"Empire Sprawl Penalty" Needs to be reworked

"Empire Sprawl Penalty" Needs to be reworked

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Hansatron

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Currently, 3 authorities have this modifier:
Hive Minds: -25%
Megacorps: +50%
Machine Empires: +100%

However, with the bureaucrat system, not empire needs to ever go over their admin cap regardless of size. Producing admin cap is cheap, so everyone is very close to their cap at all times, making these 3 modifiers that are intended to shape empires, wholly useless.

It can likely be seen that Machine and Hive admin cap jobs reflect these intentions - machines have a high output coordinator and high sprawl penalty, hives have the reverse. But because the penalty is never relevant, hives end up with the most expensive admin cap and machines get by far the most efficient admin cap job / building, producing 144 cap from a single building late game. (Hives,meanwhile, can push out 40, while despicable regular empires push 50 out of 5 jobs in 1 building.)

I don't know what to do about this, but it seems like there's a few pieces of the puzzle still floating around to get this just right.
(Also, megacorps don't need the penalty anymore: just directly increase the sprawl from branch offices if you want to be concerned about that.)
 

Methone

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Currently, 3 authorities have this modifier:
Hive Minds: -25%
Megacorps: +50%
Machine Empires: +100%

However, with the bureaucrat system, not empire needs to ever go over their admin cap regardless of size. Producing admin cap is cheap, so everyone is very close to their cap at all times, making these 3 modifiers that are intended to shape empires, wholly useless.

It can likely be seen that Machine and Hive admin cap jobs reflect these intentions - machines have a high output coordinator and high sprawl penalty, hives have the reverse. But because the penalty is never relevant, hives end up with the most expensive admin cap and machines get by far the most efficient admin cap job / building, producing 144 cap from a single building late game. (Hives,meanwhile, can push out 40, while despicable regular empires push 50 out of 5 jobs in 1 building.)

I don't know what to do about this, but it seems like there's a few pieces of the puzzle still floating around to get this just right.
(Also, megacorps don't need the penalty anymore: just directly increase the sprawl from branch offices if you want to be concerned about that.)
I think the trick would be to make Empire Sprawl always provide a penalty, no matter what, and simply provide a greater penalty if above the admin cap. Following from there, the current Authority Modifiers would, instead of making the 'admin cap breached' penalty greater, simply make either the 'standard' Empire Sprawl penalty change, or change how much Empire Sprawl those empires generate.
 

Kapi96

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I think the trick would be to make Empire Sprawl always provide a penalty, no matter what, and simply provide a greater penalty if above the admin cap. Following from there, the current Authority Modifiers would, instead of making the 'admin cap breached' penalty greater, simply make either the 'standard' Empire Sprawl penalty change, or change how much Empire Sprawl those empires generate.
It kind of already does. Repeatable edict (and I believe tradition?) cost increases with empire sprawl, regardless of whether it's over the cap or not.
 
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I think the trick would be to make Empire Sprawl always provide a penalty, no matter what, and simply provide a greater penalty if above the admin cap. Following from there, the current Authority Modifiers would, instead of making the 'admin cap breached' penalty greater, simply make either the 'standard' Empire Sprawl penalty change, or change how much Empire Sprawl those empires generate.
I think a better approach would be to just remove admin cap entirely. Sprawl is supposed to make having twice as much stuff not twice as good; adding a mechanic that prevents it from doing that is misguided.
 

mammonmachine

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I agree with Methone's position - have a standard sprawl penalty that grows if it is breached. It could then be that Hiveminds generate less sprawl, Megacorps and Machines more. Or it could also be that the standard penalties are less for Hivemind, and more for Megacorps and Machines.

In terms of realism/immersion -- managing a huge sprawling empire should come with costs -- in terms of cohesion, stability and -- I think -- to the rollout of advanced technology. Excellent administration should be able to mitigate these costs, but not negate them entirely.

In terms of gameplay -- not having any penalties to expansion means there is only one effective strategy - relentless expansion. In my view, strategy games are more fun when there are two or more competing play styles. They don't have to be balanced entirely, merely viable. There are other ways of doing this than sprawl, but sprawl isn't a terrible way of mitigating the snowballing effect of large empires. The playstyle of large, spread out empires should be one with massive raw resources, but challenges with unity and tech.
 

Elm0__

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Can somebody, please, remind me why sprawl was initially introduced?
Penalty to research/traditions etc. based on empire size were present right from the beginning (or at least from about 1.7). Sprawl was introduced to make penalties more serious for megacorps - in order to make tall gameplay more viable for them.

With introduction of bureaucrats, the whole system was thrown out the window - as you can always place more offices. It's laughably easy to control the sprawl. Meaningful choice was replaced with meaningless chore.

For my games I will probably just mod out these buildings.
 

