Growth discussion

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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boulugre
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Growth discussion

Post by boulugre » Tue Feb 04, 2014 4:51 pm

I know the growth system of this game has already been discussed a lot in various posts, but I am curious to hear the opinion of player and dev's on this.

Currently the growth is totally locked down, meaning that no matter how many cities you have and as long as you are in a positive food balance your population will follow a fix regular growth.

Growth productions and cloning operations are the 2 only way to accelerate your growth, but they do need a significant investment in hammers in order to yield significant results. I personally think they are not worth the investment, concentrating your efforts on building military units or speeding up your research is more worthy.

This linear population growth have a lot of consequences on the game play, some positive, but (IMO) mostly negative :

- All faction will have a very similar growth, (with the exception of Solar dynasty) so they compete on with similar tech units and mass of troops. This can be seen both as a good thing or a bad thing. I am a 'builder' type of player, and not being able to leave my opponents behind by careful and clever expansion of my empire (as it is possible to do in most 4x games) without using military conquests is frustrating, it kinds of remove the expansion side of the game.

- Because you don't get more pop by establishing more cities, the incentive to create new cities is only driven by the need of getting better quality tiles and the pressure of degrading morale in your cities. You can perfectly win any game with 4 or 5 cities. This kind of kills the interest of playing large or huge maps, as you do not need extra lands. Big maps just scatters the factions all around the place and tend to dilute the actions without bringing much more to the game. ( plus AI will generally suck at coordinating its troops movements on larger map)

- Another consequence (which has been discussed to death) is that once a faction conquers another one, it gives a massive advantage on the other one (effectively doubling your power). This will generally start a domino effect where this conquering faction will start swallowing faction after faction without much opposition. If I end up taking over an AI faction early in the game, I just know I won the game and usually stop playing....

TL,DR : linear pop growth makes large map and land control useless, gives to much advantage to a conquering faction and remove the expansion 'X" of this 4X game.

Do you think this linear growth rule should be broken by introducing factors that will make population grow more or less faster?

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by jdmillard » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:44 pm

Yes. Agreed.

The growth model isn't linear though. It is indeed exponential by definition (the rate of growth depends on the amount that exists). But it is a very rigid exponential model meaning that there isn't much that influences it (I think that's what you meant by linear). Now, there is a number of growth points that are required for a city to graduate to the next size - and that number seems to increase exponentially as a city grows which softens the population explosion. Obviously the word we use (e.g. linear) doesn't matter. The fact is that you are exactly right about its consequences. Now, just to add some insight: Alpha Centauri had an exponential growth curve too, but it was far, far from rigid. If you look at a SMAC population chart of the globe over the course of a game, it indeed has a rough exponential curve. That trend was caused by the fact that owning more bases gave you more resources to build more bases and more workers allowed you to harvest more nutrients which was the source of growth in that game (of course there were many things that helped as population grew such as terraforming, techs, and base facilities, but I don't want to write a book about it). There was a plethora of things that influenced faction growth in that game which allowed you to "leave [your] opponents behind by careful and clever expansion of [your] empire."

I don't mind that the growth model is exponential, I do mind that it is so rigid. Positive growth rate depends on:
-the current population size
-positive food balance

That is a very short list. The first one on the list is basically negligible because all factions have the same initial conditions; the second one doesn't give the player strategic options at all. One possible thing worth beta testing could be to try to add strategic features that make the growth model less rigid. I personally think that this would be difficult and would need careful balancing. And you are right: whatever is changed needs to address all the issues you mentioned in first post. These are just some possibilities and each come with disadvantages:

-Habitation influencing growth? This would add motivation to expand to a higher number of cities.
-Morale influencing growth? (this could make AI super OP, then again, it would balance out as their lack of habitation would self-correct the trend). This could also mess up the end game when morale is high.
-Social Engineering: allow factions to choose some strengths (with trade-offs of course)?
-Add growth bonuses and penalties to some hexes. Maybe some new special resources?
-Migration among factions (from high population to low population, ignoring morale due to the way difficulty works for AI). Perhaps influenced by diplomatic relations? This would just asymptotically push all the factions to eventually have the same population... so it would have to be carefully balanced. I'm not the biggest fan of this.
-Refugees (% of population) flee from captured cities, reducing the overpowered strategy of early conquest. If city is retaken, refugees return to homeland?
-Labor assignments of workers affecting growth? (I don't feel strongly about it, I'm just getting as many ideas out there as I can).
-Use extra food to boost growth? (This could make Garden of Eden too overpowered in the early game). Maybe this ability is unlocked by an advancement? Meh.

