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Stellaris Dev Diary #152 - Summer Experimentation

Hello everyone!

Summer vacations are reaching their end and most of the team is back as of last week. Work has started again and we're really excited for what we have in store for the rest of the year.

While most of us have been away during most of the summer, we’ve also had some people who worked during July. July is a very good time to try out different designs and concepts that we might not otherwise have time to do, and today we thought it might be fun for you to see some of the experiments we ran during that period of hiatus.

Although we learned some useful insights, these experiments didn’t end up being good enough to make a reality.

Industrial Districts
As I have mentioned earlier, I have wanted to find a better solution for how we handle the production of alloys and consumer goods. I often felt like the experience of developing a planet felt better with an Ecumenopolis rather than with a regular planet. I think a lot of it had to do with their unique districts and that it feels better to get the jobs from constructing districts rather than buildings. Not necessarily as an emotion reaction to the choice, but rather that the choice perhaps feels more “pure” or simple.

An experiment I wanted to run was to see if it was possible to add an industrial district that provided Laborer jobs, instead of having buildings for Metallurgists and Artisans. Laborers would produce both alloys and consumer goods but could be shifted towards producing more of either.

This meant we added a 5th district, the Industrial District. By adding another district we also needed to reduce the number of building slots available. Since there would be no more need for buildings that produced alloys and consumer goods, this should still end up being similar.

upload_2019-8-15_12-14-17.png

A Laborer would consume 8 minerals to produce 2 alloys and 4 consumer goods, and that amount could be modified in either direction by passing a Decision. What I wanted was to have an industry that could have a military and civilian output, and where you could adjust the values between these outputs.

Having a laborer job that generates an “industrial output”, which could be translated into either alloys or consumer goods did feel good, but the specific solution we used didn’t feel quite right.

City Districts & Building slots
Another experiment was to see how it felt if city districts unlock building slots instead of pops. This experiment didn’t have a specific problem or issue it was trying to address but rather it was to investigate how that would feel and work. It was interesting but ultimately it felt less fun than the current implementation. It would have needed more time to see if it could be made to work.
upload_2019-8-15_12-15-12.png

This experiment did include increasing the number of jobs you would get for the building, so a research lab would provide 3 jobs instead of 2.

City District Jobs from Buildings
At the same time, we also tried a version where buildings applied jobs to city districts instead of providing jobs by themselves. One upside would be that you’d need less micromanagement to get the jobs, but the downside is that it would also be quite a large upswing in new jobs whenever you built a city district. In the end, it felt like you had less control and understanding of what a planet was specializing in.

Summary
Although these experiments were interesting, they didn’t end up quite where we wanted to, so they never became more than just experiments. We did learn some interesting things though, which we will keep in mind for the future. The industrial districts are still something I want to keep looking into, but we have to find a better solution.

Dev diaries will now be back on a regular schedule, but we will be looking into changing the format a bit this time around. For now, dev diaries will be coming bi-weekly, which means we will be back again in another 2 weeks with a similar topic.
 
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Spaceception

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I find the current system of buildings vs districts to be a little arbitrary and pointless. I really don't see what having both systems adds other than clutter.

How about making it so buildings are built inside districts. So building a new district adds not just a building slot (or more than one) but a *specific type* of building slot, so some buildings can only be built in certain districts. Perhaps the districts would add no, or not very many, jobs of their own.

Or something totally different, but something that makes districts and buildings feel more coherent, joined up, like one well designed system, would be good.
I remember seeing this a little while ago, but I just remembered it. I think this deserves a post in suggestions. Linking buildings and districts closer like this is something I thought about for something similar, so I like the concept.

I can see regular districts providing housing, and little jobs, and city districts provide more housing, and some jobs. Regular districts would get moderate housing buildings, and City districts could get better ones.

A bit of what I was thinking about:
  • Capital districts (for all planets) would have the capital building, unity buildings, precinct buildings, etc
  • General districts would let you build fortresses, trade hubs, gene clinics, etc, these could stay "general" or eventually be specialized (like if you only/mostly build trade hubs, it becomes a trade district)
  • City districts would have extra housing, and let you build labs, holo theaters, etc
The 3 above could have better housing than the 4 below
  • Generator districts would let you build power plants, and energy grinds.
  • Industrial districts would let you build alloy foundries, and civilian industries (and maintenance drone jobs for MEs?)
  • Excavation districts would let you build mines and strategic resource buildings (maybe just both types? The industrial districts already have a lot)
  • Agriculture districts would let you build farms

For some of these, because you can build multiple different types of buildings, and said buildings can be built repeatedly, a district should become specialized with a bonus if you don't keep it mixed. Since you have the 15 and 25% buildings for the base resources, maybe those could be exempted?

Depending on how it was done, this could make planning out your planet/overall economic development more important, because you would have to rip out a lot of earlier development to replace something.
 
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Karlington

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I use that term all the time. My parents hate it.

Also, that's spelled "Fortnite". The way you and I spelled it is different; they will notice this, I hope.
So players who play Fortnite should do so every fortnite?

