Pop Growth vs Pop Acquisition Balance through a Prosperity Modifier

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Jan 14, 2021
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I do think the idea to lower pop count to increase performance is a step in the right direction - the exact ways the devs implemented have been seen as controversial to say the least, but I won't delve into that this much.

Conquest and Pop Acquisition is now more powerful than ever
Conquering was always a more efficient way to grow than investing in your exisiting realm - which is unfortunate. But with the limitation to pop growth you now gain pops at a much lower rate compared to the amount you get per year if you do regular conquest. And the whole economy of Stellaris builds on pops. More pops is pretty much always better.

Conquerers get more pops faster -> Conquerers get more powerful faster -> Conquerers get conquering faster -> the cycle continues.

Peaceful growth is severely weakened and that is sad, because to me Stellaris is more than a map painter.

To alleviate this imbalance my suggestion is to:

Increase Pop Growth for x% per year not at war
This way peaceful growth has a chance again. And it also makes sense, war strains your resources - there are probably way less babies born if a major fraction of your populace is participating at the front lines and the logistics at war. (I am aware it is not a perfect explaination)
Alternatively (or additionally), the pop growth/assembly cost modifier through pop count could be reduced the longer you are at peace. (this way peaceful machine empires would also be affected)

Decrease Pop Growth for x% per year at war
Continous war should be a drain on your pop growth. Families do not have the chance to settle. Your battle thralls are constantly rallied and at the front lines.

Combining the two into one value: Prosperity
Potentially, these two concepts do not need to be two seperate modifiers replacing one another and gaining impact over time, but both effect the same modifier.
Prosperity would be the a modifier that shows how much time your civilisation has to grow itself. If you were at peace for 30 years, but 1 year ago a war started, you don't immediately lose all your prosperity, but it slowly decays. In the same way, even a militarist empire would gain prosperity in the times between wars, when the population can regain their breath and thrive through the spoils of war.

Potential tie-ins with other systems
Pacifists could have an increased prosperity gain per year if at peace, while Militarists have a lesser prosperity loss per year at war.
Ethics and civics could also increase the caps on these effects. (i.e. lower max prosperity loss as militarists, Citizen Service could reduce the max prosperity loss per year, etc.)
Espionage could be used to increase an empires prosperity loss if they are at war. (subversive propaganda)

Possible additional mechanics
The higher the percentage of recently conquered worlds is in your empire, the higher your prosperity loss per yeat at war. This would result in excessive conquest (and thus excessive pop gain) bringing you vastly reduced growth rate.

Problems with the suggestion
  • It wouldn't be a solution to everything - obviously. Pacifists can still be forced into wars frequently and end up with negative prosperity. But RP-wise it makes sense that this would severely harm pacifists.
  • Balancing this would be difficult.
    • How much does prosperity affect growth?
    • What are the capped effects of this?
    • Should it move asymptotically towards a cap rather than linearly? (i.e.: having prosperity gain increased the lower prosperity is)
    • Does it actually equalise the playing field or are militarists permanently stagnant now?
  • It doesn't solve the other major pop issue of mid- to late game ratios of available jobs vs existing pops. (Planet/district sizes need to be reworked and job counts revised. Potentially increasing job efficiency instead of giving more jobs through building upgrades)

Feedback and additions would be appreciated :)
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This suggestions section if FULL of hidden gems.

First i'd like to answer one of your questions:
Should it move asymptotically towards a cap rather than linearly? (i.e.: having prosperity gain increased the lower prosperity is)
I think it should be asymptotically, it kind of makes sense, after a war there is a lot of people returning ready to work and to reproduce, and the more devastating the war the more resources are left for the survivors. Hosing market full of empty homes, many available jobs, rebuilding stimulates the economy, etc. That from the RP point of view. From the playable POV you would want to recover fast from a devastating war so you don't get left behind but slow from an esasy war so you don't attack again after just a little recovery.

The word Prosperity encompasses many more things, though. So more things could be brung foward to tangle them with Prosperity.

