Similarly, it means an empire that loses a war and gets cut down in size to just a few cities can never make a comeback, the game is over.

2) A consequence of 1), the early tech "Colonization Fervor" becomes absurdly powerful by giving you a Colonizer that costs neither minerals, production nor a population point - it's essentially a free point of population. Because it can potentially be available so early in the game this early free population point becomes *extremely* powerful by allowing one to get an early lead on the exponential growth curve. That also means, however, that far too much emphasis is placed on this tech and it's problematic in a game with a randomized tech tree - it is far and away the most important tech in the early game.

3) More importantly, warfare simply breaks down under this model - it has the opposite problem of Civilization V and is far too useful on Pandora! Not only does warfare give you a potentially enormous lead in the exponential growth competition (depending on how many and how large cities you took), the problem is then further compounded by the fact no population (and seemingly no infrastructure, either?) is lost in a siege: Conquer a size 19 capital when your own empire has a total pop of 35 and you are now *massively* ahead of everybody else and will almost certainly win the game unless somebody attacks you or gets the same advantage by making a separate attack on a third party.


Solutions?

a) My suggestion is the model is changed to allow empires to recover from setbacks: There should be a buildup of factors that slow growth the bigger an empire gets. Unrestricted exponential growth doesn't work, there's a reason practically every successful 4X game has mechanics in place to prevent it. A large empire won't be crippled by this slowdown (it still has greater production capacity etc. and can still rapidly grow through cloning and the massive basic population growth) but it can't continue to just grow explosively with no restrictions. A softening up of the current model needs to happen.

b) The "Colonization Fervor" tech should provide only a free colonizer that still costs population from the city it was built in. No more settlers appearing out of thin air!

c) Cities should lose population and infrastructure in a siege to reduce the incitement to war and prevent runaway factions - it could possibly be the same model used in Civilization where city population gets cut in half and all buildings must roll a check with a ~66% chance to survive intact. Successful conquest will then still provide a heavy advantage but it won't be insurmountable like it is now - other factions won't have lost the game the moment somebody else gets conquered.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:32 pm

The idea I had was something like you mentioned: natural roadblocks of some sort for the largest empires that would allow "comebacks" for the smaller factions. Specifically, I wanted to see migration across factions. The biggest problem with that idea however, is that it CANNOT be based on morale because the AI will always have a morale advantage over human players (assuming it's medium difficulty or higher). The amount of cross-faction migration would have to be based strictly on the overall faction population size. After the the migration for each faction is determined (whether its positive or negative) for a given turn, the distribution of emigration/immigration among a faction will be "assigned" to its cites based on their relative morale. This would be awesome as long as it's not too powerful or too weak... but that's what testing is for. And it maintains the global exponential growth model.

I think you are right about capturing cities: they should get a population slam. Or what if the population was reduced in the form of refugees that act differently from the cross-faction migration I described. The refugees would be dispersed among all the factions, but only the ones that are not involved in the war (all the factions except for the faction that lost the city and the one that took the city). --- Whether it's dispersed immediately or over 10 turns; whether the disbursement favors smaller factions; are all mechanics that would be up for debate.

I think that the early game really needs colonization fervor. I like the tech strategy it adds. But I suppose you are right; it should require a "-1 population size" from the city it spawns in. Either way, I'm not too worried about it because it still wouldn't solve the bigger problem at hand.

---------------

One thing is for sure: the faction that first conquers another faction will win unless another faction does the same thing at the same time. Such conquest should offer an advantage, but not guarantee the win.
Last edited by jdmillard on Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

fortydayweekend
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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by fortydayweekend » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:50 pm

An alternative to penalizing large factions would be to give bonuses to smaller ones. Or a combination - e.g. if cross-faction migration was dependent on overall faction size, with a flow from large to small. I really like the idea of cross-faction migration.

A quick fix that I think would help is to have a longer, even permanent morale hit for conquered cities. So that they're never really very profitable, just stepping stones to a military win with your own "base" cities doing all the hard work. And/or massive cross-faction emigration from newly-conquered cities (refugees rather than Civ's genocide) so that *every* faction gets a growth boost from a conquered city. Another quick one would be to have more defensive bonuses in the early game, vs tanks at least.