Those who play Fortnite should do so every fortnight; only the game is spelled with -nite. :)
 

The_Draco

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Well, some merging of Ideas:

If you want to do away with the buildings altogether, I wouldn't miss them. Specialized districts would make more sense and not feel so disjointed. I'd like to see more district options like entertainment, ecological, military, or prison types. There's all sorts of things you can do to customize your worlds this way.
I remember seeing this a little while ago, but I just remembered it. I think this deserves a post in suggestions. Linking buildings and districts closer like this is something I thought about for something similar, so I like the concept.

I can see regular districts providing housing, and little jobs, and city districts provide more housing, and some jobs. Regular districts would get moderate housing buildings, and City districts could get better ones.

A bit of what I was thinking about:
  • Capital districts (for all planets) would have the capital building, unity buildings, precinct buildings, etc
  • General districts (districts) would let you build fortresses, trade hubs, gene clinics, etc, these could stay "general" or eventually be specialized (like if you only/mostly build trade hubs, it becomes a trade district)
  • City districts would have extra housing, and let you build labs, holo theaters, etc
The 3 above could have better housing than the 4 below
  • Generator districts would let you build power plants, and energy grinds.
  • Industrial districts would let you build alloy foundries, and civilian industries (and maintenance drone jobs for MEs?)
  • Excavation districts would let you build mines and strategic resource buildings (maybe just both types? The industrial districts already have a lot)
  • Agriculture districts would let you build farms

For some of these, because you can build multiple different types of buildings, and said buildings can be built repeatedly, a district should become specialized with a bonus if you don't keep it mixed. Since you have the 15 and 25% buildings for the base resources, maybe those could be exempted?

Depending on how it was done, this could make planning out your planet/overall economic development more important, because you would have to rip out a lot of earlier development to replace something.

theese both Ideas bring me to the thought of using districts like planets already are, you can build districts by using ressources and influence (like you need to build colonies) and you can upgrade theese districts depending on planets population to give them more buildingslots. Sayed buildingslots can be used for district secialised buildings wich can also be upgraded etc and so on...

well maybe it sounds a bit complicated so i will describe an example:
you colonise a planet, as first you create a colony district (the first rank of capital district without any upgrades, you can have only one capital sistrict) inside this colony district is the first buildingslot saved for the shipshelter (later capital building and so on, like we already have, sich renames and upgrades the capital district from colony to capital, system capital, sector capital or even empire capital) the next building slot will be unlocked by reaching a vew pops, like 5 or 10 for example, there you can build every planet-, system-, sector- or empire- unique building (depending on what upgrade you give your capital building: just planetary-capital, system-capital (only one per solar system if there is no sector- or empire-capital* ), sector-capital (only one per sector if there is no empire-capital** ) or empire-capital (only one per empire, upgradable via disicion*** )****
each capital rank gives bonus, modifiers on housing, amineties, production etc (the lower the rank, the higher the production-, popgrowth- and research-(also archeology?) bonus, the higher the rank the higher the housing-, amineties-, tradevalue- and influence-(diplomacy?) bonus. This could make the choice of what planet gets system- and what system gets sector-capital interesting if influence, diplomacy and production also depending on how value (so maybe splitting tradevalue from energy credits and make it a "planet-efficency bonus" for everything the planet is spezialised on, including energy production if production is the specialisation of the capital district and ec is the product the planet is working for?) theese capitals are, so the closer theese capitals are to rich traderoutes and outposts/starbases, the better for influence and diplomacy, the closer the other, lower ranked capitals are to outposts/starbases and rich traderoutes, the better for migration, production and research.
Other buildings in the capital district turn the planet in different directions (not in movement but in what the planet is used for) like a more city planet (to turn it in ecumenopolie later), more military, espionage, diplomacy, tourism, trading and so on.... or even production.

*upgrading this downgrades other in the system to planetary capitals and destroy all system unique buildings on the dowmgraded planet
**like system capital its upgrade downgrades other sector capitals to system capitals and destroys sector unique buildings
***upgrading this logically downgrades the other empire capital into a sector capital, destroys all empire unique buildings and also renames the sectors
****the higher rank also contains the lower ones that you don't need a sector capital in the sector with empire capital, a system capital in systems wih sector or empire capitals and thats it


The next district would be the city district, wich contains housing, its buldingslots also unlock with population and count of built districts, you can build there housing, amineties, clinics, enforcer buildings and stuff wich your people need to live and be happy and safe at home and on theyr jobs, so you also can build strongholds there to turn the city- into a millitary- district or clone-/robot- producing buildings to turn the city into a clone-/robo- farm (also a slave farm if you build slave buildings there) these choises turn the planets direction further specialised into normal worlds (rural and urban, depanding on how many city districts, how many and what other districts are built and how they are specialised), millitary worlds (stronghold worlds?), clone worlds, robot worlds, slave worlds, shopping worlds (if you build trade buildings on mass) and so on.
Like it already is, the count of city districts is limited by the planet size while the capital district needs just a theoretical size of "1", wich means if you have a size of 24, you have one capital district, no mater what, and you can have 23 city districts.

