Stellaris gives us too much Happiness; Happiness bonuses need to be culled

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Nov 22, 2020
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The number, availability and size of Happiness bonuses should be reduced significantly.

It is so easy to reach and maintain very high Happiness values that the game suffers from it. Reaching 100% Happiness, plus a significant safety margin beyond that value, is trivial and can be achieved using basic Happiness modifiers available to all regular empires early in the game. This hurts Happiness-connected game aspects and the game overall:
  • Amenities lose value - if other bonuses are enough to reach 100% Happiness, there is no need to produce Amenities to get that +20% Happiness; with big enough Happiness bonuses, there is no need to produce Amenities at all.
  • Living standards similarly lose much of their benefits / drawbacks, once their Happiness bonuses no longer matter.
  • Slavery becomes a completely safe practice, without riots or rebellions.
  • Crime does not even exist (normally) at 100% Happiness. Without Crime, Enforcers also lose value. Forum comments suggest that even the free Enforcer jobs from capital buildings are routinely being disabled.
  • Faction approval becomes less important when the corresponding Happiness bonus does not matter (because of Faction Unity production, this is primarily a problem in regards to there being no reason to care about the opinions of low-support factions).
  • Governing Ethics Attraction increases (+50% at 100% Happiness), which not only inflates Faction Unity Gain (and tradition progress) but ultimately also increases Faction Support for the governing ethics, which in turn increases the population share that gets the +10% Happiness bonus from faction approval, which contributes to further inflation of Happiness and Stability.
  • Humiliate wargoals are ineffective at hurting the other empire's internal cohesion, as the -10% Happiness modifier is rendered entirely impotent.
  • Harmony sacrifices lose their value if there is no room left for further Happiness bonuses.
  • Stability becomes very easy to bring up to 100%, as 100% Happiness alone brings Stability up to 80%, thereby opening up the next can of worms.
    • Research and Unity outputs are boosted, speeding up research and tradition progress.
    • Trade Value and all other resource outputs are also boosted, ultimately feeding into an even greater output of Research and Unity and further exacerbating the issue of the game progressing much faster than it otherwise would (not to mention that various timed threats, such as marauders and crises, become relatively weaker than they would have been).
    • Revolts and rebellions become less common.
    • Jobs lose value (Enforcers and so on).
    • Civics with Stability bonuses lose value.
    • Edicts and other expensive sources of Stability lose value.
    • Pacifist has lost most of its benefits; under the current ethics setup, both the Happiness and the Stability bonuses soon become worthless, leaving only the Empire Size From Pops reduction - the value of which, ironically, depends on how much the Pacifist empires manage to expand.
Et cetera.

An overhaul of Happiness (and Stability) may not sound very flashy, but it has the potential to revitalize many parts of the game - and offer us a more challenging, and thereby more rewarding, game experience. It may also be necessary for any hypothetical future "internal politics" DLC to work well, when considering how profoundly the excessive Happiness distorts the inner workings of Stellaris empires.

(An overhaul of Happiness and Stability could possibly also be done alongside an Amenities overhaul, since Amenities is so closely connected to Happiness. There have been suggestions that base Amenities production could be reduced, especially for the higher-level jobs, while simultaneously introducing more production bonuses throughout the game from traditions and new technologies, and giving Xenophile a bonus to Amenities production. If done correctly, it could make the game more involving and interesting while simultaneously diverting jobs away from Research and Unity output, subtly further reining in technology and tradition progress. But that is another topic for other threads.)

The second post contains a list of some (not all) Happiness bonuses, and some ideas on how they could be handled.
 
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This post serves the purpose of listing various Happiness bonuses, and how they could be treated in a hypothetical culling. Some options include the following alternatives, which may be used separately or in various combinations.
  • A simple and straightforward elimination or reduction (for instance, there is no solid reason why Happiness modifiers must come in increments of 5).
  • Adding a timer.
    • Temporary Happiness bonuses are (much) less problematic than permanent ones, and also make much sense - similar to how many diplomatic relations modifiers already fade over time. Insights or events that happened 50 years ago may not feel that important anymore; the realities of today matter more. Eventually things are taken for granted (it could even be argued that the only lasting Happiness modifiers should be those that come with a price attached, such as living standards, edicts and civics).
  • Replacement with a different bonus.
    • To Amenities.
      • Either a flat Amenities bonus for some or all colonies, a bonus to Amenities production, or a reduction of Amenities consumption.
      • This still aids Happiness, but the capped Happiness bonus from Amenities would also cap the potential impact of runaway bonus stacking (i.e. it would still be a problem, but it would be more contained).
    • To a non-capped output.
      • Trade Value, Unity, Research, Influence, et cetera.
    • In a different aspect of the game.
      • Ruler or Governor traits, experience bonuses, and so on.
      • Specific ethic attraction.
      • Diplomatic relations.
      • Faction approval.
    • A fixed, upfront amount of some resource.
      • Such as Influence; becoming the spreader of long-lost stories or philosophical insights can be advantageous to one's diplomatic standing.
  • Segmentation via conditions and restrictions.
    • The bonus is kept, but limited in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for some particular bonuses to be combined with each other, perhaps even being inaccessible for many empires (bonus limited by authority, ethics, civics) or pops (bonus limited by climate, species type, stratum, faction, job type).
    • A variant of this could be a bonus that is restricted to a single world or sector,
  • Moving the bonus to an edict.
    • This gates the Happiness bonus behind an upkeep cost, presenting us with a choice of whether to use it at the expense of dropping another edict or paying an increased upkeep cost.
    • Having access to a unique edict would still feel like a reward, even while it is unused, as it expands our available options for different situations.
  • It has also been suggested (see page 2) that Happiness could be changed to a ratio between negative and positive influences on Happiness.
Note that these are just "brainstorming ideas" based on the suggestion in the original post; they are NOT part of the actual suggestion. The list is also NOT meant to imply that ALL Happiness bonuses should be removed. It just features suggestions on how different Happiness bonuses COULD hypothetically be handled.