One of the coolest things about Pandora is that the starting position isn't all that important (and Colonization Fervor is key to that, giving a mineral-poor starting city a chance to compete). Applying the same logic it shouldn't matter whether we rush our neighbour or pour the same amount of resources into growing, the result should be similar. That would suggest making "growth"-building more powerful, but that might just move the problem elsewhere (ie if you invade a neighbour and *lose* the game is over because everyone else built growth instead).

Overall I think reducing the production of conquered cities is the best option, to the point where conquest only makes sense for 1) strategic resource acquisition 2) maintaining a balance of power (invading the strongest factions) and 3) military victory. If cross-faction migration was added this could be in the form of say half the city becoming "refugees", with the balance having a permanent morale hit. With no cross-faction migration there might need to be some population loss as well as a permanent morale hit.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:20 pm

fortydayweekend wrote:A quick fix that I think would help is to have a longer, even permanent morale hit for conquered cities. So that they're never really very profitable, just stepping stones to a military win with your own "base" cities doing all the hard work. And/or massive cross-faction emigration from newly-conquered cities (refugees rather than Civ's genocide) so that *every* faction gets a growth boost from a conquered city. Another quick one would be to have more defensive bonuses in the early game, vs tanks at least.
I would appreciate the large morale penalty lasting longer, but I think a permanent one large enough to make the cities unprofitable is too much. If there was a permanent one I would want it to be comparable to the morale penalty of some pollution.

The refugee system would balance the early game because a faction who conquers another quickly is also boosting the other faction's growth. Obviously capturing the city is more advantageous than receiving a little growth bonus, but I think that's just fine. The purpose is to make captured cities smaller and to render the "rush-your-neighbor-extremely-early-in-the-game" strategy less over-powered.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by Apheirox » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:01 pm

I like your refugee emigration idea. When the game already has a migration system in place it makes sense to use if for conquests, as well. I still think there should be some infrastructure loss and possibly loss of lives, as well, like we know from most other 4x games.

I also don't want to see conquered cities not providing an advantage - I don't want to see anything like a puppet city system from Civ V if it means cities are severely crippled. Like jdmillard I think the high morale penalty time is too short, though - but of course it would serve as a big penalty if there was a very large amount of emigration the moment the city is captured.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by boulugre » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:26 am

I think anther problem right now is how food shortage is handled by the game. It just take to be at -1 food to immediately plunge your empire in growth stagnation. It's like " Oh my god! Somebody is hungry! let's immediately stop doing babies until we solve the problem!" :P That doens't make much sense IMO

Taking over conquered cities brings 2 problem :

The first one is that the conquered cities are useless for a short period of time and gradually gets better. This is good and I agree the penality should be tougher and longer .
The second is that is plunges your empire in negative food for a while and if you want to keep growing you have to swap large numbers of citizens from your core cities to farming to feed the newcomer. If the penality on conquered cities is prolonged, it's your entire empire which is penalized for a longer time.

While I agree that conquered lands should put some kind of burden on your economy, you should be given the choice to handle this differently. For example starving conquered cities into submission should be a option. Garrisoning a huge army in conquered cities could improve stability.

On the other hand taking over another faction is currently very very powerful and generally put you in the position of wining the game straight away, so 'swallowing' a neighbor should come with problems. Thus a nice balance needs to be find.

Perhaps conquering a city should generate a hit on the population and also destroy some buildings in addition of the period of low morale. This would avoid having some top cities after just a few turn and reduce the advantage of conquering another faction. An empire wide malus linked to the number of cities could also work.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by Apheirox » Fri Dec 06, 2013 2:30 pm

The whole having-to-rearrange-workers when conquering a city to avoid starvation/mineral shortage is annoying, agreed. I think a more elegant solution than putting an empire-wide malus on a faction when it conquers a city is to centralize the 'problems' on the conquered city only. So, I don't really think it should be "an option" to have the negative effects happen on that city, I think it should simply be the general rule. If we stick to the idea of cross-faction migration (which I like), what could happen is than when a city is conquered there is 1) a loss of population 2) a loss of infrastructure 3) a period of massive cross-faction migration away from the city, people fleeing towards the closest by neutral faction (as suggested above).

