Some econ mods

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Some econ mods

Postby darbycmcd on Fri 28 Nov 2014 10:39

So, first off, I don't feel that my HR economy is better than stock, but I wanted to experiment with a couple effects with the intent of:
1) slowing growth in the later game turns (although I don't often get there!)
2) making conquest more attractive

One conceptual thing, production is production, not money. Specifically the amount of production available to the gov't to the degree that it does not negatively impact the economy. Basically discretionary spending to include military and non-endogenous growth. Why does this matter? well...

CFN income.... gone! I actually hate this rule, it makes no economic sense. If we have civilian ship production which can match the economic demand, why does making more ships generate more production? It only makes sense if you see the income as money, but it lacks all the subsequent monetary impacts on the economy. More ships will not lead to more production. Also, colonization rebate, gone. Well, just erased. If there are enough ships to run the economy, when they are called to run off to some far distant star and drop off the latest penal...er brave batch of settlers, there would be an impact on the economy (unless you assume the civilian sector has large surplus of shipping) which erases the impact of the rebate.

No deficit spending. You can print more money, but that money can only chase production that exists. This also means no treasury forward... so I had to give a way to invest more granularity, which leads to...

IU, well I have a different way of doing it, but two things are important. You buy them by the MC, but they produce by total/20 up to a total MC equal to PU, 100-150% of PU the cost is 1.5, and so on. What this means is you can take what you don't spend on guns and spend it on butter (which you have to because of no treasury forward). And you can sell them, but for 10% of their value. This really isn't selling, because how would you sell them? it only makes sense if income is money not production. It is redirecting maintenance and letting depreciation do its thing. It means that IU are no longer a bank, but a meaningful investment in the economy that you can allow to decay if you are in crisis. But how do they represent a meaningful investment you ask... well my other HR is some small changes to the way the economy is calculated....

Mostly, I saw that the game had the variables for a Cobb-Douglas model of output,

Q = A K L (ignoring the relationship between K and L)
basically output = number of workers (L) times the number of tools they have (K) times how productive they are with those tools (A)

in game terms I see it as

Income = EL * IU * PU
I do make the assumption that PU always have some base line of K, so that IU represent additional capital to increase productivity.

Or the equation really is

GPV = (1+(.06*EL)) * ((PU+(IU/20))*REI

In this case, EL represents the increased productivity of the workforce through tech advance, and IU increased productivity through capital accumulation. I set the value of each increase in EL to 6% (I figure that it takes about 20 turns, 2 years, to go up a EL, and 3% a year is a good increase for tech), but with no increase in max PU (I am moving that to a separate tech tree). This really does about the same thing as the current system, but at a lesser rate. Also notice that IU gets the benefit of EL and REI, which makes it much more attractive an investment. When you see IU as additional capital, it is hard to rationalize that it is not subject to the same increases in productivity as the capital included in PU. Plus, with much slower growth rates, it is important for a player to have a choice to make to grow the economy. Growth by well, growth, is not a choice, and choice implies opportunity cost, which investment in IU has.
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby Cralis on Sat 29 Nov 2014 18:13

darbycmcd wrote:So, first off, I don't feel that my HR economy is better than stock, but I wanted to experiment with a couple effects with the intent of:
1) slowing growth in the later game turns (although I don't often get there!)
2) making conquest more attractive


Just an FYI, you can make conquest more attractive by making it cheaper. I have seen several HR that remove ground troops and simply say that once you eliminate all the defenses, you capture the planet. Ironically that made players put bases and defensive SS around their worlds to prevent them from being easy captures.

But in past versions, conquest was not the best option. Even back in CLASSIC STARFIRE. In those cases, trade and partnerships were the preferred results.

One conceptual thing, production is production, not money. Specifically the amount of production available to the gov't to the degree that it does not negatively impact the economy. Basically discretionary spending to include military and non-endogenous growth. Why does this matter? well...


FYI, in GSF/ULTRA/SSF a "MegaCredit" is not money but wealth. This especially important because currencies are going to be entirely virtual in a high-tech economy. It is a mere representation of goods in whatever form. The problem with a "production only" model is that you don't represent stored resources. An empire should be able to turn a portion of it's production into some form of stored, reusable resources. At least, something other than stored maintenance.

