I like the model; it should give the player plenty of control without too much effort, and it allows fine control if the player wants that. It looks like it would be a good interface.
Now onto the details:
What provision is there for redistribution of income; giving poor provinces money from the treasury if investment would be worthwhile? Suppose that a newly colonized tile has really great land, but since their economy is so small, there isn't nearly enough tax revenue to develop the land well. Is this good investment ignored until the square can pay for it itself?
Also, how is the rate of return calculated? How do you calculate the rate of return for investments like better sewer systems or schools?
Here is something I posted in the ecology thread; I think it might apply to this situation as well, since it could be a method for calculating the benefit from intangibles:
The cost of transforming a province or square would have to be defined in the ecology model. There are two costs for clearing: The actual cost of the operation and the opportunity costs of the lost ecosystem. The operation cost is easy to define: The vegetation characteristics could include such a number. The opportunity costs, however, are more interesting and complicated.
Some oppportunity costs can be easily defined. If you destroy a forest you lose the ability to get wood from that square or province. The loss of one type of economic activity is the tangible opportunity cost of altering the terrain. However, there are also non-economic, intangible opportunity costs of destroying natural environments.
We have only recently learned the value of certain natural ecosystems. Wetlands provide a lot of benefits such as water purification and flood control that people didn't know about a hundred years ago. Thus, the percieved opportunity cost of destroying wetlands has risen. This is why the government no longer supports wetland drainage like it used to.
So, in Clash terms, the tech level determines the percieved intangible opportunity cost (PIOC) of destroying the natural terrain. A civ with a low tech level would see zero opportunity cost for draining a big smelly swamp, while a more advanced civ would see a very big opportunity cost in destroying a wetland ecosystem. And to further complicate things, the culture and social conditions of the civ will also impact this percieved opportunity cost.
Regardless of what the civ knows about, there will be a real opportunity cost to terrain alterations, in the form of flooding, erosion, loss of groundwater, etc. These changes will affect the civ over time, as the ecology model calculates the consequences of human actions.
It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen; the ecology model is a chaotic dynamical system with a lot of randomness. We will have to define an average real intangible opportunity cost for destroying natural ecosystem based on what will most likely happen. This will mean putting a cash value on things that are not economic, but we should be able to do it.
To further complicate things, the real opportunity cost of destroying an ecosystem will change based on how many tiles of that ecosystem are on the map. The marginal opportunity cost of losing a terrain type will increase as that terrain becomes less common.
So the PIOC is based on technology, society, and the average marginal real intangible oportunity cost (AMRIOC) of altering the terrain. The exact calculations for AMRIOC and PIOC are a problem best dealt with later.
The cost of the terrain alteration that is entered into the economic calculations is the operation cost plus the tangible opportunity cost plus the PIOC.
The benefits of terrain alteration are also divided into tangible and intangible benefits. The main tangible benefit is an increased number of farm sites. This can easily defined, and the economy model can put a cash value on the farm sites.
There can also be some intangible benefits to altering the terrain. Swamps do breed mosquitoes, and clearing them can reduce disease. These intangible benefits would be calculated in much the same way as the intangible costs of terrain alteration. A civ that did not know how malaria spreads would see little intangible benefit in draining swamps, while the perciened intangible benefit (PIB) of swamp draining would be much higher for a civ that knew about the role of mosquitoes in spreading disease. In some cases, the PIB alone could cause people to alter the terrain.
It may seem like these PIOC and PIB calculations would take a lot of time, but they will not be run for every square. There will be a few dozen terrain types, and all of the intangibles will be the same for every tile of that terrain. Unlike the tangible costs and benefits, they do not depend on the Land and Water values of the terrain. These PIOCs and PIBs only have to be calculated once for the entire civilization and then stored as variables to be accessed when the economic cost/benefit calculations are run. If time is still a problem, they do not have to be recalculated every turn. Some fraction of the intangibles calculations could be run every turn, so the variables for each terrain could be updated every four turns rather than every turn.
The concepts of PIOC and PIB can be used for things other than terrain alterations. Power plants, factories, mills, roads, and farms all have non-economic costs and benefits, as do fertilization and irrigation of farming terrain. I think that some version of this system would make Clash a lot more realistic, dynamic, and fun.
Now, I think that this system would work well with the new economy model, after a little tweaking. For example, sewers have many intangible (non-monetary) benefits, such as disease prevention, ecological protection, and quality of life improvement. It isn't the same in each case and, given the randomness of the disease model, we can't predict the efforts exactly, so we have to calculate averages and assign them monetary values like we do for the enviromnental AMRIOC values. Also, the first sewer system in a tile will be more valuable than the following ones, so the marginal benefit of more investment in sewers changes based on how many sewers there are. So the average marginal real intangible benefit, or AMRIB, of an improvement would serve as the basis of calculations.
The PIB of sewers would change based on the AMRIB and tech advances like germ theory and ecological awareness. Note that unlike PIOC, PIB is a continuous thing; benefits from infrastructure come in every turn. This monetarized value is an indication of how much people think they would benefit from the sewers. So early on, the PIB would be low, so your people would only invest in the simplest system, a pipe leading into the lake. The AMRIB is unchanged, however, so when tech advances, the PIB would increase as people become more aware of things. Now they would want to invest in more and better sewers, since the percieved benefit is now greater than the cost.
To fit this into the economy model, all we have to is turn PIB into a monetary value. This value then serves as the "Return on investment" that the economic model demands in its calculations. So assume the player allocates up to 20% of tax revenue to infrastructure, with a cutoff of a 20% return on investment. If the PIB for more sewer investment is greater than a fifth of the cost of building that sewer and the tile can build it with that 20% of taxes, it will get built.
In the case of multiple needs, the one with the highest PIB to cost ratio would get built first. Suppose the above tile generated 100C in taxes and the models calculated the following PIBs and costs for various improvements:
Sewers: 10 C a unit, PIB per unit: 25, 12, 6, 2
Water Supplies: 5 C a unit, PIB per unit: 20, 10, 5, 1
The province would build one sewer unit and 2 water units, even though the model says it is worth it to build all 4 sewer units and all 4 water units, since they would still return 20% of the investment value each turn. So the province wants to spend 60C to invest in things that would return up to 20% of the benefit.
Which brings us back to the question of redistribution. This square obviously has serious needs that they can't support themselves. Perhaps we could add in a third value; treasury support. The player could say that if the return on investment exceeds a certain value, like 40%, then the governnemt would pay for that investment. So then, the civ's treasury would pay for the second and third sewer units and the third water supply unit.
Questions? Comments? Cuss Words?
[This message has been edited by Richard Bruns (edited February 01, 2001).]