If you think the fundamental suggestion is good but some of these ideas "could be better", then simply upvote the suggestion and share your better ideas on how the goals of the suggestion can be achieved.


@ any developer reading this: the list may not successfully represent all ideas and opinions in this thread. Please read the comments as well.

  • 50 Base: no change, it is reasonable to use the midpoint of the scale as the base value.
  • +10 Faction Approval: no change, this is a decent upper limit for such a big and central system.
  • +20 High Amenities:
    • Could be reduced to +10.
    • Could be replaced with a new role for surplus Amenities.
    • The Amenities bonus could also be merged into Living Standards. Instead of a Happiness bonus from surplus Amenities, higher Living Standards could increase Amenities upkeep (along with Consumer Goods upkeep).
      • This would have the benefit of Decadent Lifestyle requiring more Amenities, thereby encouraging a greater use of Amenities jobs.
      • This could also have the benefit of being much more straightforward for the AI (and the player) to handle. IIRC, the AI cannot even decide to reach for the +20% surplus bonus, but it can competently aim for reaching a positive balance.
  • +20 Living standards:
    • Happiness bonuses could be reduced, and be proportional to Consumer Goods upkeep. Using 0.5 CG as the benchmark with +10% per +0.5 CG and -10% per -0.25 CG gives:
      • +10/0/-5/-10 from Decent Conditions, rather than +10/+5/0/0.
        • (0.05 rounded to 0.)
      • +10/0/0/-10 from Social Welfare, rather than +10/+10/+10/+10.
        • This would still leave SW a clear improvement over Decent Conditions, by removing Worker unhappiness and social turmoil from unemployment.
      • 0/-5/-10/-10 from Basic Subsistence, an increase from -5/-10/-20/-10.
        • This living standard is not available for full citizens and is therefore likely combined with -10 Happiness or worse.
      • +10/0/-10/-10 from Stratified Economy, instead of +15/+5/-10/-10.
        • The Rulers are not wealthier than under Decent Conditions, but they are Happier relative to the Workers. Their massive bonus to Political power also magnifies the value of their Happiness bonus.
        • An alternative would be to increase the upkeep of Rulers and give them a bigger Happiness bonus.
      • +10/+10/-5/-10 from Academic Privilege, instead of +15/+15/0/0.
      • +10/+10/+10/no from Utopian Abundance, instead of +20/+20/+20/no.
        • Utopian Abundance would remain superior, as other living standards would be reduced, but it would be slightly less easily affordable as it currently is, restoring some of the sense of achievement from using it.
      • 0/0/0/no from Shared Burden, instead of +5/+5/+5/no.
        • (Rounded from 0.4 to 0.5 CG.)
        • This would not encourage Shared Burdens empires to use Shared Burden rather than Social Welfare; it would offer less Happiness for Rulers, and less Trade Value per pop, albeit at less CG upkeep per pop. One option would be to move the +5 Stability bonus here from the civic. Or just have Shared Burden give a universal +5% Happiness bonus. Or increase the Trade Value per pop.
      • +15/+5/0/no from Decadent Lifestyle, instead of +20/+20/+20/no.
        • The +15% Happiness to Ruler pops would be a unique feature among all living standards.
        • If Amenities upkeep were merged into Living Standards, Decadent Lifestyle could offer a bigger increase - and thereby justify a bigger Happiness bonus, as well as making Decadent Lifestyle empires need more Amenities jobs (it might seem appropriate that Pleasure Seekers empires would feature more, not fewer, pops in Amenities jobs).
      • Chemical Bliss: should this even be a universal living standard, rather than a planetary decision or designation?
    • Political Power bonuses of higher (happier) strata could be reduced, to indirectly reduce the Happiness contribution to Stability. Or, perhaps, Political Power bonuses could be removed from Living Standards entirely and instead be added to other sources.
      • Separation of material welfare and social power structure would allow us to create benevolent hierarchies, equally decadent lifestyles, and so on.
        • (If Amenities upkeep was part of Living Standards, Decadent Lifestyle could also feature an increased Amenities upkeep to encourage Pleasure Seekers to have more service jobs.)
      • If Happiness bonuses were scarce, a Political Power bonus to the higher strata would be desirable. It would effectively translate to a Stability bonus, but instead of being just another arbitrary +5 bonus it would be derived from the societal power structure and social conditions. Kind of like a domestic Power Projection bonus.
      • Authority and civics seem obvious candidates for bonuses to Political Power of strata.
        • If a Political Power bonus to higher strata becomes valuable enough, it could even be made a feature of the Authoritarian ethic. The Authoritarian ethic would then effectively promise greater Stability by placing more power in the hands of the "best qualified".
      • Citizenship Type could, rather than affecting Political Power, simply decide which strata a species has access to (which, in turn, decides the level of living standard and political power available for the species).
