Why does it take 6 amenities to support 1 pop? (OR- Why Does 5 Base Amenity Requirement Exist?)

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DeanTheDull

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So today I learned something that just confuses me from a design perspective: colonies require 5 amenities more than the pops that live there need.

With credit to @Dragatus, who demonstrates that you can still learn basic things from niche tool tips never found in the wiki, colonies apparently have a 5 amenity requirement, separate from the pop amenity economy. As pops are the only consumer of amenities outside of this that I'm tracking, this means that functionally your first pop on any colony requires 6 amenities before you go to your normal amenity upkeep considerations. (Cue click-baity title).


This confuses me, since the nearly every colony in the game has 5 or more pop-free amenities anyway- from the capital building, the one building you can't get rid of. You could literally just reduce the capital amenity production by 5, and get rid of the base 5 amenity requirement, and be the same net amenities for happiness considerations without a stealth tax.

Now, in fairness there is exactly 1 capital context where a colony building produces less than 5 amenities- Habitat Tier 1s produce 3- but gestalt T1 habitat colonies produce and additional +3 amenities (6) and non-gestalt empires always have the first ruler pop job that also provide +3 amenities base from the ruler job. Literally all the -5 base amenity requirement does is ensure you start at net 1 amenity (or less if repugnant). If you got rid of this, normal non-gestalts would have a 2 amenity advantage for all of 9 pops before the tier 2 colony upgrade, which everyone is going to do for the habitat building slot.


Like, what is the purpose of both giving and removing 5 amenities?

Is it to make starting colonies require an immediate amenity job?

No, because starting colonies start with more than 5 amenities. Reassembled Ship Shelters start with +7, and gets a downgrade at the 10 point pop. Gestalts just start at +8 amenities. All the starts have an amenity-providing job, be it colonist or maintenance drone.

Is it to make an amenity building a first-construct for the building slot instead of pop-assembly?

No, because Colony Designation- available for the first 4 pops- is +10 amenities, and a pop-assembly build would just sit at just the assembly jobs and relocate pops from the bad worlds to better.

Does it change when you need to build an amenity building as a normal empire?

No, not really. You still need to build an amenity building if you don't want to rely on useless colonists.

Does it change the value of amenity production boosts or reduction requirements?

No, not really. The only early-game boost is 5%, which is so negligable compared to habitability it doesn't matter until the point where pops are the majority of amenity needs anyway. And you'd need about 50 pops for a 10% amenity reduction to equal 5 amenities to make up for the flat cost (if we're assuming 100% habitability- and if we're not, habitability matters far more).





So What/What's the Issue?

Besides just plain confusing me, a 5 amenity difference substantially throws off the otherwise seemingly intended math of when gene clinics are viable in lieu of holotheaters.

If there wasn't a 5 amenity stealth-tax, early-game amenity reduction strategies (Residency/Slavery) would make holotheaters and gene clinics pretty equivalent in pop-efficiency terms for reaching the key 25 pop benchmark. At 80% habitability, 25 citizens are 30 amenities; 25 residents are 22.5. Take off 6 for the politicians, and 24 amenities or 16.5 amenities.

If you have a pop-free 5 amenities from the capital, this is 19 and 11.5- a ratio where 2 entertainers or 2 healthcare workers become pretty much equivalent. The healthcare worker habitability buff takes off about 1 amenity required at the 25 pop stage, and has the habitability and growth gains, while the entertainers offer workers-first (but slower) and the unity point, supporting more forward-leaning resource rushes in lieu of blooming on the back end. The difference isn't the number of amenity job pops required (2), but where in the employment order they are, and how this affects the employment order.

This is a fair and reasonable early-game trade, or would be if gene clinics weren't locked behind a low-priority tech. It even gives luxury housing a relevant niche as providing the amenities to cover the marginal gap for the last few pops to the 25 pop range.


BUT with a 5 amenity stealth tax, which negates the capital benefit, you're back at 24 or 16.5 amenity production jobs required.

