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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#32
Just for a demonstration, I drew up a quick plot to measure stability:
Image The Red squares represent total instability and maximum unhappiness - where revolt and change is most likely to happen.
Yellow represents neutral, corresponding policies where you're unlikely to draw revolt.
Green represents cheaty policies to ensure you would never lose power anywhere ever.

Now, below is a plot to measure economic health and which policies will bring you the most money, versus ones that might haemorrhage money if used incorrectly:
Image Red = Bad economic health
Yellow = Stable economic health
Green = Immensely Quick economic growth.

Notice the correlation between Economic Freedoms and Stability?
As you gain more order, your economic health may suffer.
As you grow more chaotic, your economic health will grow.
How Libertarian of me xP
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#33
Ah, there are few things better than a model to sink one's teeth into. :) Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

I'll start my completely unasked-for remarks by noting that, as usual for LT, we're assessing value in two different ways: as simulation-play and as game-play.

As a model for simulation, I think this is a very reasonable starting point. In fact, I think it actually works better than your statement about economic libertarianism. :D Pure self-government is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a society of humans to operate as a functional organism over time. Some amount of higher-level structure beyond the individual must exist for a society to form and persist as a recognizable entity. In just the economic sphere, trading can't happen in anarchy where nothing enforces truthfulness in value exchanges.

Which means that, rather than pure individual liberty ("chaos") being the point of maximum economic productivity, it's more of a curve whose peak is somewhere between pure individualism and self-serving structuralism. This is why I earlier implied (not entirely facetiously) that a mark of a functioning economic sim is that output is maximized around what's called a center-right point. So from a very simulationist perspective, I'd say your matrices actually demonstrate that effect pretty well.

But LT isn't just a sim. It also is a game, with rules of play and defined success conditions, and the economic model needs to work in that mode. (That's not in any way incompatible with my recent defense of appropriate simulationism in games, BTW. My point there was that simulation-play can have value, not that mechanics-play somehow doesn't have value. I appreciate both.)

As a model underlying gameplay, rather than a simulation of reality, the one suggested here might need some tweakage. Gameplay options need to be designed to be approximately equally fun for most likely players. Otherwise they're wasted development time because virtually no one will ever use them. This is particularly true if you're making one of the kinds of games that are attractive to Achievers, who will min-max any and all options pretty much instantly after a game is released.

In the case of this model, I can see without much effort that the "best" (i.e., least bad) combinations are Mixed Voterism and Imperial Syndicalism. Which is a sort of confirmation of what I wrote above about a saddle point between pure individualism and moderate structuralism. That makes this model plausible as simulation, but not as strong as a basis for gameplay. Even if a few people choose to explore less optimal policies, a significant majority will go as quickly as possible to one of the two "best" options, set them, and forget them. A lot of the gameplay value of having gov/econ policies is therefore lost.

So even if it's a bit less accurate as simulation, it's more fun as gameplay when choices have different but similarly-valued outcomes. In this case, I might reduce the benefits of Mixed Voterism and Imperial Syndicalism -- probably by adding some undesirable side effects -- so that they're not so obviously better than other policy combinations. When the consequences are roughly the same, the forms become more important: people will choose Commonism or Psychoticism and so on because they're curious about the gameplay associated with those forms, not because choosing them delivers a clear advantage in utility.

TL; DR: Reasonable starting point; suggest tweaking a couple of values so that all combos are roughly equal in gameplay value.

Whew! :)

P.S. Nice John Adams reference in your sig. :) Civ IV turned me on to his compositions; Tromba Lontana is excellent.
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#34
Flatfingers wrote:<EDIT SNIP>
Aha! Someone gets me! xD
Civ IV also turned me on to his compositions. What a great game that was.
In fact, now that you mention it, this idea almost reminds me of Civics and how they worked in the game - each with their obvious penalties and bonuses. There was always a best combination, even if it didn't make sense (PS, Emancipation, SP, FS and FR was always my late game).