In terms of empire-wide malus it might be beneficial for the game to have a 'distance from palace' malus - the further away from one's capital a city is, the heavier cross-faction migration away from the city will happen. I suspect in Pandora's case a distance-from-palace malus would work better than a number-of-cities one - the game already features absolutely nothing to restrict where one places cities (there are no trade route networks to connect etc) so it would have some interesting ramifications if it suddenly became beneficial to center one's empire around the capital. As a side effect this would also make Terra Salvum's habitat-bonus more interesting, a buff they probably could use.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Fri Dec 06, 2013 3:31 pm

The "distance from palace" penalty was simply "inefficiency" in Alpha Centauri which reduced credit income from far cities unless you did something to boost overall faction efficiency. I wouldn't oppose such a feature.

As far as the food burden upon capturing cities: I've never had a problem with it. I've always tried my hardest to create a robust system that can handle sudden shocks to my resources. Roughly 70% of my cities are specialized in 1 thing. 30% are focused on two different things and can shift labor between the two industries easily enough. In my current game, Solar Dynasty started beating up on my friend Togra (again). I was the only reason that Togra's "one-dot" military hadn't been wiped off the face of Pandora because I had a powerful air unit in each of his coastal cites and I declared war on his enemies so that they had to fight me instead of Togra's pathetic Power:2 garrisons. Anyways, while I was defending Togra for the sole purpose of preventing his cities from falling into the hands of my biggest enemy, I was able to use nukes and the "preemptive strike initiator" device to make advances against his largest cites. My resource economy was so robust that I captured 3 huge cities in 1 turn and was able to balance things out. My research took a bit of a slam, but his research took a much larger one :wink: . When the "captured city" morale penalty wears off, I'll be fine. I'm pretty much gonna win now.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by Rossthegreat » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:10 am

Oh no, there better not be distance from palace penalty, I absolutely hated that in Civ3.
If LA isn't useless becaue it's so damn faraway from Washingtion DC. My Metropolises I built and settled on distant islands better not be useless either.
And same can be applied to hawaiian cities.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by fortydayweekend » Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:15 am

I don't know if the game really needs any penalties for number of cities, distance etc. City spamming isn't inherently better than having just one huge city, because overall growth is the same, and it's just a matter of more resources vs fewer buildings. The only thing that needs to be cut back is the extra growth from conquest, so penalising just conquered cities seems to me to make more sense.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by Apheirox » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:48 pm

Well, the problem with that is the growth model itself doesn't work overly well, either. As you point out there is virtually no reason to expand - that tends to be a problem in 4x games and it is the case for Pandora as well. If you're playing on a huge, large or even medium map you could easily have a situation where only a fraction of the map ever gets settled and the rest remains just a wilderness throughout the match, the combination of the rather short tech tree and easy research victory condition (Transcendence era in particular goes by far too fast) and the lack of a need for expansion meaning there simply is no reason to put cities on the map. The only reason to expand in the game currently is the cloning operation which means you'll want at least as many cities as you can continuously produce cloning centers for, but then the cloning op isn't that great in the first place so it's a rather weak cause for inciting expansion (4x10 growth at a cost of 64 production is a fairly bad ratio compared to what you get by building city structures).

I'm not particularly happy with how the growth mechanics work and as long as they aren't better, Pandora won't come even close to being as good as SMAC was/is. There needs to be incitement to expand, to compete for land, even if you're playing one of the non-warmonger factions - not just sit on your bum for 300 turns. This could mean lowering the habitat availability and increasing pollution, but then you need features like number-of-cities penalty or distance-from-palace to prevent city spam.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:48 pm

The developers have been really good with commentary on game features, but we haven't heard anything from them on this topic (at least not recently). I'm curious to know their thoughts about these ideas or if this has come up in their discussions.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by SephiRok » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:17 pm

We definitely like the global growth system, it gets rid of weird mechanics like your population becoming unhappy with more cities (Civ 5) just to prevent city sprawl.

