Elemental: Internal debates made external

By on May 23, 2009 2:59:28 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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So how complicated (as internal critics put it) or sophisticated (as internal advocates put it) should the Elemental economic system be?

We have the code in for handling a pretty sophisticated/complicated economic engine.  But the debate is, is the system sophisticated? Or just complicated.

Let me give you the arguments of each camp.

 

Camp #1: “Sophisticated”

1. Everything in Elemental is a resource. Food, metal, swords, armor, horses, you  name it. 

2. Resources can be processed into other resources.  Iron Ore into a Sword.

3. Part of the fun of the game would be running a proper empire (or letting AI governors take care of it). 

Example:

A mine is built on an iron resource. The mine produces 10 units of iron ore per turn. That iron ore is then directed to go to the city of Torgeto where a blacksmith is able to produce 5 swords per turn. The unused iron ore is stored in a warehouse that can store up to 100 units of iron ore.

Those swords can be directed to be shipped to various other places (with sliders or other UI  means to determine what ratio goes where). 

In some of those places, the swords are issued to soldiers. In other places, the swords are sent to an alchemist workshop who, taking potions that have been shippped in from Wellford which in turn had taken Aeoronic crystal mined in another town to turn into those potions.  The resulting magical swords are then shipped out to various places with the player (or governor) able to control the ratio in which they are shipped.

Caravans appear on the map to show the items being shipped. If those caravans are attacked, the items are lost.

image

 

Camp #2: “Simple and Fun”

image

1. There are only natural resources (food, iron, crystal, horses, etc.).

2. When a natural resource is controlled, the player assigns that resource to a specific town.

3. Only that town can make use of it. Towns that don’t have a resource assigned it cannot build units that require those resources.

Example:

Unlike camp 1, there are no ratio sliders to mess with. A resource is assigned to a particular town. That makes certain towns more strategic than others and a lot less micro management.  On the other hand, it means that there will be many towns that can only build weaker units.   Players can research technologies that increase the base (weaker) unit that cities can build over time but some cities will simply be more important than others.

Caravans would still flow from the natural resource to the target town and if those caravans are attacked, the enemy player gains a bonus and the victim player would get a penalty to their production until the next caravan arrives.

The Argument

Camp 1 argues that a lot of fun can be had in putting together ever more sophisticated and specialized items. If natural resources can be processed into new resources that can in turn be processed again and again and again, you can reward players who might be able to equip elite crack soldiers with very rare but very powerful weapons and armor.

Camp 2 argues that while some people would enjoy that, it would result in a lot of people who would find that system burdensome and turn them off to the game entirely. It also says that those who do like the camp 1 system would still be satisfied with camp 2 where those who like camp 2 would probably be totally turned off if the camp 1 system were used.  In addition, they argue that Elemental has so much other “stuff” to it (sophisticated diplomacy, tactical battles, quests, etc.) that many players might find they have to rely on AI governors which would put a heavy burden on having really “smart” AI.

Now personally, I could go either way.  I do like the idea of players having to choose certain towns that are absolutely strategic.  But I also like the idea of being able to have “processed” manufacturing that can keep specializing things until you get some rare but very valuable things.

On the other hand, I’m also worried that a complex system could turn out to fall apart in actual practice (the user interface for it would have to be incredibly good) and then we’d be stuck having to go to camp 2 late in development.

What do you think?

 

UPDATE: 5/21/2009

Camp #3: The Merchant

image

 

Today we looked at the feedback from here and Quarter to Three and came up with a way that may satisfy both camps and increases the fun overall. 

1. Everything is a resource.

2. Resources can be processed into other resources (iron to swords, crops to food, crystal to potions).

3. Resources are sent automatically to other towns based on the resource needs of that town. No micromanagement, no AI.

4. The fun of this portion of the game would be in watching your empire grow organically.

Example:

There are no ratios to set. If I build a town with a blacksmith, then one presumes I did that because I want to produce stuff that requires a blacksmith. If I build (or upgrade) more blacksmiths, then one presumes this town is a place where I want to crank out a lot of stuff.