I'm sure there are other ideas out there too.
Last edited by jdmillard on Tue Feb 04, 2014 8:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by SephiRok » Tue Feb 04, 2014 6:43 pm

Disregarding conquest giving you too much of an advantage -- I still want to improve that when I get a chance, as discussed in a previous thread.

I think letting morale influence growth presents the most flexibility and is the most realistic. We should experiment with it.
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Belanos
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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Belanos » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:20 am

SephiRok wrote: I think letting morale influence growth presents the most flexibility and is the most realistic. We should experiment with it.
Morale shouldn't be the only criteria though, availability of food should play a role as well. If your empire is running a deficit on Food, even though you have a healthy stockpile, it should have an impact on the growth rate. What parent is going to consider bringing a child into the world if they're not sure that they're going to be able to feed it in the near future? While Morale fits well when you're running a surplus, having a deficit should bring in other factors. Being at war should be another factor. Birthrates tend to drop during times of war, boom when it's over, then finally level off when peace is no longer a novelty.

boulugre
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Re: Growth discussion

Post by boulugre » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:32 am

jdmillard wrote:Yes. Agreed.

The growth model isn't linear though. It is indeed exponential by definition (the rate of growth depends on the amount that exists). But it is a very rigid exponential model
Yeah, rigid growth is a more appropriate word 8)
SephiRok wrote:Disregarding conquest giving you too much of an advantage -- I still want to improve that when I get a chance, as discussed in a previous thread.

I think letting morale influence growth presents the most flexibility and is the most realistic. We should experiment with it.
I agree morale is the most obvious thing that could influence growth... BUT :

- if you just add a boost to growth when morale is positive and a malus when morale negative, you are just changing the rhythm of the growth, not making it less rigid. As factions can all get pollution and habitat building at the same time, each faction can still have the same growth pattern.

- it will not address the 'lack of need to expand problem'

- It will force player into only one model of expansion (the optimum one, where you grow your cities until you can't handle habitat and pollution anymore before planting a new one)

I think growth should be affected by a combination of several factors (not only morale) to make it more complicate and thus allow several different viable development strategy . Growing tall or growing large should both be viable strategy, each coming with their strength and weakness. I haven't figured out a clear model to propose yet, but here are some ideas and proposal :

- The dynamic of growth should be different depending on the era (and thus by techs available) Colonial era should be characterize by a strong pressure to quickly expand new cities to compensate the lack of pollution/habitat/moral control building. faction risking an early expansion (thus being more vulnerable to early aggression from alien and other factions) should be rewarded. Mecha era should be the age of consolidation of your existing cities, where each cities are able to grow taller by building the appropriate base modifications. Transcendence era should be an age of plentiful, where the last techs unlock the possibility of exponential growth empire wide.

- How to balance/reward growing tall vs growing wide? If morale (and thus habitation+pollution+morale building) is the only factor to impact growth, then this will systematically reward and infinite city sprawl, which is not necessarily a cool thing or at the taste of all player. I have the following ideas for that :

Introduce an "economy of scale" concept. What I mean by that is to reward specializing cities on a particular tasks. In this system, 10 workers/miners/scientist in one city would produce more hammer/minerals/beakers than 2 cities with 5 workers in each. 20 workers in one city would produce more than 4 cities with 5 worker each. This would reward growth model based on a few powerful cities with a larger production output while penalize it with a slower overall growth as pollution/habitat/morale problems will be bigger. Growing large expansion model with plenty of small or medium small cities would grow an overall larger population but would not benefit as much from the economy of scale factor. This would be a headache to balance, but when figured out right would considerably deepen the 'building strategy game', making development choice full of consequences.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by greatUnknown » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:14 pm

It seems to be axiomatic on this discussion that morale currently does not influence growth, and yet my experience is different [through 1.2.0].
At the founding of a city, reducing taxes > increased morale > faster growth [e.g., 6 turns to 5 turns, which is a vast benefit given the exponential
model]. The only issue with that is of course balancing credits vs growth.

So, my experience is growth = f(morale [and other stuff]). The indication on this thread is otherwise. Please enlighten me.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by boulugre » Thu Feb 06, 2014 1:38 am

greatUnknown wrote:It seems to be axiomatic on this discussion that morale currently does not influence growth, and yet my experience is different [through 1.2.0].
At the founding of a city, reducing taxes > increased morale > faster growth [e.g., 6 turns to 5 turns, which is a vast benefit given the exponential
model]. The only issue with that is of course balancing credits vs growth.

So, my experience is growth = f(morale [and other stuff]). The indication on this thread is otherwise. Please enlighten me.
Morale influence the emigration level of a city. High morale city will beneficiate from a higher immigration, low morale cities from a low immigration. So morale will influence growth on a city level but at the expense of another city growth. At your empire level the overall growth will stay the same, whatever combination of morale you may adopt between cities.

