Population Boom Discussion

Field of Glory: Empires is a grand strategy game in which you will have to move in an intricate and living tapestry of nations and tribes, each one with their distinctive culture.
Set in Europe and in the Mediterranean Area during the Classical Age, experience what truly means to manage an Empire.

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mejobo
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Population Boom Discussion

Post by mejobo » Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:47 pm

After a couple hundred of turns nearly the entire map is red when the population view is on. This tends to make the map a bit flat - there are stand-out regions with huge stored culture or wonders, rare natural resources, or populations well above the 20s 'standard,' but most regions will have lots of population, buildings, and perhaps most notably supply by the mid-to-late game. Is this the intended outcome? It is good for gameplay in most regards, although it creates a sense of booming resources and army sizes developing on a time-line rather than a result of a stabilizing empire or some such. Does this reflect a historical increase in urbanization, and perhaps enclosure within empires, or is it just for gameplay?

elxaime
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by elxaime » Wed Jul 21, 2021 2:13 am

I am not sure whether the system currently scales well. It is too easy to accumulate tons of stored food, in an era where insect plagues, vermin and still-primitive technology meant that you could only stockpile food to a point. As a result, even if you put in more natural disasters, you are unlikely to make a dent in massive food stocks. Similarly, culture piles up, whereas it is likely this dynamic would be more fluid - if a culturally complex society collapsed and was replaced, a lot would be destroyed or fall into ruin. Conquest likewise should involve more destruction of infrastructure and food plundering.

The game unfortunately remains a map-painting exercise. I have tried various nations, and usually give up after about 100 turns, as you are able to easily manipulate the system, to the point where you have so much gold you are able to just buy out opponents wholesale.

I hope the next iteration in the series tackles the basics a bit better. I am still enjoying myself. But they should look at Victoria 3, in development, and take notes.

SuitedQueens
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by SuitedQueens » Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:35 am

elxaime Paradox fanboy who cannot see glaring cheap exploits present in those games writes his very skewed non-Suicide difficulty tested very subjective opinion based on anecdotal evidence and rather primitive non-in-depth knowledge of hidden optimization mechanics strikes again. Makes sense, right.

Anyway, there have been tons of discussions on this topic. I don't want to reiterate, so I post concrete evidence here. First of all different regions produce different amount of food per pop. Mountains, Alpine and Desert regions produce only 2 food, while Arid Hills and Steppes lends you 3.

There are also diminishing returns threshold for regions based on the starting population. Basically the less pop region has at the start of the game the harder time it will have growing. See table in the attachment: Image

Large POP produces overcrowding effect and Loyalty penalties that interact with almost every system in the game including Sieges.

mejobo
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by mejobo » Sat Jul 24, 2021 3:20 pm

After searching through about 15 pages of the forum thread backlog I have found this being discussed in a few places, but largely before several updates, some of which were suggested to help solve the problem (specifically, making population growth in deserts and similar slower).

The consensus of those mentions in prior threads (none of the threads really focused on the issue) is that population growth is too easy, there aren’t enough ways for population to decline to counteract that, and that population growth by food stockpile alone without considering immigration and food being and to support large cities across provinces is potentially part of the problem, and that, because building slots/trade resources/state resources like money and manpower are all very heavily driven by population density, the weirdness in the population is a (paraphrasing Pocus) ‘root of all evil.’ Indeed, the game’s balance seems centered on the early game, and while the spread of urbanization and development of more advanced states is somewhat fitting for the period such that the effects of this population growth aren’t entirely wrong (more and larger armies, empires with larger trade networks and more industry, greater urban population density) it is too extreme and probably happens too early in the game— and with no chance of the sort of reversal we would see if a campaign’s plot includes, say, a crisis of the third century equivalent.

As such, it is surprising to see that a patch has not comprehensively addressed the issue. Hopefully this thread can directly confront the issue (and I am increasingly certain it is an issue!) and maybe be a call for another patch. As it is the game is quite fun and well designed in many aspects, but this one issue is quite central to the overall shape of the world!

