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Promoting Player Choice & Treatment of Economic Freedom stat

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Aclion
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Promoting Player Choice & Treatment of Economic Freedom stat

Postby Aclion » Mon Jan 07, 2019 12:49 pm

Candlewhisper Archive wrote:Probably not something that'll happen anyway, replacing Economy with Economic Freedom. I had a discussion in the past about it with the powers-that-be, and I think (I am paraphrasing from memory of course) that it is design intent that you can do "well" in Economy while adopting an approach that is pro- or against- economic freedom.

To me that's not a good design choice OR a bad design choice, it's just a design choice. And that basically is up to the game designer.

I definitely see there's pros and cons to changing that design choice, but I think that in the absence of an obvious superiority to change, the momentum of status quo will prove stronger. There's basically bigger fish to fry.
So far I've been told by various editors, (mostly CWA, cause he's the staff member I spend the most time with) that the the powers that be wont address;
  • Taxation's pitiful effect on the economy, to the point nations even Capitalist nations can have 100% Taxation and a frightening economy with just a little subsidy.
  • Business Subsidization not only increasing Economic Freedom despite being a form of government interference in the economy but also being thrown into nearly every free market option as a rider, which of course spoils the option for the very people it's intended for and means that are very few genuinely Economic Freedom oriented options, and bizarrely, very few nations with free economies and high Economic Freedom,
  • the fact that it's next to impossible to build a nation with high Economic Freedoms/low Wealth Gaps(or the inverse) despite those nations being the norm in reality,
  • the issue of the nation page implying that Economy is mechanically important in a similar way to Civil Rights, and Political Freedom, even though that's Economic Freedom. (sort of an extra odd one one here as it's an issue of intuitive design, not player choice at all)
And that the reason for this is that this is because one of the core goals is that players should be able to get a high Economy stat no matter their position on Economic Freedom.
Now this goal is fine, (I don't think it's realistic but whatever, gameplay>realism) but given how much of this is restricting players ability to make choices, it is really odd to hear "promoting player choice" as a reason. This feels less like the mechanics are giving players a choice on whether to build nations with high or low Economic Freedom and more like the mechanics are conditioning players to have a certain view of it. Hopefully this just a result of the hundreds of people who've contributed to the game despite having no game design experience, and an example of the squeaky wheel getting grease; and the reason it's not been addressed is that "the powers that be" haven't realized the problem. The alternative, an intentional design choice, would raise ethical concerns.

Regardless this is something that's bothered be for a long time, so I'm squeaking now.
Grease me up :P
Last edited by Aclion on Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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VoVoDoCo
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Postby VoVoDoCo » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:58 pm

I completely agree. The excuse, "we want nations to be able to form strong economies without free markets" is irrelevant. Hell, this should be welcomed by those without free markets. Under the proposed change in my thread, nations with few economic freedoms will be able to better communicate how they got their economies to be the way they are.

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Candlewhisper Archive
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Postby Candlewhisper Archive » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:57 am

First to note is that I'm not admin, nor on the technical team. I write and edit issues, and get to have conversations with various folk about how I'd like the game to look as a player, but I'm not there as a decisionmaker on the game's shape, nor able to code any game engine changes.

Second, I don't really like being quoted out of context without permission, and especially don't like being paraphrased to make it sound as if I hold positions that I don't. I don't like how you're making it sound like you're acting in support a platform that I've never actually espoused.

To be clear here:

Taxation has been discussed as being complicated and problematic, as there's not an easy way to make it so that high income tax penalises the economy. Primarily this is because the way that taxation is calculated, which is as an outcome stat. We've discussed this at some length backstage, and the mechanical situation is complex. Your implication of the current situation as being due to admin resisting to change is not a fair depiction at all. Rather, the technical barriers to incorporating income tax as an input into economic strength or economic freedoms are sizeable, and would essentially require the game architecture to be rebuilt from a very fundamental level - something which would not be fair to legacy nations who've been around for years, and aren't asking for a full game system reboot. What could be done, and has been done, was the introduction of an average disposable income stat, that at least gives some indication of how much spending power individuals have, and I'm grateful that suggestion was taken on board.

