First of all, I just wanted to say I am quite blown away with the quality and sheer detail already available in this early alpha version of the game. It looks fantastic so far, despite the couple of visual bugs that I am sure will be addressed at some point. A job well done, Cliff!
I just wanted to provide some fairly detailed feedback regarding an issue I had with Democracy 3 that has not been addressed in D4 so far, at least from what I can tell from the three games I’ve played. I feel like there is great potential to improve the gameplay experience here.
In D3, I greatly enjoyed the late-game challenges that you’d eventually have to address if you played a country long enough. However, demographic change - in other words, an aging society - was completely overlooked, despite this being one of the biggest challenges facing developed countries in the medium to long term. I tended to reach a share of around 75-100% retirees in the entire population, but this failed to be reflected in the simulation. The cost of state pensions barely budged, income tax revenue did not drop, and the cost of healthcare did not skyrocket.
In D4, this also seems to be the case. Despite a steadily rising retiree population in my games, I have not felt the burden that this should cause on my country, which feels like a missed opportunity in terms of gameplay depth. Therefore, I feel like there is great potential to better simulate the effect of an aging population in D4, especially now that we have the “population” simulation.
For example, an increasing share of retirees in the general population could increase the cost of pensions and healthcare provision. This could then be countered by increasing the population, which would decrease the cost of pensions and perhaps increase some form of income/payroll tax income, thereby simulating the effect of increased immigration and fertility rates on expanding the labour force and providing a way to fund the higher pension burden.
This would also solve the issue of there being no incentive to raising population in the game. Currently, all the effects of a high population seem to be negative - increased food prices, traffic congestion, real estate prices, etc. These are all accurate representations of an increased population, to be sure, but I feel as though this fails to truly capture population dynamics in developed countries. There is a huge incentive for rich countries to increase skilled immigration and fertility rates in order to address skills shortages and reduce the burden of an aging society. I feel as though the simulation does not take these considerations into account so far.
Therefore, I think it would be wise not only from a realism perspective, but also from a gameplay perspective, to address the lack of an accurate representation of an aging society. It would allow the introduction of a retirement age policy that could have an effect on this, which is something that countries have to deal with all the time. It would add depth to the late-game and to the currently one-sided population simulation, as the player would have to balance the current negative effects of an increased population, with the benefits it would bring in addressing an aging society. And it would add another challenge for the player to cope with through different means. Should I Increase the population or raise the retirement age? Do I decrease pensions, or introduce tax credits for retirees to keep working? There is a lot of gameplay dynamism that could be had here.
I hope this will be addressed at some point in the development process. It would turn what is already a masterpiece of a game, into the Mona Lisa of political simulators!