At one point in the beta we had population being killed off on city capture, but we removed it because it felt very punishing if you lost a city for just a turn or two.

We also had a frontier penalty which reduced tax income the further a city was from the headquarters, but we didn't like it too much because it created a dynamic where you weren't too convinced about going further out for special resources.

Making Colonization Fervor cost a population doesn't sound like a bad idea.

I can't comment on to much else however. I think currently diplomacy and AI interaction takes priority, but the gains from conquest could definitely take a look or two, even though it's natural you become stronger if you conquer someone. We could easily adjust the growth formula, but a bigger empire growing slower doesn't make too much sense either. Migration between factions is a big idea that can affect a ton of things and is something that would need a lot of consideration.

Keep up with the feedback, we'll make changes when we have a chance and we're sure we have a solution for the better!
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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:44 pm

I understand the that losing a city for a turn and retaking it with half the population could feel very punishing, but what if half the population was scheduled to emigrate over the next X number of turns in the form of refugees? If the original owner retakes the city a turn later, they would only be "punished" a little which actually makes sense.

I suppose this could get complicated if a city falls into the hands of 3 different factions in a few turns, but such problems could get worked out.

And I suppose that if there was not any cross-faction migration, the refugee system wouldn't work very well because the refugees would just be added to the conqueror's other cities thus defeating the intended purpose of dispersing them away from the war and into other factions.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by SephiRok » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:56 pm

Sounds good on first thought. But would civilians really be able to escape a military occupation? Might it make more sense they die over X turns due to the occupation?
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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by Apheirox » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:05 pm

SephiRok wrote:...the gains from conquest could definitely take a look or two, even though it's natural you become stronger if you conquer someone. We could easily adjust the growth formula, but a bigger empire growing slower doesn't make too much sense either. Migration between factions is a big idea that can affect a ton of things and is something that would need a lot of consideration.
You've clearly already given this a lot of thought and I respect that. I do hope, however, that you arrive at some better solutions eventually because the current model is really [too] extreme - the gains from conquest are really big (far bigger than any other 4X), but conversely there is really little reason to expand peacefully.

I also want to say I don't think it's so important if a mechanic 'makes sense' as long as it produces a better game. No, it doesn't 'make sense' that LA is worth less because it's far from Washington DC and it doesn't 'make sense' that one city gets unhappy because another one grows, but it doesn't matter because these things are really just abstractions and they are in place because they produce a game that has more complexity and depth of strategy. 'Happiness' in Civ V doesn't have anything to do with how 'happy' people actually are, it's an abstraction of the fact that it's hard ruling over a vast empire, especially with a low level of technology.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by jdmillard » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:10 pm

SephiRok wrote:Sounds good on first thought. But would civilians really be able to escape a military occupation? Might it make more sense they die over X turns due to the occupation?
I think that would make for a great beta test. But if you consider inter-faction migration in the future, I think the refugee thing might be worth a thought. I love the idea of both inter-faction migration based on size and refugees to other factions due to conquest because it still grants an advantage to those who conquer, but it would in theory make it less over-powered.

A few questions though:
Faction B takes a city from Faction A.
Halfway through the population loss schedule of X turns, Faction C takes the city. Does a new population loss schedule take place?
What if B retakes the city? Does it go back to the first loss schedule, a new loss schedule? or would B be considered the new "original faction" and the population loss would stop altogether because it's almost as if the original faction retook it?
If A retakes it from C (still within a short time), will the system know that A was the original faction and the loss will stop altogether?

This is an unlikely situation and I don't expect you to have answers, I'm just showing that there are a lot of questions to consider. But I do like the idea.
Last edited by jdmillard on Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by player1 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:13 pm

4x games like Civilization had fine balance between "tall development", wide expanion and warfarce expansion.

With fixed growth system of Pandora, that is only true for tall vs wide, but breaks completely for the warfare expansion.