Other districts are ressource- and industrial- districts, wich counts depending also on planet size and both also have buildingslots, depending on population and built districts.
The buildings a ressource-district can have are farms, mines, generators and more spezialised buildings of theese kinds wich can spezialise the district to farming-, mining- or generator- districts, or even mixed ones, and give bonus on theese ressource-productions, also spezialising the rural worlds like it already is.
Same with industrial, buildings for alloy- or consumer goods- production or even research can be built there, also spezialising the district (and planet) with bonus and so on.
Difference between

At last, each district bring a count of "job-slots" wich will be spezialised into specific jobs by the buildings built inside the districts, for example:
a ressource district brings 16 job-slots, you build a generator inside, the ressource district turns into a generator district and one job become technician, if you build two mines, it turns into a mining district and two jobs become miner, so you have two miners and one technican. So on you can build 16 buildings and use all 16 jobs, if you build another district, you get 16 job-slots more wich immidiate are filled with the same jobs like the first 16, mean the buildings not using a single job, but a percentage of job-slots, exapt some spezialised buildings wich really contain single jobs. (some capital- and some city- buildings can modify the job-slots by changing the ammount a district can bring for its buildings or even add some free usable job slots for that buildings that contain single jobs)
In other words, the Districts contains the space for specific kinds of buildings and jobs, the need of buildings (unlock of slots) depends on population and buildungs use the percentage of job-space (job-slots) of the district(s) for theyr jobs.
Also buildings spezialise the districts, districts spezialise the planets and, if the planet is system capital, it spezialises the system. Sectors still spezialised on the existing sector menagement system.

...

well i still spinning around with that idea, but i think for the moment it is enough xDDD
what do you tink about this?
 

FlyingPhoenix

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What if ships also cost Energy upfront (to kill the Alloys-is-king)? It'll also add it as a transactional currency.
That is still frustrating, because there are more things to spend resources on. That's just making the spending economy more convoluted. My preference is closer to @methegrate 's idea
This is why I was suggesting CG be made the primary unit of trade. If you want to get wealthy and be a merchant empire, you should primarily be dealing in CG. Empire infrastructure is capped after a point, yes, but trade is not.
I chucked an agree on this point. I wrote at length how the resources should be real in the Megacorp economy back before release.

I'm of the opinion that the market should have resource capacity. One of the interesting things about markets is that someone is selling, someone else is buying, so if you gave the galactic market 100,000 resources, and then all of them got bought, that's it. The different empires then have to start investing in production. And also buying someone else's production makes them richer and you poorer. Maybe declaring war on your supplier of alloys isn't such a fantastic idea, after all.
Right? Personally, I've always thought that Stellaris could do well with three paths to power:

Military - You invade, fight, conquer.
Economic - You trade, purchase and undermine.
Political - You build treaties, alliances and federations.

As you say, I'd love to see a trade system that produces things. One that lets you integrate your economy into other empires', or undermine their economies. One that gives you an advantage on the market beyond just "having money," and which lets you purchase the things you need instead of just being another way of building them.

My image of fighting an economic power would be one where they hire mercenaries to strike back, corner the market on alloys and leverage trade to crash your economy. Three years into the war you can barely afford to keep your population fed, no less your fleet in action. Then they offer a peace treaty that would give you all the money you need to fix things in exchange for three border systems.

Of course, the less integrated someone's economy is into the galactic whole, the weaker they'd be. An all-economic empire would have a hard time against a fanatic purifier. But that's a feature, not a bug. Economic empires would do well against political empires, which would have the allies to do well against militaristic empires, which would have the independence to do well against economic empires.

Edit - I think the critical thing is that, to use the phrase again, a "path to power" needs to have both an internal and an external set of choices. For example, military power is about what ships you build (internal) and how you use them (external).

An economic and diplomatic path would need the same thing. It would need choices about how you develop your economy and how you interact with other empires' economies, and how you develop your nation politically and how you conduct diplomacy with other empires.

But each is a way of directly interacting with another empire. If you can cripple someone's economy, you can win a war and take systems without ever firing a shot. The same with growing alliances and federations. They would be legitimate alternatives to the treadmill of "get alloys, build ships."
I've had a microsoft word document open in my computer all month which builds on very similar ideas. That's what I'd Stellaris to be. If you look at the colonial era in history, there are definitely different "paths to power", or domains that the imperial powers compete in, and that is even ongoing today (e.g. most of the world has an infrastructure deficit, so some nations are building soft power by investing in infrastructure, etc.)

Take New Zealand as an example - if you read the history, you see people coming in and teaching their language and culture to Maori, the indigenous people, and then making the argument that they should be associated with one empire or another. From memory, the French, Russians, Americans and British were all making these soft power overtures towards Maori before the British got de facto control of the territory, and it's not until 20 years after the treaty is signed that the British deploy troops to conquer those who are "rebelling" against rule. While I don't want to get into the whole dispute about the history of colonial New Zealand history here, I think it is worth observing that these things aren't binary, that there are more domains to compete in than just military, such as economic and political domains.
This leads into:
Can we do something about controlling systems with outposts? Having to build an outpost in every system you control has never made any sense nor has the whole blow-it-up-but-not-really system takeover mechanic. We can establish official borders/owned systems with claims. If other empires also claim the same systems, they could become disputed. Perhaps we could use an influence mechanic to determine who controls the system (or first come, first serve). You can sign a border treaty with your neighbor to settle things. This would allow for things like neutral or buffer zones and demilitarized regions. Outposts and starbases could be used to strengthen influence with diplomatic or communication modules.