Some more ideas:
-I think it'd be better if this is a planetary variable and not an empire variable (perhaps an empire variable to show average prosperity).
-Make it an increaseing/decreasing number that accumulates over time to a certain cap (100%).
-Prosperity always tends towards 100% (base +1% per month).
-Prosperity could be proportional to War Exaustion and Devastation hit Prosperity too, so +1% Devastation = -1% Prosperity and +2% War Exaustion = -1% Prosperity, but these variables only affect the loss of Prosperity, not its gain; so when you get back to 0% War Exaustion after the war, you would still mantain the negative points in Prosperity.
-The population growth would be inversely proportional to Prosperity (78% Prosperity = -22% Growth).
-Make recently conquered planets reset to 0% prosperity (or a low number), in this way those planets would integrate slower to your empire so you will get the new benefits after a while, but the rest of your planets will be all right.
-Prosperity could affect Trade Value of the planet too. For example, 20 base Trade Value and 80% Prosperity would output 16 final Trade Value. That way pacific empires will be more prosperous thatn expansionist empires.
-Prosperity also affects immigration.
-Special planetary decisions may also affect Prosperity gain (Entrepreneur Subsides).
-Planet modifiers may also affect Prosperity gain (Hostile Fauna).
-Crime could affect Prosperity gain, for once make Crime useful. For example, base Prosperity recovery is +1% per month, Crime is 20; that would make a 20% hit on Prosperity gain so your final change per month would be +0.8%.
-Unemployment hits Prosperity too, -0.5 Prosperity gain per unemployed pops.
-Megacorporation buindings may also increase Prosperity gain.

So in resume:
Prosperity is an increasing, decreasing number that tends towards 100%, it's a planetary variable.
  • Growth.
  • Trade Value.
  • Migration.
But mainly Growth, that's the most important thing and the reason for this suggestion.

Is affected by:
  • War exaustion.
  • Devastation.
  • Crime.
  • Unemployment.
  • Spionage.
  • Recently conquered planets.
  • Corporate buildings.
  • Buildings.
  • Planetary decisions.
  • Policies.
  • Edicts.
  • Civics.
  • Ethics.
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I like your additions a lot and it could be explored thoroughly.

I tried to keep the scope rather small for the start so it would be sufficient to achieve it's purpose but not too all-encompassing to be too much effort for the devs to investigate.

But if worst comes to worst it could potentially be moddable enough to expand on for the community.
The core idea of the prosperity modifier would probably rather difficult to do in script instead of in code. I am not an experienced modder though, so i am not sure.
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A few small things you made me think about:

Currently Mega-Corporations run largely on Trade Value as a core mechanic, but a Militarist Arms Dealer Megacorp could potentially have a reversed impact of Prosperity through war.
If there is no war, who are you going to sell guns to? So low Prosperity could have an inverse effect on Trade Value for those specific empires. (Based on your suggestion of Tying Trade Value to Prosperity, too)
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Yes, indeed. Good point.

Military arms dealer could have more prosperity gain of the planet while the planet's empire is at war or something like that, so the bonus outwheights the depletion of Prosperity due to War Exaustion in the end having a net positive gain of Prosperity and thus trade value (and income for the Megacorp) when at war. This could generate amazing synergies between empires and Megacorps. Just an example out of thin air (not intended to be balanced or final, just a visualization method):

-Branch Office: Military Industrial Complex
  • Military Arms Dealer Civic
  • +50% Prosperity gain while host empire is at war.
  • +50% Trade Value while host empire is at war (so +25% income for the branch office).
  • +25 Crime while host empire is at peace.

So Prosperity would regenerate faster than the rate of War Exaustion depletion. That way the Arms Dealer Megacorp wouldn't loose income because of low Prosperity while the host empire is at war, on the contrary, it will increase Prosperity, Trade Value and thus, income.

This is just an example of how that Megacorp could function it doens't necessary has to be like that, but would get the same results.

Vanilla Megacorps wouldn't want to open business in very expansionist empires for the constant hit on prosperity on their planets, so they would search for Pacifist empires to open their business giving those empires an edge over expansionist empires (there are always more Vanilla Megacorps than Arms Dealer Megacorps because of civics quantity).

So only a few expansionist empires would be lucky enough to have deals with Arms Dealers and have better Prosperity recovery, and only in certain planets where the Megacorp has the Branch Office built (and they have to be at war if they want those bonuses active), so no massive imbalance.

Something similar could be done with Crime, Prosperity and Crime Syndicates. Perhaps some building that reverses the Crime hit on Prosperity gain making it a positive instead of a negative multiplier, and thus, more income for the Crime Syndicate.

