Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

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utilae
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Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#1 Post by utilae »

In games like Master Of Orion 2 population is like the most important thing.
Because they used it as a multiplyer on your outputs (research, etc) it meant that if you increase your population, then that increases your food, your research and industry all at the same time.
To me this seems wrong. Like population shouldnt be such a strong factor.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? What are alternative population models?

This is kinda just for discussion and nothing to do with FreeOrion really. But ideas could be applied to FreeOrion. Cheers

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#2 Post by Geoff the Medio »

If resource output isn't based on population, it has to be based on something else. What are the alternatives?

The current situation in FreeOrion is that output depends on total population and various effects that boost resource output per unit of population. An alternative would be to make output per colony depend on effects that don't depend on population.

In both cases, there would be some dependence of output on colony "quality". Both system would also have other rule about when a particular colony can get a bonus, or how big the bonus is, that depend on things like the location, planet type, size, star colour, etc. In a population-dependent system, the max population and growth rate are included in the quality factors. A population-independent system lacks these population-related factors, so would probably need to be balanced a bit differently to use more of the other types of conditions.

Population-independent output boosting could be done by having effects give a fixed bonus to resource production. This is similar to what SMAC does with resource crawlers, which transport a fixed amount of a resource to a base, regardless of what the population is. There's no limit on number of crawlers per base, regardless of population.

If colony resource output isn't significantly dependent on population, then the empire's total output is not a function of population, but instead becomes, to first approximation, dependent on the number of colonies. This might make it strategically preferable to have a large number of colonies, compared to the population-dependent situation, where fewer, higher-population colonies might be preferable. This might make territorial expansion much more important for population-independent resource output empires, since they can't rely as much on a smaller number of heavily developed / higher population planets to produce lots of resource.

An obvious way to increase colony resource output without depending on population would be to have a bunch of buildings that can be produced on colonies that directly increase their resource output. This probably isn't a good idea for FreeOrion since we're trying to avoid having a bunch of buildings that you build everywhere.

Not having lots of buildings to produce on individual planets means that there's not a lot that the player can do to develop those planets. This is already a potential problem with FreeOrion's system, but with population-dependence, there is at least the need to wait for a planet's population to grow enough to be able to produce useful amounts of resource. With population-independent resource boosts, and no other conditions besides population that simulate colony development, any new founded colony would instantly be producing at full output the turn after it's founded.

FreeOrion could have buildings that boost output of a particular resource within the empire, or within some distance, likely also subject to other conditions about the system or planet of a colony. This is similar to techs or buildings that boost meters, subject to conditions, to indirectly increase resource output.

Both system will probably need to use another threshold to activate some of the output-boosting effects that work on planets. The construction meter will probably be used for this purpose, more so than would be the case with a population dependent resource output. How this affects overal colony productivity as a function of time depends on the details of how content and thresholds for its activation are set up. If there are a lot of spread-out levels of bonuses that activate as the construction meter has time to grow, the net result may be similar to just waiting for population to grow.

A downside to population-independet growth might be that in activation of bonuses depends on construction, there will be even fewer ways to interact with and manipulate a colony's productivity increases. With population, we could have migration or social issues affect population growth and movements, but with construction, it's unlikely we'd have similar ways to manipulate its growth rates on different planets.

I'd probably like to have both options in the game, to some degree. Probably they'd be largely mutually exclusive due to how the tech tree and building conditions are set up, although they might be naturally strategically mutually exclusive, in that reseraching both isn't very beneficial when you could instead just research population-dependent output and work on increasing population. How this works will probably change over the course of a game, though...

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yaromir
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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#3 Post by yaromir »

Well, if you look at economics of today you see that larger populations = larger economies.

I think the issue brought up has more to do with linear marginal utility of population growth in MOO2. Perhaps if marginal utility is made logarithmic, or logarithmic past a certain point, it would be a better option.

For example, 200 scientists can be twice as productive as 100 scientist, but that relationship doesn't hold when going from 10k to 20k (If anything, I'd argue efficiency declines as they step on each-others toes)

I would argue that a relatively modest number of colonists can efficiently exploit say 50% of planet resources, but doubling population from that point on should give maybe 5-10% increase.

