When Stellaris 2.0 came out they eliminated Warp Speed and Wormholes as types of interstellar transit. It was controversial but I think the game has grown because of it and ultimately was the right move. I think the time has come to propose another major change: Pop Elimination
I believe that population statistics should become a line item on a planet. Planets would list population total as a number and then the percent of each species on the planet. Put an icon next to the name/portrait if a species is cybernetic or psychic or engineered. Separate lists for free species and enslaved. I think you should still be able to modify species and maintain the species rights panel, but it is now clear that the game cannot handle creating an individual file for each pop avatar on each planet and then assign those pops a specific job and ethic that has to be occasionally checked.
And honestly, who cares? The game has outgrown individual pops. After about 8 planets it is impossible to keep track of them all. The mechanics to bludgeon pops into the ethics you want are clumsy at best, and every game ends up having more or less the same distribution (unless you play something extreme). Ethics should be limited to empire governments, and should exist on a planetwide and empirewide basis as a line item percent. If Colony X gets too many of an opposite ethic there might be a rebellion, if the Empire gets too much of an opposite ethic you may need to switch or face a larger multi-planet rebellion. Influence can still be derived from these totals, hell you can even keep the current faction mechanics if you want. The percentages on that screen just wont be based off individual pops but rather a total of all colonies in your empire taking their population X the amount of people who are spiritualist or pacifist, etc.
I know the developers put a lot of work into refugees, and class strata, and all that, but it just doesn't make sense any more with the scale of the game and the late-game is suffering for it. Both in performance and in micromanagement. As mentioned before there is no real way to micromanage your pops' ethics and no one really wants too, the mechanic is underwhelming.
This rework would require a bit of tweaking to the game for sure, but not so much as we might expect. We can keep specializing planets. We can keep the buildings, districts and even racial bonuses/happiness. There is a way to allocate those stats and jobs based on the colony's total populate and racial percentages. It will take a rework, but this adjustment is badly needed for Stellaris to get to the next level.
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