This puts the luxury housing bias in the other direction- now holotheaters will always be preferable as a 2-pop solution to the problem, with a luxury house providing that last 5 for the full citizen route, while gene clinics will never be a pop-sufficient on a growth side, and at best can use luxury housing to compensate on the resident route. Since most non-slaver empire don't bother with residency due to the pop happiness and faction unity implications, this is a significant loss of opportunity space.

After a colony upgrades to 25 pops, gene clinics might replace a holotheater for a citizen build on a breeder world build- net 3 pop-free amenities from the capital after 5-tax, 9 amenities from politicians, and 10 from 2 medical workers + 5 from luxury housing the holo theater used = 27, with +1.35 from the 5% amenity tech. 28 amenities is almost enough for breeder world levels.


But breeder worlds are well into the mid-game, by and large, not only after you've started snowballing (at which point pop-growth ceases to be a major benefit), but also well, well after a tier 2 tech should be beneficial in its own gameplay era.


///


So What Could Be Done?



Is there any reason to keep the stealth tax if it just complicates balance analysis?

If the goal is for +7/8 starting colonies to really have +2/3 starting amenities, just... making the colonies produce that much. It's no change to the current system, except that the information is clearer.
 
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Dragatus

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My best guess is that they wanted to limit the effect of excess amenities at very low population numbers, since the happiness bonus is a function of both available Amenities and total Amenity consumption (exact formula is on the wiki). Without the base a 1 pop colony would only need 1 excess Amenity to gain the full +20% happiness bonus. With the base the 1 pop colony requires 6 excess Amenities to get the full bonus (assuming 100% habitability for the sake of simplifying the math to illustrate my point). Then as population rises the effect of the base becomes increasingly irrelevant until eventually it makes no real difference anymore.

It also limits the effect of missing Amenities on low population colonies.

Whether this was a good idea, I don't think I'm a skilled enough player to make an educated judgement, so I leave that discussion to others.
 
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DeanTheDull

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My best guess is that they wanted to limit the effect of excess amenities at very low population numbers, since the happiness bonus is a function of both available Amenities and total Amenity consumption (exact formula is on the wiki). Without the base a 1 pop colony would only need 1 excess Amenity to gain the full +20% happiness bonus. With the base the 1 pop colony requires 6 excess Amenities to get the full bonus (assuming 100% habitability for the sake of simplifying the math to illustrate my point). Then as population rises the effect of the base becomes increasingly irrelevant until eventually it makes no real difference anymore.

It also limits the effect of missing Amenities on low population colonies.

Whether this was a good idea, I don't think I'm a skilled enough player to make an educated judgement, so I leave that discussion to others.

There's no mechanical difference, though. Giving 7 amenities from a building and taking 5 results in 2 excess amenities. This is the exact same as if you gave 2 amenities from the building.

Further, it still has to deal with the default colony designation for pops 1-to-4, which actually does provide enough amenities for 4 pops to be at max happiness.
 
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Mattwae

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There's no mechanical difference, though. Giving 7 amenities from a building and taking 5 results in 2 excess amenities. This is the exact same as if you gave 2 amenities from the building.

Further, it still has to deal with the default colony designation for pops 1-to-4, which actually does provide enough amenities for 4 pops to be at max happiness.
The happiness bonus from excess amenities (and the stability bonus from the same as a gestalt) is based on the ratio of available and required amenities.
This means that instead of having a 2/1 ration, which is the maximum bonus, you get a 7/5 ratio, which is lower. While the colony designation gives enough ameneties that you are always at least close to the 2/1 ratio, you can chose other designations even then.
Also, this also has an effect on low habitability worlds, where the amenity consumption of pops is higher. This will work in two ways, if you have to few amenities, happiness/stability is impacted less, and you will have less excess amenities in general.
 
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DeanTheDull

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The happiness bonus from excess amenities (and the stability bonus from the same as a gestalt) is based on the ratio of available and required amenities.
This means that instead of having a 2/1 ration, which is the maximum bonus, you get a 7/5 ratio, which is lower.

Okay. This makes sense as a rational, though that could just be moved into the formula rather than an amenity provided/consumed tax, which is what they do with other mechanics like growth.

But this-

While the colony designation gives enough ameneties that you are always at least close to the 2/1 ratio, you can chose other designations even then.