I'm not discussing the points I've removed because the following is much more important to discuss first.

Mostly, I saw that the game had the variables for a Cobb-Douglas model of output,

Q = A K L (ignoring the relationship between K and L)
basically output = number of workers (L) times the number of tools they have (K) times how productive they are with those tools (A)


We develop the STARFIRE model based more on Keynesian theory.

Heavily modified, the key equation we use is: GDP = C + B + G where C is consumer spending, B is business spending, and G is government spending.

We presume that PU is a mix of C and B but the player's expenditures are G. And yes, it equates to GDP because we presume that supply is always equal to demand. As expenditures go up, supply rises to meet it. For simplicity we presume that AIs predict this or something and we don't have to worry about economic lag.

As a result, we fit the various investments into those categories:
C = PU (in the form of taxes, etc.)
B = IU, trade, CFN leasing, CC links, etc.
G = Imperial purchases

We are, of course, ignoring the mathematics of the velocity of money and the fact that government spending is really a multiplier to that velocity of money.

Of course, in reality there would be economic lag and any kind of reduction in one area of spending would necessarily have a deleterious effect upon the taxes available to the empire, which would reduce government spending, which would cause additional losses to GDP. It's not perfect, but this is just a game so we roll with it :)

Income = EL * IU * PU
I do make the assumption that PU always have some base line of K, so that IU represent additional capital to increase productivity.

Or the equation really is

GPV = (1+(.06*EL)) * ((PU+(IU/20))*REI


You're using SSF right? REI is a die roll, you mean "Income Modifier" from Table L3.02 ...

You're IU is not being used the same way you have it listed in the first equation. There IU is a multiplier, here you have IU as an additive. You could use IU as a multiplier but then you'd have to use 1 + IU/20, so your GPV would be:

GPV = EL * PU * IU (reordered for simplicity)
transformed to
GPV = (1 + (.06 * EL)) * (PU * (1 + (IU/20))) * Income Modifier)

That way the more IU you have, the more production you have. It represents a wider form of economic investment. But I suspect that isn't exactly what you were thinking. It's an interesting idea though.

In this case, EL represents the increased productivity of the workforce through tech advance, and IU increased productivity through capital accumulation. I set the value of each increase in EL to 6% (I figure that it takes about 20 turns, 2 years, to go up a EL, and 3% a year is a good increase for tech), but with no increase in max PU (I am moving that to a separate tech tree). This really does about the same thing as the current system, but at a lesser rate. Also notice that IU gets the benefit of EL and REI, which makes it much more attractive an investment. When you see IU as additional capital, it is hard to rationalize that it is not subject to the same increases in productivity as the capital included in PU. Plus, with much slower growth rates, it is important for a player to have a choice to make to grow the economy. Growth by well, growth, is not a choice, and choice implies opportunity cost, which investment in IU has.


3% is a pretty good value. In SSF it increases PU availability because we are using the economic theory that technology "frees up" workers by decreasing the number of workers needed in the industries affected, presuming a 1:1 ratio of PU moving to a new, productive industry that results in the same amount of (additional) production.

Not to mention, it is a lot easier to balance.

As for the IU as you have it, I agree. If you treat your outputs as production only and then it would be pure production increases. HOWEVER, this is an area where you are adding supply and presuming that demand will rise to meet it. That assumption isn't necessarily more or less realistic assumption than our assumption that supply will always meet demand, but you basically ignore the civilian sector side and the effect additional taxes have upon the governments ability to reinvest in supply.

Anyway, it's an interesting idea. The downside is that you reduce the amount of options available to the player, but sometimes simplicity is a good thing :)
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby darbycmcd on Sun 30 Nov 2014 00:18

oops, you are right about my IU equation, that was a typo, it should be additive. But I assume it was understandable. IU is capital added, increasing productivity per population unit.

I disagree that an empire should be able to stockpile MC, what does that represent? It is far too plastic, in that it can become a ship or IU or a colony, at any distance of time. And it earns interest! If you want to stockpile, stockpile.... something. It does create a totally demand driven model (I know it appears supply driven, but in practice it is demand driven in a game context, ie 'income' is what is potentially available, but the player decides what to spend (demand creation), unspent productivity is unproduced supply), which I think is a bit better in game mechanics. But with IU purchasable in 1MC increments, it is not often there will be supply 'undemanded'.

