Yes, it happend at least twice large scale: Rome vs. germanic tribes and China vs. mongolic hordes.
Using the Mongol hordes is a good example. Not just their successes, but their defeats. Once the Mongols reigned from the Sea of Japan to Poland. Using the "never should be defeated by a smaller player" idea, we should all be ruled by the Mongols today.
But the Mongol Empire was done in by succession crises, military defeats (by the Egyptian Mamelukes), and eventually, superior technology (guns) which made their type of warfare obsolete.
Big empires have to spend most of their time and energy keeping the empire together, not expanding the empire even further.
Actually, that's different from what I learnt about history. The version I got was that the Mongols, with a leader who combined Mongolian cunning with Chinese philosophy, managed to reunite all of China. Yes, the country's faced a lot of problems since (mostly because of shifts in world paradigm forcing change on a government that was unwilling to budge), but the country has remained almost completely whole for hundreds of years.
Actually, I think there's a good place to start. Historically, larger empires have the greatest problems changing. China was an empire so powerful that the Taiping Rebellion of 1851-1864 makes the world wars look much less dramatic -- and the Chinese government won
'Most accurate sources put the total deaths at about 20 million civilians and army personnel, although some claim the death toll was much higher (as many as 40 or 50 million according to some sources). "Some historians have estimated that the combination of natural disasters combined with the political insurrections may have cost on the order of 200 million Chinese lives between 1850-1865.' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion
I think the key detail about large empires is that it's hard for them to to "upgrade". It wasn't until 1949 that China finally managed to change its government (with Russian help) to a more modern model -- it took more than a hundred years of unrest. If it hadn't been for the USSR's intervention, China probably would have continued to have civil wars for much longer.
The US, in comparison, has yet to implement the metric system because it's too costly. It's obviously simpler and more effective, but from the government's point of view it's not worth it.
So perhaps some of the cost of being a larger empire is that it's harder to make these nation-wide upgrades. For example, you might get "hydrogen fuel cells", but it costs more to implement, and it takes longer for you to see the benefits of the technology.
So I think that the costs of having a large empire should be tied to civil unrest
(particularly in border regions) and upgrade costs
(particularly at the empire capital). From my perspective, this would help to balance "snowballing" and also give nation morale that extra edge that could be further developed by its integration with the espionage/military aspects of the game. And upgrade costs are a good way to add an extra bit of cost (so there isn't too much focus on having to control rebellion after bloody rebellion). It's still possible to be a large empire with a similarly large fleet, but it'll be extremely expensive to keep your empire constantly on top of the technological tree. Yes, you'll have the technology, but the benefits just aren't there yet.
And to make things worse, you'll have people trying to steal technology from you.
I'd suggest against hiding such info from the player. IMO it's better to make the game like chess, with complicated interactions that are nevertheless completely visible, than it is to hide things from the player that are going on under the hood. In this case, that could mean having an accessible list of factions with indications of their loyalties or happinesses and faction agendas, and indications of faction popularity on individual systems or planets or in the empire. If a faction is going to form a rebellion, there should be a strong indication to the player that this is possible and how likely it is and some indication of why it's as likely as it is and what the player can do to change things and make it less likely (or make it more likely for other players).
IMO, that's where the espionage aspects of the game come in. If you want everything to be transparent, you'll have to invest in a spy network that will make it possible.
Not at all. Like Geoff, I just think that the socio political part of the game could use a bit more attention. If you think how complex the tech / ship design/ combat sections of most space 4X's are and then compare them to the diplomacy / internal politics / culture parts it's kind of sad. I can see the latter category being much more involving that it usually is.
I most definitely concur! ^_^
Previously I've never been interested in the spying aspect of the game. I used diplomacy only to limit the number of enemies to a manageable number. Games that increase the necessity of those aspects of the game without making them enjoyable and involving just get on my nerves. I end up getting so frustrated. Especially when the "secret to victory" is taking advantage of the boring, simplistic aspects of the game.
I think one thing we have to remember is that we're competing with the visual satisfaction of watching your ships blow the other ships to bits. It shouldn't be a matter of controlling costs -- it should be a constant tug of war. We need ground
to move on.
oh? Surely a small tightly-contained entity is much more efficient than a hulking behemoth? Organizational principles can be applied to limit the increasing inefficiency, but the only real defense is partitionining the enterprise, be it an icecream shop or interstellar empire, into highly autonomous chunks.
Tell that to McDonalds. From the realism VP, large organisations are able to mass-produce their products -- and when it comes to administrative costs -- a "size 10" organisation pays considerably less than two "size 5" organisations. The main problem comes from "breakaways", which in McDonald's case is controlled by its franchise nature -- it's a lot of small businesses cashing in on the efficiency of a centralised, established system. (A nation-level organisation similar to the franchise might be the European Union.)
I'm sorry, there's a lot of information in this thread and I'm still trying to digest it all. I'll have to come back later so I can work out what I like/dislike about solidcordon's model.
*brain has melted*