The colony designation amenities for the first 4 pops doesn't really change the employment scheme in practice, because the colonist job exists for non-gestalts, and gestalts are stuck with the maintenance drone. Normal empires still want to employ the entertainer instead of the colonist, who is still enough for the early amenity doubling, while the gestalts never strive for it.

Like, the rational from above that it cuts the % bonus swings as amenities shift isn't contested, but the max double-the-amenities bonus is only 7.2% in the first place. It's nice, but it's nothing compared to, say, the pop employment difference of not employing the starting enforcer in the early game.


Also, this also has an effect on low habitability worlds, where the amenity consumption of pops is higher. This will work in two ways, if you have to few amenities, happiness/stability is impacted less, and you will have less excess amenities in general.

Sure, but this general principle applies in, well, general. It's why trade builds- which are amenity self-sufficient- and robots- which are habitability immune- already work well on low-habitability worlds, where they just work into the amenity-pop paradigm. But these already work well under the paradigm of no stealth tax, beyond the % swing per excess amenity.
 
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I'm surprised you weren't already aware of the base requirement, especially given all the amenity maths you've done for gene-clinics.

Like others have said, it's to reduce the swingyness of amenities on tiny colonies, especially low-habitability ones that are liable to go negative. Getting -30% stability from having -3 amenities on a 5 pop colony would be super unintuitive, so the game gives and takes 5 amenities to pad the ratio out.
Okay. This makes sense as a rationale, though that could just be moved into the formula rather than an amenity provided/consumed tax, which is what they do with other mechanics like growth.
I disagree here - the current approach is definitely the clearest and best way to fix the small colony problem.
Growth is super complex and I only got a good understanding for how it works when I rebuilt it in Excel - the game doesn't even try to explain it and the wiki's 3D graph isn't terribly intuitive. Amenities by comparison are extremely simple - just linearly interpolate between three points. It's always trivial to check the tooltip and work out how many more amenities I need for any given threshold.

Moving the +-5 amenities into the formula (or otherwise having special case handling for tiny colonies) would introduce hidden factors and make the system harder to understand.
Besides just plain confusing me, a 5 amenity difference substantially throws off the otherwise seemingly intended math of when gene clinics are viable in lieu of holotheaters.
Your 10 page dissertation on gene clinics is a work of art, but I wouldn't describe it as "seemingly intended math". Nothing in this game is balanced to that degree of precision, and the reality is that gene clinics are just badly undertuned.

If I was a paradox dev who wanted to give gene clinics a viable niche where they outperform holo-theatres, I wouldn't be calculating exact breakpoints and pop-months in a variety of common meta scenarios to ensure there exists a build-order on some worlds where gene clinics are equally pop-efficient but also get the tiny habitability and growth bonuses - I'd just buff gene clinics. All they need to have a good niche is another +5% habitability.
 
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HFY

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The old +5/-5 seems to provide stability in the face of +% / -% modifiers, and also gives a cushion for calculations which ensure there is no division-by-zero at low population numbers.

But in the same patch which nerfed Ruler amenites from 5 -> 3, the base colony +5/-5 was nerfed into +3/-5, which seems like it might have been a mistake.

So now there's a bit less of a cushion for calculations, and your colonies start in a hole.
 
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The5lacker

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Like others have said, it's to reduce the swingyness of amenities on tiny colonies, especially low-habitability ones that are liable to go negative. Getting -30% stability from having -3 amenities on a 5 pop colony would be super unintuitive, so the game gives and takes 5 amenities to pad the ratio out.
I feel like just... having Capitals grant enough Base Amenities to support your colony would do well enough for that. Make it physically impossible for pops, even at 0 Habitability, to run into Amenities shortages until 5 Pops or something. That's more or less what the Colony designation is already for, and it seems like an overly complicated solution.
 
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I feel like just... having Capitals grant enough Base Amenities to support your colony would do well enough for that. Make it physically impossible for pops, even at 0 Habitability, to run into Amenities shortages until 5 Pops or something. That's more or less what the Colony designation is already for, and it seems like an overly complicated solution.
I agree the colony designation isn't the best fix - you have to worry about starting in a hole if you're using automation and need to switch off colony designation immediately.
If you got to keep those starting amenities forever it would change early colony dynamics quite a bit - I don't think you should just get most of your early amenities given for free.

