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Civillian trade in 4X games

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Something that really bugs me about a lot of 4X games is that their in-game economies are incredibly simplified. To a certain degree this is okay, after all it would be unreasonable to ask the designer to create a living system within the game, as they have other priorities. I feel like there's a certain level that's required to create a sense of realism, because, after all, intra and international trade is a massive part of the global economy. What really kicked this off for me was the difference in how Distant Worlds: Universe and Stellaris handles trade, where in DW: U all resource collection is done autonomously by civilian businesses for use in your empire, and traders will move between planets shipping resources where they are needed. But in Stellaris you have control over almost all resource production and every month it just goes into a big pool. This can make a difference in-game because in DW: U targeting civilian trade is a viable strategy because it deprives the target of tax income and needed resources whereas in Stellaris that isn't nearly as effective in the mid to late game because by that point you're so full of minerals and credits that only a huge swathe through your production areas will really cripple you.

 

I suppose what I'd like to ask is this: Is this difference a bigger deal than I'm making it out to be? Or is something like civilian trade and its simulation really an important part of making a good 4X game?

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I suppose what I'd like to ask is this: Is this difference a bigger deal than I'm making it out to be? Or is something like civilian trade and its simulation really an important part of making a good 4X game?

 

It's very important, I enjoy trading in these kind of games more than any other part of the game. 

Simulating a economy is a tradition with space games, even when they are not 4X. It's one of the things fans expect and will effect how your game is viewed.

 

Both systems match the game. Stellaris needs the players to focus on all kinds of small details and some times there is just a flood of information, having the player focus on resources would be overwhelming for new player.

 

Distant Worlds is less complex in basic functions and it's 2D view keeps things simple, so it allows for more complex systems with out frustrating the player.

 

In truth the games are not that different that the system of one couldn't work in the other, it's just that when a player starts Stellaris it just feels more complex. It makes sense that the developers simplified things for beginners.

 

 

A game that had a fun trading system was Space Rangers 2, I would often allow the Dominators to starve systems to get better prices.

Edited by Scouting Ninja

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Very heartily agreed. I wish more games (not just 4X) allowed for alternate strategies and forms of warfare, and as you've said economic warfare just never seems to work because there is rarely any appreciable shortage of materials to exploit. This is exacerbated by the fact that on higher difficulties one of the tricks developers use to give the computer an advantage is just to throw lots of extra resources at them. 

 

You mention Distant Worlds, though in my own experience with the game it has the same problem. While the civilian sector makes things feel more alive and is a very cool idea (which I hope to blatantly steal asap) I never found that targeting civilian trade seemed more effective than simply waging conventional warfare. I haven't played a lot of it though, and might have just gotten a skewed view.

 

I think it's partially bound up in the fact that few games (again, not just 4X) allow for different kinds of objectives and conquests. In a realistic situation, you might not always WANT to completely annihilate your opponent and take everything they have. Sometimes you just want to rough them up a little but keep their lands and industry relatively intact so that you can trade with them afterwards. Sometimes you want to annihilate certain sectors of their economy in order to eliminate competition for your own. Etc etc. This lack of nuance permeates games: the player is given very limited options because the designers targeted very limited goals. 

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Yes I remember playing 4X games in what was back then LAN party (yes that long ago) where I often played a game I never played otherwise/before against 'bean counter' type players who knew every loophole and every detail about exactly what to do/build (And when).  (when Im there looking at something saying 'What the Hell is This weird Thing and what does it do..." 

 

But that made me think that what if a good part of "the game" was disrupting those expected/exact game mechanics and MAKING the player discover how things worked ??  (to make the game more variable)

 

Even with the same relationships/animations of those cute visuals and effects, you could randomly modify ratios of payoffs and costs in resources of the different 'buildings' and unit builds (and their production schedules) for each game run .... all just by changing some ratios/coefficients.   The careful balancing of game mechanics isnt as much needed as its then upto the player to figure out (by playing that game run) what works and what isnt THAT efficient to do.

 

That way the player has to EXPLORE the economic system to figure out (without expensively adding multitudes of options of the various game objects).   It forces the player to first do DISCOVERY of the system they will play with, and then use that for the strategies to play out the rest of the game.     

 

Some care might be given to how much/patterns of the coefficient changes are to NOT make it TOO easy or TOO  hard (but still a big part of the 'winning'  IS figuring out how things work to then procede.  And with the usual ramps of unlocked buildingsunits that discovery may continue in part through a good part of the game.  

 

Yes, the bean-counters wont like it, but they have all those other games to play.

Edited by wodinoneeye

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