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The economics of civ

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by pi-r8, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. pi-r8

    pi-r8 Luddite

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    This article criticizing the way civilization models the real world has got me thinking about alternate models that could be used for a game. In particular, almost every 4X game uses the same basic idea that your economy depends on controlling more resources and people. It's a supply-side view of economics, and I'd like to see a game built around a demand-side view.

    I've noticed that historical scenarios always run into trouble when they try to put England and Japan on the map. The problem is that these are small island nations with few natural resources, so in the Civ world they'd be toast- but in the real world they have powerful economies. Meanwhile the african countries have large territories and many resources, and an explosively high birth rate. In civ this would make them powerful, but in the real world their economy lags way behind. There's no good way to model that in civ, so most mapmakers have to cheat by increasing the size of England and Japan, and packing them full of natural resources.

    The only thing even close to this in civilization are the specialists. They live in the city, so it doesn't matter how many tiles the city controls. As long as you can feed them, you can have infinitely many (it's especially absurd in civ 4, where you can use caste system to turn the entire population of a city into scientists, instantly). However, since their food cost is high, you typically have most of your population still working the tiles as farmers and miners. It's very strange to model an economy that way, since very few people in an industrialized nation are going to be farmers or miners. Almost every job these days would qualify as a "merchant" in civ terms. Especially England, which imports almost all of its food- there's no way to do that in civ. You can't even transfer food between your own cities.

    For me personally, the specialists are one of the most fun parts of the game. I'd like to see a game that focuses more on them, and less on acquiring more resources. Speaking of which, why are commerce and production separated? It's the same thing in any country that has a national currency system.

    I don't have this all sorted out yet. I'd like to hear ideas from other people for a system that would be a bit more realistic, but also fun for a game. The only game that I've seen come close to what I'm thinking of is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Kingdoms_(computer_game) where you have to manage every individual person in your kingdom, training them to do a job, and everything costs money. Unfortunately, that game suffers from TONS of micromanagement. But, it's a good start.
     
  2. qwerty25

    qwerty25 Chieftain

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    One reason is because in most 4X games your an empire. And empires are more powerful the more land you have. Also, if small countries were as powerful as you say, why bother getting more land? Just upgrade your capitol and it'll be more powerful than other countries with a large amount of smaller cities. Most of the other reasons you already addressed.
     
  3. pi-r8

    pi-r8 Luddite

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    True, in 4X games most of the competition is competing for territory. It's a simple mechanism, and it allows people to see pretty easily who's winning. I think you'd still see conflict in a game with a system like this, though- you might want to take down your rivals, or you might try to gain control of a strategic resource like oil. It could also give you a monopoly on a trade route.
     
  4. SevenSpirits

    SevenSpirits Immortal?

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    On the production vs commerce distinction, I've actually thought about that quite a bit.

    Production represents both the extraction of raw materials, e.g. wood/bricks/metals, as well as energy (be it generated by human or animal labor, or extracted from nature via watermills or other machinery, or later still by chemical or nuclear reactions).

    Commerce represents other things of value that people can create. Maybe they are inventing new machines, or managing subordinates, or creating art, or even just increasing utility through trade. All these activities are worthy of being put in a separate category from industrial output. (Whether it's fair to lump them all together and assume they are fungible with one another is unclear. And the idea of them being storable as gold (i.e. a currency, a method of trade with no value in itself) really doesn't make any sense. But it seems like a reasonable enough representation.)

    Your observation about small nations with imported food, and specialists being the correct representation of their strengths, is spot on.
     
  5. pi-r8

    pi-r8 Luddite

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    It seems like that's drawing sort of an arbitrary distinction between heavy industry/investment and other forms of industry. The civ system works much better for the ancient world, when trade wasn't well developed, so there really were empires with mounds of gold but no access to things like oxen or metalworking tools . But currency can be exchanged equally well for a painting, a machine, or processed steel. Assuming of course that another nation is willing to trade you steel- that would be an interesting aspect of such a game, maintaining trade routes to get access to the materials you need.

    You're right, it's also nonense having storable gold for a country. I guess the ancient kingdoms might have done that, but after developing banking there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a loan. (It's funny to think about what that would do to game balance in civ though- take out a loan for 1000 gold early in the game, and then crush everyone with upgraded warriors).