At any rate, the whole point is
1) slow endogenous growth, move it to be more dependent on player choice (IU and colonization/conquest)
because that
2) creates opportunity cost decisions for the player (more interesting game decisions)
3) makes longer games more playable.

Basically, slow growth and lower returns creates more resource scarcity, which makes the allocation decision more interesting. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that there was a good investment available, IU in this case, for those times when other options might not be available (to reduce survey luck basically).

the problem in the game, for me, not in some absolute 'this must change' way, just for me, is that some of the 'choices' are not meaningful. for example IU, they can always be sold at cost, so the investment is without opportunity cost. In older iterations, when GPPF was shown to be better than conquest, it was always a winning solution. Then trade became too powerful, etc I mean, is it ever a good idea to not build CC links. CFN and so on? If you accept that slower growth is better for the long term game survival, then some of these options are bad decisions, but because they are too obviously successful!

Some things you said don't totally make sense to me....
"but you basically ignore the civilian sector side and the effect additional taxes have upon the governments ability to reinvest in supply."
for game purposes, of course we ignore completely civilian production, that is inherent to SF. Even in your 'wealth' based model that is true. I guess you mean gov't investment in production, but that is exactly what IU are. And of course even if you are Keynesian believer (which I am as well) government investment can only replace civilian sector shortfall, in full production utilization, gov't investment only crowds out private, so no net increase OF PRODUCTION over non-gov't spending situation. It is related to the example of the problem of GDP which I am sure you covered in class, it increases when there is a catastrophe that needs large spending to overcome (like Katrina), it doesn't measure capacity, just spending (it is totally a flow variable). I think, just completely my opinion, that this is not the best for 'empire' building games.

But like I said, it is just for me to play around with, I have to play all my games solo these days :cry:
And it is really fun to me because I actually work as an economist and we do some simple models once in a while to explain concepts to people, and it is fun to play with the game in the same way. Particularly since my masters is in development econ, growth models are particularly important and it is kind of fun to mess about!
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby Cralis on Sun 30 Nov 2014 16:24

darbycmcd wrote:oops, you are right about my IU equation, that was a typo, it should be additive. But I assume it was understandable. IU is capital added, increasing productivity per population unit.


Ok, so that's per PU instead of PU + IU. So it would work either way you do it, although I prefer additive because multipliers have a habit of getting out of hand unexpectedly :)

I disagree that an empire should be able to stockpile MC, what does that represent?


As I said, it represents either materials or goods. This can be as simple as maintenance supplies, construction supplies, or extra plastic coffins stockpiled around the empire *laugh*. It's "wealth" in the form of usable or sellable materials and goods.

Look around. The United States governments stocks everything from bullets and parts (maintenance) to oil reserves and building materials. In the virtual world, the United States Federal Reserve stockpiles gold and currencies either from the collection of previous metals to the selling of currencies. And relatively recently, they even dabble in industry and commerce investments. All of this is "wealth".

We can quibble over whether it should earn interest. I've considered removing that from the rules as I don't think players reserve MCr for it's pathetic interest (it's economic value is far better used elsewhere). I think it was originally added to ULTRA simply to make idle money not lose value.

It is far too plastic, in that it can become a ship or IU or a colony, at any distance of time. And it earns interest! If you want to stockpile, stockpile.... something. It does create a totally demand driven model (I know it appears supply driven, but in practice it is demand driven in a game context, ie 'income' is what is potentially available, but the player decides what to spend (demand creation), unspent productivity is unproduced supply), which I think is a bit better in game mechanics. But with IU purchasable in 1MC increments, it is not often there will be supply 'undemanded'.


Wealth in the form of MCr and IU are two completely different things.

We choose to not define MCr out of simplicity. Otherwise we could start naming metals and special materials and start requiring the player to mine and stockpile them. It adds complexity in an already very complex game. So we choose to simplify this part of the economy so more people are able to play the game. And that's already a very small group.