Honestly i like a lot your suggestion because it would solve or at least help to mitigate the expansionist vs pacifist imbalance which is a very important issue. It also adds flavour to Megacorporations and synergies between different types of empires.
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If we are talking about prosperity, I think it should be linked to resources and therefore to resource shortages.
I had posted an idea about it : https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/threads/shortage-prosperity-progressive.1479814/

Afterwards, indeed in my suggestion, the war has no direct effect, but potentially indirect. Indeed, prosperity is linked to the accumulation of resources and a war can cause a significant expenditure of resources and losses of monthly resources by losing control of planets.

Afterwards, I don't really like direct arbitrary effects for countries at war. For example, the war exaustion system is bad (well, the war system would need a change, especially the peace negotiation, but that's another topic), at least at EU4 it's a value linked to a empire and not a war.

It is important to take into account the importance of war in relation to the resources of the empire.
A simple way would probably be to add a “manpower” resource that represents people who are able to work. Each pop in play generates manpower monthly, depending on its traits and other modifiers. Relate to my other topic on shortages-prosperity. It might look like this:

Manpower shortage :
- -75% Job output
- -75% Trade value
- -75% Sailor from job
- -75% Pop growth/robot build speed
- -75% Diplomatic Population weight
- +75 civil shortage
- +25 Military shortage

Sailor :*
- -50% Naval Capacity
- -75% Sailor reinforcement speed
- -75% Ship Build Speed
- -50% Diplomatic Fleet power weight
- +25 civil shortage
- +75 Military shortage

* I think it would be simpler and less redundant not to put shortage and prosperity linked to sailors. Indeed, a shortage of sailors will already limit the construction of new vessels and vessels with an incomplete crew will also already be less efficient.

The numbers are to give a general indication in the context of a shortage at the maximum level, obviously, these values to be adjusted as needed.
The prosperity would have the opposite effect with a value reduced to a quarter for example.

Of course, adding manpowers and sailors requires some tweaking and changes to the game, but I think it could be a good addition.

The more important a war, the more ships we mobilize, the more sailors we consume (as in EU4) etc. Recruiting sailors consumes manpower, so if you recruit too much, you can lose the prosperity bonuses associated with high stoked manpower.
If recruiting exceeds manpower production for too long, then one can create a manpower shortage, which will have consequences for the proper functioning of the empire.

This can be a good way to reflect the importance of one war or several simultaneous wars on an empire and also a way to weaken empires at long or near-permanent war.

Then, it can give certain advantages in defensive wars precisely to help "small" empires.

For example, in a defensive war, jobs can produce more sailors (admittedly, consuming more manpower).
Ships recover sailors faster if they stay in possessed star systems.
Unless sailors can only be recovered from a starbase and a starbase generates a limited number of sailors per month with limited storage capacity (depending on modules, buildings and other modifiers), these two values would be lower for enemy starbases controlled during a war.
Another addition would be that there is a higher chance of recovering "killed" sailors if you control the starbase of the star system.

As in EU4, we could put the ships stationed at a starbase in Mothballing. This would reduce their maintenance costs and their crew (number of sailors). Obviously, as in EU4, it will take some time to refit these ships. The hull and the number of sailors of a ship in Mothballing would drop by up to 25%.
The surplus sailors could return to manpower.

However, my system works by empire and not by planet. Indeed, it could be interesting to have a system of planetary prosperity, since there is already a system of devastation.
The maximum prosperity of a planet would be diminished by the level of civil shortage and would increase more rapidly if the empire is in civil prosperity.
Obviously, the prosperity of a planet will drop if it is bombed, but prosperity will “protect” the planet from the negative effects of the bombings, because before causing devastation, the bombings will decrease the planetary prosperity.
So in a war, a planet's prosperity might be affected, but if they stayed away from areas of conflict its prosperity would not be affected, except in the case of an empire's shortage.

Obviously, with a logistics system using the trade route system, you could add more depth to the systems, but that would be a major change. At a minimum, a planet/habitat whose starbase is controlled by the enemy would have its prosperity level diminished.

However, the real way to weaken the great conquering empires would be for the pops to have a culture and for there to be real internal management of the empire. The larger and more diverse the empire, the more difficult it should be to rule, especially with hostile pops.

The advantage of the pacifists could be precisely to be able to prosper more easily and to govern their empire more easily.