Since any further growth depends on population, gaining population is most precious thing you can gain from conquest. You don't gain just territory like wide expansion, but population too, at the cost of some units. Much cheaper then using cloning/growth from production. Plus it cripples other faction as bonus, for the same reason.

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by player1 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:22 pm

Some brainstorming here:

Faction A takes faction B cities.

At that moment instead of 50% population loss (which was deemed unfair in play testing), lets have that same amount of population "migrate" in single turn to all other cities of faction B, either equally divided or based on morale/habitat space. This could even be tweakable number like 30% 70% or anything in between.

What is gained by this:
Population boon from conquest is decreased. Same way population damage for conquered is decreased, improving the balance.

Fine tuning questions:
What to do if only single city is left?
Wouldn't this funnel population from all other cities eventually to single city, to be again taken by conqueror?

I guess here we could have mechanic where if all faction B cities are overcrowded by some degree that then rest of the refugees would go to some other faction, like best friend of the faction B if any. If there is no such faction, then I guess potential refugees will not migrate and stay in conquered city.


Inviting everyone for more ideas...

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Re: Growth and population concerns

Post by SephiRok » Mon Dec 09, 2013 7:46 pm

Apheirox wrote:You've clearly already given this a lot of thought and I respect that. I do hope, however, that you arrive at some better solutions eventually because the current model is really [too] extreme - the gains from conquest are really big (far bigger than any other 4X), but conversely there is really little reason to expand peacefully.

I also want to say I don't think it's so important if a mechanic 'makes sense' as long as it produces a better game. No, it doesn't 'make sense' that LA is worth less because it's far from Washington DC and it doesn't 'make sense' that one city gets unhappy because another one grows, but it doesn't matter because these things are really just abstractions and they are in place because they produce a game that has more complexity and depth of strategy. 'Happiness' in Civ V doesn't have anything to do with how 'happy' people actually are, it's an abstraction of the fact that it's hard ruling over a vast empire, especially with a low level of technology.
I'm very sure we'll make it better with time.

I think there are situations where you should sacrifice 'makes sense' to get a 'better game', but I think both is important and common sense often drives you to the better game if you apply it correctly and think about it throughly. If Civilization 5's happiness doesn't have anything to do with how happy people are, they, in my opinion, shouldn't have called it happiness and let one city's Museum affect another city's happiness and conversely growth. A bureaucratic penalty to gold would for example make more sense, I'd say. But they had to do that because the act of building a city in Civilization gives you constant resource and growth bonuses, which also doesn't make sense.
jdmillard wrote:A few questions though:
Faction B takes a city from Faction A.
Halfway through the population loss schedule of X turns, Faction C takes the city. Does a new population loss schedule take place?
What if B retakes the city? Does it go back to the first loss schedule, a new loss schedule? or would B be considered the new "original faction" and the population loss would stop altogether because it's almost as if the original faction retook it?
If A retakes it from C (still within a short time), will the system know that A was the original faction and the loss will stop altogether?

This is an unlikely situation and I don't expect you to have answers, I'm just showing that there are a lot of questions to consider. But I do like the idea.
I imagine it would work very much like the current morale penalty, just with added negative growth. IIRC the morale penalty resets to full each time a new player takes the city and if the original owner takes the city back it goes to 0. You become the original owner once the takeover penalty is gone.
player1 wrote:4x games like Civilization had fine balance between "tall development", wide expanion and warfarce expansion.

With fixed growth system of Pandora, that is only true for tall vs wide, but breaks completely for the warfare expansion.

Since any further growth depends on population, gaining population is most precious thing you can gain from conquest. You don't gain just territory like wide expansion, but population too, at the cost of some units. Much cheaper then using cloning/growth from production. Plus it cripples other faction as bonus, for the same reason.
I think warfare expansion will always be the quickest or most straightforward way, even if it's too strong at the moment. What it needs is repercussions like other factions starting to be suspect. I'm not sure I would call Civilization 5's warfare too enticing, the sharp penalties for taking over cities and having more cities often makes it quite discouraged.
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