Specialists... What are We Doing Here, Guys?

pineappledan

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Over the past 2 congress sessions we have had quite a few proposals to increase the yields on engineers, change the manufactory, decrease the yields on mines so they compete with engineers less, discussions for changes to Towns and Great Merchants, and for creating a global GPP pool for specialists. It seems we are going back-and-forth over the specialists and great people, especially the ones that produce "common" yields, that are easily taken from terrain (ie. :c5production: and :c5gold:)

The impression I am getting from these proposals and the conversations surrounding them is that there is something fundamentally lacking with the specialist system, and that tweaking yields won't result in a permanent fix.

Spoiler Summary of my thoughts on the current situations :

  • Every specialist provides a relevant yields, and :c5greatperson: GPPs for the relevant Great Person type. eg :c5science:Science and :c5greatperson:Great Scientist Points for Scientists.
  • They consume 3:c5food:food to start, increasing by 1 per era, and generate :c5unhappy:Urbanization. Urbanization can sometimes be offset by the :c5unhappy: needs that are reduced by working the specialist though, so it's not as simple as flat -1:c5unhappy:unhappiness in all cases.
  • For each Specialist type there are two situations:
    • The specialist is in a major city and their :c5greatperson: GPPs will count towards a Great Person Birth
    • The specialist is in a minor city, and their :c5greatperson: GPPs won't go anywhere.
  • If the :c5greatperson:GPPs generated in a city don't count towards anything then they can be ignored as if they don't exist. Specialists in that cities that don't birth Great People consume :c5food:food and generate flat yields in return.
  • Balancing specialists is really hard, because it is as if there are two specialist types that share yields, but one also makes Great People and the other doesn't.
  • Filling a specialist slot with a :c5citizen:Citizen that Consumes :c5food:food and generates flat, :c5gold:/:c5production:/:c5science:/:c5culture:yields is the same thing that a :c5citizen:Citizen could be assigned to do on a tile. The amount of :c5food:food eaten, the amount of :c5gold::c5production::c5science::c5culture:yields generated, and the unhappiness from :c5unhappy:urbanization are the only differences.
  • In the case of Engineers and Merchants -- who generate yields that are pretty easy to get from basic improvements -- it is very hard to make working them attractive unless each specialist is generating a lot of yields, or the land around your city is really deficient in one of those yields in particular.

There has been an intense focus on Engineers in particular, but the conversations I have read suggest this is missing the forest from the trees. Any problem with Engineers is also a problem with specialists as a concept, they are just the most visible and easy example, because they compete so directly with basic Mine improvements.

Spoiler Possible Solutions :

Here are some ideas which have been tossed around in various congress proposals and on the discord for how to fix parts of this. If you feel I have misrepresented a viewpoint then I apologize, I can edit the OP if you comment:

1. Just make Specialists really good.
ie. Make the base yields and tech increases on all specialists bigger.
eg. Increase Engineer to +6:c5production: per turn to start, with more tech bonuses.
PROS
  • You only get a few slots of each specialist, so there are already strong controls to keep specialists from getting out of hand, so why not make them way better than any improvement they would otherwise compete for :c5citizen:Citizens with?
  • Specialists also give guaranteed flat :c5unhappy: unhappiness and consume more :c5food:food than basic tiles. Currently this is framed as being a sort of 'investment' or delayed gratification in exchange for a Great Person, but that isn't the case if working that specialist won't result in a Great Person. So just make working specialists always worth it, if your happiness, food and slots in the city can sustain it.
  • No new code. Easy to implement; just make the numbers bigger.
CONS
  • Would inflate yields in general. Would probably need to weaken buildings and tile improvements, or increase cost scaling for things to compensate for adding yields directly onto specialists
  • Would make bonus yields on specialists weaker, and extra specialist slots much stronger. If they are always worth working, then having more slots is a really good bonus. Things like Babylon's Walls, or Rationalism's Observatory would be made even better
  • Would make the resulting Great Person feel less special if the specialist was already the best use of citizens up front. Might make it difficult to balance GPTIs against the specialists that generated them.
  • Makes working specialists vs tiles not feel like a decision anymore, because specialists are always better if you can support them. No more some 'yields now' vs 'more yields later', cost-benefit decision.
2. Add % Yield Modifiers onto Specialists
eg. Change Engineers so they give +2:c5production: AND +5%:c5production: in the city
PROS
  • Specialists do something different. Right now, :c5citizen:Citizens can only give flat yields no matter how they are assigned. With this change, they could be assigned to give a % yield increase instead, which makes a :c5citizen: citizen in a specialist slot do something a :c5citizen: citizen on a tile can't do.
  • Specialists can actually specialize a city by acting as a force multiplier. You can focus on filling all your specialists of one type to stack modifiers to make that city good at that 1 yield.
  • Specialists would scale automatically as the city grows and builds infrastructure. This means we could take a bunch of +1 to X specialist bonuses out of the tech tree, and clean the tech tree slots up.
  • Doubles down on specialists being best for tall empires with large cities
CONS
  • Specialists would be less good at shoring up weak yields in cities that are struggling with Needs, and would potentially be weaker in cities with weak infrastructure or small populations
  • New code, might be hard to implement.
3. Make :c5greatperson:GPPs generated by Specialists transferrable somehow. Could do this in a few ways:
a) could make a global pool for GPPs which all specialists contribute towards, so at least some GPPs earned in smaller cities go somewhere.
PROS
  • No yield rebalancing.
  • Focuses Specialists on the main thing they already do different from :c5citizen:Citizens working tiles: Making Great People
  • Makes :c5greatperson: GPPs less of a wasted yield. A test game showed that at least half of all GPPs ever earned are wasted, even in a small, 5-city empire focusing on GPs. The waste is much more severe in wide empires.
  • A global pool would make use of global % :c5greatperson: GP rate modifiers, like policies and Gardens in all cities.
CONS
  • Would benefit wide gameplay. Many cities building basic infrastructure and working a few specialists could contribute quickly to new Great People.
  • Would result in more Great People being born overall. Might need to re-scale how much each GP costs
  • New code and hard to implement. Would require quite a bit of UI work so that the global pool can be made visible to players.
b) Give players a way to spend or convert unused GPPs
eg. Could unlock a project in late game which, when completed, zeroes out all :c5greatperson:GPPs earned in that city and converts them to :c5faith:Faith (which could then be spent on Great People)
PROS
  • Almost no game impact, but gets rid of the wastage GPPs at the end of the game
  • Easy to implement, but it is new code.
CONS
  • Doesn't seem to contribute to solving a problem about making specialists feel different. Even though technically all GPPs earned would now be useful eventually, the solution seems distant and insufficient.

Interested to hear from other community members about what their take on specialists is.
Do you think there is a problem?
Do you think our attention should be kept on just getting Engineers right, or do you see a wider issue?
What do you think specialists ought to be doing for your empire?
How would you change how specialists work?
 
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I like the idea of making specialists give % based yields, both gameplay wise and from a historical perspective: great supervisors/project managers were by and large force multipliers. Henry Ford without his countries industrial capacity would not have been nearly as effective for example.

Regardless of what is done yields wise though, I think the global gpp pool or something to address wasted gpp points in minor cities a must. Not sure if this has been suggested but to combat the problem of wide scaling can just make contribution to the pool scale off of number of cities (at least for non-guild specialists)
 
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Regarding #1:

Without any use for GPPs in satellite cities, these must mostly be disregarded when talking about balance. The strength of specialists with regards to Great Person creation is mostly unaffected by improving yields. Anything else is an emotion.

Makes working specialists vs tiles not feel like a decision anymore, because specialists are always better if you can support them. No more some 'yields now' vs 'more yields later', cost-benefit decision.
Regarding the "choice" between Specialists and Terrain: The limited number of Guilds and the difficulty of getting culture from terrain means that WAMs are worked in the vast majority of situations. Scientists are more plentiful, but they're still the best way to get more science; one generally stops working them only due to out-teching their ability to build. Why do Engineers and Merchants (and to a lesser extent, Civil Servants) have to be the ones where this "choice" applies?.