We really should rethink ship operating ranges. Without the need to refuel, they can travel anywhere for any amount of time. That's completely unrealistic. Starbases should be part of a logistical system that extends the effective operating range of ships. This would make wormholes and gates far more valuable than they are now. It could also limit the nearly constant empire sprawl. No galaxy is entirely claimed and controlled.
I would really like to see outpost control being non-binary too, as well as having a fuel system for starbases and ships. I'd love to see disputed territory, so maybe you have de jure control, but another empire has a strong political influence on a colony because pops loyal to their polity live there.


Have you given Distant Worlds: Universe a try, @TonganJedi ?
 

Paul93

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I live in Metro Detroit. I can tell you that we did EXACTLY THAT in World War 2. Our factories stopped producing cars overnight and switched to producing tanks and airplanes. Literally in a matters of days. And we produced enough tanks and planes to blanket Europe. When Hearts of Iron came out and the IP of Michigan wasn't high enough (I was in the beta) I lost it and got it changed, since we're the place Roosevelt was talking about when he was talking about the Arsenal of Democracy.

Sorry for the late reply.

For sure a part of the industrial production can be converted fairly rapidly (and that in represented by policies as noted by ccabal86), but to fully mobilize a complex economy takes time and requires sacrifices to other sectors that stellaris, with its "stockpiled economics", does not represents. There is also the efficiency issue: maybe the conversion can happen overnight, but to reach the full productive capacity longer times are needed. Finally from a purely gameplay perspective, I think that allowing for a single-click, smooth transition from a largerly civilian to a largerly militarized economy dumbs down the game.

About the historical precedent, it should be noted that some preparations were already carried on in the previous years. UK implemeted the Shadow Sheme from late 1935 onward to prepare for a possible war, and USSR factories were at least partially built with the dual military-civilian purpose in mind. I am not an historian and therefore I don't know much about the topic, but I would be very surprised if US didn't do anything beforehand to prepare themselves for the conflict.
 
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Dragatus

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A Laborer would consume 8 minerals to produce 2 alloys and 4 consumer goods, and that amount could be modified in either direction by passing a Decision. What I wanted was to have an industry that could have a military and civilian output, and where you could adjust the values between these outputs.

Having a laborer job that generates an “industrial output”, which could be translated into either alloys or consumer goods did feel good, but the specific solution we used didn’t feel quite right.

Could you elaborate a bit on why you decided against actually implementing this?
 

Kayden_II

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I find the current system of buildings vs districts to be a little arbitrary and pointless. I really don't see what having both systems adds other than clutter.

How about making it so buildings are built inside districts. So building a new district adds not just a building slot (or more than one) but a *specific type* of building slot, so some buildings can only be built in certain districts. Perhaps the districts would add no, or not very many, jobs of their own.

Or something totally different, but something that makes districts and buildings feel more coherent, joined up, like one well designed system, would be good.

My only problem with that is, that this suggestion makes either districts or buildings pretty "redundant": ( Rather districts than buildings ): You build districts to build the buildings, which actually produce the stuff you actually want / need: It's a similar situation like the (current) minerals-alloys-"problem": If one of them would get "axed" (and the other one would take over its "tasks") then you wouldn't really miss it. But to be fair, I like the direction of this suggestion.
 

methegrate

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My only problem with that is, that this suggestion makes either districts or buildings pretty "redundant": ( Rather districts than buildings ): You build districts to build the buildings, which actually produce the stuff you actually want / need: It's a similar situation like the (current) minerals-alloys-"problem": If one of them would get "axed" (and the other one would take over its "tasks") then you wouldn't really miss it. But to be fair, I like the direction of this suggestion.

Tbh, I actually really like the current district/building setup. We have raw resources that planets can "naturally" produce, from farms and mines and solar arrays. Then we have advanced and processed materials that colonies can create as you build the infrastructure. Works on both a functional and thematic level for me. (I might even double down by creating a couple tiers of buildings, with prerequisites per level. It might create a cool distinction among your built up and your truly advanced worlds.)

And gating buildings behind pop growth prevents players from just spamming buildings in functionally unlimited numbers. Given how every resource except alloys is superabundant, that wouldn't take long. Restricting buildings to something that the player can't directly control helps prevent that.

I still think that the problem here is more what you do with districts and buildings more than anything else. Districts feel superfluous mostly because what you make with them feels so unnecessary. Every district and building, and the resources they produce, are all just about putting up foundries. And you get so damn many of those resources that they don't have any value. Who cares about those mines when your surplus (not income, surplus) is literally 300 minerals per turn?

So it feels like the game might as well just let you build those foundries directly.

That's the fix I would start with. Give other resources value beside just feeding the foundries and the districts/buildings that produce them will feel more useful again.
 