        • "Full Citizenship" would be required for a species to take Ruler jobs. This would be consistent with leader production already being limited to full citizens.
        • "Residence" could be split into two citizenship types; one that allows Specialist jobs, and one that only allows Worker jobs.
        • This could also resolve the exploitable bug where Residence rights counter-intuitively can increase faction Unity dramatically.
        • Overall, this design for citizenship types seems cleaner, more elegant, more predictable and less complicated than the current setup, where Residence reduces Political Power as well as the likelihood of the pop taking a Ruler job (via job weights). It would also make political power tie only to strata, rather than to both species and strata.
          • Splitting "Residence" could also allow a differentiation between moderate and fanatic Xenophobes; while both would reject the idea of xenos in Ruler jobs (and as leaders), Fanatic Xenophobes could potentially reject the idea of (free) xeno Specialists as well.
        • Amenities effects could also be removed from Citizenship Type, if Living Standards are changed to affect Amenities upkeep (since lesser Citizenship Types would restrict pops to lower strata, with lower Amenities upkeep).
        • Happiness effects could also be removed from Citizenship Type, since pops being locked into lower living standards will already result in worse Happiness.
        • Even Housing usage effects could be made part of Living Standards?
      • Combining all of the above would mean that Citizenship Type determines which strata pops can join, while Living Standard determines strata Happiness and upkeep (Consumer Goods, Amenities, Housing), and the Political Power distribution from civics and societal Authority determines how pop Happiness affects social Stability.
  • Civics
    • +10 Idealistic Foundation: could be reduced to +5, in exchange for gaining some other bonus, but then it is important that a sufficient amount of other Happiness bonuses are culled so that this civic's Happiness bonus remains significant.
    • +5 Inward Perfection: no change.
    • +5 Media Conglomerate: no change.
  • Permanent or renewable empire modifiers
    • +15 Festival of Worlds(Artisan Troupe):
      • +5 would be less crazy, for how cheap this bonus is (especially as it also comes with +10% pop growth).
      • And/or the festival could be limited to a single planet.
      • And/or the festival could be turned into an edict (campaign).
      • (we should also be informed when it ends and needs to be renewed; as should the other enclave repeatables)
    • +5 Technology of the Divine: convert to edict.
    • +5 A Life Worthwhile: convert to edict.
    • +5 "tree of life anomaly": replace with +1% pop growth? -1% pop upkeep? reduced amenities need?
    • +5 Cheap Thrills:
    • +5 [On the Shoulders of Giants]:
  • Edicts
    • +10 Peace Festivals (Pacifist ethic): +5 could be enough, perhaps also +5% Trade Value.
    • +5 Nutritional Plenitude: this Happiness bonus should be removed or replaced with another bonus, the important bonus is the Pop Growth bonus.
    • +5 Improved Working Environment (Drops in the Ocean anomaly): could be removed entirely (leaving research bonuses), or restricted to Worker pops.
    • +10/.../50 Sacrifice: Harmony (Death Cult): may be fine - the bonus is temporary and the price is significant.
  • Rulers
    • +5 Champion of the People: no change.
  • Agendas
    • +5 Native Privilege: no change.
    • +5 A New Generation: this Happiness bonus should be removed; Pop Growth is the important bonus, and multiple Agendas should not share bonuses.
  • Galactic Community resolutions
    • +5 (Workers) Charter of Worker's Rights: no change.
    • +5/+10 Environmental Control Board / The Paradise Initiative: no change.
    • +10 (organics) A Defined Purpose: no change.
  • Species Traits
    • +10 Serviles: no change - is balanced when considering the trade-offs.
    • +5 Psionic: could be replaced with another bonus, perhaps reduced Amenities consumption; unclear rationale behind the Happiness bonus.
    • +5 Conservative: no change - is a presapient trait (but could easily be replaced with something else).
  • Climates
    • +10 Gaia: could be replaced with reduced Amenities consumption.
  • Planetary modifiers
    • +5 Natural Beauty: could be replaced with +10% Amenities, +10% Unity or some other bonus.
    • +5 Atmospheric Hallucinogen: could be removed, or replaced with a Unity bonus.
    • +10 Filtered Hallucinogen: same as with the "undiluted" version above (note: bug report for the filtered version contradictorily being stronger).
    • +10 Paridayda: could be reduced to +5.
    • +15 Ocean Paradise: could be reduces to +5 (unless this one is only temporary).
    • +3 Zen World: no change - no guarantee of obtaining the unique planet, and the bonus is small.
    • +5 Loop Temple Visitor Center: could be replaced with +5% Amenities.
    • +10 Loop Temple Pilgrims' Way: could be replaced with +5% or +10% Unity.
    • +10 Resonant Crystals (anomaly): could be reduced to +5.
    • +5 Cheap Thrills (The Sentinels): no change - unique bonus, usually not on capital, multiple alternate outcomes, et cetera.
  • Jobs
    • +25 Overseer (Thrall World):
    • +40/+1 Overlord Bio-Trophy:

