City Sprawl

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whaleberg
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City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:00 pm

Lets concentrate conversation about specific topics to individual threads.

It currently makes sense to build as many cities as possible, as quickly as possible, everywhere. Since there is no game support for managing many cities at once, this quickly becomes a problem.

My view is the the positive game play incentives for building cities are just way out of whack with the negative incentives, BUT it is much less fun to micormanage many more cities.
The result is that playing more effectively makes you have less fun.

The positive incentives that I see are these.
1 You get huge resource bonuses for having more cities.
-The city tile gets major resource production bonuses
-Each city can build the resource factories that give flat resource bonuses for minimal cost
2 More cities raise your population growth rate AND maximum population
- since money is a direct function of population, more cities gives you a major cash advantage
- cities grow at a constant rate, each extra city generates additional growth

The negative incentives that I see are only this
1 You need more units to evenly defend more cities.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by void » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:13 pm

I agree that city sprawl is a problem at the moment.

Alpha Centauri used an energy efficiency system, the further away cities were from your capital, the less energy you got. We could easily add something like that for credits (including a relocatable capital), maybe even buildings that improve credit efficiency (like offices). This would at least cut the cash flow for larger empires, which is something that actually makes sense -- unlike people getting unhappy because your empire is too large.

Also, we'll add that whenever a city changes ownership, it suffers a morale penalty that slowly degrades over turns.

Independent of that, the economy panel will eventually have the ability to reassign colonists and change production, very similar to the colonies screen in Master of Orion 2.
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whaleberg
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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:18 pm

Unfortunately having more cities means you need to micromanage more cities. Since there is no city management AI, the amount of work increases linearly with the amount of cities. This is frustrating.

The 3 biggest micromanagement frustrations I have with cities are these:
1 Managing population is a pain. The game doesn't optimize AT ALL. I want to keep production and consumption basically equal, with a small stored buffer of food and minerals in case of some production problem. (pollution or attack). Currently cities just seem to evenly divide their workers by default.
Cities should make some effort to keep their production balanced with consumption, while globally optimizing resource production. I.E. If I have 1 city with no high value food production, and 1 city with no high value mineral production, both cities shouldn't be assigning a miner AND a farmer, the good mining city should have 2 miners, and the good farming city should have 2 farmers. There should also be some attempt to automatically move producers to consumer roles when there is a surplus and back again when there is a deficit. Ideally I could set a stockpile size for food and minerals that the game would try to keep level for me.

2 Managing build queues. Since I seem to end up purchasing most of my constructions, a simple queue isn't really good enough.

3 Managing units. Keeping up to date defensive units is annoying considering the sheer number of minor technical advances and the lack of an upgrade unit option. Ideally there would be a mechanic for automatically and continually updating the garrison. The lack of upgrading is particularly annoying because there is a unit leveling system.

4 Cities are identical. There really isn't much difference between cities, so I don't really care much about them individually.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:21 pm

void wrote:I agree that city sprawl is a problem at the moment.

Alpha Centauri used an energy efficiency system, the further away cities were from your capital, the less energy you got. We could easily add something like that for credits (including a relocatable capital), maybe even buildings that improve credit efficiency (like offices). This would at least cut the cash flow for larger empires, which is something that actually makes sense -- unlike people getting unhappy because your empire is too large.

Also, we'll add that whenever a city changes ownership, it suffers a morale penalty that slowly degrades over turns.

Independent of that, the economy panel will eventually have the ability to reassign colonists and change production, very similar to the colonies screen in Master of Orion 2.
Those would all be major improvements. Make sure that the energy efficiency scales to the size of the map, and ideally allow it to be a user changeable parameter..

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by SephiRok » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:11 pm

whaleberg wrote:
This is of course subjective, but in my opinion for a good 4X game building cities / colonizing planets to expand your empire is a crucial aspect of the game. I'm aware that Civilization and Colonization introduced the concept that empires with one or two cities can be stronger than ones of significantly larger size, but I have very mixed feelings about that. Realism aside, to make this happen you have to introduce artificial distortion by either heavily penalizing expansion or providing gigantic boni to small empires. However, I do agree that spreading yourself too thin with too many cities should be punished, and the AI actually does that already to an extend.
I agree completely that artificial feeling caps on city construction is extremely frusterating. I hated the crazy amounts of corruption in some of the civs, and the happiness system in civ V was a bit strange. I liked that civ V gave you the option of specializing for a large empire of small cities or an empire concentrated fewer more powerful cities. It didn't force me to play a tiny empire, but let you play one if you so desired. If you don't want to limit city sprawl at all though, you need to have mechanisms for managing many cities at once. An AI governor could help, or even the ability to save a construction queue and reuse it. There also should really be a system for upgrading defensive units. The micromanagement needed for manually controlling many small identical cities rapidly becomes not fun at all.
I agree completely. I also liked the option to have fewer, more powerful cities, and very much disliked the artificial limits that prevented you from making a big empire. Instead. there should be incentives to make both a smaller and a bigger empire work well for certain strategies.