In another words morale will influence the flow of migrants between your cities, but not the overall growth of new citizens.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by greatUnknown » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:26 pm

Thank you for the clarification. It explains my observation that adjusting the morale only affected growth
when I had multiple cities.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by BlueTemplar » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:48 pm

Specializing cities already pays off if you plan your cities around special tiles. The buildings that give bonuses to a specific domain contribute to that, and this effect could be enhanced by removing the flat bonuses of those buildings, and maybe also making them a bit more expensive in production and credit maintenance compared to their % bonuses.

I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a cap on the non-linear amount of "babies" needed for pop growth, 120 IIRC. Since the number of "babies" generated is proportional to the city population (disregarding migration effects), after some pop size larger cities start to grow faster than smaller ones. I don't understand the reasons for this cap.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Sammael » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:49 am

I think one of the problems is that there are too few factors affecting morale and it is too easy to construct an abundance of habitation (until the resource runs out when you have a size 47+ city). In similar games like civilization for example you have many different buildings, national wonders, and great wonders which affect happiness an thus productivity and population growth. I like how the overall growth system works in Pandora, I just think there should be more ways to affect that growth.

It seems to me that having +1 growth for every citizen is just unrealistic and very high. One idea is to have scientists produce only .6 growth each and laborers/minors producing .8 growth each whereas farmers would produce a whole point of growth. I disagree with the fact that food should affect growth at all (except negatively if food is in short supply). I think that one thing civilization was missing was taking into account that empires rose and fell due to abundance/scarcity of food and making population growth explicitly based off food storage almost completely eradicated dynamism based on food abundance and scarcity.

Social engineering/social policies or some type of government system would add a lot to this game and would certainly help to make the growth system even better. Alpha Centauri did a great job of this. I remember selecting green economics for the sole reason because it reduced population growth and helped control drone riots.

The last note I would like to make is that I think it would be great to be able to produce habitation in unlimited supply especially at the end of the game when you have researched everything. I hate when I get the message that there are slums in my cities and I have reasearched all available techs and have millions of gold in reserve, yet there is absolutely nothing I can do about building more housing for my people!? I would definitely like to see some kind of "future tech" which gave cities the ability to building habitation ad infinitum. Or possibly a new tile improvement that gave +4 or +6 habitat would also be really cool.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Belanos » Mon Feb 10, 2014 1:22 am

Sammael wrote: I disagree with the fact that food should affect growth at all (except negatively if food is in short supply).
Which is the point I was trying to make. If you run out of food completely your entire city starts to dwindle each turn. But even if you still have some sort of surplus, having a deficit in food production should at least slow down the birth rate. So rather than a full point of growth per resident, it might be .75 instead. If you're running a surplus however, no matter how small, Morale should be the basis for growth with food not having any influence. As it works now, you can run into a snowball effect when it comes to food. You're running a deficit yet your cities are still growing at the same rate, so your food situation can quickly become critical.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by SephiRok » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:06 am

We've discussed growth again internally. We have some good ideas we're quite happy with for additional flexibility, but they're more involved and go together with a bigger feature. So it's likely going to be for a bit later unfortunately.

Next version will have negative food slowly diminish growth instead of fully cutting it off. As well as a suburb former improvement (+1 habitat, -1 credits).
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Re: Growth discussion

Post by boulugre » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:24 am

SephiRok wrote: ....As well as a suburb former improvement (+1 habitat, -1 credits).
Sounds like a good first step in giving more stuff to do for formers and solve habitat issue. I would like to recommend you to do the extra effort of providing one unique work art by faction for this suburb improvement. Even if purely cosmetic, it will go a long way to make each faction look different and add favor.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by jdmillard » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:50 am

boulugre wrote:
SephiRok wrote: ....As well as a suburb former improvement (+1 habitat, -1 credits).
Sounds like a good first step in giving more stuff to do for formers and solve habitat issue. I would like to recommend you to do the extra effort of providing one unique work art by faction for this suburb improvement. Even if purely cosmetic, it will go a long way to make each faction look different and add favor.
That would be cool.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Sammael » Mon Feb 10, 2014 11:51 am

SephiRok wrote: As well as a suburb former improvement (+1 habitat, -1 credits).
That would definitely help. I am looking forward to the next update!