In total it is currently possible to reach at least 205% Happiness, assuming OtSoG + Egalitarian + Pacifist and excluding bonuses from climates, planetary modifiers, jobs and Death Cult:
  • 50 Base
  • 10 Faction Approval
  • 20 Amenities
  • 20 Living standards*
  • 10 Civics*
  • 40 Permanent/renewable modifiers
  • 20 Edicts*
  • 5 Ruler
  • 5 Agenda
  • 20 Galactic Community (excluding Worker-only bonus)
  • 5 Species (Psionic)
The true upper extreme is closer to 300% Happiness, maybe even more depending on the completeness of the wiki.
 
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I fully agree, but I will add one thing: happiness should also be more useful, otherwise we transition from the "happiness too easy to cap" situation to the "happiness completely unimportant as a game variable" situation.

So, what I would like to see is:
(1) a reduction of happiness and stability sources magnitude (just as you suggested)
(2) an increase of the bonuses given by high stability (maybe by making it multiplicative instead of additive with tech/tradition/species trait bonuses)
(3) an increase of the maluses for low happiness by reworking crime to be more granular and more impactful
(4) a lot more happiness-, stability- and crime-driven situations (this would also help in making internal politics more interesting)
(5) a complete rework of ethics attraction that allow for actual swings in the population preferences, by more strongly link it to player actions rather than static attractors (something more akin to party attraction in Endless Space 2)



Another possibility can be to uncap happiness and stability (alongside an increase in the magnitude of negative sources, especially the humiliate casus belli).
 
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  • Chemical Bliss
  • The only economically viable use of this living standard would be a species that is only used for producing Amenities, Trade Value, Stability, Naval Capacity, Defense Armies and other non-resource outputs. In other words, a species limited to jobs such as Merchants, Medical Workers, Entertainers, Duelists, Enforcers, Soldiers, Clerks and Servants.
The whole thing with output penalties not affecting non-resource outputs never made any sense, narratively. Being drugged out of your skull makes you a less productive miner or farmer, but doesn't affect your ability to be a doctor or merchant?
 
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I broadly agree to the fact that happiness and stability need to be way more difficult to raise and that 100 happiness/stability should be a prerogative of utopian societies.

On the topic of living standard, I would raise upkeep in general by a 33/50% for everyone of them (to make CGs more important in the economy scheme) but I would not penalize UA. Instead, I would penalize more the decent conditions and the stratified. Currently, slaves can have many production bonuses that free pop haven't and expecially indentured servitude is kinda OP. I would also change political power distribution in favor of workers and slaves for those two Living standards in particular. Generally speaking, a society which uses slaves should be very difficult to manage in terms of stability, even if many "artificial" stability bonuses (police state, information quarantine edict, etc etc) are piled up.

On the topic of amenities, I would lower max happiness from 20% to 10%, keeping the same number amenities required. I wouldn't penalize civics (talking about idealistic foundation). They are very limited (only 3) and currently, there are too many other good choiches.

Completely agree for the Festival Of Worlds. Jesus, a free +15 happiness/+10 growth is insane.

On the topic of factions (aside from a complete rework), i would make more difficult and costly to reach the +10 bonus, expecially for some factions.

For Gov. Ethics attraction, I would add a penalty which grows with Empire Size. Maybe a -0.3/-0.2 for every point of size above 100.


In general, I am all for a more difficult game (less resource generation, less naval cap, no meta strategies, more meaningful choiches for limited slots, such as civics, traditions, APs... more instability and risks, in particular when using slavery and purge options or when you go for endless conquest campaigns).
 
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The whole thing with output penalties not affecting non-resource outputs never made any sense, narratively. Being drugged out of your skull makes you a less productive miner or farmer, but doesn't affect your ability to be a doctor or merchant?

*thinks about the 4-martini, 1-gram lunches at Bear Stearns*
*thinks about music industry executives*
*thinks about Elon Musk's twitter posts*

Yeah I see no problem with loopy drugged-out Merchants being profitable.

Maybe the doctors self-prescribe drugs which make them less loopy? Can't really justify that one myself.
 
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Mmm seeing again this thread I also think that we should escape from the "multiple of five" mentality xD especially if we want to make happiness, stability and crime more granular.

I know, I know, this is VERY painful.
 
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Maybe the doctors self-prescribe drugs which make them less loopy? Can't really justify that one myself.
Some would say that a good doctor does not prescribe anything they have not tried themselves.

The whole thing with output penalties not affecting non-resource outputs never made any sense, narratively. Being drugged out of your skull makes you a less productive miner or farmer, but doesn't affect your ability to be a doctor or merchant?
I believe I have seen it suggested before that Chemical Bliss would be better as a planetary decision, rather than a living standard.
Basically a Pacifist alternative to Martial Law, for situations where the revolting rebels are not yet too angry to be sedated?

(It can cost a lot, 1 CG per non-slave and 0.1 CG per slave. And there is also a withdrawal period after switching off this living standard.)
 