So to summarise: The curve would have a portion where each additional population point adds same benefit as the previous one, then there is an inflection and after that, each additional population adds progressively less.
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Geoff the Medio
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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#4 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Attempting to make the productivity vs. population curve more realistic is a nice idea, but would be benefits be worth the extra complexity? In particular, it's already a pretty complicated system to have a bunch of different meters affected by various techs and buildings and specials and planet types and sizes and focus settings, and figuring out exactly what determines a planet's resource output takes a bit of investigating. If we then changed things so that resource output isn't just population multiplied by meter value, things would get even more complicated...

A possible alternative is to have various effects that kick in when a planet's population is large, reducing its output by reducing meter values somewhat. Balancing this properly so that it's still always beneficial to have increased population (at least in terms of resource output) might be a bit tricky given order of operations of effects on meters isn't easily controllable. We definitely don't want a situation where having increasing population directly causes reduction in total resource output, as then players would probably need to micromanage population levels with whatever system we end up having that can be used to do so. Not needing to do such micromanagement is essential for making such a system - perhaps migration - worth adding.

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#5 Post by MikkoM »

utilae wrote:In games like Master Of Orion 2 population is like the most important thing.
Because they used it as a multiplyer on your outputs (research, etc) it meant that if you increase your population, then that increases your food, your research and industry all at the same time.
I wouldn`t go so far to say that population is the most important thing in 4X games. If we consider Master Of Orion 2 for example population isn`t everything. Now if we compare the Psilon and the Sakkra empires, the sakkra usually have more population on their planets than the psilons, but the psilons still usually fare better, as they have considerable bonuses in reasearch and the sakkra on the other hand have limiting factors like the Feudal society to offset the big bonuses that they would have otherwise gained from the larger population.

The biggest problem that I currently can see rising from this population based production system is that species that have high population growth could have a considerable advantage over other species. However like the MOO2 example shows us things like racial picks, governments etc. can be used so that the population growth won`t offer too big of an advantage to anyone.

Did you have something else than this in mind when you said that population is too powerful in 4X games?

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#6 Post by Krikkitone »

This is generally a Quantity v. Quality issue.

The way to avoid more pop Always -> more economy is adding in any type of
decreasing return and/or caps

currently FO does this by means of 2 types caps [max populations per world] which also has a diminishing return factor. Some worlds are more "efficient" in terms of Net pop output of "useful" products.. (ie food is not 'useful' it is a 'cost of population')

So The economy of FO is basically Planet-based in its 'end point'/ultimate limit. Population just shows how far you have gotten in reaching that limit.

ie a planet with max pop of 10 and a max possible NET resource meter of 3 (1 unit of food and 3 units of something else) is a planet that has a "Production value" of 30. The planet, once colonized will slowly reach that "Production value".
Now a Planet's production value depends on what it is focused on, so specialization becomes useful (some planets may have a negative net resource meter if they rely on thier own food production capabilities, but they are great if paired with another world that can ship in the food)


So right now, the issue is more of fact that Territory is too powerful in 4X games. Because your Territory defines your maximum economic capabilities that will be reached with Time+Investment. (to quote from someone on the Civ 4 board, Land is power)

Other factors that could be included
"Soft max pops" where Territory is power, but the economy can continue to grow past a 'basic amount' (although with decreasing quality given enough Time)... so a planet has a 'max pop' of 10 at efficiency 2... but additional pop past that limit is less efficient (although never 0/net negative efficiency.)

Investment based, economic growth often depends on Time, but it can also depend on reinvestment. (reinvestment being an alternative to spending on technologies, military forces, etc.)... Tech can be seen as a form of "Investment" if taken in that way... Tech rarely does anything useful itself in advancing towards victory, instead it makes the economy 'expand' in a chosen way.

So the basic Economc concept of 4Xs

NET Economic Output
Grows with Time and/or Investment [population growth is often a key component]
to a Territory based
Hard Cap: sudden drop of growth rate to 0/
Soft Cap: gradual drop of growth rate to 0/
Uncapped: gradual drop of growth rate that never reaches 0/

Currently FO is
Time based [Research can be conidered an Investment]
Soft Cap

now what I think would be interesting is if the Territory based economic dependencies were different for different components of the economy.