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PirateJack

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Well, to be fair, minerals are used to build the buildings and mining/research stations. Energy is used as money to buy other resources and as upkeep for your ships. Food is... yeah, food could do with something else.

As well as that, if we add too much complexity this game would stop being Stellaris and start being Victoria 2 In Space, which is an interesting premise but I don't think the game would do well off the back of it. This is meant to be an easier game to get into than any of the other grand strategy titles and I reckon Stellaris would lose something if it became just another PDX title with a different skin.

I think the major problem we're looking at here isn't that the economy lacks depth, so much as it's the only thing keeping the game interesting during peace time so it gets a lot more focus than it otherwise would. Think of EU4: the economy plays a pretty important role but unless you're playing a Merchant Republic you're not going to treat it as the primary focus. The economy is there to serve the other aspects of the game, including politics and diplomacy. What we need is an overhaul of diplomacy and internal politics so that we're not spending all of our peace time focus on whether we've got the right number of buildings on each planet or what district to build next.
 

methegrate

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Well, to be fair, minerals are used to build the buildings and mining/research stations. Energy is used as money to buy other resources and as upkeep for your ships. Food is... yeah, food could do with something else.

As well as that, if we add too much complexity this game would stop being Stellaris and start being Victoria 2 In Space, which is an interesting premise but I don't think the game would do well off the back of it. This is meant to be an easier game to get into than any of the other grand strategy titles and I reckon Stellaris would lose something if it became just another PDX title with a different skin.

I think the major problem we're looking at here isn't that the economy lacks depth, so much as it's the only thing keeping the game interesting during peace time so it gets a lot more focus than it otherwise would. Think of EU4: the economy plays a pretty important role but unless you're playing a Merchant Republic you're not going to treat it as the primary focus. The economy is there to serve the other aspects of the game, including politics and diplomacy. What we need is an overhaul of diplomacy and internal politics so that we're not spending all of our peace time focus on whether we've got the right number of buildings on each planet or what district to build next.

That's fair. I think my concern is that those systems don't work the way they're intended.

Minerals are the civilian construction resource, but peacetime construction is more or less finished by the start of the midgame. In the early game it's a big deal, definitely, but it doesn't take long before you've built every station and mostly filled out your planets. After that you're just building the occasional building or district. You spend so little relative to your income that it's functionally valueless. In practice, I'm not sure I see a difference between "costs less than you make per turn" and "is free."

This is the same problem I have with strategic resources. They're supposed to gate advanced weapons (great idea), but in practice the component costs are so trivial relative to a midgame income that they might as well be free. Strategic resources are supposed to drive conflict and create asymmetry through rarity, but in practice I end up just selling off most of mine.

And energy is definitely the resource you use to buy other resources, which has cool potential. But in practice it only means two things: You buy alloys, or you buy the resources you'll use to make alloys. If the market opened up new choices then I'd be all in. As is, though, it's just another way of doing the same thing.

Otherwise, these resources just pay maintenance costs. And maintenance isn't interesting. It's just a solvable optimization problem that involves no player agency. If you have negative income of resource X, produce more. If you have a positive income, produce less because there's no value to having more than you need.

This is why I argue that the economy lacks depth. I would agree with you completely if my midgame (which is the bulk of playtime) involved real choices of how best to use resources. If I was sitting there thinking "should I build another foundry or dedicate these minerals to infrastructure in the Antares sector," that would be depth. But it never works out that way. There is no choice. The answer is always "spend the minerals on alloys" and "spend the energy on alloys."

By midgame, with the rare exception of a new building, the purpose of literally every other resource in your economy is to pay the maintenance costs for a supply chain that produces alloys. Not just because this is the best strategic option (it is) but because literally the only thing to do in the midgame is build ships and move them around the map.
 
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methegrate

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I know I keep harping on it, but I really do think one of the biggest broken things with the economy is the sheer size of it.

One of the reasons the early game is so much more fun and exciting than the mid-game is that your decisions actually matter. You never have enough of any resource, so your choices have serious consequences. Building a generator instead of a farm might lead to starvation. Building a research platform can legitimately mean not building an extra corvette.

You need everything and don't have enough of anything. That makes your choices important and fun.

But nothing replaces that in the middle game. Platforms, districts and buildings drive economic conflict in the early game, but once your economy scales up their prices and maintenance costs become trivial. From that point until you start building megastructures, nothing takes their place. Your income dwarfs any potential needs.

You can buy anything and have everything. As a result, your choices don't matter any more because you aren't making choices. You're just clicking "all of the above."

It's why the middle game is all-alloys, all-the time, because that's the only resource you can plausibly run out of.
 
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Longherin

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I know I keep harping on it, but I really do think one of the biggest broken things with the economy is the sheer size of it.

One of the reasons the early game is so much more fun and exciting than the mid-game is that your decisions actually matter. You never have enough of any resource, so your choices have serious consequences. Building a generator instead of a farm might lead to starvation. Building a research platform can legitimately mean not building an extra corvette.

You need everything and don't have enough of anything. That makes your choices important and fun.