The "tax exploit" I observed as a player before becoming an editor, which is basically that if you don't worry at all about spending, you can create a nation that does brilliantly at other stats, simply because there's no real downside to government spending in this game. However, as was observed to me, that's true of any number of stats. For example, my own nation has chosen the environment as a dump stat, which wrecks me on certain parameters, but has also allowed me sizeable success in a lot of areas without costing the taxpayer much at all. The game simulation is very much about deciding your priorities, and if a player decides that low income tax is not a priority, then they can make a nation of that shape.
Sure, it's not realistic that a nation with 100% income tax can function as a capitalist economy, but likewise it's not realistic that a nation with no armed forces can avoid being invaded, or that you can have zero crime with no police, or a long lived population with no welfare spending or economic strength, or that a world with thousands of crackpot nations with nukes could avoid nuclear winter. The aim of the game isn't to simulate every possible outcome, but rather to create an emergent nation shape that reflects your choices and priorities, to the point of absurdity for the sake of satire.
Therefore while the "tax exploit" exists, it's not a cheating way to win the game, because you can't win the game and because there's no pre-defined goal state that every nation is headed for. Rather, it's a game mechanic that lacks a little realism, but which meets the design goal of nationstates, which is to simulate a particular nation shape. A nation that "wins" by going to 100% tax could be seen as doing really badly by players who think 100% tax is a really bad thing. Likewise, a nation that "wins" by having the biggest army might be seen as being a real hellhole by pacifistic nations who have other priorities.

I do agree on the economic freedom and wage gaps thing. It's not the whole of the picture, of course, and actually we've had discussions on how to balance this. One thing I'd note is that it is certainly possible to have an economy with very low economic freedoms generally but with high wage gaps, it's just hard to do so. A lot of this just has to do with just tweaking the inputs, which is something that has been discussed and proposed before, and is on the job list.

I agree that economic freedom belongs more on the front page than economy does, but I also think that enough people object to that change that it's not worth changing the status quo. However, I'd definitely - as a player - be on the side that would prefer those three boxes to represent the three freedoms, with the strength of the economy as a whole becoming a sentence in the text instead. ("The nation has a powerhouse free markey economy, thought to be driven by strong economic freedoms." / "The nation has a powerouse planned economy, thanks to robust government support for businesses and... (blah blah).")
Last edited by Candlewhisper Archive on Wed Jan 09, 2019 2:02 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Aclion
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Postby Aclion » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:30 pm

Candlewhisper Archive wrote:First to note is that I'm not admin, nor on the technical team. I write and edit issues, and get to have conversations with various folk about how I'd like the game to look as a player, but I'm not there as a decisionmaker on the game's shape, nor able to code any game engine changes.

Second, I don't really like being quoted out of context without permission, and especially don't like being paraphrased to make it sound as if I hold positions that I don't. I don't like how you're making it sound like you're acting in support a platform that I've never actually espoused.

I'm sorry CWA, I do normally make a note of what prompts me to raise an issue in technical, but it's occured to me that I'm the only one who does it, and it might annoy people so I've stopped. Fuck me if I didn't do it the one time it was needed. In my defense, I thought that the link back to the original thread was enough to provide context to the quote.

As for the rest of your post I'm glad it's being looked at, from what you said in forest and in that other thread I was under the impression that these were things that weren't going to be addressed.
Last edited by Aclion on Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
A free society rests on four boxes: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box.
XKI: Recruiter, TITO Knight
TEP: WA Executive Staff member
Forest: Cartographer
Oatland: Caesar, Cartographer

It is the citizen's duty to understand which box to use, and when.

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Merconitonitopia
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Postby Merconitonitopia » Wed Jan 09, 2019 2:49 pm

The problem with the 100% tax rate is that it shouldn't even be logistically possible unless a good deal of that revenue (ideally 50% or more) is being re-injected in the form of transfer payments to firms and consumers.

Realistically taxation should start to plateau around 65%. Maybe the biggest spenders could push 75%.

...the problem with this, of course, is that the 100% income tax is a staple of NationStates. Any attempt to penalise, put a lid on, or otherwise do something about taxation is sort of upsetting that status quo which most have come to be fond of.
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Candlewhisper Archive
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Postby Candlewhisper Archive » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:12 pm

Merconitonitopia wrote:The problem with the 100% tax rate is that it shouldn't even be logistically possible unless a good deal of that revenue (ideally 50% or more) is being re-injected in the form of transfer payments to firms and consumers.