Ie max Minerals was Territory dependent (Hard/soft cap) but max Research was Uncapped.

Another option is that the nature of the cap may change with tech... ie What was a cap can become merely a slowing barrier (ie a tech that allows a world to grow past Max population at a very slow rate.)


So looking at the basic structure of Say MOO2

Elimination/Antaran* Game Win
based on Production/Money [same resource] (making ships)
based on cap from Territory
Cap reached by Investing Tech, Investing Production, and Time growth of Population
Economic Support Resources (ie what makes it NET economic production): Production/Money for ships, Food for pop.
*primarily involves investing enough Tech to get D.P.... but must also get sufficient fleet

Senate Win..unless you actually Do Diplomacy which is Production based
based on Population
based on cap from Territory
Cap reached by Investing Tech, Investing Production, and Time growth of Population
Economic Support Resources (ie what makes it NET economic production): Production/Money for ships, Food for pop.


What I'd ideally like to see for FO is

"Unification" ie no more enemies Win
Based on some combination of Production (ships) and Money (diplomacy/political action)
based on cap from Territory (Production=capped via Minerals, Money=uncapped)
Cap reached by Investing Tech, growth Time of Population and Meters
Support Components: Minerals (capped) supporting Production, Food (uncapped with sufficient tech) supporting Population, Money supporting Territory.

Other Transcendance/etc. (ie the low Territory/'Race' type win)
few options
1. Just get a tech... you win
2. Get a tech and build a fixed cost project/institution (with combo of Production and Money)
3. Get a tech and build a variable cost project/institution (more Territory=more Cost? .. Build project and survive repurcussions?..potentially more serious repurcussionsfor broader Territory)
#3 preferred [given that means if you have almost completed a "Unification" type win involving lots of Territory you can't just turn aside and go for the "Transcendance" type win easily... doing the "Transcendance" win should probably be harder than someone who is 'better structured' for it.]

So it would require a particular amount of Investment (Territory dependent), as well as a Highly Developed Territory (generally antiTerritory dependent)

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utilae
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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#7 Post by utilae »

MikkoM wrote: I wouldn`t go so far to say that population is the most important thing in 4X games. If we consider Master Of Orion 2 for example population isn`t everything. Now if we compare the Psilon and the Sakkra empires, the sakkra usually have more population on their planets than the psilons, but the psilons still usually fare better, as they have considerable bonuses in reasearch and the sakkra on the other hand have limiting factors like the Feudal society to offset the big bonuses that they would have otherwise gained from the larger population.

The biggest problem that I currently can see rising from this population based production system is that species that have high population growth could have a considerable advantage over other species. However like the MOO2 example shows us things like racial picks, governments etc. can be used so that the population growth won`t offer too big of an advantage to anyone.

Did you have something else than this in mind when you said that population is too powerful in 4X games?
Basically in Moo2 I was thinking that I called choose the subterranean pick to get super large worlds, therefore high population, and that would be a better pick then +3 Research for instance.

Also just the idea that increasing population effectively increases research, food and industry. Morale has a similar effect if it is applied to all outputs.
When technologies affect outputs using a multiplier, they only do so to one output type. I guess it is all a balancing issue.

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#8 Post by Krikkitone »

Well population is a generic boost.. and should therefore cost more than a specific boost to research.

Also, increasing Max population takes time to realize the benefit, a bonus to research is an immediate bonus to research.

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#9 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Krikkitone wrote:Also, increasing Max population takes time to realize the benefit, a bonus to research is an immediate bonus to research.
In FreeOrion, both population and research are meters, which take time to grow when their max is larger than their current value.