But nothing replaces that in the middle game. Platforms, districts and buildings drive economic conflict in the early game, but once your economy scales up their prices and maintenance costs become trivial. From that point until you start building megastructures, nothing takes their place. Your income dwarfs any potential needs.

You can buy anything and have everything. As a result, your choices don't matter any more because you aren't making choices. You're just clicking "all of the above."

It's why the middle game is all-alloys, all-the time, because that's the only resource you can plausibly run out of.

I would say that this is less an argument about the simplicity of the economic system and more one about the lack of relevant threats. (Still extremely true tho'.)
Early game = not enough time to snowball, not enough opportunities to snowball, must balance resources to deal with threats until said threats stop being threats.
Mid game (or "the time where AI opponents stop mattering") = the economy can just be about getting everything because there is no outstanding problem that requires a specialized economy to solve, or, rather, "I don't have to drain everything to get alloys because I have no reason to get a lot of alloys really really fast".

If, by the midgame, two players of equal economic size are at war with each other, then the earlygame "I need to balance my resources so I don't die" would still be relevant, just in another form.

...Though I am curious. As someone without multiplayer experience, does the economy feel the same way when you play a game with a lot of combat? Or is it more of a "the competition ends before mid/late game begins" kind of thing?
 

methegrate

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I would say that this is less an argument about the simplicity of the economic system and more one about the lack of relevant threats. (Still extremely true tho'.)
Early game = not enough time to snowball, not enough opportunities to snowball, must balance resources to deal with threats until said threats stop being threats.
Mid game (or "the time where AI opponents stop mattering") = the economy can just be about getting everything because there is no outstanding problem that requires a specialized economy to solve, or, rather, "I don't have to drain everything to get alloys because I have no reason to get a lot of alloys really really fast".

If, by the midgame, two players of equal economic size are at war with each other, then the earlygame "I need to balance my resources so I don't die" would still be relevant, just in another form.

...Though I am curious. As someone without multiplayer experience, does the economy feel the same way when you play a game with a lot of combat? Or is it more of a "the competition ends before mid/late game begins" kind of thing?

At least, to me, it seems less about opponents than choices. (Admittedly I can't answer the MP question, since I only play SP.)

I don't think the early game is about balancing resources. It's about making do with scarcity. You literally don't have enough minerals to build everything you need, so you have to choose what you need the most. The same with every other resource. You actively have to make choices and set priorities.

By mid-game you do have enough resources to build and buy everything you need, so there's no choice to make. You don't need to prioritize anything because you can have it all.

My experience, at least, is that this has nothing to do with external threats. By midgame I always specialize my economy entirely towards alloys regardless of war/peace because every other cost is so trivial to my income that it doesn't matter. What do I care about a building that costs 400 minerals when I make 350 minerals in a single turn? There's no reason not to specialize towards alloys, because I can do so and still produce more than enough of everything else to keep my maintenance costs optimized.

And I do just optimize those maintenance costs because, aside from infrequent and trivial construction costs, there's literally nothing else to do with other resources. Like, if you have 5k energy, 5k food and 5k CG's, what do you actually do with them? The only thing I can think of is "sell the food and CG's, then spend all the energy on alloys and build ships." Even in the absence of a conflict, there aren't any other choices to make or problems to solve.
 

Dr Doc

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This pretty much describes my economy in every game since 2.2. Early game is a struggle for all resources then mid-late game it's all about Alloys. Would a budget type economy work better instead of the current one? I think it was Star Ruler 2 that had something like that. You had a income budget to spend each "turn" and any excess got converted to another resource.

As an aside I really hope something is done with "Strategic/Rare" Resources. The way they currently work is just frustrating. They get consumed in large quantities but natural sources come nowhere near close enough to meet demand. You end up having to make most of them synthetically which seems really backwards from a design standpoint. Shouldn't the synthetic sources be what you use in a pinch not what you rely on for the bulk of production? Just adding insult to injury is how those refineries are just a building "tax" on advanced resource production. It just doesn't feel good. Either increase supply or reduce how much they get consumed. Personally I liked how Endless Space did their strategic/rare resources. You just needed access to a certain amount of them; they didn't get consumed (as far as I remember).
 

Voloss

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This pretty much describes my economy in every game since 2.2. Early game is a struggle for all resources then mid-late game it's all about Alloys. Would a budget type economy work better instead of the current one? I think it was Star Ruler 2 that had something like that. You had a income budget to spend each "turn" and any excess got converted to another resource.

As an aside I really hope something is done with "Strategic/Rare" Resources. The way they currently work is just frustrating. They get consumed in large quantities but natural sources come nowhere near close enough to meet demand. You end up having to make most of them synthetically which seems really backwards from a design standpoint. Shouldn't the synthetic sources be what you use in a pinch not what you rely on for the bulk of production? Just adding insult to injury is how those refineries are just a building "tax" on advanced resource production. It just doesn't feel good. Either increase supply or reduce how much they get consumed. Personally I liked how Endless Space did their strategic/rare resources. You just needed access to a certain amount of them; they didn't get consumed (as far as I remember).
Hello, sorry for my english, here are my opinion on what could be done with buildings:

About the Industrial district idea: There is typically three types of buildings that I spam on planets (1 type per planet): Civilian industries, Alloy fundries AND Research facilities. If the two formers get a district of their own, what about adding a research district as well? Or keeping the district system as it is, so base ressources are produced a litttle on every planet (and provide housing), and advanced ones require that extra step from the player + unlocking building slots, this is not a bad system at the moment.