    Basically I think the civ system works really well for modeling the ancient and classical eras, but it gets increasingly absurd as the game progresses. A lot of people seem to prefer the early parts of the game, too, and that might be why. It would be nice to try a system that can model modern economies a little more accurately.

    edit: the way I'm sort of imagining this system in my head is that, if your nation controls a steel factory, any other nation that you're on friendly terms with can use your factory to turn iron into steel. Anyone who uses it, including you, pays the same cost. Some of the cost then comes back to you as tax income. You could also upgrade your factories to be more efficient, because people would always want to use the most efficient factories in the world.
     
  6. timmey_o_tool

    timmey_o_tool Chieftain

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    I thought of maybe a new category of specialists, "Caravans". There would have to be one for each sort of city output : eg commerce, shields, food, culture,... They would all put there production in some national pot. It could then be used for trade between nations, simulating exchange of food, work force, money, culture,... but also between cities, if you imagine "incoming Caravans" and "outgoing Caravans" specialist.
    Important to be able to simulate your England or Japan is that the buildings bonuses also do apply for those specialists, so that a developped city produces more for the national pot than an underdeveloped. So, more Caravans would require bigger population in your city. More powerfull Caravans would required developed city.
    It could also be implemented in a different way, but this is an idea how it could easily integrated in the actual game.
     
  7. lschnarch

    lschnarch Chieftain

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    I have always been of the opinion that Civ-like games are depicting a society like in ancient Greece.
    Your socalled "empire" in principle is just a group of more or less independent city states.

    Before the invention of culturally spread borders, this was even visible.

    As you correctly pointed out, main aspects of nationwide economy are missing, the most glaring one being the inability to provide food from your farming areas to production centers.
    But there's more, which is missing.

    Even the way in which population increases is completely insane. The more food, the higher the reproduction rate, which is completely wrong.
    The reproduction rate in real life is mainly based on a couple of parameters:
    * poverty (more poverty typically generates a higher reproduction rate)
    * health
    * avoidance of starvation

    The latter point is one of the most important ones, as I think.
    In my vision, any city should produce new citizens at the same rate, as long as there is enough food available to feed the ones being present. This of course would have to be influenced by health (and in this regard, Civ4 was a first step into the right direction).
    Furthermore, "producing" of military units is just completely wrong. In Civ, military units from the very beginning onwards are just robots, without any direct connection to the number of people available in your "empire".

    And all of this culminates in the missing of internal trade. A city producing ore should deliver this ore to another city in which the ore will be converted in some kind of goods, which then may be delivered into a third city in which these goods are used to create "final products".
    At each step you should be able to create added value, meaning the ore being valued at 1 gold per unit, while the "goods" might be 3 gold per unit and the "final products" would be 5 gold per unit.

    Combine this with some kind of "international trading", and you have mastered the first step into a more realistic and plausible economical system.
    And then you would find that certain areas become rich, since they are providing the final goods for a large part of your empire, continent or even the rest of the world.

    Unfortunately, with the direction Civ5 has taken we seem to be farther from such a system than ever before.
     
  8. alpaca

    alpaca King of Ungulates

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    Can't really answer to that without writing a whole article.
     
  9. pi-r8

    pi-r8 Luddite

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    I'm a little confused by your English. I think what you're saying is that the regular city output would just stay in that city (like in Civ), but the Caravan specialist transports that output to the national pot, right? I think that's a good idea, although I'd implement it a little differently. I'd make caravans more like a building, which any nation can rent when they need them, for any purpose. Master of Orion 2 had something a little similiar, with its freighter fleets which were necessary to transport food or people.
     
  10. pi-r8

    pi-r8 Luddite

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    Yeah, that's true! In fact, the only things which are really shared between your cities are research, and the effect of some resources.

    I also like your description of a multi-stage production process with value being added along the way. I wonder if it's necessary for a game to give a fixed value for everything, though- it could also just let people bid on everything, letting the price vary with the open market.
     
  11. lschnarch

    lschnarch Chieftain

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    That is actually exactly along my lines of thinking, but I didn't mention it since it would have required even more text to describe such a principle.

    I would make such a concept being demand-driven, meaning that any "production site" would offer their production, and internally the cities demanding such goods would bid for the goods. The city with the highest bid gets the goods. If anything is left, the cycle repeats.
    Cities with a high degree of specialization could save their income for exactly the goods they need, while economic powerhouses would be able to get a bit of each and everything, so they could provide a variety of services and production steps at different stages.