Realistically taxation should start to plateau around 65%. Maybe the biggest spenders could push 75%.

...the problem with this, of course, is that the 100% income tax is a staple of NationStates. Any attempt to penalise, put a lid on, or otherwise do something about taxation is sort of upsetting that status quo which most have come to be fond of.


I understand it's deeper than that - it's that the entire game is built in a certain direction, and wasn't really intended to be this vast, this long-lived or this complex. I presume when Max put together a simple formula to see what tax would be needed to support government spending for a given level of economic strength, he didn't really have the expectation that this game would still be going in 2019, and that we'd also have issues about business subsidisation, VAT and so on. It doesn't seem like this game was ever built to be a complex simulation of government spending - for that it'd need to consider different government revenue sources, national deficit spending, varying strength of currencies, international credit ratings, geopolitics of debt, and so on. There's way more to it than income tax!

Changing the way things are is much more than overcoming status quo bias - it's a case of expecting the game to be something there's no architecture to support.

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Merconitonitopia
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Postby Merconitonitopia » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:07 pm

Right, I understand that, but it really wouldn't be terribly difficult to fix the 'tax exploit' (wherein for most nation's there's no reason not to spend at a 100% tax rate given there exists no real penalty to it). An obvious solution to this problem would be to have the tax rate act as a modifier that weighs down the natural tendency of industries to grow given adequate conditions. Hey presto, problem solved.
Of course I don't really know what goes on behind the curtain, so perhaps I'm utterly mistaken in this, but I'm going to figure that this wouldn't be a particularly technically challenging feature to implement given the current state of the game. You wouldn't have to rework intricate any algorithms, you'd be working on the surface of already existing infrastructure.

The great glaring problem with this, of course, is not necessarily that would it be particularly tricky to get working correctly, but that such a feature would completely throw off the way the simulation already works, and has worked for an awful long time. People really wouldn't be happy about this (I can tell you that I certainly wouldn't, given I sport a 102.8% tax rate myself), and a lot of old nations with ridiculously high tax rates that people have been working on for as long as seventeen years would be thrown to the side.
So yes, I can't help but see 'status quo bias' (an unfair charisterisation if you ask me) to be a major hurdle to implementing changes even where technical concerns are negligible.
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Candlewhisper Archive
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Postby Candlewhisper Archive » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:34 pm

Merconitonitopia wrote:Right, I understand that, but it really wouldn't be terribly difficult to fix the 'tax exploit' (wherein for most nation's there's no reason not to spend at a 100% tax rate given there exists no real penalty to it). An obvious solution to this problem would be to have the tax rate act as a modifier that weighs down the natural tendency of industries to grow given adequate conditions. Hey presto, problem solved.


Seriously, not that easy. That was my initial thought too, specifically saying that freedom from taxation could be seen as a sort of economic freedom, or where the endpoint tax rate could modify the presented numbers on various economic parameters, but Violet kindly spent some time explaining the obstacles to this approach. Her explanations can't really be made without knowledge of the game engine.

All I can ask is that you trust that I was strongly motivated to see this change, and I became convinced that it was not technically possible.

The great glaring problem with this, of course, is not necessarily that would it be particularly tricky to get working correctly, but that such a feature would completely throw off the way the simulation already works, and has worked for an awful long time. People really wouldn't be happy about this (I can tell you that I certainly wouldn't, given I sport a 102.8% tax rate myself), and a lot of old nations with ridiculously high tax rates that people have been working on for as long as seventeen years would be thrown to the side.
So yes, I can't help but see 'status quo bias' (an unfair charisterisation if you ask me) to be a major hurdle to implementing changes even where technical concerns are negligible.


That perception is because you're assuming it's a fixable problem. I thought it was too, and it looks that way from front of house. However once you get backstage, you realise that if you pull on this rope here to move that weight out of the way over there, then other stuff is going to move elsewhere, and the next thing you know you've just dropped the chandelier on your audience.

Violet or someone else might figure out a way, some day, but the barriers are purely technical.


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