SuitedQueens, I believe you are missing the point— those mechanisms to make population growth require more or less food in capitals, plains, mountains, and so on, are clearly not sufficient. Stockpiles still grow, battles and regional events and decisions still disproportionately result in population growth (slaves from war, exotic slaves generated, bolster colony), and empirically by mid-game almost every region, regardless of terrain, is rated by the game as high population (red, 20+ iirc). There do tend to be a few outliers (40+, say) that usually result from the boosts to capitals in nice regions that you mention, but these don’t stand out nearly as much as they should when deserts or northeastern steppes are also high population regions with plenty of surplus production of all resources. That is aside from the fact that those really big cities emerge and are sustained in weird ways— there’s no need to control Africa or Egypt to secure grain for Rome, and there’s no pull factor causing population to move directly to major cities on trade routes and so on. These issues aren’t very related to the difficulty of the game, affecting player and AI alike across the world, nor should they be. Loyalty issues provide an incentive to plateau at high pop, but doesn’t work well to prevent what I’m describing.

Personally, I disagree with elxaime that the game is map painter per se— the problems caused by relatively high population everywhere are real but I don’t think they exactly incentivize conquering everything, and it is notable that the problem is not caused by a player-exclusive exploit but is intrinsic to the way population grows and so AI also get high population everywhere. That said truly buying the map seems potentially viable (some exploits are beyond my personal interests) and would of course be a victory by default, lacking competitors. On the other hand I have often felt unstoppable at turn 100 and found that the long game of actually reaching 3x Legacy includes some new challenges that weren’t apparent early on— those bought off opponents come back, the government age increases beyond control, a huge stockpile of money dries up under the weight of civil wars. A storm that can certainly be weathered, but an interesting one to play through. I think this actually is why the cultural stockpile build up specifically is good design— its an abstraction, but it means citizens living well and with loyalty is good for you, but the longer the game goes the more everything is worth so there is still a chance for an upstart power to win in the late game as Legacy per turn increases.

However the overall diagnosis that ALL stockpile build ups are unmitigated (and almost always accelerating) due to population is accurate. Even all the aforementioned turmoil doesn’t stop the overall development rising across the map.

In conclusion, it would be nice to hear from the designers on the intentions here (am I missing something about the design or the historicity?) and see if there might be a way to rework this to give better results if this doesn’t match the intentions.

Edit:
I’m overstating the case somewhat. There are some mechanisms in the trade system that suggest a representation of some regions being breadbaskets for even distant cities— you might have Grain, Wool, Cattle production and so on in agricultural regions while a city like Rome might generate food primarily from importing those resources and gaining various +Food bonuses from other buildings, and we might see the resulting population increases as being from immigration from rural (and perhaps uncounted by the game) to urban. In practice, however, there’s little connection between climate and terrain/fertility that impacts which region produces what when compared to the many building slots afforded by 20+ population across the board.

It may be that the current incentives would make the most optimal play at a more historical population and production distribution, but it certainly isn’t how the AI part of the world plays and it doesn’t seem that such optimality is needed to have abundant resources across the board.

Gray Fox
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by Gray Fox » Sun Jul 25, 2021 7:31 pm

mejobo wrote:
Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:47 pm
...or is it just for gameplay?
Yes.
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mejobo
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by mejobo » Mon Jul 26, 2021 8:58 pm

I’m not convinced that that’s really the case— as noted Pocus themselves thought population growth could be an issue negatively affecting mid to late gameplay.

I should clarify that I’m not trying to trash the game— it’s amongst my favorite and most played! I’ve just been increasingly turned off by this one aspect the more I’ve played and the more I’ve read others’ thoughts on the issue.

SuitedQueens
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by SuitedQueens » Mon Jul 26, 2021 9:22 pm

Ok, so the thing is what additional pop gives you except for causing troubles? +5 PP (or less dependent on terrain) or +5 Culture? Do you read guides on steam on how to keep your slaves and general pop under certain limit? Do you know how long it takes to convert pop ethnicity? I mean if we cut down on pop growth then most of this game mid- lategame challenges will be gone. Civil Wars will be to easy to prevent too. As you might have noticed most of those conversations you are quoted from are relatively old and nothing ground breaking was done about this issue in the following patches, because it's very integral part of managing your Empire. I think its impossible to lose pop to starvation while you are below 3 pop in any region and you have very small chances similar to leader death when you have under -10 negative food, so you have to really try to fuck up early game with any nation. If growth speed wouldn't be as high you won't get enough building slots which slows down gameplay. There are many considerations including slaves. If you don't have enough initial pop extra slaves will be beneficial and not as punishing as right now. Taxes from POP wouldn't matter at all, you wouldn't be able to support more units due to reduced Manpower production and list goes on. There a lot of stuff you have to think about before making historically correct decisions that will ruin gameplay.

