So Stellaris has two things that always felt a little awkward to me. First they've put a lot of effort into pushing research penalties on large empires in order to give "tall" play-styles a handicap. Second, population growth is unaffected by how many pops are in your empire, which obviously isn't how life works. It seems like there is an opportunity here to address both of these things at one time.
My suggestion is really simple. Tie population growth speed on a planet to the current population on the planet. Secondly make it so that colony ships have to bring with them already existing pops rather than just spawn their own additional pops. This would mean that most empires, assuming no growth modifiers, war deaths, or planet conquering, would have similar populations regardless of how many planets they colonize. It would make "tall" empires automatically more viable since they would not be at such a large population disadvantage just for owning less planets. Theoretically they should have just as many or more pops than other empires. Subsequently the awkward research penalties for empire size could be reduced or eliminated.
This would also change the game in a few other interesting ways. First it would make immigration more of an important feature of the game as it will be necessary to jump-start the population of a planet that you wish to develop more. Second it would limit the speed at which you could colonize planets, making initial planet selection more important. Less desirable planets would be colonized later once population growth increased more, or they might only be lightly colonized as fringe worlds with limited infrastructure to extract particularly valuable resources. Finally it would make indiscriminate bombardments and planet cracking a little more meaningful as killing pops will reduce that empires future growth speed.
I feel like this change would not only add another layer of realism, but it would also add some interesting game-play wrinkles.
© Post "Tie Pop Growth to Population Instead of Planets Owned" for game Stellaris.
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