I think micromanagement as your empire scales is one of the hardest issues to solve completely. I was never a big fan of the AI managing my cities though, he just starts to play instead of you and not even in the way you really want to. The proper sollution is probably through a good interface and gameplay mechanics. I think our citizen allocation already makes it less of a pain because you can identify the terrain and position and specialize cities as you wish, they key missing piece, in my opinion, is an excellent economy panel.
1 Managing population is a pain. The game doesn't optimize AT ALL. I want to keep production and consumption basically equal, with a small stored buffer of food and minerals in case of some production problem. (pollution or attack). Currently cities just seem to evenly divide their workers by default.
Cities should make some effort to keep their production balanced with consumption, while globally optimizing resource production. I.E. If I have 1 city with no high value food production, and 1 city with no high value mineral production, both cities shouldn't be assigning a miner AND a farmer, the good mining city should have 2 miners, and the good farming city should have 2 farmers. There should also be some attempt to automatically move producers to consumer roles when there is a surplus and back again when there is a deficit. Ideally I could set a stockpile size for food and minerals that the game would try to keep level for me.
It depends on exactly how it would be optimized, maybe there's a good intermediate solution, but it needs clear and simple rules. If it's fully optimized you can basically throw citizen allocation out. I feel like this is part of the game, and I actually enjoy moving my colonists around; if I detect a city has no good mineral patches I just lock miners so they aren't allocated and I'm happy. I think it's done pretty well, we've worked on it quite a bit and tried various systems of managing jobs, and I think we're pretty happy with this one. This probably comes down to how you want to play the game and I guess not everyone can be made happy.

All in all, I currently favor improving interface and mechanics over automatization.
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Re: City Sprawl

Post by NeptuneNews » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:56 pm

Properly allocating citizens would not be difficult at all if we had fewer, bigger cities.
Limiting the maximum workers for each base resource could also help eliminate inefficiencies.
Its so painful when I find out that 7 miners have been working on 2 minerals, while the 7 farmers don't even use up all the food slots...

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:28 am

NeptuneNews wrote:Properly allocating citizens would not be difficult at all if we had fewer, bigger cities.
Limiting the maximum workers for each base resource could also help eliminate inefficiencies.
Its so painful when I find out that 7 miners have been working on 2 minerals, while the 7 farmers don't even use up all the food slots...
Yeah, disallowing the placement of workers who are producing negligible amounts of resources would be a big help. Anything under 1/2 definitely shouldn't even be allowed, and probably really nothing under 1.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by IainMcNeil » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:35 am

For me the city sprawl issue has 2 factors
* We need a way to make larger empires not completely overwhelm smaller ones so the efficiency of cities drops the more you have by some mechanic
* Even if there is a reduction of efficiency a larger empire is always more desirable which is fine - this is an empire building game after all. The issue is the amount of management. I don't want to select buildings in 20 cities. In Civ V I always lose interest once you get to a large empire as it gets so repetitive doing the same things in 20 places. I'd rather just focus on ~5. A couple of ideas for how this could work
* Mega cities. Mega cities are created when 2 smaller cities combine. Clicking on either open the shared city window for both. Any buildings built in either are added to the mega city. After this all building costs are 150% normal so less than building in both but you get the benfit in both. Only one build queue so you build things much faster. You'd need a clear way to show the link between them on the map. We might need to deal with them splitting up if one got captured.Maybe some other benefits to encourage you to do it. Sounds like a fair bit of work though.... so a simpler option next.
* Governors. Maybe we could have a system of governors. Limit how many cities the player can directly control and the rest are auto managed. Think of the puppet cities in Civ V except we make it a core mechanic. Maybe as the game goes on you get new techs that allow you to directly manage more cities, but we could still strictly limit it. We might want to have this as an option in the game setup - needs to be an incentive for the player to choose this option - maybe the AI gets some bonuses if you choose to directly manage all your cities.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by larchy » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:14 pm

IainMcNeil wrote: * Mega cities. Mega cities are created when 2 smaller cities combine. Clicking on either open the shared city window for both. Any buildings built in either are added to the mega city. After this all building costs are 150% normal so less than building in both but you get the benfit in both. Only one build queue so you build things much faster. You'd need a clear way to show the link between them on the map. We might need to deal with them splitting up if one got captured.Maybe some other benefits to encourage you to do it. Sounds like a fair bit of work though.... so a simpler option next.