Similarly, if I build a town with multiples barracks it presumes I am trying to train soldiers which means that stuff should be shipped there, particularly if I’m in the process of building a particularly type of soldier.

Caravans (which aren’t player controlled) send out regular shipments of resources to the various towns.  When these shipments arrive, they’re available for use on demand or, if the town has a warehouse, they are stored.

When players design a unit, they choose a category of weapon and that category of weapon (whether in the field or in a warehouse) will automatically upgrade as my tech gets better.  A short sword doesn’t become a long sword or anything like that. But A short sword would automatically become a better short sword if I research tech that improves is in order to remove the complexity of having to “upgrade” units.  However, the cost of keeping a soldier in the field will be fairly high and since soldiers come from population, there’s a real down side to keeping throngs of soldiers idle.

In addition, by building roads, my caravans will arrive a lot quicker (3X faster).  Similarly, I have to keep my supply lines secure.

This also opens the door for a lot more trading. Rather than just having “food” you can have “crops”.  Crops are processed into food and can be traded with other civilizations or used by special buildings (Inns, restaurants, etc.) to increase prestige (which adds to influence).

It also allows players to have the game be very simple (just keep everything local) or highly sophisticated (have weaponry go through multiple processes – a magic sword processed by a Aereon Forge doubles its damage. The town with the Aereon forge is the one that would get on the priority list of magic swords and the Aereon blades produced would be sent to the town with the barracks that is producing your “Night Guard” or whatever you call your designed unit.

But in this way, there’s no real UI other than providing players the ability to close down shops in a city or expedite their priority to get more stuff sent to them. The player remains the king/emperor and not a logistics manager but at the same time is the architect for success of their kingdom’s economy if they so choose.

UPDATE: 5/23/2009

Camp #4: Quarter To Three concept

Having read a lot of posts both here and QuarterToThree we’ve thought of another way to do it that might be interesting.

1. Everything is a resource.

2. Resources can be processed into other resources.

3. Controlling a resource automatically makes it available throughout your empire at a basic level. The more resources you control, the more that basic level is provided.

4. If there is a road to a city that connects you to where the resource is provided, that city gets a bonus amount of that resource.

5. Cities can build improvements that have caravans deliver bonus amounts of that resource to that city from the source.

6. Cities can optionally build warehouses whose only affect is that they can store caravan deliveries for later use. I.e. if I’m not currently building death knights, I can store caravans of “stuff” so that when I do build them, I instantly get the bonus at that point.

Example:

I want my army to be filled with trained knights who have plate mail, steel swords, plate helmets, etc.  Those things are expensive. If I control an iron deposit, I can build them though any town with a barracks. Let’s say it will take 30 turns to create that unit.  10 of those turns is the training of the soldier and the other 20 is the production of the equipment.  If I control 2 iron deposits, that production is knocked down to 18. If I have a road that connects this town to the the iron resource (directly or indirectly) then I can knock it down another turn for each resource.

I can also build a blacksmith shop. By doing this, caravans will be sent from the iron resource production area to the town with the armory. When that caravan arrives, it will reduce the time even further.

Similarly, if I want to make a magic sword that requires Aegeon crystal to be turned into a magic potion then as soon as I build 1 Alchemist lab in any town, then any town can build magic swords at a base level.  If I build 2 alchemist labs, I won’t get any further bonus unless I control more than 1 Aegeon crystal.

So basically, it’s a much simpler system that provides fairly straight forward bonuses for players who want to create a more sophisticated economy.

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xianqi2
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May 21, 2009 2:45:46 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

As long as you can easily/quickly toggle things like blacksmiths on/off, or have 3 settings: On/Off/Priority, then Camp 3 sounds great.  If you have to dig down into ANY menues; or go INTO each and every city every time you want to change a setting, that would cause trouble.  That was Colonization IIs pitfall; please don't fall in it too. . .