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This post serves the purpose of listing various Happiness bonuses and how they could be treated in a hypothetical culling.
(Note that these are just "brainstorming ideas" based on the suggestion above, but not part of the suggestion itself.
If you think the suggestion above is good but these ideas could be improved upon, then upvote the suggestion and post your better ideas.)
  • 50 Base: no change, it is reasonable to use the midpoint of the scale as the base value.
  • +10 Faction Approval: no change, this is a decent upper limit for such a big and central system.
  • +20 High Amenities: could be reduced to +10, or could be replaced with a new role for Amenities.
  • +20 Living standards: could be reduced, with more consistent proportionality between Consumer Goods and Happiness (+10% per 1 CG):
    • +10/+5/+0/+0 Decent Conditions: reasonable values for the default living standard.
    • +10/+10/+10/+10 Social Welfare: could be reduced to +10/+5/+5/+0.
      • SW currently raises Workers to the same income level as Specialists - not Workers and Specialists to the same level as Rulers.
      • Using real life as a reference, people on social welfare are usually not as happy as workers.
      • This reduction would still leave SW as a good living standard, a clear improvement over Decent Conditions, where Workers are happier and unemployment does not cause (much) social turmoil.
    • -5/-10/-20/-10 Basic Subsistence: could be increased to +5/+0/-20/-10.
      • This living standard is not available for full citizens and is therefore likely combined with -10 Happiness or worse.
      • The upper classes are not yet truly suffering and can console themselves with being better off than the others.
    • +15/+5/-10/-10 Stratified Economy: could be reduced to +10/+5/-10/-30.
      • The Rulers are not wealthier than under Decent Conditions (as measured in CG).
      • The Rulers' massive bonus to Political power still magnifies the value of their Happiness bonus.
    • +15/+15/+0/+0 Academic Privilege: could be reduced to +10/+10/+0/+0.
    • +20/+20/+20/no Utopian Abundance: could be reduced to +10/+10/+10/no.
      • Especially when considering that other living standards would also be reduced and UA would remain superior.
      • Especially when considering that the currently massive Happiness bonus nearly pays itself from the beginning of the game, via the Stability bonus to Consumer Goods production.
      • This change would make the path towards affording this living standard more demanding, making it feel more like a real achievement again.
    • +5/+5/+5/no Shared Burden: perfectly balanced, as all living standards should be.
    • +20/+20/+20/no Decadent Lifestyle: could be reduced to +15/+10/+5/no, if Specialists get a pop upkeep of 1 rather than 0.75 CG.
      • This would make Decadent Lifestyle more balanced versus the other civic-gated living standard, Shared Burden, while still having the same Happines bonus sum as Utopian Abundance (albeit spread unevenly across different strata with significantly different political power).
      • The +15% Happiness to Ruler pops would be a unique feature of this living standard; the highest any "normal" living standard gets.
    • +40/+40/+40/+40 Chemical Bliss: this is a tougher nut than I can crack.
      • As long as this remains as rarely and situationally used as currently, it is difficult to regard Chemical Bliss as a balance issue.
      • The only economically viable use of this living standard would be a species that is only used for producing Amenities, Trade Value, Stability, Naval Capacity, Defense Armies and other non-resource outputs. In other words, a species limited to jobs such as Merchants, Medical Workers, Entertainers, Duelists, Enforcers, Soldiers, Clerks and Servants.
  • Civics
    • +10 Idealistic Foundation: could be reduced to +5, in exchange for gaining some other bonus, but then it is important that a sufficient amount of other Happiness bonuses are culled so that this civic's Happiness bonus remains significant.
    • +5 Inward Perfection: no change.
    • +5 Media Conglomerate: no change.
  • Renewable/permanent empire modifiers
    • +15 Festival of Worlds (Artisan Troupe): +5 would be less crazy for how cheap this bonus is (especially as it also comes with +10% pop growth).
    • +5 Technology of the Divine:
    • +5 A Life Worthwhile:
    • +5 Cheap Thrills:
    • +5 Spurred by the Past:
    • +5 [On the Shoulders of Giants]:
  • Edicts
    • +10 Peace Festivals (Pacifist ethic): +5 could be enough.
    • +5 Nutritional Plenitude / Expanded Breeding Program: this Happiness bonus should be removed, the important edict bonus is the Pop Growth bonus.
    • +5 Improved Working Environment (Drops in the Ocean anomaly): could be removed entirely (leaving research bonuses), or restricted to Worker pops.
    • +10/.../50 Sacrifice: Harmony (Death Cult): may be fine - the bonus is temporary and the price is significant.
  • Rulers
    • +5 Champion of the People: no change.
  • Agendas
    • +5 Native Privilege: no change.
    • +5 A New Generation: this Happiness bonus should be removed, Pop Growth is the important bonus (and multiple Agendas should not share bonuses).
  • Galactic Community resolutions
    • +5 (Workers) Charter of Worker's Rights: no change.
    • +5/+10 Environmental Control Board / The Paradise Initiative: no change.
    • +10 (organics) A Defined Purpose: no change.
  • Species Traits
    • +10 Serviles: no change - is balanced when considering the trade-offs.
    • +5 Psionic: could be replaced with some other appropriate bonus - unclear rationale behind the bonus.
    • +5 Conservative: no change - is a presapient trait (but could easily be replaced with something else).
  • Planets
    • +5 Natural Beauty: could be replaced with +10% Amenities, +10% Unity or some other bonus.
    • +5 Atmospheric Hallucinogen: could be removed or replaced with a Unity bonus.
    • +10 Filtered Hallucinogen: same as with the undiluted, unweakened version above.
    • +10 Paridayda: could be reduced to +5.
    • +15 Ocean Paradise: could be reduces to +5 (unless this one is only temporary).
    • +3 Zen World: no change - no guarantee of obtaining the unique planet, and the bonus is small.
    • +5 Loop Temple Visitor Center: could be replaced with +5% Amenities.
    • +10 Loop Temple Pilgrims' Way: could be replaced with +5% or +10% Unity.
    • +10 Resonant Crystals (anomaly): could be reduced to +5.
    • +5 Cheap Thrills (The Sentinels): no change - unique bonus, usually not on capital, multiple alternate outcomes, et cetera.
  • Jobs
    • +25 Overseer (Thrall World):
    • +40/+1 Overlord Bio-Trophy:

In total it is currently possible to reach at least 205% Happiness, assuming OtSoG + Egalitarian + Pacifist and excluding planetary modifiers, jobs and Death Cult:
  • 50 Base
  • 10 Faction Approval
  • 20 Amenities
  • 20 Living standards*
  • 10 Civics*
  • 40 Permanent/renewable modifiers
  • 20 Edicts*
  • 5 Ruler
  • 5 Agenda
  • 20 Galactic Community (excluding Worker-only bonus)
  • 5 Species (Psionic)
The true upper reach is closer to 300% Happiness, maybe even more depending on how complete the wiki is.
Mostly agree, but psionic bonus should remain.
And what abaut Gaia world bonus?
 