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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by Gray Fox » Mon Jul 26, 2021 10:39 pm

I've controlled Rhodus with a pop. of 67 and a loyalty of 72. The AI isn't keeping pace with history, it's got to keep pace with me.
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mejobo
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by mejobo » Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:10 am

SuitedQueens, I think we’re approaching this from very different angles. I’m not so much interested in optimizing victory speed (I win just fine and have interesting campaign narratives), I’m interested in what FOG:E is modeling and how— and whether it does that effectively. Incentives to the player (and AI, insofar as they are restricted by similar mechanics) matter because they drive behavior. So, for instance, I agree with you that there is an optimal population. The systems drive both the players and AI to pretty rapidly grow low pop regions to the 20s and then drastically slow growth (though making a few very high pop regions to get special building combos is usually worth potential loyalty issues within a single region— and these can be countered with the right buildings!). I think there are issues with the design, but I think it is undoubtedly the intention of the design to have this sort of tension between wanting high population for buildings (sometimes) but also usually wanting to have many smaller more specialized (or just lower value) regions.

That said there exist exploits that break the design’s assumptions. For example, you’ve often mentioned an exploit of the insult emissary option to get maximum diplomatic relations with all other powers. To my mind, that is a problem to be fixed in the design— it goes against the intentions of the design and certainly doesn’t model diplomacy in the era. I think the way population spans the map in the late game is a similar problem (though less extreme). The design seems to want to drive me towards making Rome high population through enslaving people (and building mills, granaries, and circuses, etc, to manage loyalty and food needs) while supplying it from smaller surrounding regions (and provinces insofar as trade goods can contribute), but this gets skewed by the late game when there’s (by the game’s assessment) “high population” everywhere. The really big cities still exist, but they don’t stand out as much as one would expect in population or buildings as essentially all regions are reaching deep into building chains.

I think an easy fix would be more common and frequent population/food supply disruptions, such as famines affecting the availability of trade goods and food production at random (giving me a reason to want many potential sources of grain for Rome), especially if this can result in a lower equilibrium point for relatively marginal terrain. I also think immigration towards trade and cultural centers could play a role in making regions interestingly different from one another.

Aside, trade range being affected by movement cost would be an interesting thing to try...

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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by SuitedQueens » Fri Jul 30, 2021 12:45 pm

mejobo wrote:
Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:10 am
So, for instance, I agree with you that there is an optimal population. The systems drive both the players and AI to pretty rapidly grow low pop regions to the 20s and then drastically slow growth (though making a few very high pop regions to get special building combos is usually worth potential loyalty issues within a single region— and these can be countered with the right buildings!). I think there are issues with the design, but I think it is undoubtedly the intention of the design to have this sort of tension between wanting high population for buildings (sometimes) but also usually wanting to have many smaller more specialized (or just lower value) regions.
BTW, some of the buildings in this game are universally good for everyone while other are very situational and you need them only when you are behind, so build slots above 20 are usually not a real problem. Why? Because you can't abuse Production Points stockpile and 1 PP shuffle to fish for buildings you want. You also tear down buildings that were used for initial food growth boost etc. Thats interesting challenge that can be further reinforced by slowing down POP growth.