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May 21, 2009 2:58:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So now I see camp 3 working like.....

I just produced a resource...

Is anyone requesting this as a priority item (set by the player?) - if yes send it there

Is anyone's production being held up by lack of this resource? - if yes send it there, prioritized by distance

Does anyone have production facilities that will require this resource AND has storage capacity? - if yes send it there, prioritized by distance

Are there other stockpiling locations (warehouses, etc) with capacity available for this resource? "  "" ""    ""

If there is any remaining resource, stockpile an unlimited(?) amount at the location where the resource is created.

 

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May 21, 2009 2:58:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

1  would be good but we need a real good Manual to explane everything. thats all im asking for we already know the game will be good

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May 21, 2009 3:00:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I vote camp #3

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May 21, 2009 3:08:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Pull system (part of choice 1)

Why cant we use a pull system, Where you define what you want built, and the AI starts shipping the goods to build that item to your city.  Use a drag and drop trade route (like google maps for directions).  On top of this each town could have a "do not trade" level in the town store of goods and any goods above this level would be "pulled" to the new town wanting to build a specific unit.

AI for this would not be as hard as one thinks. mostly because:

 

New town wants to build "super unit x"

To build unit x requires a.

cloest town with unit a above its "do not trade" level sends the requested goods to your new town, at the same time it bumps up its do not trade level to cover the fact it needs to move goods to your town (making sure it has enough goods to cover all its trading partners and internal use.

adventually this gets back to the mine, the mine sees that iron is being used more then it makes and your now in a negitive net situation and eather spends more production to build a bigger mine to cover the additional use or informs the player to get additional iron.

Downside:

pulling resorces means that till the first shipment gets to your new town you cant build the unit(the game may allow some work to progress with out all the resorces)

Upside:

Complex resorce managment with out requiring player involvment.  But if the player wants to do something big, he can manualy push resorces to cover starting production and the trade network will follow.

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May 21, 2009 3:14:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I also vote for camp three. It gives the player controll w/o overloading them with things that need to be done.

 

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May 21, 2009 3:15:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Denryu,
So now I see camp 3 working like.....

I just produced a resource...

Is anyone requesting this as a priority item (set by the player?) - if yes send it there

Is anyone's production being held up by lack of this resource? - if yes send it there, prioritized by distance

Does anyone have production facilities that will require this resource AND has storage capacity? - if yes send it there, prioritized by distance

Are there other stockpiling locations (warehouses, etc) with capacity available for this resource? "  "" ""    ""

If there is any remaining resource, stockpile an unlimited(?) amount at the location where the resource is created.

 

 

Perfect.  Camp 3 with on/off/priority toggle.

Only one building can be a priority center at a time for a particular building type.  This defualts all other similar buildings or buildings that would use that resource from priority to on, while all buildings off stay off.  This further means that if a city decides to build a wonder that requires iron, if the player makes that a prioirity, the blacksmith shop that was a priority before is now switched to on.  Thus priority makes sure a town has all the available resources it needs first before anyone else gets their share.

 

I would still of course like to see my caravans.

 

This is a major advancement in the economic model, I am glad to see it.  Camp1 and 2 seemed too complicated and too simple for my tastes.  This is more complicated and realistic than camp 2 without be too much "work" like camp 1.

 

Great job on ideas everyone!!!

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May 21, 2009 3:23:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I definitely like the sound of Camp #3 more than #1 or #2 (not surprising, since resource sophistication with transport simplicity was what I asked for yesterday).

There will probably be some UI considerations to address during the betas about prioritization (do we have on/off/priority toggles, no/little/some/lots/max toggles, etc.) but those seem like small enough issues that making the adjustments based on hands-on feedback would be reasonable and such changes wouldn't require rethinking the whole system.

