I’d like to suggest a fairly large addition to this game, but one which I think would make the universe feel more alive and provide more opportunities for players to work together and actively cause change in the universe. The idea is to add population mechanics, making each planet a unique story and giving players the chance to create megalopolises out in the far reaches if they desired. To begin, every planet will have an actual population level, and desired population level. The actual population level will try to grow to reach the desired level, and the desired level is affected by the bases and projects completed on the planet.
For example, if a planet has a base which employs 1,000 workers, this could add a desired population of 200,000 civilians. So the level would be 1,000 / 200,000 with the rest needing to emigrate to the planet. In order to emigrate, there needs to be sufficient housing and supplies, plus a means to get to the planet. The housing could be a planet project, and the building cost would be affected similar to how base building costs are currently affected. I’d also say the civilian center should take up a base spot on the planet, with the caveat that if there are no spots left available the project can be a more expensive orbital habitat.
Next would be supplies, which could take the form of local Market Makers on that planet. I’d say the local market would start out only available to bases on that planet, or maybe bases that have built a specific building, but if the spaceport planetary project is completed, anyone can land and sell resources. These market makers could provide demand for the consumables, and supply for a new resource I’ll explain farther down.
Finally, the civilians need to get to the planet. This would be accomplished with a new class of ship that transports people specifically. The first levels could be relatively small, only transporting a few hundred, with later vessels transporting more and more. If possible, these ships should also have a consumables cost in addition to their fuel cost, but that may not be necessary. To solve the problem of where the civilians are picked up from, I’d treat the three starting planets as civilians feeders, with a constantly supply of civilians ready to journey into the unknown. The act of transporting civilians would also be on a contract basis, where unfilled population demand generates the contract automatically and they either have a reward attached, or the companies on the destination planet can work to fund the reward.
So why should anyone care and go through this effort? Well firstly, the higher tiers of workers should be locked behind certain population levels. Pioneers will always be available, but Settlers can require some minor level of population. As the tier of worker increases, so does the population requirement. That provides a reason to get the population to the planets, but what about providing supplies or building housing? Those two aspects will work together to determine a “population satisfaction” level, which increases when there is sufficient housing and a steady supply of consumables. If this satisfaction level is positive then contracts will appear to transport civilians to the planet, with them appearing faster the higher the satisfaction. If the satisfaction is negative, then contracts will start appearing on the planet to transport civilians to other more desirable planets. To avoid the initial civilians from immediately leaving, there can be an “early colony optimism” modifier so people want to immigrate no matter how crappy the environment, but it falls off as the population grows. Additionally, as a world-building bonus, population size and satisfaction could combine to describe the planet, like “Prosperous colony” or “Dystopian Megalopolis”.
Now on selling to civilians. The price the society is willing to pay for consumables should be proportional to the satisfaction level, so if they aren’t getting enough resources they pay more, and if they have plenty they pay less. This money would be created from nothing, so to keep an economic balance there needs to be a cash sink. I propose adding a mechanic of Administrative Oversight. This would represent the need for managers and executives to run the everyday operations of companies (also acting as a limiting factor to prevent the largest companies from continuously getting bigger). This would require much more thought then I’ve put into it so far, but I imagine it is consumed by bases, but does not need to be on the same planet. However, the farther it is from the planet, the more the cost increases. Planets wouldn’t start generating administrative oversight until they reached a certain population level, and as the population increases they could generate more and more. This encourages companies and corporations to invest in creating large capitals near their operations if they are located away from the starting planets.
As a final note, I would also create a tax in the starting systems on having more than one base, encouraging companies to move out once they’ve figured out the mechanics and have a healthy profit margin.
Thank you for reading. These are of course just my thoughts and I will not be offended by any constructive criticism. In fact I welcome the chance to improve this idea and morph it into something that could one day exist in game.