Another thing you're overlooking is that currently, in the game, wealth in the form of MCr can be transferred via H. Without that, how will you do trade? For that matter, how do you mimic trade as production? You could have it generated as localized production where the trade end points are, but then how do you represent the loss of trade through piracy? It's no longer simple when you remove any form of tangible wealth from the equation, since that is EXACTLY what you are trading, whether raw materials or manufactured goods.

Although, IU in 1 MCr increments as the method of internal investment is an interesting concept.

At any rate, the whole point is
1) slow endogenous growth, move it to be more dependent on player choice (IU and colonization/conquest)
because that
2) creates opportunity cost decisions for the player (more interesting game decisions)
3) makes longer games more playable.


We want the same things here.

If you haven't been reading my conversation with Szurkey, you should. One of the things I've been slowly toying with is adding a hidden maintenance cost for GDP and an "Imperial Infrastructure" -- i.e. if you have too many emplaced populations, or those populations are too far away from your infrastructure build-up, then their income is reduced. The reality is that they are paying a higher cost in the form of transportation and supply, but we'll hide it as lost income for simplicity. I'm thinking this would be a natural limit to the expansion of an empire, which is sorely needed in STARFIRE campaigns.

Along with that, I've been experimenting with uncompressed economics. It definitely makes the game _slower_ by a factor of 8-10x. However, it shifts the balance of the economy (especially if you're playing a limited time competitive game, in which case I don't recommend doing this). So I'm having to adjust and play with the rules.

Basically, slow growth and lower returns creates more resource scarcity, which makes the allocation decision more interesting. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that there was a good investment available, IU in this case, for those times when other options might not be available (to reduce survey luck basically).


Unfortunately, survey luck can be minimized but it can't be eliminated. Especially if a player falls several sigma outside the norm for that luck, either good or bad. To eliminate it completely would, IMHO, reduce the game to the point where it is simply uninteresting.

And in single player campaigns or story-based campaigns, nobody really cares. If an empire has horrible or awesome luck, they simply adjust the storyline to make it fit as an interesting part of the overall story.

the problem in the game, for me, not in some absolute 'this must change' way, just for me, is that some of the 'choices' are not meaningful. for example IU, they can always be sold at cost, so the investment is without opportunity cost. In older iterations, when GPPF was shown to be better than conquest, it was always a winning solution. Then trade became too powerful, etc I mean, is it ever a good idea to not build CC links. CFN and so on? If you accept that slower growth is better for the long term game survival, then some of these options are bad decisions, but because they are too obviously successful!


IU still has an opportunity cost because there are far better investments. And honestly, we allow IU to generate MCr instead of gaining value as interest. Simplicity.

Those other methods? Why not simply reduce their income? Or remove them? I've been considered removing CC link income because, as you say, it's an automatic thing. Everyone is always going to build communications links through the empire for communications. And I'm not a fan of having automatic things be tracked in the game, it increases paperwork. Although I have been considering making them part of that infrastructure cost I was talking about earlier...

Some things you said don't totally make sense to me....
"but you basically ignore the civilian sector side and the effect additional taxes have upon the governments ability to reinvest in supply."
for game purposes, of course we ignore completely civilian production, that is inherent to SF. Even in your 'wealth' based model that is true. I guess you mean gov't investment in production, but that is exactly what IU are. And of course even if you are Keynesian believer (which I am as well) government investment can only replace civilian sector shortfall, in full production utilization, gov't investment only crowds out private, so no net increase OF PRODUCTION over non-gov't spending situation. It is related to the example of the problem of GDP which I am sure you covered in class, it increases when there is a catastrophe that needs large spending to overcome (like Katrina), it doesn't measure capacity, just spending (it is totally a flow variable). I think, just completely my opinion, that this is not the best for 'empire' building games.


You're right, I meant the government investment in production, but done with tax incomes. And to be perfectly transparent, I use (and I presume Marvin used) the Keynesian theories as a base for our economics because it can be broken down into a relatively simple model that the player has direct input into (government investments).

The fact that Keynesian models balance out between C + B + G expenditures makes it really easy to ignore recessions and booms. And it also makes it easy to model, should we ever decide to do so, in the form of increased or decreased government incomes. :)

Remember that we were striving for simplicity. Ultimately the average player will remind you that the economics of the game are simply a driver for creating conflict and battles. That's what the player is really after!

