World of Warcraft is one of my favorite games. I was in the beta from the start of it and when released, re-did my Paladin. And it was good. I didn't really pay much attention to all the numbers. I knew that doing X was better than doing Y. I didn't really know how much better it was, I just knew it was from the description.
My Paladin today doesn't resemble too much my Paladin of that initial launch (let alone the beta). A lot of that is from player feedback. Third party tools combined with players putting all the stats together resulted eliminating a lot of the "fuzzier" mechanics. Things like "Procs" got dissected and analyzed at levels I couldn't even imagine. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind you, it just means the game has such large appeal that it's attracted both the casual gamers and the ones who want to understand the ins and out.
The first Galactic Civilizations was all fuzzy math. Even I would have a hard time explaining with precision how morale worked or how production worked in terms of putting together a formula. In GalCiv I, your planet quality was central to everything. Various planetary improvements, morale, and bunches of other attributes got in there to do all kinds of multiplications to the various numbers. The order of some of these mattered since there'd be an addition here, a square root there. The system was designed essentially that building improvement X was better for production than improvement Y. The numbers, in essence, were all relative to one another. Someone looking for an entertainment network to make their morale go up by 15% would be sorely disappointed.
For the sequel, I wanted to dispense with as much of that as possible. A factory would build X production units. A research center would produce Y research units. Period. How much of its capacity was used depended on how fully funded the building was.
Entering the sausage factory
Things get murky when you start dealing with civilization ability points. One might argue that if I have a planet where my approval rating is 50% and I have a morale ability of 10% then my approval rating should be 55% (50*1.1). And if I build an entertainment network whose job is to improve morale by 20% that my approval rating would then be 50*1.3 = 65%.
What about production? If I have a factory that produces 10 units of production and it's all on social production and my social production ability is 20%, then my social production should be 12? Sure. But should the player be charged the 12 units? Or should it be 10 units with the other 2 production as bonus? That's the way it is on research.
Speaking of which, if I have 10 units of research being produced and my research ability is 50%, shouldn't my research by 15? No argument from me. On the surface, that's how it should be. And indeed, often that's how things start out. Then you have human beings playing your game and all those good designs go out the window. Probably the biggest reason for that in this particular game is from the mining resources.
There are research, military, economic, influence, and morale resources. To keep the game from being too complex to the casual user, starbase modules that mine these resoruces are the same no matter what type you are building on. That is, A mining barracks adds say 10% to your ability regardless of whether it's a morale resource or a weapons resource. The problem is, a 10% bonus to research is hugely different than a 10% bonus to morale which is a huge difference form a 10% bonus to weapons. I mean, heck, if I have a ship with 8 attack, I won't even get an additional point.
And we're just getting warmed up. Should a 10% bonus to your morale ability increase it by 10%? Or should it add 10 points to it? That is, if my morale ability is 10% and I mine a morale resoruce for 10%, should my morale ability be 11%? Or should it add 10% to it and make it 20%? We add it because otherwise, any semblance of balance could go out the window (create a civ with a 80% morale ability natively and then these percent multipliers would get crazy).
Has your head exploded yet? Because it just keeps getting better. In order to have some semblance of balance, we mess around with the ability values in order for them not to get out of whack.
That morale ability? fCivABilityFactor = pow(fCivABilityFactor,0.80f);
At release, Your Civ Ability at morale was just that. But it turned out on a large galaxy you could have several morale resources cranked up to over 100 points each. So suddenly you could have 100% taxes and 100% morale. Oops. So it was changed .95, then .9, then .7, then back upu to .8. That's the sausage factory that's game development. Where all your nice clean, elegant mechanics start to get murky.
Your research ability? It's chopped in half for the same reason.
And what about "wasted" social production? In GalCiv I, military and social production was wasted even if you weren't building anything.
For GalCiv II, we decided to eliminate that. If you weren't building a ship or an improvement, you weren't charged for that production. That makes sense. Except, well, it turned out that players couldn't control their economy if social production was handled that way.
What happened is that say you're playing on a really large galaxy with 100 colonies and your economy is producing 5,000 net revenue per turn. Your planets have no improvements being built. Then an alien offers to trade you xeno factories. You take it. Then suddenly your net revenue goes to -2,000 per turn. Huh? What happened? All your planets started upgrading their factories and all that social production started to get charged for again. Yikes! Worse, it would gradually come back down as those improvements were completed all without the player doing anything.
Given that there's people who find the economic system in GalCiv II to be complex (what? separate tax and spend sliders?) having massively changing net revenue without user intervention would have put them over the top. So we ended up charging for social production. Which, is probably more realistic anyway and requires the player to put a little bit of effort into making their government more efficient. Still, it's not ideal because it has to be rationalized.
One of the ideas we had was to have social production go towards approval rating. But it's the same problem. Players see their approval alter by moving the spending slider and it's just another complexity.
Another idea was to have social production be added to military production on a given planet if there's nothing else to build. This is possibly more doable. And if there's no ship being built, it would still be spent. But at least that way, there's some benefit.
You have the power
Just like with World of Warcraft, games, especially statistics laden games like Galactic Civilizations are designed to evolve. We'll listen to what you have to say and together we'll keep improving the system. But never think there's a "best" system. There is only, at best, a system that annoys fewer people than the alternatives.