Peace Weaver

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I actually thought this modifier caused the pops to contribute less to empire sprawl, meaning that you would need less bureaucrats in the long run. I didn't realize it only matters if you're over the limit.
 

BlackUmbrellas

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However, with the bureaucrat system, not empire needs to ever go over their admin cap regardless of size. Producing admin cap is cheap, so everyone is very close to their cap at all times, making these 3 modifiers that are intended to shape empires, wholly useless.
Untrue.

They're only useless if you DO religiously keep under your capacity, which no, not everyone (especially the AI) does.

I've taken to just not worrying about it so much; I'll occasionally spend some time "catching up" to my cap, but largely I just let my automated administration worlds build up at whatever pace they choose to. Especially with the way Edicts work now, going over admin cap by running an extra edict is perfectly reasonable.
 
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Ferrus Animus

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With introduction of bureaucrats, the whole system was thrown out the window - as you can always place more offices. It's laughably easy to control the sprawl. Meaningful choice was replaced with meaningless chore.
I disagree it was never a meanignful choice.
We've literally gotten mechanics to try and reward small empires (not tall, tall is just wide with less territory) since Utopia and they never worked to encourage that, because no bonus in this game is big enough to matter, especially since so much of the game is designed for expansion (and the AI issues mean that plenty elements like the crises are basically fully dependent on what the player can do).
 
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LWE

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I don't think it was supposed to be that meaningful, just a "rubberband mechanic". In fact, a 4X game where expanding is ultimately bad doesn't make sense to me. But 2X pops/planets/etc. shouldn't necessarily mean a 2X stronger empire.
 

wundergoat

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Can somebody, please, remind me why sprawl was initially introduced?
The sprawl penalty, or its prior iterations, exist to limit snowballing. It basically makes the slope that snowball is rolling down less steep. This is a common thing in 4x games and shows up in mechanics like corruption and the like.

The very early version of this was around from the beginning of the game IIRC but was not very visible and was heavily weighted towards colonies and systems owned, had not mitigation, and was % based. This made small worlds and low quality systems unattractive since you could easily be at a net negative tech for expanding. Going wide got you resources but smaller entities could keep up tech wise.

The biggest example of the weakness of the early system was the one planet strategy, originally started as a meme build but turned out to be very powerful. By having a minimum of colonies and systems, you could basically break the tech curve by having lots of output and tiny penalties, capped off with science megastructure and repeatable 100-150 years into the game.

Megacorp made the penalty more visible while also taking most of the bite out of it, but people started to freak out over having a penalty.

Now we have ways to boost admin cap, but this has in effect turned the scaling penalty into what is basically a % tax to everyone. This very much favors high sprawl empires, since everyone is paying nearly the same % to not have penalties so more sprawl means more resources.

Having a certain % of the penalty always apply and/or limiting admin cap generation is needed for the penalty to be meaningful again.
 

Franton

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regular empires push 50 out of 5 jobs in 1 building.)
Actually, in my last 'regular empire' game, I had 6 planets (out of 50+) designated to bureaucratic centre in a sector ruled by a governer with bureaucrat specialization for about 14 per job. Not sure what - if any - bonuses you accounted for for other empire types.
They're only useless if you DO religiously keep under your capacity, which no, not everyone (especially the AI) does.
Actually i've found you can ignore cap and disable the bureaucratic buildings most of the time. Just switch to a different research option when you reach the base cost (i. e. the normal cost with sprawl under cap), or temporarily enable all bureaucrats to complete the research: you just have to run the game for a second, so the completion gets reevaluated. For traditions it's even easier: just enable all b'crats before choosing the next tradition and then you can disable them again. Same for planet designation if you care.
 
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BlackUmbrellas

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Actually i've found you can ignore cap and disable the bureaucratic buildings most of the time. Just switch to a different research option when you reach the base cost (i. e. the normal cost with sprawl under cap), or temporarily enable all bureaucrats to complete the research: you just have to run the game for a second, so the completion gets reevaluated. For traditions it's even easier: just enable all b'crats before choosing the next tradition and then you can disable them again. Same for planet designation if you care.
...why would I ever micromanage that much, though?
 

makaramus

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what annoys me most is new system actually nerfing spirutalists further
before this if you built 1 (or 2/3 with new system) you would had just the right amount of unity produced to not overproduce them and not waste extra unity even if you min maxed your unity production with edicts,civics and species trait.
Now? Since cost of unity stays same no matter how many planets you even if you build 1 temple to each planet you will eventually overdo it. In time you will stop desiring your only bonus from your goverment ethic.
 