Responding to your third paragraph, the idea that minimal government would make the most money was mostly based on two ideas:
1) Lots of commerce to go around, since there is no regulation and everyone would be theoretically be making maximum profits, and
2) You no longer have to pay for pesky infrastructure :D

While the achievest player may go and beeline for a 'default' of Mixed Voterism or Imperial Syndicalism (can such a thing exist?), the AI will not, which was more or less the point, since not every player would go straight for governing, and to simulate how government can effect economic outcome... or how a 1984-esque government can suddenly terrorise the denizens of space by becoming endlessly expanding.
Mind you, the benefits that each policy had in the first post still apply so there is still that 'more of the same' kind of feel, where a 1984-esque endless space empire is still possible, and would need to continue expanding in order to keep making money so it can continue operating as an entity (which brings up the question of what happens when we run out of money in LT????).
Also, the yellow 'safe' squares basically mean that it could go either way, (It might be possible to hold onto a minimalist society, but it would be very difficult and mark of considerable gameplay ability if achieved) that your society will either be coherent and functional, or disastrous... it really does depend on how stressed the empire is, if it meets the requirements of the policy to keep the citizens happy.
Yellow squares are caution squares, would be a better way to put it - it could work, it could not and you might lose half your empire to populist uprisings.

That being said, what would you suggest to fix simulation into gameplay?
PS: I always enjoy your replies, in a good way. c:
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#35
Without (paying for) infrastructure you dont get maximised profits, you get massive profits around the few big and bad who can either afford their own infrastructure or pay the likely high prices to use others infrastructure.
and that clamps off the gazillions of others who arent the biggest and meanest out there, those who arent profitable without cheap, good infrastructure available.
Likely limiting your overall profitability.

Also: why shouldnt the AI beeline for the most effective governmental form? What keeps it from doing that?
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#36
Cornflakes_91 wrote:Also: why shouldnt the AI beeline for the most effective governmental form? What keeps it from doing that?
Its goals. It might want fast military expansion and control. It might want to make bucktonnes of money. It might have a technology priority. Etc.
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#38
Cornflakes_91 wrote:If the governmental forms only affect the economy they'll only beeline to the most effective money generator and stay there
Which they don't. They each have different bonuses and perks and penalties.
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#42
I really want to give a good reply to this, but I'm already criminally late for sack time.

So I'll just lob these out there fast-like:

1. If you like the idea of interesting policies to select from, definitely take a look at Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The "social" settings were not only very smartly chosen and balanced (for the most part), Firaxis exposed the underlying values of the social settings as flat files so that players could re-balance them as they felt appropriate. (Sound familiar? ;)) Any game developer thinking about implementing social/political/economic policies as factional management choices really needs to study SMAC to see how to do this very well.

2. I don't want to get into a go-round on real-world economic theory; it tends to make some people grumpy and I'd rather not inject that into an otherwise very enjoyable thread. I'll just note that even people on the right acknowledge a need for some regulation and an consistently-enforced code of law supporting truth-telling in economic exchanges because that creates the necessary framework for maximizing economic activity. The serious arguments aren't over "whether" there needs to be some oversight, but "how much" is best.

3. When I say that Mixed Voterism or Imperial Syndicalism are best in the initial model, that's because both are a combination of one light green square and one yellow square. Every other combination is worse. (A bright green square and a bright red square might add up to the same raw score numerically as light green + yellow, but I think you'd take off points in practice for being extreme forms, driving away some potential market participants.)
Cornflakes_91 wrote:why shouldnt the AI beeline for the most effective governmental form? What keeps it from doing that?
If such a form exists, most competent (i.e., not-crazy) AI faction leaders should eventually converge on it.

The problem is that such forms should not exist. If they do, that's a design flaw because it means the other policies, which seemed interesting enough to create, won't get enough usage to justify the cost to implement them.

Again, choices of this kind need to be roughly equivalent in the value of their benefits, but those benefits need to be of different kinds. That way players make a choice because it's what seems the most interesting (fun) to the player, not just whatever seems to yield the most utility. Utility maximization actually is the main kind of fun for some gamers... but not all.

To the observation that 4X games seem to get away with "clearly best" choices, please note that these choices are actually constrained by time. You don't get all choices at once; what is a good choice in the early game becomes sub-optimal later. Even if there's a "best" choice at one point in time, it's not necessarily always going to be the best choice. That's not perfect, but it's functional as gameplay in a game that has a defined ending. LT won't.
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#43
Flatfingers wrote:I really want to give a good reply to this, but I'm already criminally late for sack time.