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by BlueTemplar » Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:16 am

Sammael wrote:Alpha Centauri did a great job of this. I remember selecting green economics for the sole reason because it reduced population growth and helped control drone riots.
There was no point in reducing population growth in SMACX. If you ever got to the point where you mismanaged pop growth and ended up with a drone riot, you could always turn a citizen into a doctor (or other talent) to stop it.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by SephiRok » Sun May 11, 2014 2:15 pm

I doubled the usefulness of the growth produceable in order to improve growth and econ focus options. If this is balanced, it should, in theory, allow you to focus on growth as much as you'd like, by sacrificing production. This is essentially the case in Civilization games too, except it's perhaps a bit less orthodox in Pandora's case.

We have discussed having morale affect growth as well as many more elaborate mechanics at length. The problem we see with having morale affect growth is that the strongest strategy would be to always run on the lowest possible taxes. It would be very hard to balance because growth is so much more valuable than credits, and morale would become an even stronger resource than it is.

One shorter term improvement seems to be adding buildings and tile improvements that increase growth, much like other values.
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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Stalker0 » Sun May 11, 2014 3:03 pm

Another idea, which is used in other 4x games, is to link your food surplus to growth in some way, similar to how negative food declines growth.

It would make food a stronger resource, right now you get just enough food to maintain your current population, but you have no incentive to have surplus. With minerals you often want a stockpile so you can switch over a city to production to rush out a building. It also "subtly" ties morale into growth, as higher morale = more food = more growth....but much weaker than a direct link

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by Stalker0 » Sun May 11, 2014 9:23 pm

The "Tall vs Wide" argument was a common one made in Civ 5. Traditionally 4x games had strong incentive to expand, now that may be curbed by other needs (expense of expansion, military needs, etc) but at the core you always "wanted" to expand. Civ 5 was one of the first game which often encouraged players not to expand, but to stay small. Pandora is in some ways similar, there is not a strong expansion incentive built in.

Lets take a quick look at what incentives are built into the game currently.

1) Tall (small expansion)

Buildings give powerful %bonuses (25% more X,Y,Z). % bonuses have more impact on a single big city.
Buildings have cost, so fewer buildings = more efficient money savings = lower taxes needed = more morale.
Pollution Buildings often are "overkill", so one pollution building can take out a big city's pollution. The pollution savings in a series of small cities is often wasted.
Training Buildings mean producing units in one super city produces stronger units than in a series of small cities. Because production is effectively shared among all buildings (through the use of minerals) than the incentive is route your production through one city to get the strongest possible units.
Large cities get to expand their borders, getting to those juicy spots that were just a bit out of reach.
Larger cities are more flexible. They can move all of their population to workers to rush out a building, move workers to science to speed to a tech, go high taxes to generate money, or go production + growth to speed their growth up.
Easier to defend than a spread out empire.
Expansion costs money and you lose a population from one of your "good" cities.

2) Wide (large expansion)

Buildings give some static bonus (+2 min, +2 science, etc)
Many operations are 1 per city (bombardment, nukes, etc)
If habitation is not controlled it drops morale.
Will likely have access to more special resources.


To me the system heavily favors "tall" player right now, really only the extra operations are the true wide benefit right now. And keep in mind that is not just to do with the growth model (though that is a part). The production model plays in too, its just more efficient to take your global resources and move them through those big global bonus cities instead of dividing them up into a bunch of small cities.

I think the solution is the early buildings should have a stronger static bonus and weaker percentage (such as +4 min, +10% refineries) than you would see a stronger encouragement to expand. Further, I would give cities back their city square bonus...or just let the city have the resources of its base square for free.

Another more radical approach would be to turn Training buildings into global initiatives. So instead of the training center, I have the training ideals initiative that gives ALL units produced the +1 level. At first that might seem crazy, but again right now I produce most of my units through the same city anyway, so I am already doing that.

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Re: Growth discussion

Post by boulugre » Mon May 12, 2014 8:11 am

Stalker0 wrote:
1) Tall (small expansion)
.....
2) Wide (large expansion)
.....
I agree with most of the points of your analysis, however you are omitting a very important point since the latest patches which are the new advancement tiles and the ability for former to crawl back resources, which clearly put a bigger pressure on a faction to expand further their territory in order to grab more resources.

New advancement such as research lab and manufacturing bay means that each worker and scientists now compete with miners and farmers for the use of tile. A city having only 6 usable tile up to 7 pop, you do have an incentive to create more city for more space in order to maximize the output of your population. (+ you can build + credit tile upgrade / pollution cleaner / habitat on the unused tile)
As for the former, sending former far away from your cities in order to crawl resources is dangerous as they have no way to hide in case of sudden aggression from alien or other factions, whereas if you develop a network of small towns you can quickly fall back in case of problem and defend your formers in your neighboring cities.

Those late change have IMO given a lot of reason to grow large much faster as you I believe you can now with plenty of small/medium cities beat the output of a few huge cities for the above mentioned reasons.

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