But like I said, it is just for me to play around with, I have to play all my games solo these days :cry:
And it is really fun to me because I actually work as an economist and we do some simple models once in a while to explain concepts to people, and it is fun to play with the game in the same way. Particularly since my masters is in development econ, growth models are particularly important and it is kind of fun to mess about!


Oh no worries! All of us are doing solo games. Whether you believe it's because computers are driving players away from board games or that younger players are no longer interested in complex games, the result is the same: less players interested in a long-term campaign game like these.

But don't feel any need to apologize. I'm very interested in how it works for you because you have a better background than me for it, and I'd guess you're better at the math than me. I only dual-majored a BS degree with Economics as one of my majors. :) That's barely enough to get my feet wet...
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby darbycmcd on Sun 30 Nov 2014 20:34

The decompressed thing is what I am really interested in, ways of slowing it down without killing it off. It is like I always say, the really great thing about SF is how easy it is to mod. You can play around and get the game you really want. The only thing I really wish is that there was a more abstracted large scale combat system. I have played with ideas but it is unsatisfying to lose the cool granularity of the tech system... the tech system is awesome!

But I am definitely leaning toward decompressed econ growth, and limited system count as my game of choice. I have never ever gotten past SL 10 in anything and want a game that can run a while before it gets too much!

I have only done about 15 turns on my current test game, but I am aiming for a Traveller 2300 feel, so it is heavily house-ruled. Maybe I should still write something up...

But I am living in Lima and we have the COP for the next 2 weeks and I won't get anything done. You are in Portland right? I am from Seattle and wish I was there for the holiday season!
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby darbycmcd on Sun 30 Nov 2014 20:56

And you have a good point about trade, I haven't thought of that.... now I will have to obsess about it for a while, damn. I really am not sure how to handle it, I don't actually have much experience with it to be honest, mostly being the invade and enslave, er, liberate type. hmm....
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Re: Some econ mods

Postby Cralis on Mon 01 Dec 2014 00:37

darbycmcd wrote:The decompressed thing is what I am really interested in, ways of slowing it down without killing it off. It is like I always say, the really great thing about SF is how easy it is to mod. You can play around and get the game you really want. The only thing I really wish is that there was a more abstracted large scale combat system. I have played with ideas but it is unsatisfying to lose the cool granularity of the tech system... the tech system is awesome!


I definitely agree. But by "abstracted large scale combat system", do you mean some sort of simple battle resolution system? You're definitely right, it's hard to have that AND a meaningful tech system... the simpler and more abstract the battles are, the less tech can be defined. Been working on that over the last year...

But I am definitely leaning toward decompressed econ growth, and limited system count as my game of choice. I have never ever gotten past SL 10 in anything and want a game that can run a while before it gets too much!

I have only done about 15 turns on my current test game, but I am aiming for a Traveller 2300 feel, so it is heavily house-ruled. Maybe I should still write something up...


Yes you should! :)

But I am living in Lima and we have the COP for the next 2 weeks and I won't get anything done. You are in Portland right? I am from Seattle and wish I was there for the holiday season!


Just south of Portland, actually. I get up to Seattle about once every couple years, although I'm pretty sure I'm going to try and attend PAX West next year.

Maybe one of these days when I'm up that way, if you're not journeying around the world we can meet up for a beer, if nothing else.

And you have a good point about trade, I haven't thought of that.... now I will have to obsess about it for a while, damn. I really am not sure how to handle it, I don't actually have much experience with it to be honest, mostly being the invade and enslave, er, liberate type. hmm....


I was thinking you could do it as an increase in the local production at the Trade Hubs. So wherever the Trade Hubs are located, it would act as bonus production. I think your bigger issue is going to stem from the fact that SSF (and all of STARFIRE 3rd edition and up, actually) allows for resources to be shifted ahead of schedule from anywhere to anywhere via the CFN. So you produce all those nifty computer parts 3 jumps from your shipyards? No problem, we assume that AIs (or at least, smarter people than us) are going to predict and plan for those parts to arrive on need at the shipyards so they can build computers on the ships or whatever. This would be the same for government or civilian/business production.

But there's a lot more to think about, that's for sure.

Of course, that's what I end up doing a lot... thinking...
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