So I'll just lob these out there fast-like:
Let it begin. c:
Flatfingers wrote:1. If you like the idea of interesting policies to select from, definitely take a look at Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The "social" settings were not only very smartly chosen and balanced (for the most part), Firaxis exposed the underlying values of the social settings as flat files so that players could re-balance them as they felt appropriate. (Sound familiar? ;)) Any game developer thinking about implementing social/political/economic policies as factional management choices really needs to study SMAC to see how to do this very well.
I've never played Alpha Centauri - too young for it (*gasp*), so I'll just do some quick research.
Researching...
Research complete.
Yes, I agree. The seem somewhat balanced, but reading their descriptions gave me an idea: perhaps faction culture/homeworld culture can have an affect on policies... for example, an intellectual culture might be able to overcome the research penalty presented by Psychoticism.
Flatfingers wrote:2. I don't want to get into a go-round on real-world economic theory; it tends to make some people grumpy and I'd rather not inject that into an otherwise very enjoyable thread. I'll just note that even people on the right acknowledge a need for some regulation and an consistently-enforced code of law supporting truth-telling in economic exchanges because that creates the necessary framework for maximizing economic activity. The serious arguments aren't over "whether" there needs to be some oversight, but "how much" is best.
Economic discussion is the best. I spend most of my waking hours on this site because its unblocked everywhere. Check it out (;
Flatfingers wrote:3. When I say that Mixed Voterism or Imperial Syndicalism are best in the initial model, that's because both are a combination of one light green square and one yellow square. Every other combination is worse. (A bright green square and a bright red square might add up to the same raw score numerically as light green + yellow, but I think you'd take off points in practice for being extreme forms, driving away some potential market participants.)
Ah, I see. There is supposed to be little correlation between the two forms - yellow squares have an equal opportunity to succeed (happiness, no revolution) or fail (unhappiness, revolution), yellow-green squares are more likely to succeed but still fail. Perhaps the players should get more incentive for playing more dangerously (although, they will have to think more strategically to ensure planets don't just up and leave their control - increased military presence, for example), which is already the case if they go for Molotovist-Atlasism... they get just amazingly wow wow wow amounts of money, which they can then use to purchase bigger ships, which they can use to police the system and keep everyone from succeeding (oh wow... how much have I deviated from libertarianism now xD) so it becomes theoretically possible for people to use the most dangerous systems of government which huge benefits.
Flatfingers wrote: Choices of this kind need to be roughly equivalent in the value of their benefits, but those benefits need to be of different kinds. That way players make a choice because it's what seems the most interesting (fun) to the player, not just whatever seems to yield the most utility. Utility maximization actually is the main kind of fun for some gamers... but not all.
True. Would you mind taking some time to rebalance the choices (or making entirely new ones)? c:
Flatfingers wrote:To the observation that 4X games seem to get away with "clearly best" choices, please note that these choices are actually constrained by time. You don't get all choices at once; what is a good choice in the early game becomes sub-optimal later. Even if there's a "best" choice at one point in time, it's not necessarily always going to be the best choice. That's not perfect, but it's functional as gameplay in a game that has a defined ending. LT won't.
Nailed it here.
At least, until the player was so powerful it resembles a game of "one last turn" on civ. xD
That was the idea behind revolutions and successions - you can choose the most expansive and militaristic policies, but if you can't maintain an empire of galactic amplitude expect to fall, and expect to fall quick.
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#44
Flatfingers wrote:If such a form exists, most competent (i.e., not-crazy) AI faction leaders should eventually converge on it.

The problem is that such forms should not exist. If they do, that's a design flaw because it means the other policies, which seemed interesting enough to create, won't get enough usage to justify the cost to implement them.
well, i just assumed your analysis to be right.


but i agree that there shouldnt be a "the" policy


we could in theory introduce multiple matrices, like the ones we already have, for multiple factors.

one matrix for researcgh efficiency, one for production capacity etc.

so choosing isnt a 2 input 2 optimisation but 2 input n output optimisation
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Re: Managing Planetary Government

#45
Cornflakes_91 wrote:
Flatfingers wrote:If such a form exists, most competent (i.e., not-crazy) AI faction leaders should eventually converge on it.

The problem is that such forms should not exist. If they do, that's a design flaw because it means the other policies, which seemed interesting enough to create, won't get enough usage to justify the cost to implement them.
well, i just assumed your analysis to be right.


but i agree that there shouldnt be a "the" policy


we could in theory introduce multiple matrices, like the ones we already have, for multiple factors.

one matrix for researcgh efficiency, one for production capacity etc.

so choosing isnt a 2 input 2 optimisation but 2 input n output optimisation
Example?
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