    One word to the idea of "caravans": Caravans are fun if you only have to manage some to them.
    Therefore, I would replace them (maybe later) with caravansaries, which provide the transport services in a "hidden" manner and automatically.
     
  12. Windsor

    Windsor Flawless

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    Maybe if you could import food from city states and just use gold for production... :p

    De-emphasizing tiles and tile yields is a very dangerous route to take. As Soren said, more than a turn based strategy game, Civilization is a Tile Based Strategy game. It's all about the tiles. We don't want a game where city placement doesn't matter.

    But of course, I would love to see a working trade model. It would be awesome if London and Amsterdam could compete on being the main trading center rather than just plotting down some very strange trading posts.

    My idea for economic model is based on resources being "X per turn" when worked(modified by buildings and techs), maybe also a possibility to assign several citizen on one tile (say a fur resource may give max50 fur/turn and each citizen can exploit 7 fur/turn). My idea also bases itself on cities buying resources more automatically as they need(and can afford) them, with the player being able to influence this with subsidies and depending on civics/sps. I'll see if I can expand on this later.

    I would also like to see a "cottage-type" specialist. Colonization got the "master carpenter" thing, what if a merchant processing fur gave better result after doing it for a long time? So he might start at 2:gold:/turn, then 3:gold:/turn. After a while it would be better for a non-specialized country to sell the fur for 4:gold:/turn rather than try to build up a fur-processing industry while the fur-specialist would get 9:gold:/turn from the specialist.

    And of course, we all love to see an arms industry! Placing an order on 5 cannons in would be so sweet :D

    (note: my numbers are not tried to be balanced to Civ5!)
     
  13. DavidPBacon

    DavidPBacon Chieftain

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    Sorry to but in, but I always was bothered by civ economy, tbh. I actually think that we should have a economy based on labour.
    You should keep the pops like we have now, but subdivide them more. Like 1 pop = 1000 people.
    Then you could alocate the pops to do stuff, like cultivate farms, mine, or chop trees. The tiles would have to be subdivided in the city view, so one tile could hold several pops, doing diferent things.
    The production would go to the city stockpile and could be used to build things or to trade.
    The commerce efficiency would depend on the level of trade tech you'd have and how many civs you know, growing with tech advancement. This would be then taxed and that would bring the govs money. Trade would be based on civilian and gov demand, with a gov stockpile and a general stockpile. The gov would be able to buy things on the general stockpile and use for buildings and army.
    How fast you build in cities would depend on how much raw material you have and how many pops you would allocate to it(construction job).
    Goods would be produced by POPs inside cities, what we call now specialists would be just the urban population.
    The area of the empire would be divided into provinces and you would be able to put pops everywhere inside, but the production produtivity would vary according to the distance to the closer city.
    In the slots, POPs would be able to produce any crops and livestock avaible by tech. The resources limits would be atached only to raw material, like iron, silver, etc. Of course, there should be some geography limitations to what crops you will be able to produce too.

    Well, roughly, that's my general ideas for economical changes, between the enviroment of the game.
     
  14. lschnarch

    lschnarch Chieftain

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    Oh, in my system city placement would very well matter.

    One of the big problems of city states in Civ5 is that they can magically "beam" their food across the whole planet. You get as much food for the same price from the city state next to your borders than you get from the city state at the other end of the world. No connections are needed.
    And the same stands true for any home-grown resource within your empire.

    That is something which is as wrong as it ever can be.

    In my system caravansaries would only have a certain range. Let's say, only 10 hexes (numbers are just examples). This range will increase over the course of time due to better roads and better transportation means, but for the most time of the game it would be quite limited.
    As soon as modern times are reached, however, the placement of a city would become almost insignificant, that's true. But this is just how things are.
    Dubai (UAE) for sure wouldn't be able to provide itself with food today.
     
  15. masonryan

    masonryan Chieftain

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    this is great discussion I like the ideas presented.
     
  16. Elliot

    Elliot Chieftain

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    The world became very different after the industrial revolution. Before railroads, you don't have any big cities that are far away from waterways. Land transport is simply too costly. Regarding farming, even in 1900 in the United States, 41% of the workforce was still working in agriculture. Civ fits the pre-industrial revolution pretty well, but obviously fails to capture the modern economy. Natural resources are not that important. Technology and the education of the workforce are far more important.