Anyway, that sounds like a good merging of the two approaches and I look forward to seeing how it plays in-game.

- Ash

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May 21, 2009 3:34:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm happy with Option #3, with a few caveats:

1.  Not requiring units to upgrade to take advantage of new research has some pretty serious strategic impacts.  If I have a unit across the world, why should my research into Short Sword +1 automatically upgrade them?  You may be able to "rush" research right before a major battle to gain the bonus benefits.  I'd suggest looking at only auto upgrading units as they are inside your realm of control.  If they're outside of that, they'll be upgraded automatically once they're inside.  Or if you wanted to be more severe, you could require them to visit a town first, but for simplicity just being inside would help.  Plus it would lend itself more defensively.

2. Let's say I have twenty towns with barracks.  How does it divide up the resources appropriately to those locations?  Obviously taking a resource and dividing it by twenty (if even possible) would seem simple, but it may also need to take other factors into consideration.  What about the size of the town?  What about its relationship within your borders strategically?  What towns with roads vs. those without?  Would it be better off to send tons of resources quickly, and then refine them quickly, rather then sending them off to a remote location that may not be able to manufacture equipment well?  This is still pretty complex.

3. How will the user be able to tell what their shipping lines are?  If you have 10 resources that then get manufactured into 20 different items that are shipped to 15 different towns, that's a whole bunch of lines on the map to manage.  Combine that with trade routes (if applicable), and this will truly require a good UI to manage that complexity.  It's possible, but again I don't want it to be too crazy.  And can you modify the lines in the event they run through enemy territory (taking the longer, safer route instead)?

In essence, it sounds like you'll be treating resources line Astroid Miners from Gal Civ II, except that instead of shipping to only 1 planet, you're shipping to all cities that need that resource simultaneously, taking other factors into account.

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May 21, 2009 3:46:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If you can implement an economic system that allows for personalised items, without it getting bogged down in micro-management, then you have a winner. That would add a new layer of game play choices that would supplement the strategy focus of the game, instead of detracting from it, as the originally proposed detailed system likely would.

You might want to consider a simple interface for flagging a city or building as active or inactive. For instance, the player could be fighting a war against two opponents, each with their own frontline. He has two cities setup near each front producing military units from received resources (with blacksmiths etc.). In case one of the opponents makes truce, the player would want to (at least temporarily) redirect his resources to flow to the city on the other front. Flagging a city, or each building within, as active/inactive for receiving resources, would increase the strategy options available to him, with a minimum of micro-management.

 

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May 21, 2009 3:50:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Lord Reliant,
I'm happy with Option #3, with a few caveats:

1.  Not requiring units to upgrade to take advantage of new research has some pretty serious strategic impacts.  If I have a unit across the world, why should my research into Short Sword +1 automatically upgrade them?  You may be able to "rush" research right before a major battle to gain the bonus benefits.  I'd suggest looking at only auto upgrading units as they are inside your realm of control.  If they're outside of that, they'll be upgraded automatically once they're inside.  Or if you wanted to be more severe, you could require them to visit a town first, but for simplicity just being inside would help.  Plus it would lend itself more defensively.

2. Let's say I have twenty towns with barracks.  How does it divide up the resources appropriately to those locations?  Obviously taking a resource and dividing it by twenty (if even possible) would seem simple, but it may also need to take other factors into consideration.  What about the size of the town?  What about its relationship within your borders strategically?  What towns with roads vs. those without?  Would it be better off to send tons of resources quickly, and then refine them quickly, rather then sending them off to a remote location that may not be able to manufacture equipment well?  This is still pretty complex.

3. How will the user be able to tell what their shipping lines are?  If you have 10 resources that then get manufactured into 20 different items that are shipped to 15 different towns, that's a whole bunch of lines on the map to manage.  Combine that with trade routes (if applicable), and this will truly require a good UI to manage that complexity.  It's possible, but again I don't want it to be too crazy.  And can you modify the lines in the event they run through enemy territory (taking the longer, safer route instead)?