If we are talking about regular players who build stuff that they like at the same time in all of the regions then you want higher POP growth or those players will quit the game cause it takes so long to build Tier 2 or Tier 3 high PP cost buildings. So I agree with your insertions and the fact that this is part of original design for reasons I mentioned here and in previous response as well.
mejobo wrote:
Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:10 am
That said there exist exploits that break the design’s assumptions. For example, you’ve often mentioned an exploit of the insult emissary option to get maximum diplomatic relations with all other powers. To my mind, that is a problem to be fixed in the design— it goes against the intentions of the design and certainly doesn’t model diplomacy in the era.
It's not a cheap exploit especially if you play with Fog of War. I don't know many players that are willing to check Detailed Diplomacy report and scroll all over the world map with detailed Combat messages turned on every turn to figure out who fighting who and who winning the wars. You don't want to dump relationship with some nation to -50 and the next thing you know they win the war and you lost one or more potential clients. There are safe nations for that as I described above, but you need to not miss the moment when they go into war with some other nation. It's exploit that might appear to be cheap, but actually requires paying attention to what goes on in the world and I think thats the best Diplomacy system can offer in any game instead of juggling with meaningless bribe numbers.
mejobo wrote:
Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:10 am
I think the way population spans the map in the late game is a similar problem (though less extreme). The design seems to want to drive me towards making Rome high population through enslaving people (and building mills, granaries, and circuses, etc, to manage loyalty and food needs) while supplying it from smaller surrounding regions (and provinces insofar as trade goods can contribute), but this gets skewed by the late game when there’s (by the game’s assessment) “high population” everywhere. The really big cities still exist, but they don’t stand out as much as one would expect in population or buildings as essentially all regions are reaching deep into building chains.
How else would you scale into the late game. High population is not the only "problem". High resources income is the real thing here. I think that ever increasing amount of armies and therefore actions per turn is the right way to go. That way you can also keep AI challenging throughout the whole game especially on 2 higher difficulties, where you need to finish the game rather early cause you don't stand a chance against AI with all those economy boost and heavy Fortification everywhere while all Decadence penalties really escalate to uncontrollable highs at that point. The point is that on higher difficulties there are bigger imbalances than high POP. Big cities would really stand out if you focus on filling all building slots first, make them trade hubs specifically, build bunch of Tax and World Wonder buildings there. Open ledger and see how much manpower and gold they contribute. Many regions that started out small can't catch up if you play with bigger nations properly, so when they will have high pop you still own them with way more pop even with all diminishing returns.
mejobo wrote:
Fri Jul 30, 2021 6:10 am
I think an easy fix would be more common and frequent population/food supply disruptions, such as famines affecting the availability of trade goods and food production at random (giving me a reason to want many potential sources of grain for Rome), especially if this can result in a lower equilibrium point for relatively marginal terrain. I also think immigration towards trade and cultural centers could play a role in making regions interestingly different from one another.

Aside, trade range being affected by movement cost would be an interesting thing to try...
There are stuff like that to some extent. Mostly region impediments that can destroy your food supply growth speed due to how much POP you need to dedicate to food especially if encountered in Desert newly conquered regions. Food mechanics really kick in when you blitz through enemy regions and then pull away before Peace deal kicks in to not starve out. Granted it won't affect regular players you have to come up with something more. And you have one thing which is unproductive unassimilated population. If you noticed it mostly your native regions grow fast and produce way more POP overall.

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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by Pocus » Thu Aug 12, 2021 2:31 pm

That's a very difficult moving target to deal with, this mid to end game snowballing, with population growth being one of the culprit but not the only one. Factors making difficult the finding of good solutions are:

(in no particular order)
- ask for involved testbeds requiring some manpower, beyond what the developer can do (or it is detrimental to new code and features)
- fixes that make the game better for 5% of the player base, but make the game less fun or too hard for the majority of it
- the complexity of the system, which is very difficult to balance in theory even with a very good knowledge of all variables interactions (so back to point 1, only actual tests can give some approximate indications you are on the right path) - and yet I'll dare say that 95% of the values you get were being theory-crafted by me and were for the vast majority spot on (although there is most probably a 'validity interval' which makes the process being spot on much easier than it seems!)
- going too much toward historicity will probably displease most of you. Who wants to play a historical simulation where most soldiers die from disease and where population level almost reset periodically because of plague or the ravage of wars? The Antonine plague might have killed between 10 and 25% of the population within the empire e.g. Most of your armies (and people like to nurture their units) would turn against you, etc.
- it is supremely difficult to make a game that is balanced and fun in the early game, then mid then late, with the same set of rules. I did not manage that, obviously, but that's no surprise. But Empires has hopefully curbed some of this overall issue, plus players (good players especially) snowball much faster than AIs.

So in the end, what can be done? I'm not too sure it would be easy to change majorly Empires now, as everything interacts with everything. I would be more confident to use the experience gathered with Empires used to make a superb beta test of Empires successor, with many experienced players. If you are still around, your contribution can be instrumental in the balance, fun and success of the new project.
AGEOD Team - Makers of Empires, ACW2, WON, EAW, PON, AJE, RUS, ROP, WIA.

mejobo
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Re: Population Boom Discussion

Post by mejobo » Fri Aug 13, 2021 7:46 pm

Pocus, thank you for the kind and thoughtful reply. I concluded that the current game is stable enough now that the sorts of fundamental changes I’m thinking about aren’t feasible. I’m definitely excited to see the next game in the pipeline aw FOGE is such a great work in its own right.

For now my interest has turned towards the feasibility of modding some of these features so that those who are interested in playing with these ideas can try them, even though it will be a far less stable and balanced play experience.

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