The main problem with it being that the AI cannot restrain itself from upgrading every building and so will tank it's economy regarding rare ressources unless one plays with grand admiral difficulty. One way to deal with that'd be for the AI to wait for having unemployment before upgrading these buildings.

About the rare ressources buildings: Some planets (including FE planets) have rare particularities that gives them the option to build a limited number of different rare ressources collectors. Those building output's should be MUCH more meaningful in my opinion (instead of being exactly the same as regular ones', just saving a few minerals). Given the fact that rare ressources can be made in buildings on any planet, to be interesting the building unlocked by having a deposit should at least have twice their base output (I'd advocate for even more so they get truly strategically important). The deposits of rare ressources are a mechanic with much potential that is totally not used at the moment.

As it stands now the Xenozoo (with its 3 jobs) also seems worse than having another fully upgraded building on its slot, whereas it requires having a rare particularity on the planet to be built (or am I missing something? The happiness bonus it used to give is not mentionned in it's description anymore...). The Betharian building is not bad at the moment, but could be made more powerful also. I feel that rare planet particularities were much more meaningful in the old days with the tiles system, and to me every mechanic that differenciate planets and make them feel more unique and less interchangeable is a good thing!

Also I find the Anti-crime building output quite disproportionate (and to a lesser extent the amenities (services) output of holotheaters, but more because there is plenty of other ways to get services on a planet that cumulate)... It is either I don't need to build one on my worlds, or if I need to build one it will give such a reduction of criminality that I can never upgrade it, have an agreement with the Crime lords, a corrupt governor, a 100+ population, and still have more crime reduction than I'll ever need. I have not understood yet why the AI has ever built THREE of them on some of it's worlds...
That's fair. I think my concern is that those systems don't work the way they're intended.

Minerals are the civilian construction resource, but peacetime construction is more or less finished by the start of the midgame. In the early game it's a big deal, definitely, but it doesn't take long before you've built every station and mostly filled out your planets. After that you're just building the occasional building or district. You spend so little relative to your income that it's functionally valueless. In practice, I'm not sure I see a difference between "costs less than you make per turn" and "is free."

This is the same problem I have with strategic resources. They're supposed to gate advanced weapons (great idea), but in practice the component costs are so trivial relative to a midgame income that they might as well be free. Strategic resources are supposed to drive conflict and create asymmetry through rarity, but in practice I end up just selling off most of mine.

And energy is definitely the resource you use to buy other resources, which has cool potential. But in practice it only means two things: You buy alloys, or you buy the resources you'll use to make alloys. If the market opened up new choices then I'd be all in. As is, though, it's just another way of doing the same thing.

Otherwise, these resources just pay maintenance costs. And maintenance isn't interesting. It's just a solvable optimization problem that involves no player agency. If you have negative income of resource X, produce more. If you have a positive income, produce less because there's no value to having more than you need.

This is why I argue that the economy lacks depth. I would agree with you completely if my midgame (which is the bulk of playtime) involved real choices of how best to use resources. If I was sitting there thinking "should I build another foundry or dedicate these minerals to infrastructure in the Antares sector," that would be depth. But it never works out that way. There is no choice. The answer is always "spend the minerals on alloys" and "spend the energy on alloys."

By midgame, with the rare exception of a new building, the purpose of literally every other resource in your economy is to pay the maintenance costs for a supply chain that produces alloys. Not just because this is the best strategic option (it is) but because literally the only thing to do in the midgame is build ships and move them around the map.
So yes, I think there is a shared feeling about rare ressources:
  • Strategic resources are supposed to drive conflict and create asymmetry through rarity.
  • They're supposed to gate advanced weapons (great idea), but in practice the component costs are so trivial relative to a midgame income that they might as well be free.
  • Some planets (including FE planets) have rare particularities that gives them the option to build a limited number of different rare ressources collectors. Those building output's should be MUCH more meaningful in my opinion (instead of being exactly the same as regular ones', just saving a few minerals).
So:
  1. Having a deposit on a planet should make it produce much more than one's regular synthetic refineries. Important rare ressources production hubs should be rare and asymetric to have a true strategic importance.
  2. The cost in rare ressources of advanced weapons should weight more compared to uninteresting regular building's upkeep. Do I have it right?
 

Coconut_Cookie

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This pretty much describes my economy in every game since 2.2. Early game is a struggle for all resources then mid-late game it's all about Alloys. Would a budget type economy work better instead of the current one? I think it was Star Ruler 2 that had something like that. You had a income budget to spend each "turn" and any excess got converted to another resource.