Hansatron

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Actually, in my last 'regular empire' game, I had 6 planets (out of 50+) designated to bureaucratic centre in a sector ruled by a governer with bureaucrat specialization for about 14 per job. Not sure what - if any - bonuses you accounted for for other empire types.
All empires have the same set of +5% admin cap techs. All empires have other bonuses like a +10% civic, etc. Since these are all uniform for everyone, I Ignored them.
Only gestalts get the 8 job upgrade; and only machines have a tradition that gives their coordinators +3 admin cap generation, which applies before any of the +% effects.
Even if only filthy organics have bureaucrat governors and bureaucracy worlds (can't recall ATM) that would still leave them at 50->60 admin cap from 5 jobs (plus all the other bonuses everyone can get) with machines still pulling 120 to 144 from one building.

I was just pointing out that there seems to have been a conscious thought to give machine, hives, and regular empires different levels of efficacy on making admin cap because of their sprawl penalties. But because we can fully mitigate sprawl, we see that it plays out in the reverse, with machines having the cheapest admin cap generation.

Untrue.

They're only useless if you DO religiously keep under your capacity, which no, not everyone (especially the AI) does.

I've taken to just not worrying about it so much; I'll occasionally spend some time "catching up" to my cap, but largely I just let my automated administration worlds build up at whatever pace they choose to. Especially with the way Edicts work now, going over admin cap by running an extra edict is perfectly reasonable.
Because of how sprawl penalty scaling works (an empire wide % penalty based on the absolute overage) there is hard math at play. If we just consider research,, 1 bureaucrat = 10 points of cap = +4% tech costs. So an extra bureaucrat isn't worthwhile until you have 25 researchers. (Ignoring unity etc for a second, and pretending we can either employ researchers or bureaucrats)
But as you grow, and you numbers of researchers becomes large (say, 200) then the value of 1 bureaucrat to mitigate being over cap - still +4% research rate - is the same but one researcher only increases your tech rate 0.5%.
Thus, if you played optimally and plotted the overage, you would see a slowly narrowing function where the more pops you have, the less and less you allow yourself to get over before employing a bureaucrat. Eventually, at 250 researchers, just one point of overage (+0.4%) equals the value of a researcher (+0.4%), so it is better to never go over cap at this point. The real point where this happen would be lower because obviously you have other penalties, but it works as a simple example to show why there are strict limits on how much you can "ignore cap" without severely suffering.
 

BlackUmbrellas

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Because of how sprawl penalty scaling works (an empire wide % penalty based on the absolute overage) there is hard math at play. If we just consider research,, 1 bureaucrat = 10 points of cap = +4% tech costs. So an extra bureaucrat isn't worthwhile until you have 25 researchers. (Ignoring unity etc for a second, and pretending we can either employ researchers or bureaucrats)
But as you grow, and you numbers of researchers becomes large (say, 200) then the value of 1 bureaucrat to mitigate being over cap - still +4% research rate - is the same but one researcher only increases your tech rate 0.5%.
Thus, if you played optimally and plotted the overage, you would see a slowly narrowing function where the more pops you have, the less and less you allow yourself to get over before employing a bureaucrat. Eventually, at 250 researchers, just one point of overage (+0.4%) equals the value of a researcher (+0.4%), so it is better to never go over cap at this point. The real point where this happen would be lower because obviously you have other penalties, but it works as a simple example to show why there are strict limits on how much you can "ignore cap" without severely suffering.
I don't play the game to graph out mathematical plots. I play the game to have fun. I suspect MOST players don't bother with that sort of math.

That it is theoretically better to always be under cap is meaningless if not everyone bothers, and because not everyone bothers, those modifiers to sprawl penalties still have a meaningful gameplay effect.
 
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Hansatron

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I don't play the game to graph out mathematical plots. I play the game to have fun. I suspect MOST players don't bother with that sort of math.
While games should often not be designed around min maxing, "building more bureaucrats when you start to go over cap" is not a particularly min-max behavior - the fact that the sprawl icon turns red is a signal to players that the game designers think they should be worried about it. Even if you knew nothing about stellaris, turning the sprawl indicator red puts it on the same level as running out of food. (The psychology of explicitly telling players they are being penalized for going over also reinforces the idea that you should avoid it if you can.)

My OP isn't complaining about the concept they were going for. Only that as implemented, we have 2 contradicting things - empires being differentiated for sprawl and a method to completely remove sprawl.

Imagine a game like skyrim making, say, High Elves powerful but with a drawback "weaker to magic." Then in a DLC they add a relatively easy to get item that "makes you immune to magic." Then Bethesda remarks that "While Elves are powerful race, they are weak to magic." That would spin your head right round like a record. This is essentially that, and this tread is really just to highlight that in the wake of the much larger effort to add bureaucrats, the smaller part which creates the contradiction - empire sprawl modifiers - should be looked at so that the original game design behind this authorities can be maintained.