In essence, it sounds like you'll be treating resources line Astroid Miners from Gal Civ II, except that instead of shipping to only 1 planet, you're shipping to all cities that need that resource simultaneously, taking other factors into account.

 

I agree with point 1. auto-upgrading a unit in the field automatically makes no sense. I have the same concerns as you - you push some research thru right before a big battle and suddenly all your units have the better item? Me no likey. You should have to take the units to a location with the better weapon to get upgraded, or send them the better weapons.

I think my ideas posted above address your number 2 point. Prioritize by the criteria that I set forth. It also somewhat adresses point 3 - you don't simultaneously ship things out in all directions, but by various priorities. You should not have to manage the trade routes, rather it seems that the "merchant" option has a bunch of NPC type guys who take care of getting things where they are needed (Yay for Adam Smith's invisible hand!)

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May 21, 2009 3:57:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

2. Let's say I have twenty towns with barracks. How does it divide up the resources appropriately to those locations?
It will weigh several factors...what's being trained at a given moment, whos closest, whost connected via road, who may have top priority for a resource, etc. In the end, I would say 20 barracks training 'Magic Dragoons' is a bad idea if only one city can make 'Magic Dragoon Spears'.

3. How will the user be able to tell what their shipping lines are?
Roads are your user-defined shipping lanes.  If you dont have a road, the shipment will take the shortest route. If you have shipments going over enemy lines, then you better have the military strength to hold that area while your caravan makes its drop.

Combine that with trade routes (if applicable), and this will truly require a good UI to manage that complexity.
I feel the beauty of this system comes from the non-necessity of a complex UI: your actions on the main map (building placement, road construction, etc) will drive the distribution of goods. That's not to say we won't allow micromanagement types to tweak numbers themselves, but I see the automation to be pretty straight forward (and thus capable of doing a great job on its own) 

I would say, if you have resources going to somewhere you don't want, then you need to re-examine what buildings are active in a given city.

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May 21, 2009 3:57:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like option #3. I think that we need more than a on/off toggle to help set priority. Something like a recap screen, with a row corresponding to a city and the way to set a priority values for various ressources, in order to ensure that a particular city with a blacksmith get only iron while another get only copper.

Given the number of possible ressources, it will be more something like choosing a ressource in a combo box and assigning a priority value.

It may be useful to tell barracks, alchemist ... what kind of things need to be produced and than the system determines automatically the required ressources. You don't want ressources to be send to cities that don't need them.

 

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May 21, 2009 3:58:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Camp three sounds good to me.

 

But as others mentioned I have to be able tot ake control and ship anything anywhere I want at anytime. If I loose control of my shipping lines to the AI I could be in lots of trouble if war breaks out.

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May 21, 2009 4:06:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hopefully magic weapons are limited enough to where they aren't spammed, and given only to elite units.

 

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May 21, 2009 4:08:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

CAMP 3

Camp 3 sounds great it has my vote

 

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May 21, 2009 4:17:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I feel the beauty of this system comes from the non-necessity of a complex UI: your actions on the main map (building placement, road construction, etc) will drive the distribution of goods. That's not to say we won't allow micromanagement types to tweak numbers themselves, but I see the automation to be pretty straight forward (and thus capable of doing a great job on its own)

 

What aobut someone like me, who places roads everywhere for military purposes (call me Rome...) but doesn't want his civilian trading parties to use the roads that go along the edge of my 'controled' territory?

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May 21, 2009 4:24:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm a fan of Camp 1, but despite that, I'd suggest going with Camp 3 and setting it up to be easily expanded or downsized depending on feedback during beta.  Why Camp 3, when I personally find Camp 1 more compelling?  Because I understand the difficulty of setting up an interface to manage that much information well, and still be fun without overwhelming the player.