I really like this idea; I think it would be fantastic if in the later game your larger cities could combine with smaller cities that are vaguely nearby but not as large or powerful. You could even leave the old city's graphic on the tile and make them into a linked suburban town etc, or even allow the player to create provinces with a single powerful city at the centre and a few surrounding cities linked to it. The player would only have to manage the production of the single central city, and benefit from increased production etc.

This would alleviate an annoyance I often have that I try to leave space in the early game for my cities to expand, but end up with unwanted overlap or the ai spreading into the space I've left.

A few issues I forsee; you'd have to allow the single central city to produce multiple units per turn, as with increased production of 3-4 linked cities you could be churning out multiple units per turn from the central city and limiting it to 1 unit per turn production would only penalise the player.

There's also the issue of defending the linked cities, but I suppose you'd just still maintain a garrison in them as you normally would. That could actually make them helpful little outlying defensive points to defend borders/land. Shame Pandora seems to be missing any type of zone of control mechanic.

You could also introduce techs/improvements specific to linked mega-cities; high speed transport links for example giving movement and $$ bonuses? Ultra high density population improvements for higher pops in the central city? There's all sorts I can think of.

Very excited by this concept; it would be something I haven't seen before and sounds great!


Governors are always a fallback, but does anyone actually use them who plays seriously? You never get the best out of your cities with them, and I don't like giving up control of production of units either. If you were to do it I'd maybe look at implementing governors that give you bonuses or gain experience over time. Fragile allegiance allowed you to choose from a list of employed colony managers, with the better ones costing more. If you gave too many colonies/asteroids to a single governor that couldn't handle it then they sometimes went a bit nuts and could start destroying buildings or even firing missiles at other colonies. Was quite a good actually, though I've never seen any game since attempt anything remotely similar, and I don't think it'd work too well here.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by SephiRok » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:48 pm

I think it would have to be more in the direction that you absorb a city with a bigger one: the absorbed city's population and territories would in practice "transfer" to the one absorbing. The absorbed city should either disappear or be replaced with a distinguishably different-looking city model that acts like a fort.
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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:57 pm

I think mega cities would be a good idea. Other games have done similar things with converting many small planet colonies into single ring worlds.

You have to be careful that choosing to combine cities doesn't come at a large penalty. Currently a large portion of your civilizations output comes from the city center tile, and the +4 bonus resource production buildings. So if merging cities removes these bonuses then it would be a very undesirable thing from a power play perspective. I think that these bonuses should probably be changed anyway, because as it is they stand one of the major incentives for city sprawling. Also, as it stands now small cities grow at the same rate as larger cities, so one mega city will grow N times slower than N small cities. This is another one of the major reasons that city sprawling is so significant now. Changing to a proportional growth rate would fix that.
The penalty of losing a potential quick-purchase slot is also a pretty significant one given the enormous cash resources available.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by void » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:12 pm

Maybe the solution is the same as with credits: The city with your headquarters grows at full speed, cities further outward grow slower.

We'll implement the headquarters system over the next one or two days, then you guys can have a go at it.
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Re: City Sprawl

Post by IainMcNeil » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:50 am

On the governor idea its a bit like a board game mechanic that is often used. Per turn you have the ability to perform X actions. The number of actions never increases. You might get much more powerful but things are kept in balance with your weaker neighbours as you can only perform X actions each. The idea was to use this principal on cities. Only X cities could be directly managed and you HAD to have the rest managed by governors. It wasn't an option - it was part of the game mechanic. You could switch cities you directly controlled but there would be a transition period of turns before you could take control. This means you'd have to plan ahead as to which cities you need to directly influence.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:07 pm