    You would have to have 2 different games, one before and after the industrial revolution, to properly model history. And this wouldn't be that fun, anyways. Economic growth becomes so fast after the industrial revolution that whoever gets there first would dominate the rest of the world. Which is what you see in history as Europe came to colonize almost the entire world. Civ1,2,3,4 model the industrial revolution by adding a single additional production and food point to tile yields. Thats only an increase of production of 25% in civ4(3 hammers for grass hill-->4 hammers). Food production goes up from a yield of 3 to 4, a 33% increase. In the real world you have much higher increases. According to this page, you have a gdp per capita in the west europe of $670 in 1500 CE but $1269 in 1820 CE. Thats almost a doubling just at the very start of the industrial revolution. Then its $17,456 in 1995 CE (these all use 2000 dollars). If you had a farmed grassland yielding 3 food in 1500 CE, it would yield 78 food in 1995 :lol: . If yields had historical growth rates, you could run 200+ specialists in your cities and civ would be more accurate.
     
  17. lschnarch

    lschnarch Chieftain

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    Are you mixing tile (hex) yields with GDP?
     
  18. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    Hey interesting post Pi-R8!

    I didn't have time to read the whole thread, but I think Civ4:BTS captured modern era economics pretty well for a civ game: replacing mines and farms with cottages and windmills, corporations, specialists etc.

    About empire size, I think that size does matter to a certain extent. More population provides larger and more numerous industries. For example, Croatia has 4.5 mio. citizens. I bet the US film industry has at least 2 mio. workers. I think a nation needs a certain population and land size (I think Germany or France are a good example) and obviously geographical location is important as well. Larger nations (like Brazil, China, India) inevitably suffer from larger (and thus higher percentage of cheaper) workforce, making them more suited for heavy industries and agriculture.

    If anything, civilizations in CIV shouldn't be able to become self-sufficient without heavy investment into education, industrialization, medical care etc.

    For example: Japan has only one or two cities, but specializes in electronics. China is much larger but does everything, primarily agriculture and heavy industry. But for china to prosper they need electronics. For Japan not to starve, they need to buy food from China.

    I think a good approach would be to make more buildings dependant on having resources, while at the same time enabling new national wonders that produce different kinds of new resources.

    For example:

    New building: Grain factory. Consumes one grain resource.
    New nat. wonder: Grain import-export (or something like it): requires 3 grain factories and produces a new resource: grain shipments (1), 100% more effective with electronics resource.

    New building: Microchip factory. Consumes one silicon resource.
    New nat. wonder: Electronics corporation: requires 3 microchip factories and produces a new resource: electronics.

    So Japan sells electronics to China so China can make more grain shipments. In turn China can now export grain to someone else for Oil. Etc.

    China can also produce electronics, but it will take time to set up all the microchips factories etc. and will need to research the required techs for it.

    This would make trade agreements and diplomatic relations more numerous and valuable.

    Obviously the tech tree needs to be revamped (adding more beelines in industrial/modern era) for nations to be able to make relatively long-term choices.

    What do you think?
     
  19. Bob_

    Bob_ Chieftain

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    Another idea which i d liked to see implemented is that cities found themselves. I think its a bit unrealistic to say that every city every founded was by order of a king. Instead they most often just appeared in certain landscapes (rivers are a good example for very early civs).

    So the idea is: Cities found themselves. The more your population grows, the more cities are created. Of course your citizens only settle in land you control. Instead of building settlers, the task would then be to provide a good population growth and your military controlling some space of habitable land. Certain environments have higher chance of being settled than others.

    The cool thing about that would be a very organic spreading of cities and of course a very high population density in late game (as it is in reality). The economy must then be worked over of course.


    Another thing that i dont like is the implementation of "production". In civ cites are the most productive when there are forrests and hills nearby (alright, that might stand for wood and raw material) but thats pretty unrealistic! Real powerhouses have always been a function of 1. Population 2. Capital (e.g. machinery) 3. Knowledge and 4. Organisation. There must be a better system to at least take the first 3 better into account. Ok, u can say: All of that holds right now since the more Population there is, the more tiles can be worked. Yes, but production is still a function of the landscape then. City on plain ground like New York, Paris, Moscow shouldnt have much production then.
     
  20. Celevin

    Celevin Chieftain

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    I really like and have suggested the "portable resources" bit. My idea was really simple: +1 "food storage" per food resource that could be given out by weighting to different cities. They could be traded as well to other civs, and Maritimes would be switched to giving those out instead of their regular bonus (as to balance them).

    There's no need to make production portable, as gold already serves this purpose quite well.
     

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