Working specialists means stunted growth and unhappiness. That could be enough.

#2
One of the primary uses for Engineers is for cities that don't have good production from terrain, I think this deserves special attention when considering #2.
  • Would inflate yields in general. Would probably need to weaken buildings and tile improvements, or increase cost scaling for things to compensate for adding yields directly onto specialists
This applies to #2 as well. Why else would satellites choose to use them over terrain?

#3
I've given my support for Global GPP in the past.
 
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Specialists often act as a way to get a specific type of yield that the terrain lacks. Culture and science are the most obvious. It isn't a problem for specialists to generate relatively large amount of yields, as long as their food cost is harsh enough. This is part of why the food cost of specialists was increased by 1 back then.

On GPP, Babylon is a good case study. With Progress, the Wall of Babylon and the 50% GSP from the UA, the civ's secondary cities can generate great scientists on a decent pace with the capital. So, I think a lot of why most civs have trouble generating great people from secondary cities has more to do with how much GPP can be concentrated specifically in the capital. National Monument giving 25% GPP in one city only, certain beliefs, and many wonders providing some GPP for one specific type, for instance.
 
I'd like powerful specialists (with % yield), with a global pool for great people. At a much much higher cost (double food and unhappiness).
 
The placement of a GPTI can be used to reinforce a secondary city that lacks the specific yield. These GPTIs could provide GP points per turn to the city that exploits them . This would increase GP production in the secondary city itself. Combined with the 3a of the global pool, this could give a good effect of compensating for the "loss" of GPP from secondary cities.

Each GPTI could also give a +1 bonus of the specific yield to the specialists of the city which exploits it.
By using the system proposed in 2 which I find interesting, the bonus could be a % and not a flat.

In any case, I agree with this thread which brings up the discussion on specialists and GPTIs more generally than just the manufactory and the engineer.
 
2. Add % Yield Modifiers onto Specialists
eg. Change Engineers so they give +2:c5production: AND +5%:c5production: in the city
This is a very cool idea! I'd definitely like to try it out.
3. Make :c5greatperson:GPPs generated by Specialists transferrable somehow. Could do this in a few ways:
a) could make a global pool for GPPs which all specialists contribute towards, so at least some GPPs earned in smaller cities go somewhere.
eg. This proposal last congress, which suggested making a global pool which 33% of all GPPs would go into (failed at sponsorship phase).
I liked the idea of global pool for GPPs, but I preferred it without the current local pool. Why didn't you sponsor your own proposal? It's a shame that it didn't passed just because of that, because the idea is nice.

BTW, why do we need urbanization? Would specialists be OP if they didn't decrease happiness? It seems like it's a little bit complication to the happiness system with no good reason.
 
heres a radical idea do away with the urbanisation factor of specialists ive never been a fan of how urbanisation would make people unhappy! increase unhappiness from all other sources population etc (i know going tall would be taking a hit) having massive amounts of unhappiness due to urbanisation is silly ive had games where my urbanisation unhappiness is through the roof and all other sources of unhappiness are negliable.

if the above is totally inelegant the #3 i can get behind ;)
 
I've always liked the idea of global GP pools (including in civ4!), but IMO 1) and 2) could work.

Think about it: in VP, yields scale VERY hard into the lategame. Train station/seaports are +25% to your total production, Factories can easily add 20-50 base production to your city once complete (and you have previous ones), Stadiums can lead you into permanent golden ages, good Tenets can bump your science/culture output by 20%.... Meanwhile, the yields on specialists do not increase much. There are increases here and here but they're absolutely not on the same scale of the decadence of lategame yields.

We've often pointed out how Renaissance tech feels quite empty - maybe it'd be the right place to add a few solid +3 to yields on Specialists here and here.
 
The placement of a GPTI can be used to reinforce a secondary city that lacks the specific yield. These GPTIs could provide GP points per turn to the city that exploits them . This would increase GP production in the secondary city itself. Combined with the 3a of the global pool, this could give a good effect of compensating for the "loss" of GPP from secondary cities.