IainMcNeil wrote:On the governor idea its a bit like a board game mechanic that is often used. Per turn you have the ability to perform X actions. The number of actions never increases. You might get much more powerful but things are kept in balance with your weaker neighbours as you can only perform X actions each. The idea was to use this principal on cities. Only X cities could be directly managed and you HAD to have the rest managed by governors. It wasn't an option - it was part of the game mechanic. You could switch cities you directly controlled but there would be a transition period of turns before you could take control. This means you'd have to plan ahead as to which cities you need to directly influence.
I think this could easily end up in very frustrating situations, unless the governor is a really competent AI, which it likely won't be. I think a better approach to the governer would be to be able to set up city build profiles, or have some default ones, and then assign them to your cities as you want. Simple scripts like "build these buildings in the this order, always have 1 up to date defensive unit in the city"

I think the megacities idea is a much better fit for this sort of game, where you want to be able to micromanage, but you don't want to many things to manage.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by Eleazzaar » Sat Feb 23, 2013 2:27 am

void wrote:Independent of that, the economy panel will eventually have the ability to reassign colonists and change production, very similar to the colonies screen in Master of Orion 2.
I never liked that part of MoO or MoO inspired games. It doesn't scale well with many cities, and an optimal game tends to require a lot of citizen shuffling.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by azpops » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:34 am

I like the idea of mega cities. Anything that would keep me from having to micromanage every single city all the time. Kind of like having a really good supply sergeant. You tell him what you need and he gets it. Just don't ask too many questions!!!

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 24, 2013 2:33 am

I've been playing quite a bit the last days and I'm personally pretty pleased with what we have so far. The frontier mechanics and the constant struggles for food make you really think twice before investing in a Colonizer to throw down a city. I don't feel much inclined to populate parts that don't have a special resource or very solid terrain overall (mountains, grassland plains).

I always specialize cities into two areas, lock the rest and reassign from there as needed. In the beginning, I end up microing more or less every growth, but that ends with my third city or so. After that, I do bigger shifts as needed depending on what overall I want to focus on. I never find myself microing around pollution anymore (the only exception being if I get a bonus tile polluted in the beginning with Solar Dynasty). I absolutely love polled minerals and the mineral/production split. Being able to pull everyone off production and not having to decide on what to produce when I don't care is awesome.

Overall I don't feel like it's too much micro for me, and I love the flexibility of moving the guys around. What I miss is an easier way to decide where I can get more food or minerals from if I'm going low (economy panel improvements) and I often end up being annoyed knowing that all unlocked priorities will fill up least-first rather than keep with the ratio I created or assigning highest value first.

I'm not really sure how it works out if you don't touch pop assignments and leave the default -- you probably end up starving pretty hard, which is not that great.
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Re: City Sprawl

Post by whaleberg » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:04 am

Overall I don't feel like it's too much micro for me, and I love the flexibility of moving the guys around. What I miss is an easier way to decide where I can get more food or minerals from if I'm going low (economy panel improvements) and I often end up being annoyed knowing that all unlocked priorities will fill up least-first rather than keep with the ratio I created or assigning highest value first
The thing that is driving me crazy is the fact that the defaults place harvesters on spaces that are very suboptimal for the empire. Since the default is just go down the list assigning population one at a time to each resource, it doesn't optimize at all. I wish there was a way to tell it to select for high value tiles first, empire wide. I.E. I have two cities, one is surrounded by good farming squares, +3 food, and no squares with more than +1 mineral. The other city has only +1 food squares, but has mountains around it. If each city has 2 population, what you get is the first city farming 1 square and mining one, and the second city doing the same, for a total of +4 food +4 minerals. The optimal strategy is to put 2 farmers in the farm city and 2 miners in the second city, for a total of +6 food, +6 minerals. I know, I can lock miners in the first, and farmers in the second, but ideally it would just figure it out.

I also haven't ever really felt like I'm struggling for food exactly. The thing that keeps me from expanding more is not wanting to deal with more cities, rather than a lack of food... With former support it's pretty difficult to have a city that isn't at least self sufficient in food. It might not have great output in other things, but there's absolutely no reason to not have as large a population as possible, as long as that population can on average produce 1 food per pop.

I've been primarily playing with the researchy faction, so maybe their ability to get the resource multiplier buildings faster is helping me avoid mid game food crunches, but it really hasn't been a problem for me.

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Re: City Sprawl

Post by SephiRok » Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:13 pm

Yeah, it could assign highest value first. The problem is if you had food and research unlocked it would never assign to 1 food, and you might have wanted equal amount of farmers and scientists.

I think the roughest spot is before the +50 % building. Is everyone assigning farmers in each city? I tend to specialize that and have research as the filler.
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