0.91 Food is an unappetizing mechanic...
(Kurt Vonnegut liked food! There's an alluring short in this book about aliens eating it...)
I think there’s a general consensus that the current way that food is handled could be improved.
Here are my broad criticisms of the food system currently:
the UI is Horrible! (Brad said next patch will be better, but I’m going to complain anyway).
The mechanic itself is not intuitive at all.
The mechanic itself doesn’t really seem like it does much, and is more of an afterthought than anything.
Supports housing supposedly, but citizens suck so you don’t need more of them anyway really.
I’m actually just going to skip talking about the UI because it’s both being changed, but will also have to change anyway if the food system is changed – which it probably will be (let’s be honest with ourselves).
The mechanic itself is not intuitive at all:
It’s really not. The food that you have on the resource bar at the top of your screen – well, you don’t actually “have” that. Unlike all of the other resources on that screen (credits, durantium, relics, etc) you do not actually have this food. Rather the value at the top of the screen isn’t “accumulated food”, rather it is “food production in excess of consumption per turn.” If this seems weird, it’s probably because it doesn’t seem to fit the mold of all of the other stuff on that bar.
The mechanic could be summarized as something like the following:
“How do you produce food?” - “Farms!”
“You can’t buy, trade or sell food?” - “No!”
“You can’t even give it to an ally?” - “Ppfft, of course not!”
“But I can give anything else to allies?” - “Right, but not food obviously!”
“Why not, wouldn’t allies potentially want this?” - “No, probably not, they prob wouldn’t care!”
“Huh, why not, they don’t care about eating?” - “Nah, because food isn’t really important!”
“It’s not important?” - “No!”
“How is this possible, what happens if you don’t have food?” - “Nothing really, a slight morale penalty!”
“Then why should I care about food at all?” - “Exactly!, you shouldn’t!”
The mechanic itself doesn’t really seem like it does much:
As far as I can tell, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have any food. You can’t bank/store it, and if you have “negative food” (see the above intuitiveness of what “food” on the resource bar actually means), it’s really not an impediment to running or growing your empire. A slight morale penalty is vaguely annoying, but it’s really not something that needs to have a many resources directed toward solving.
Supports housing supposedly:
Well, if you want more citizens, you need more food. Except you don’t really need food so much, and accumulating a trillion citizens really isn’t an imperative enough to build housing. At least these are my thoughts. Maybe someone has run a successful empire on the back of citizen housing (and I would LOVE to hear from you if you have), but I think that part of the “food is uninspiring” problem is related to citizens themselves being less inspiring than they could be.
Here are some thoughts. The UI I think will be invariably cleaned up, so I won’t discuss it here.
The mechanic itself I think should be transformed into more of the ‘trade good’ mechanic where food that’s produced is actually accumulated. At least one person I’ve talked to has expressed an opinion of not liking this because the thought of food just being stockpiled and traded seemed boring – rather food was viewed as an opportunity to have a resource that is different from the other trade resources. It’s difficult for me to disagree with this sentiment. The justification being that you could build a bunch of farms, accumulate food, then raze the farms and build factories (or whatever) and live off your savings (which is how other resources are currently, if you think about it.). The argument made to me is that food is special. And I do agree, that it should be a special resource.
Additionally, another entire thread was started on the basis of the Mimot being perceived to be OP. One of the conclusions that came to the fore in the resulting discussion being that part of the Mimot OP-ness stemmed from the lack of food as a limiting resource for fast growing civs (which it intuitively should be).
So here’s some thoughts in bullet points of changes to food that seem to make sense:
Food accumulates (like all resources) and similarly can be traded/sold/whatever. But it EXPIRES. Some % of stored food is lost every turn. Maybe like 10% or something. So your food stores supply a cushion, but are not hard assets the way that mined resources are. So coming across more population (capturing a core planet or whatever) won’t immediately put you in a food deficit, but food would be something that would have to be produced consistently over time.
Running out of food should have serious repercussions.
Currently it only causes a Morale penalty to citizens. Instead the Morale penalty should be severe.
ALL citizen production should be zeroed out when you run out of food. People aren’t working if they’re too hungry.
Every month when you’re in a food deficit, one citizen should die. Starting on core planets (until there’s only 1 citizen left on each), then spreading to other citizen-built assets: colony worlds, then starbases. If you cannot feed an empire, the Imperial territories will eventually abandon you.
During food shortages: territories should be more prone to culture flipping, reduce Resistance, and battles should get a debuff. Your empire should just really function poorly.
Except “Slavers” (ie Drengin), They should get no penalty, slaves starve first (and die first)!
Food production, given the above importance, would be something that would be necessary to manage prudently. It would also make the “Rationing” Policy actually useful (the morale hit should be revisited for this policy), and it would put a natural bottleneck on fast-growing civs in a way that feels natural and good.
Makes Ag-tech more appealing, because right now I never research any of it.
Some extreme world type “Always Sunny” or “Jungle Hell” could be sought-after bread baskets, because extreme world colonization techs aren’t as amazing these days with the core/colony dynamic.
There is perhaps a broader discussion about the value of citizens specifically. I know Slarjy has been advocating to bring back the +1 production in addition to the percent production for each citizen of its type (ie Res citizens would +1 Res, +(int)% to research, Wealth cits +1bc +(whatever)% to bc, etc). Because currently, building housing is underwhelming compared with housing in GC3 where 1b pop produced +1 Raw Production. I do think there’s merit in this thinking because it makes both citizens and their support systems (ie food) more important, and produces a serious opportunity cost with shipping citizens off-planet for fast-expansion purposes. This is a separate discussion, but I just wanted to point out how a good food system/mechanic would feed into this discussion as well, because it’s probably worth having.
Thanks for reading, if there’re food angles that I missed, please let me know. These are just my observations and I haven’t played around too much with the food system.