Each GPTI could also give a +1 bonus of the specific yield to the specialists of the city which exploits it.
By using the system proposed in 2 which I find interesting, the bonus could be a % and not a flat.

In any case, I agree with this thread which brings up the discussion on specialists and GPTIs more generally than just the manufactory and the engineer.
All of this just encourages putting your GPTIs in the capital.
 
All of this just encourages putting your GPTIs in the capital.
I don't think, in any case globally, I often need GPTI on secondary cities and for me it would encourage even more to ask ready for them. The AI also does this commonly, it would seem balanced player/AI.
But actually it is to be discussed in the case of a tradition with a sprawling Capital.
 
I always thought that engineers and merchants shouldn’t be just one yield but rather be more like diplomats with multiple yields.

Engineers could be hammers and culture/science, and merchants could be gold and culture/tourism.
 
These GPTIs could provide GP points per turn to the city that exploits them .
GPTIs are like the reward for generating GPPs. If they also give GPPs then they will mess with Great Person scaling costs by accelerating their own creation.

I'm not opposed to GPPs being added as a tile yield to something, but it feels like it should be a unique improvement or something, and not tied to GPTIs.
I think #3 is by far the best solution
if the above is totally inelegant the #3
3a or 3b?
 
Just to clarify, None of the suggestions are mutually exclusive.

Could make specialists really strong AND give specialists % yield modifiers AND implement a global pool for GPPs at any % AND some way to liquidate GPPs

Adding all together means a lot more balancing and more big changes that are harder to predict, and more new things to code.
Why didn't you sponsor your own proposal? It's a shame that it didn't passed just because of that, because the idea is nice.
Because I'm not good enough at computer to add it to the game; I would need someone to do it for me.
 
I always thought that engineers and merchants shouldn’t be just one yield but rather be more like diplomats with multiple yields.

Engineers could be hammers and culture/science, and merchants could be gold and culture/tourism.
We had something similar before and it got trimmed down. It was a bit ridiculous that everyone's economy had to revolve around specialists due to how well rounded they were.

Again, I'd prefer specialists to be true to their name: focus on one yield, but do it really well. And, again, come with a harsh food cost.

On GPP, I'm not in a hurry to change how it works, since the current Tall vs Wide balance relies on how GP generation is currently set up. Without a clear idea on how Tall is supposed to make up for Wide generating more GPs than now, it's hard to support a proposal. I'd prefer if such cases of Wide being good at generating a GP were limited to a specific GP type, like current Babylon being good at Wide great scientist generation, rather than for all GPs.
 
On GPP, I'm not in a hurry to change how it works, since the current Tall vs Wide balance relies on how GP generation is currently set up. Without a clear idea on how Tall is supposed to make up for Wide generating more GPs than now, it's hard to support a proposal. I'd prefer if such cases of Wide being good at generating a GP were limited to a specific GP type, like current Babylon being good at Wide great scientist generation, rather than for all GPs.
Personally, this is why I like the idea of adding both #2 and #3a (but not #1).

Lowering the base yields on specialists and adding a % modifier would make them better in big, tall cities, reinforcing the tall-specialists paradigm.
Adding the GPP pool would give more GPP-making power, but scale more with wide.

With both proposals together, if you wanted to leverage your wide empire to generate GPPs of 1 type on a global scale, at that 33% efficiency, you can, but your small cities would be paying an even bigger price in up-front yields for working specialists instead of tiles, since they don't have the base yields and infrastructure to make use of the % modifiers.
 
GPTIs are like the reward for generating GPPs. If they also give GPPs then they will mess with Great Person scaling costs by accelerating their own creation.
I can understand this vision especially since the GW would not produce GPP, I just saw logically that an academy could produce great scientists for example.

But the second part of my proposal, GPTI give bonuses (% or flat) to city specialists enough in the theme you are discussing with Legen of tall vs wide, especially since I agree like you with the choice of #2 + #3a.
 
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