I've been playing stellaris on and off over the years, basically checking back here and there to see what's new, but no hardcore player by any means. Contrary to most people, I really liked the planet and pop changes, which probably has to do a lot with that I loved Victoria and the idea of it's pop system back in the day. (never played the second one, but need to check it out some day)
I have to say though, there's just not much to it's mechanics. Most of the values actually do not really do anything or make any game out of it to keep them at any value. For starters, there's virtually no unemployment in the stellaris universe and you're constantly chasing to get more pops to fill all the jobs you have and to expand the planet. There's no downside to more people, more people is pretty much always better. Expanding the industry to provide jobs after the first few years is basically just busywork as you will have a resource surplus out of your nose. I like the idea that unemployed pops can be beneficial and productive in other ways with social welfare and utopian living standards and such, but there's really not much point if there normally aren't any. In a high tech world as Stellaris where I assume there's a lot of AI and mechanic work help in societies that aren't Star-Trek like post-scarcity, unemployment should always be a factor and there should always be a part of the populace on any planet that has no work. As it is now, if you actually run into a situation of a planet that's simply overcrowded you just plop down a colony ship on another planet and you have room to expand again. It basically costs nothing and there is no risk involved.
Same with crime. Crime simply does not exist. If you ever have to deal with crime it's usually because of something extraordinary like events or criminal syndicates and you just built a precinct or two until until it's pushed to 0%. Again, I feel crime should be a permanent factor on every planet and impossible to ever fully eradicate in the not too far out society types. As it is, it makes no sense as a value as it's either there or not. It does not really matter for a game if there's 10% crime or 20% crime. Only the AI struggles with this as it's generally not clever about building things.
Happiness could be a cool mechanic but it does absolutely nothing as pops are always happy as their needs and their faction needs are always met and they're always employed. Later on you snowball into technical advances, events and planet features that bring you even more happiness and eventually the happiness of parts of your population sits at a permanent 100%. You have to go consciously out of your way to not meet faction needs as the most important factions in your empire are usually defined after how you created the empire and there's little point in deviating from that as that's the way you wanted to play anyways. You can switch it up for RP reasons but you're absolutely never forced to.
Slaves are the only pops that you can't really keep fully happy but usually, it simply doesn't matter as it doesn't really have any noticeable negative effect. You really have to go out of your way to annoy your normal population and there's never a benefit in doing so you couldn't solve in some other way that would not make people unhappy. If you ever misstep so badly that there are lots of unhappy people, nothing really happens anyways.
Stability is another value that doesn't really do much as again, you have to go out of your way to let it go down and it usually has no way but up. Plenty of jobs provide plenty of amenities that up stability. This will give you even more resources you usually end up having too many of soon enough.
The stratum system is a nice idea that again, you guessed it, in practice doesn't really do anything. Pops can change up and down, they are not attached to their class nor offer classes any real benefits over others (there's a connection to political power of factions but see above, it doesn't really do anything to begin with) simple workers are just as happy and content with their lot in life as planetary ruler classes.
Leaving the planets, space piracy is a completely pointless busywork mechanic and also trivial to "eradicate". Space stations that do mining are apparently all owned by the government and it's pointless busywork to build new ones, as they're so cheap past the early game that you have to put no strategic thought into it and quantity is basically always better than quality, especially now that you can get energy for any resource on the market. There's empire sprawl but it can safely be ignored as the benefits of sprawling outweight the downsides, drastically so. There are also so many resources in the universe that you can get away with not producing raw resources on the planets and I have done so before.
This game could have so much potential as the ideas are all good but they're just poorly executed and apparently, haven't had really much thought put into them. I have little hope any of this gets ever officially fixed as paradox seems to be more concerned with making up new features they can sell.
I plan to do some modding on my game to see if I can improve the balance a bit. The first Idea I have is to cut down jobs in half for districts and buildings while keeping the amount of production the same for now. I want unchecked population growth to vastly outstrip employment offers. Then I want to up upkeep for pops across the board that you actually have to make a hard choice what to do with your unemployed population. I want to cap happiness for lower strata jobs if possible to do so, and if not to apply a malus. Normal workers should never really be happy with their lot in life, they should be content at the very best. I want to abstract space piracy away to a certain percentage of space-side produced resources lost, my plan is to make this mostly an event driven system that makes use of the MTTH mechanic and raises and lowers the percentage in a predictable yet fuzzy way depending on variables like how much you spent to combat piracy via new policy decisions and how big your spaceside resource extration operation is. It should never be possible to fully eradicate piracy and it should be balanced that way that picking the highest policy options is actually more expensive than to just let piracy happen to some degree. With the fuzziness of the MTTH system I hope it'll be a permanent balancing act. I'll probably implement this only for me and leave the AI out of it as it has a hard enough time gathering resources as-is.
I also experimented with private colonization events (basically independent one-planet minors popping up around your empire if it's a democratic one, simulating private avenues and people leaving so they can follow their own way of life) and I got it working so far but I didn't manage to get the effect working that resettles pops, need to look into that, there seems to be some funky hardcoded stuff going on regarding the creation of new empires in a running game. Either that or I didn't grasp how it works fully yet. I also thought about disabling construction of mining stations altogether (as I find it tiring and boring) and just having them pop up randomly (and for free, the piracy mechanic should offset the benefit) inside your empire's borders via event over time, speed according to government form and policies and simulating private mining businesses setting up shop, but I could not yet find a way to disable mining station building for the player. I feel this could also help the AI in a major way especially with my idea of piracy out of the picture, and it was funnily really easy to disable the AI wanting to build stations. Will have to check that out a bit more. I also saw mods that modify the rate pops get promoted and demoted into different strata, so that's apparently possible to script too, need to look into it.
I have no idea what to do about crime and stability yet, and if you managed to read this far I would like to hear your input! I'm not trying to touch politics, this will be mostly about economy and planetary administration, to put more unpredictable-ness and life into it.
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© Post "Is it just me or do some of the mechanics in the game have no real effect whatsoever? Also a few attempts at fixing this." for game Stellaris.
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