Posted this in the general forum, but realized it should probably be here instead.
Just wanted to see if I was the only one who found something a bit off: all cities essentially have the same production rate. A city that has 200 population and a dozen workshops and an iron mine can crank out a soldier or a building in the same amount of time as a city with 5 people and zero workshops? A city with zero arcane labs can crank out units with magical equipment at the same rate as one with 10 plus a monastery plus a tower. Doesn't seem to make sense.
Compare this with something like GalCiv. GalCiv's factories enabled you to channel credits into production on each world. There was an incentive to specialize each world to a certain area- tech, production, etc. - given the % boosting buildings that came along later down the tech tree, but there were downsides to doing something like not building any factories on a planet, or not building any food production, or not building any influencing producing structures.
Granted, Elemental has some buildings that give bonuses to production for buildings and units, but these aren't even available until higher levels and later techs, more comparable to things like the powerplants, research networks, and Economic/Political/Tech capitals. I generally have the game pretty much wrapped up(much higher than all rivals in terms of score at least) by the time these buildings come online in Elemental making this sort of diversification fairly meaningless. In my last two games on hard, the only specialization building I ever constructed was one labor guild in my capital. It seems like basic stats such as total population, early buildings like workshops, local access to resources, etc. should have some bearing on how fast you can build that wall around your city or create a suit of armor and sword.
It seems like having some sort of different production rate for cities would have some desirable effects.
1)Increased strategic choice in terms of building order and city differentiation right from the beginning. A city that concentrated on building workshops first would have a production bonus later on vs. a city that only focused on tech buildings. However, a city with lots of tech and arcane buildings may be able to crank out highly specialized buildings and units with magical equipment. Currently as the system works the optimal strategy seems to be take one city and make it a tech factory, take another city and only build arcane research, take another city and only build workshops (then plop your great mill inside), put a barracks and labor guild in each one, etc. Put gold multipliers near goldmines and food multipliers near food resources as needed. Specialization is great, but the current system seems to lead into a very vanilla form of specialization and essentially one optimal build strategy given the resources that you're presented.
Theres currently very little thinking necessary along these lines: hmm... just settled a city near an ancient library, but that city is also near my most powerful rival. Should I build production buildings or tech buildings? Tech buildings will make the level bonuses more valuable, but this city is pretty distant from my capital and I may need to crank out basic soldiers quickly. The answer currently it to always build tech buildings, you'll get bonuses at level up for tech research and production will essentially be the same not matter what, at least until very end game when specialization buildings start popping up. Just build those workshops in that other city that you just settled near the ancient forest.
2)Increased dependency on supply lines. Building off the first point. I can build a new city or conquer an existing one and instantly begin producing at essentially the same rate as my capital. There's a decreased danger of an advance losing steam due to losses, I lose a soldier and can have another in the fight within 5 turns. That tiny village you put down just to grab a resource near your rival doesn't need to be reinforced from a distant production center, it can produce at essentially the same rate. There is no decision about where to spend the resources to build that soldier, always build it in the city nearest the action, they all produce at the same rate. Teleport also causes a similar problem of making supply lines inconsequential, but hopefully some sort or mana scaling for number of troops will be implemented soon.
3)Would actually make the population of a given city important beyond just the contribution to the global pool (No more 400 mile commutes to work) and leveling up. If I have a city that I know that I'll never grow beyond level 3 there's no real incentive to grow any beyond 250, essentially the gap between 250 and 750 is useless in that location, I'm much better off building those huts in that city I'm building towards level 5 at my core. If you make production in some way based on population this becomes a real trade off. Its still good to drive to a high level city somewhere, but doing so has a real cost in terms of production in your other towns. Good strategic choice = more interesting games.
For instance, your capital is sitting at 400 pop right now, you have a frontier city sitting at 5 pop and you're running low on food. Should you build another house in your capital or at the frontier? The answer right now is always build it in the capital! Capital has a much higher growth rate, is closer to great level 5 buildings, etc. Unless you plan on getting that pop 5 city to significantly higher population some time down the road there's little benefit to putting it there. However, if production was linked to local population in some way this becomes a real decision. Hmm... I could put in in my capital and get a little closer to level 5 or I could put it at my frontier and be able to crank out swordsmen in half the time right next to my rival, plus monsters and the Magnar are bearing down on this city which has access to a couple crystal craigs, those extra swordsmen that I don't have to move for 15 turns from my capital sound pretty nice right now.