I wasn't aware of the base colony numbers getting nerfed to +3/-5. That should probably be fixed.
 

The5lacker

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I agree the colony designation isn't the best fix - you have to worry about starting in a hole if you're using automation and need to switch off colony designation immediately.
If you got to keep those starting amenities forever it would change early colony dynamics quite a bit - I don't think you should just get most of your early amenities given for free.

I wasn't aware of the base colony numbers getting nerfed to +3/-5. That should probably be fixed.
I don't think you should get the full +10 from Colony Designation, +7 from Reassembled Ship Shelter, and +3 from Colonists forever (21 is a big number, capable of supporting 10 pops at 0 Habitability), but a total output of 10-11 would be reasonable.
 

DeanTheDull

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I'm surprised you weren't already aware of the base requirement, especially given all the amenity maths you've done for gene-clinics.

Honestly, it's because when I try to do the maths, I reference the wiki and not the game itself, and the wiki doesn't list it. When I do reference the game, the starting homeworld throws off initial values for the spot check. Once you're at the 25+ pop level, the 5 amenity shortage isn't that significant a swing, especially when living standards are factored for the happiness.

(The things you can see in hindsight.)

I've legit never heard the 5 amenity base requirement raised in any Stellaris discussion despite having paid attention for... years now? The focus of discussion is always on the pop-efficiency, and not the non-pop amenity dynamic.

Like others have said, it's to reduce the swingyness of amenities on tiny colonies, especially low-habitability ones that are liable to go negative. Getting -30% stability from having -3 amenities on a 5 pop colony would be super unintuitive, so the game gives and takes 5 amenities to pad the ratio out.

That literally can not happen unless you sabotage your own amenity production, though.

I acknowledge the ratio argument in abstract on an aesthetic level, but the only way to have -3 amenities on a 5 pop colony is if you're deliberately not employing amenities, and in the only context that's close to relevant- tomb worlds- other considerations come into play. It's a self-imposed edge case of a problem that would only be encountered by people trying to min-max worker employment over amenities, at which point -30% is totally appropriate for the role of amenities.

With the the net +2 amenities of the colony shelter, and 2 colonists with 3 amenities always available, you're guaranteed no less than net 8 amenities without any investment on any world. A pop can never require more than 2 amenities, and then at 0 habitability. 5 pops can never be more than 10 amenities required, 8 of which are always available.

At which point, at least by the wiki formula, if we do it with the no-stealth-tax -2/3 * (2 amenities missing) / (8 amenities consumed) = -16% happiness.

Which, like, sure. Big happiness penalty. But even if that was entirely from net 50 popular approval with no living standard counter, where every point below is 1 point of stability lost, that would be... 16 points of stability.

Even if we change the stealth tax formula for the bigger denominator/better result, we're at (-2/3) * (2 amenities short) / (13 amenities consumed (5 being stealth tax)) = -10% happiness, or the exact boon of social welfare as a living standard, and 6 happiness/stability difference from with no formula.


I realize that seems pedantic, but it's to emphasize how edge of an edge case it is. The only way to get the sort of -25 stability penalties at the 5-pop range even if there wasn't the amenity-consumed denominator would be to block the colonist jobs you're given and refuse to build replacements (entertainers/gene clinics).

But to get to the 10-pop range in the current stealth-tax econ, you're already supposed to be building replacement jobs. Which brings in 10-12 amenity entertainers, which resolve your early shortage concerns.
 
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SirBlackAxe

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Or if you colonize with slaves, who can’t take the starting colonist jobs. Or similarly, take over a newly made colony and enslave everyone there.
I feel like colonies with only slaves and no free pops to control them should have problems.
 
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DeanTheDull

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Or if you colonize with slaves, who can’t take the starting colonist jobs. Or similarly, take over a newly made colony and enslave everyone there.

I mean, this is sabotaging your own amenity production: you're using slaves, and more to the point not even slaves who can provide amenities. The solution to this self-imposed problem is to stop blocking your own amenity jobs.