Happiness:
  • Amenities are less useful - if other bonuses are enough to reach 100% Happiness, there is no need to produce Amenities to get that +20% Happiness.
  • Crime does not even exist (normally) at 100% Happiness. Without Crime, there is no need to build Precinct Houses. Forum comments suggest that even the free Enforcer jobs from capital buildings are being disabled.
  • Stabilitybecomes very easy to bring up to near-100% levels. By itself, 100% Happiness brings Stability up to 80%, and then it is only a matter of picking and choosing which other bonuses to get for the remaining 20%.
    • This has big implications for economic performance over the course of the game, speeding up research and tradition progress.
    • This also results in domestic instability not being as common as it "should" be.
  • Governing Ethics Attraction becomes higher, which not only inflates Faction Unity Gain (and tradition progress) but ultimately also contributes to inflated Happiness and Stability.
  • Humiliate wargoals are ineffective at hurting the other empire's internal cohesion, as the -10% Happiness modifier is rendered impotent.
  • Harmony sacrifices lose their value if there is no room left for further Happiness bonuses.
Et cetera.
I fully agree. I've said for a long time that its hard to find an unhappy planet in Stellaris.

I do think an audit of +modifiers would help... But I think part of it also stems from a lack of -happiness modifier sources.

For example, from political sources:
  • Pop [Ethic] =/= Governing [Ethos]
  • Pop Militarist:
    • Recently lost a war
    • Recently humiliated (so double dipping)
  • Atrocities being comitted in a neighbours space and you are xenophile
  • Machines present in a neighbours space and you are spiritualist
Several of these could be situation/event triggered

From wealth and standards of living
There is also no meaningful differentiation of standards of living (it's all just fractions of homogenous consumer goods - a slave on a tomb thrall world, just has a smaller plasma TV than a ruler on a Gaian capital world for example).

I found a long while ago it's possible to scale pop stats like basic upkeep and amenities use (for example) against pop happiness. It's also possible to scale political power in the same way. So pops can consume more food and amenities the happier they get - i.e. decadence - making it harder to actually keep them happy if you don't go all in. They also get more politically motivated at low happiness, and low happiness * high pop PP = lower stability, making you work harder to at least keep them content.
  • One thing I've been toying with off the back of this, is using colony trade value as a proxy for colony wealth.
  • When colony TV rises to certain thresholds, the (free, sapient) pops of a world begin demanding extra shit - right now I'm trying out "luxury food" and "luxury goods" (scaling off a mix of happiness [per above] and living standards) the latter was a resource cut shortly before 2.2. and uses a golden trade value ring icon.
    • And if you dont give it to them they get quite angry.
    • Whilst giving them luxury foods can have small bonuses "Colonial luxury needs met" + immigration and so on
From making pops less homogenous and diluting the power of some happiness modifiers
Lastly... happiness is universal. For some reason. You and I probably don't like exactly the same things. You, me and an alien definitely wont like the same things... so why do aliens in Stellaris? A lot of happiness modifiers work on all sapient pops identically, however the game does distinguish (and have modifiers for) between a few things already:
Code:
pop_happiness
pop_citizen_happiness
pop_cat_[SOCIAL CLASS]_happiness
ROBOT_pop_happiness
MACHINE_pop_happiness [machine = gestalt machine drones]
biological_pop_happiness
lithoid_pop_happiness
The difference between ROBOT/MACHINE/BIOLOGICAL/LITHOID (for those reading this that dont mod) is these are the fundamental Archetypes in Stellaris. Lithoid happiness modifiers wont affect robot or biological happiness for example.
  • Archetypes are fundamental pop families. Portrait sets ("Phenotypes") are nested within archetypes. E.g. Mammalian portraits are in the BIOLOGICAL category, whilst lithoids are in the LITHOID one, subordinated to a BIOLOGICAL parent. This is also the underlying system that informs the game of why you cant pick a robot picture without being a MI (in vanilla) in empire creation.
  • You could split each portrait in to its own archetype (e.g. move avians from biological in to "mod_avian" - and the game will generate custom modifiers (e.g. mod_avian_pop_happiness), all by itself on game start, even if they arent documented, custom archetypes can also inherit modifiers from a parent class (e.g. biological) so nothing would be lost, mechanically, but it opens up a lot of granularity for modifiers - not just happiness, but amenities use and other areas too.
    • It's also possible to achieve this with 3.4 scripted modifiers, without needing to create a bunch of archetype subsets but ,and I cant prove this without access to a resource inspector like PDX will have, I think engine-generated modifiers are far faster than script generated ones.

Stellaris used to have a lot more resources - luxury resources are almost all gone from the game, with the exception of alien pets I guess though that isnt actually a resource - supplanted by "consumer goods". This limits the sources of happiness and usually makes it easier to keep what should be a tempoary buff running for far longer, as you have a unified pool of resources to pull on - rather than one rare luxury deposit somewhere.