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#10 Post by yaromir »

Attempting to make the productivity vs. population curve more realistic is a nice idea, but would be benefits be worth the extra complexity?
I would prefer the term intuitive. It's nice when something just makes sense the first time its explained to you.
A possible alternative is to have various effects that kick in when a planet's population is large, reducing its output by reducing meter values somewhat
I like that better: more clear and intuitive. Say once colony grows to 50% max pop it gets a flag "Crowded" (-2% Industrial output, -2% money) which gets progressively worse (Badly Crowded, Severely Crowded...etc)

If there is going to be an event engine, this flag can be tied to some nasty events like demonstrations and rebellions.
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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#11 Post by Krikkitone »

yaromir wrote:
Attempting to make the productivity vs. population curve more realistic is a nice idea, but would be benefits be worth the extra complexity?
I would prefer the term intuitive. It's nice when something just makes sense the first time its explained to you.
A possible alternative is to have various effects that kick in when a planet's population is large, reducing its output by reducing meter values somewhat
I like that better: more clear and intuitive. Say once colony grows to 50% max pop it gets a flag "Crowded" (-2% Industrial output, -2% money) which gets progressively worse (Badly Crowded, Severely Crowded...etc)

If there is going to be an event engine, this flag can be tied to some nasty events like demonstrations and rebellions.
That's a Bad idea.

The reason is that implies you want to limit population on some worlds.
This means you need to have the tools to do so, which is an extra layer of management.

Instead such an effect should be much more automatic.

Currently, the mechanism in place is a max population cap.
Now one could change it so that population could increase without limit, but either increased very Slowly when past "optimum population" or got less efficient.

For example, current pop growth model is

Pop * factors * (Max Pop +1 - Pop)/(Max Pop + 1)

for a ever increasing growth model

[Pop] * factors * (Opt Pop +1 - [Pop])/(Opt Pop + 1)
[Pop] = smaller of Opt Pop and current Pop
Opt Pop renaming of Max Pop

So the planet would continually increase in population, but would do it much slower after Opt Pop

for an efficiency variation

Multiply meters not by Pop, but by the Smaller of (Pop) OR (Pop/2 + Max Pop/4)
This way more pop is always useful (except on some starvation level worlds) but it will be less useful than in other cases.


As a side note, a simpler model for the
OR for an even simpler concept.
Pop Growth=Pop * (Health-20) * Factors

with a Health Penalty of ~ 20 * Population / World Size
ie no Maximum pop, but decreasing Health until
ALL Health Penalties+20= ALL Health Bonuses
This way the decreased "Maximum Population" of bad environments would be Totally due to their Health Penalties.
so "Health" would be a way of adjusting Maximum Population on a world.

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Re: Population in 4X games - always seems too powerful?

#12 Post by utilae »

Geoff the Medio wrote: If resource output isn't based on population, it has to be based on something else. What are the alternatives?
Resource output can be based on the planets natural resources eg Metal x NumFactories = IndustryOutput
Population could also be used in other ways. For example rather than being a multiplier population could be a measure of what buildings are active eg 6 Factories VS 3 Workers gives 3 Output instead of the full 6.
Another idea is to use the planets area, and that can be a limit on the number of buildings that can be built, eg PlanetSize=10, ResearchBuildings=5, FarmBuildings=3, FactoryBuildings=2 Can't build more buildings as there is no more room.
Geoff the Medio wrote: An obvious way to increase colony resource output without depending on population would be to have a bunch of buildings that can be produced on colonies that directly increase their resource output. This probably isn't a good idea for FreeOrion since we're trying to avoid having a bunch of buildings that you build everywhere.
This can be quite simply done. Imagine a planet has he following stats:
Planet
------
Planet Size=10
Population=1
Artifacts=2 //planet factor that increases Research Output
Metals=3 //planet factor that increases Production Output
Crystals=1 //planet factor that increases Economy Output
Biodiversity=5 //planet factor that increases Food Output
Research Output=0
Production Output=0
Economy Output=0
Food Output=0

Let's say when the focus of the planet is set to Research, it spends its resources (pop, credits) on increasing Research Output. This is basically like building research buildings. For 3 turns this might increase Research Output to 3. If the focus is then changed to Food, the next 2 turns might be spent increasing Food Output to 2.

In this method buildings are just increasing planet stats. Population here just increases based on growth rate. Populations main use could be determining if a planet is dead, filling colony ships. Of course population could have a mechanism to determine which stats are active. For instance, maybe the highest stat (Research Output=3) produces 2 Research cause there are only 2 population. It all depends on what you want to do. I think designing 4X games can be fun and challenging in this way, thinking of these different models for how planets, etc work. =)

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