There are various ways this could work in practice. These are just a couple examples- with many flaws in each. I really just want to get a dialog started on how the production/city building system could be improved to add more strategic choice/options.
1) Stay within the existing system and just add in more and varied production bonus for low level buildings (5% for each workshop, 10% from libraries and studies for higher level buildings or crystal requiring units, etc.) and then some minor production bonus for each 10 pop in the city, say 1%. Numbers are just examples don't get to fixated on them.
2) Major change but perhaps more interesting. Right now different buildings and units cost differing amounts of resources from our global stockpile: materials, crystals, metal, etc. When building something in a city, make production time based on how fast that city can transform those raw resources into finished products. Buildings and population have some transformation rate per turn for each resource. For instance, each workshop can transform 2 materials per turn and .1 metal, a blacksmith can handle 1 metal per turn, each lab and library can transform .10 crystals per turn into unit or building production, every 10 citizens can transform .01 of each resource into production, etc.
Example (Don't get hung up on numbers, these are just rough ideas, numbers would need major refinement)
You currently have 100 Gildar, 200 Materials, 10 metal, 20 crystals in your resource bank.
You want to build a unit that costs 20 Gildar, 20 Materials, 6 Metal, and 2 crystal
When you put this unit in the training queue these resources are immediately deducted from the bank. However you have two choices of where to build.
You have two cities: Production town and Research town
2 Workshops, 1 blacksmith, and 100 Pop
Production Ability -
Materials - 4 (from Workshops) + 1 (from Pop) = 5/turn, Unit requirement met in 4 turns
Metal - .2 (from workshops) + 1 (from blacksmith) + 1 = 2.2/turn, requirement met in 3 turns
Crystals - 1 = 1/turn, requirement met in 2 turns
Limiting factor is Materials transformation (cutting leather, shaping ax handles, etc.)- Production time is 4 turns
1 workshop, 10 arcane labs, 10 Libraries, and 10 Pop
Materials - 2 + .1 = 2.1/turn, requirement met in 10 turns
Metal - .1 + .1 = .2/turn, requirement met in 30 turns
Crystals - 2 + .1 = 2.1/turn, requirement met in 1 turns
Limiting factor is Metal transformation (Blacksmithing- shaping blades, armor, etc.)- production time is 30 turns
Seems like it would make sense to build in production town. However this calculus changes if instead of building a swordsman with a magic trinket you instead want to build a bone golem (I know not a unit yet, but it would be cool) that costs 2 material, 0 metal, and 20 crystals, and 10 population (permanently). In this case limiting factor is crystal transformation (casting enchantments, folding crystals into bone, etc.) and population growth . Research town can build it in 10 turns while production town takes 20. This also has an added bonus of encouraging more diversity in armies. If you have specialized cities it becomes easier to produce some unit in some cities and other units in other cities. You want access to both the bone golem and the swordsman since you can produce one much faster in one city than in the other. I.e. you no longer just want to crank out the unit with the biggest weapon, the highest armor count, and the most magic trinkets. Strategic choice both on city planing and unit design and research. More strategic choice = more interesting games.
Sounds complicated but the display in the city and production screens could be rather simple. City screen: just show a breakdown of current transformation rates for each resource. Production pop up: just show what the current factor limiting production time is. Ultimate micro-managers can get into much more detail if they wish but just providing this basic information would be enough for most decision makers.
Back to example: Ahh, I see that materials are limiting my production times in Research town on swordsmen, I'll just stick to building bone golems. However, my spy just saw that the opposition is building paladins with holy swords (I know, dreaming again) that have a 100% bonus versus any undead creature (like my bone golem)- it might make sense to queue up some workshops in research town so I can build those swordsmen. More interesting strategic choice once again.