Simultaneously pops are incredibly homogenous and one could make a case for Phenotype specific happiness modifiers to replace some of the generic ones, and resources that benefit certain alien groups only - either based on phenotype or trait. For example,
  • You could have an "Azure beaches" modifier on an ocean world that only provides +10% happiness to wet-climate (Ocean, Continental, Tropical) pops.
    • Whereas right now such a modifier would probably give +10% to all pops on the colony.
  • You could have a decision with the rare betharian stone deposits to "add betharian to lithoid diets" increasing lithoid happiness and pop growth on that colony by 20% and adding some energy credit upkeep (as betharian, like alien pets, is not actually a "full-fledged" resource).
    • But this would have no impact on non-lithoids.
  • You could have "Avian Gems" very shiny stones that (cant be traded on the market) increase Avian-pop happiness by 30% on the colony, and 15% empire wide when used as an edict - but that deposit only spawns on a handful of planets in the game.
    • But this would have no impact on non-avians.
  • You could have a "Necrotic Miasma" modifier that adds +50% necroid pop happiness but -50% happiness to all NON necroid pops, with a rare chance to spawn on tomb worlds -as a random example.
Re Performance: I've referred to "Pop" several times, but with the new scriptable modifiers in 3.4, ive found it's possible to compute some pop-level things at the colony level, by running a census periodically (6 months - 12 months), so 20 angry militarists on a 100 pop colony just reduces all pops happiness "Militarist Pop Strife" (via a colony modifier) by 2% rather than 10% on those specific pops, without checking each pop each month, which greatly minimises performance impact.
 
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Another thing that's non existent in this game is a sort of war production penalty. Maybe, for generating naval cap, you should select a sort of recruitment policy, choosing between a professional army (less naval cap, because it comes only from soldiers but with less unhappiness, no production penalties and more combat bonus) and various degrees of mass recruitments (in which more and more different pops can generate naval cap but when you go to war, you recieve happiness penalties, production penalties and combat malus). In this particular example, I would greatly reduce or remove entirely naval cap that doesn't come from pops. Currently, it is too easy to generate naval cap.

In general there are too much ways to produce everything and there are too much production bonus (I'm talking in particular of those that come from research)
 
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The second post has been expanded with some example types of potential solutions for Happiness bonuses:
  • A simple and straightforward reduction/elimination.
  • Replacement with a bonus to Amenities production, or reduction of Amenities consumption. This still aids Happiness, but the capped bonus from Amenities helps cap the potential impact of runaway stacking (especially if the Amenities bonus is also reduced).
  • Replacement with a bonus that has no direct connection to Happiness.
  • Segmentation via conditions and restrictions. The bonus is kept, but limited in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for one particular bonus to be combined with others, perhaps being inaccessible for many empires (wrong authority, ethics, civics) or pops (wrong species type, climate, faction, stratum, job).
  • Adding a timer. Temporary Happiness bonuses are less problematic than permanent ones (as long as the timer is not too long).
  • Convert to an edict. This still feels like a special reward, as it expands our options, but includes an upkeep price tag and a significant alternative cost.



Mostly agree, but psionic bonus should remain.
What about replacing it with a reduction to Amenities consumption?
(Would not make the Psionic pop happier directly, but a colony of psionic pops would have an easier time getting the maximum Amenities bonus.)

And what abaut Gaia world bonus?
Good catch, I had completely missed that. Adding it now.
(On the wiki, the Happiness modifiers are spread all over the place and there is no single "master list". When compiling the list above, I visited some select pages and did a Ctrl+F search for "Happiness", and apparently I did not visit enough pages. It is possible that I missed more Happiness bonuses than just the Gaia bonus.)

From making pops less homogenous and diluting the power of some happiness modifiers
Lastly... happiness is universal. For some reason. You and I probably don't like exactly the same things. You, me and an alien definitely wont like the same things... so why do aliens in Stellaris? A lot of happiness modifiers work on all sapient pops identically, however the game does distinguish (and have modifiers for) between a few things already:
Code:
pop_happiness
pop_citizen_happiness
pop_cat_[SOCIAL CLASS]_happiness
ROBOT_pop_happiness
MACHINE_pop_happiness [machine = gestalt machine drones]
biological_pop_happiness
lithoid_pop_happiness
Simultaneously pops are incredibly homogenous and one could make a case for Phenotype specific happiness modifiers to replace some of the generic ones, and resources that benefit certain alien groups only - either based on phenotype or trait. For example,
Interesting ideas overall in your post. Not sure if I have much to add or say right now.
For the time being, I have included segmentation in the list of possible approaches to moderating the Happiness bonuses (see the top of this post).

On the topic of amenities, I would lower max happiness from 20% to 10%, keeping the same number amenities required.
Added this to the second post.

On the topic of factions (aside from a complete rework), i would make more difficult and costly to reach the +10 bonus, expecially for some factions.
I actually just thought of another alternative:
  • remove the Happiness bonus from high faction approval
  • keep the Happiness malus from low faction approval
  • add timed modifiers when faction issues change state
  • (this would only affect Happiness effects, not Faction Unity)
Essentially, the dominant factions would experience only fleeting Happiness after getting policies they want, reflecting their shifting expectations. Unhappy factions would still be unhappy in the long term under this system, but especially unhappy immediately after a change they perceive as negative (as they would have both the temporary and the "permanent" Happiness penalties at the same time).
  • This would mean that in the short term, temporary Happiness modifiers could exceed +10, especially if several issues change state at once, but the long term trend would be towards no extra Happiness.
  • This adds a stability incentive to not go all the way in supporting one faction, as any Happiness bonus for faction X is temporary while the Happiness malus for the opposite faction Y is "permanent".
    • Going towards compromise and moderation would mean opposite temporary modifiers for the two factions, but also a "permanent" Happiness improvement for the disfavoured faction.
    • Ethically heterogenous empires could gain more stability from moderation than antagonism.
    • There would also be an incentive to not make sweeping changes all at once, since that could be rather destabilizing if the opposition has a fair share of the population. Gradual and piecemeal changes would be less provocative.
  • 10 years could be an appropriate duration of the temporary modifier, counting from when the faction issue got fulfilled.
    • With the possibility of "refreshing" temporary modifiers, such as the Imperialist faction issue "Conquest" (if another conquest is accomplished, the Happiness bonus will not end 10 years after the first but rather 10 years after the second).
    • Other factors could perhaps modify the length of this duration.
  • The size of the temporary Happiness bonus/malus could be equal to the approval effect of the new state of the faction issue.
    • For instance, the Imperialist (Militarist) faction's "Rivalry" factor gives +5 from fulfillment and -5 from non-fulfillment. Declaring a rivalry would then give Imperialist pops a temporary +5% Happiness bonus, while dropping back to 0 rivalries would give a temporary -5% Happiness bonus.
    • Conquest (+10 from fulfillment, 0 from non-fulfillment) would temporarily grant Imperialist pops +10% Happiness.
    • Becoming a Subject State would temporarily give Imperialist pops -25% Happiness (on top of any "permanent" malus from low faction approval).
  • Random incidents (events) could remind unhappy factions of negative policies currently in place, "respawning" a temporary malus.
 