As an aside I really hope something is done with "Strategic/Rare" Resources. The way they currently work is just frustrating. They get consumed in large quantities but natural sources come nowhere near close enough to meet demand. You end up having to make most of them synthetically which seems really backwards from a design standpoint. Shouldn't the synthetic sources be what you use in a pinch not what you rely on for the bulk of production? Just adding insult to injury is how those refineries are just a building "tax" on advanced resource production. It just doesn't feel good. Either increase supply or reduce how much they get consumed. Personally I liked how Endless Space did their strategic/rare resources. You just needed access to a certain amount of them; they didn't get consumed (as far as I remember).

Nah there only need to be ways that you can spend every other resource so you can always potentially run out of them. If that is the case than opportunity cost becomes much more important and weight will be added to economic decisions. And for strategic resources I think that it would be better if there would be a couple more of them and make them more concentrated on the map. If we ever get a decent trading system it would be a reason to trade.

Well, to be fair, minerals are used to build the buildings and mining/research stations. Energy is used as money to buy other resources and as upkeep for your ships. Food is... yeah, food could do with something else.

As well as that, if we add too much complexity this game would stop being Stellaris and start being Victoria 2 In Space, which is an interesting premise but I don't think the game would do well off the back of it. This is meant to be an easier game to get into than any of the other grand strategy titles and I reckon Stellaris would lose something if it became just another PDX title with a different skin.

I think the major problem we're looking at here isn't that the economy lacks depth, so much as it's the only thing keeping the game interesting during peace time so it gets a lot more focus than it otherwise would. Think of EU4: the economy plays a pretty important role but unless you're playing a Merchant Republic you're not going to treat it as the primary focus. The economy is there to serve the other aspects of the game, including politics and diplomacy. What we need is an overhaul of diplomacy and internal politics so that we're not spending all of our peace time focus on whether we've got the right number of buildings on each planet or what district to build next.

Let's be honest Vicky II is really easy, it's only a facade of complexity that scares people off. If you really want to you barely have to pay attention to your economy. The only thing that is important is to know when to industrialize and what factories are more profitable then others. On top of that, if you are a bigger nation you need to make sure you subsidize your arms factories because they will not do well in peace time. How the economy is portrayed in Stellaris at this moment cost far more effort and micro to keep everything going then in Victoria II. It mostly comes down to menu's and how the information is presented. In Vicky II Only in the end game it can be difficult to manage everything but at that time the world produces so much of everything that you can adopt laissez faire and your economy will manage itself. A good economic system should be the basis for everything, it's the undercurrent that moves in slower business cycles. Then the universe could feel more alive if most actions would resonate in the economy and vice versa. Every aspect of your empire could be linked to a pop job instead of admin points out of nowhere it could be a generatedby a bureaucrat job for example.
 

Monturiol

Major
Jun 5, 2019
549
108
One of the reasons the early game is so much more fun and exciting than the mid-game is that your decisions actually matter. You never have enough of any resource, so your choices have serious consequences. Building a generator instead of a farm might lead to starvation. Building a research platform can legitimately mean not building an extra corvette.

You need everything and don't have enough of anything. That makes your choices important and fun.

But nothing replaces that in the middle game. Platforms, districts and buildings drive economic conflict in the early game, but once your economy scales up their prices and maintenance costs become trivial. From that point until you start building megastructures, nothing takes their place. Your income dwarfs any potential needs.
I remember having the discussion before, with you, about how the phase-shift in the economy is actually a good thing because why am I even playing Far Future Space Civ if I'm not going to become Fully Automated Earl Grey Hot Replicators Luxury Communism With Infinite Resources? The contrast between "desperately grubbing for +2 energy/month and crashing your economy if you can't get it" earlygame vs. "Lol just spend 50,000 energy on terraforming I don't even need" midgame is lovely. It makes you FEEL the progress.

That's the good. There is, of course, also the bad, which is that when you're not being gimped by resource scarcity, your Imperial Machine inevitably finds itself another bottleneck. You say "alloys", but I usually find that it's not alloys - I can get enough alloys to keep my fleet #1, and once you've done that, every other alloy is gravy. The limiting factor becomes time, because it takes fucking ages for your fleets to actually get to whatever new front you wish them to crush next, until you have 30 gateways at lategame. And that's boring.

Now, I'm not going to yell "Bring Back Warp!" because I don't think the source of the problem is ship speed per se - the problem rather is that there are too few independent enemy actors on which to beat. EUIV solves this problem by having 1,000 independent states and also rebels popping out the wazoo all the time - which means an army always has something to do within a short distance. CK2 solves this problem half through the same mechanism, and half through having "teleporting" armies (you raise your levies wherever you need them) so you don't have to walk across the whole of Eurasia every time you want to beat on a new foe. Stellaris, though... Stellaris just leaves the problem unsolved.

When you're fighting against resource scarcity, that's something to do. When you don't have resource scarcity, you need something else to do, which is not a problem if the games' systems do indeed provision you with something else to do. But what's supposed to fill this niche in Stellaris? War? I spend vastly more time travelling than I do fighting, and even when I am fighting, the 3-year-long mess that is the Stellaris components system makes this an exercise in "Big shrug emoji" because no-one understands what happens in combat or why.
 
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