If you can automate the entire process of resources being produced and shipped around. The player simply decides where he wants the final products to end up, and if they want to they can cut in and micromanage. I picture a menu for each town with 2 tabs, one showing what the town can produce itself, and one tab showing what it can make/recieve using resources from other towns. So if a town has a blacksmith, you can simply tell it to make short swords.  If a town has no production centers and you want it to recieve some magical short swords, you simply go into the 2nd tab and select what you want.  Put easy to use filters so you can quickly find what you're looking for, and an interface that lets you quickly find, organize and move resources caches around.

The real problem isnt whether a complex or simple resource system is better, but whether you can create an interface that simplifies a complex system so that it is fun.  So please, shoot for a slick interface with a deep complex underbelly.

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May 21, 2009 4:25:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Lord Reliant,
1.  Not requiring units to upgrade to take advantage of new research has some pretty serious strategic impacts.  If I have a unit across the world, why should my research into Short Sword +1 automatically upgrade them?  You may be able to "rush" research right before a major battle to gain the bonus benefits.  I'd suggest looking at only auto upgrading units as they are inside your realm of control.  If they're outside of that, they'll be upgraded automatically once they're inside.  Or if you wanted to be more severe, you could require them to visit a town first, but for simplicity just being inside would help.  Plus it would lend itself more defensively.

How about sending a caravan to all your units (outside your realm only?) upon completion of relevant research, and the units being upgraded only when the caravan reaches them? That way, there would be a logistics aspect to managing invading armies, a reason to keep supply lines secure, and it would make raiding supply lines by the defender worthwhile (perhaps even add extra XP to units that raid these supply caravans, or enable technology stealing?).

 

EDIT:

Quoting Ron Lugge,
What aobut someone like me, who places roads everywhere for military purposes (call me Rome...) but doesn't want his civilian trading parties to use the roads that go along the edge of my 'controled' territory?

An ability to designate certain roads as military-only would certainly come in handy. Alternatively, the caravans could automatically avoid borders and/or learn to avoid roads that have recently been attacked.

BTW, I'm for Camp 3.

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May 21, 2009 4:40:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It seems like a monumental landslide from the prior posts for the first [complex] camp.

There are also some seriously well developed posts and outstanding ideas offered up along the way. I look forward to seeing some qualitative feedback from SD on the thread soon enough.

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May 21, 2009 4:59:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Camp 1, but with the option to have Ai, which makes it like Camp 3, so I can micro mange early on, but swicht to AI in late game.

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May 21, 2009 5:02:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Spartan,
It seems like a monumental landslide from the prior posts for the first [complex] camp.

There are also some seriously well developed posts and outstanding ideas offered up along the way. I look forward to seeing some qualitative feedback from SD on the thread soon enough.

Realize that option 3 was not initially available as a choice, and was added after the post above regarding having a meeting. After that post, the camp 3 option has been as dominant as camp 1 was prior to that.

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May 21, 2009 5:09:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yup, Camp 3 is now my vote. It's sophisticated but not complex

Things like auto-upgrading units with improved tech, how supply would work for units outside of your influence, etc. are probably all things that will get hashed out during the betas, but Camp 3 is clearly the right direction (IMO yadda yadda).

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May 21, 2009 5:17:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Camp 3 with optional priorities to become Camp 1!

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May 21, 2009 5:20:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am Camp #1. I feel like Camp #2 has been done to death by virtually every other game. Camp #3 is alright, but I honestly think that Camp #1 has something very interesting. Camp #1 also fits better into the flavor: one in which a world is reconstructing itself from magical apocalypse, where resources are valuable and limited.

There might be a little more complexity in Camp #1, but honestly as long as the governors streamline it for players that don't care, I don't think many will cause much of a fuss. I'm a player that micromanages and enjoys it. It doesn't really give me all that much of an edge, since often I lose sight of the forest in view of the trees. My friend who can't micromanage at all is a lot better at empire-building games.

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