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What about replacing it with a reduction to Amenities consumption?
That could be a thing, but i feel strong flavour from making spiritualists max happiness through all available means, and being psionic is one of them. Perhaps i could get used to removing that bonus, but just like it too much.
 
Essentially, the dominant factions would experience only fleeting Happiness after getting policies they want, reflecting their shifting expectations. Unhappy factions would still be unhappy in the long term under this system, but especially unhappy immediately after a change they perceive as negative (as they would have both the temporary and the "permanent" Happiness penalties at the same time).

Concerning policies and factions, I think that something like this could be implemented:

(1) Factions retain a certain number of permanent issues regarding long-term features of the empire such as laws, diplomatic status etc. that function just like now but that influence only unity generation.

(2) Every 10 year, a situation fire in which one of the factions advances a request. As a response, another faction is picked as the main opposition to this request. The player can influence the course of action by lobbying for one of the two sides or remain neutral. After a given amount of time (5 years) one of the sides wins and the request is implemented. Requests come in a variety of forms, just like faction objectives in I:R or bills in EU4 parliaments: it could be a "minor law" (i.e. an empire modifier), a diplomatic act (like a forced rivalry) or an infrastructural project (a planetary feature added on some planet that reduces the number of available districts). All of this are timed and are removed 15 years later. More importantly, the POPs with the same ethics of the faction supporting the winning request get a sizable happiness bonus during the same time (and a sizeable ethics attraction). The losing faction gets a minor happiness malus. Requests should be constructed as neutral per se and should useful or harmful depending on the situation (again, the other PDX games give ample source material on this).

Obviously, for this thing to be interesting, the other happiness sources must be trimmed as discussed in the rest of the thread.

This would generate a more dynamic policy-driven happiness: the passage of a law supported by a popular faction can produce a large approval swing in the empire, maybe driving stability on some planets to 100%, but it's temporary: once this brief golden age is passed, situation returns back to normal. This would also generate a more player-driven ethics swing. Finally, it could become an interesting minigame with its own difficult choices: should you, as the player, support an harmful request to appease a large fraction of the population?
 
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On the topic of living standard, I would raise upkeep in general by a 33/50% for everyone of them (to make CGs more important in the economy scheme) but I would not penalize UA. Instead, I would penalize more the decent conditions and the stratified. Currently, slaves can have many production bonuses that free pop haven't and expecially indentured servitude is kinda OP. I would also change political power distribution in favor of workers and slaves for those two Living standards in particular. Generally speaking, a society which uses slaves should be very difficult to manage in terms of stability, even if many "artificial" stability bonuses (police state, information quarantine edict, etc etc) are piled up.
Why would you ever use stratified economy or slaves then? Expanding on crime and removing excess sources of happiness would already nerf those playstyles enough.
 
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I think adding more regular sources of unhappiness is just as important as pruning down the sources of happiness. Even with the changes suggested, it would be pretty easy to get to 100 happiness. As an immediate idea that comes to mind, every 5 points of war exhaustion could give -1 happiness, so being at 100 war exhaustion is -20. If in multiple wars, it would just take the highest.
 
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I feel like suggestions like this one are fundamentally disadvantaged when getting votes because if something looks like a nerf or a reduction in power people's instinct is to recoil away from it. But that does this whole thread a disservice, there is a lot of really good discussion here and I agree completely.

All rational conversation about mechanics aside - A simple pleasure I never experience anymore, but used to really like working towards before 2.0, is that feeling of finally getting my pops to 100% happiness. It's definitely too abundant now.
 
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Preach, 100% happiness should only be available to Fanatic Egalitarian full Utopian Abundance empires and even then under the specific conditions.

When it comes to happiness I think that the ruler pops count for too much, while worked pops count for too little.

I believe it would be better if non-equal empires should have max 80-85% happiness.
 
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Preach, 100% happiness should only be available to Fanatic Egalitarian full Utopian Abundance empires and even then under the specific conditions.

When it comes to happiness I think that the ruler pops count for too much, while worked pops count for too little.

I believe it would be better if non-equal empires should have max 80-85% happiness.
Or spiritualists who have given all their lives to their state, and now are proud of being part of it (mostly because divine enforcer have light their world up)
 
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Your suggestion sounds good, but nerfing already weak things doesn't sound good. Like happiness from excess amenity or higher living standards.

If you are nerfing those things, bonus from happiness/stability should be increased to make things not entirely useless, as they are almost useless already.