Created By: zarpaulus on October 29, 2012 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on November 28, 2012

Ridiculously Fast Population Growth

Civilizations in games appear to be populated by Explosive Breeders

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
In 4X games population growth rates of a billion per year are not uncommon. While it's true that in newly settled areas people tend to have more children a new colony doubling in population every year should be physically impossible. Sometimes the game handwaves this by claiming growth is due more to immigration than birthrates, but in some cases one has to wonder where exactly all these people are immigrating from. In addition population growth almost always halts entirely once the capacity is reached.

For comparison, a real human population where each woman has five kids would grow at a rate of about 3.3% per year.

Related to Ridiculously Fast Construction, Writers Cannot Do Math, and Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. Usually involves Hide Your Children when the new population are nothing but productive adults.

4X
  • The Civilization series.
  • Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri
  • Sword of the Stars: Depending on planetary environment, racial bonuses, and technologies, it can take anywhere from 15 to 30 years for a planetary population to grow from a couple hundred to about 700 million. Though Imperial population growth is capped at 50 million per turn and civilian at 20 million.
  • Galactic Civilizations hangs a planet-sized Lampshade on this in many of the progress reports and flavor text for planetary improvements. "Of course most of this population growth is actually more people reporting taxes and voting, since X billion people couldn't actually have been born in that time."
  • Actraiser, Terranigma: in both, the hero rescues people to repopulate barren lands, but the population will also increase on its own. Both also halt the growth when it reaches capacity.
  • Master of Orion III. Particularly in mid-to-end game, once the player terraformed a planet (also ridiculously fast), the population would mushroom to full capacity in a matter of a few years.
  • Averted in Dwarf Fortress. The population grows almost completely from migration rather than reproduction, usually a slow trickle of 6-20 dwarves, and you will have near-useless, uncontrollable children running amok. There is also a hard population cap to prevent the game from murdering your CPU.

Real-time Strategy
  • In the Age of Empires series new villagers and warriors simply pop out of their training buildings. The third game could have justified it as new settlers arriving from the homeland but that's a separate mechanic.

Other
  • In the play by mail game The Tribes of Crane, tribes could grow by up to 10% per month. As pointed out in The Space Gamer magazine's "Murphy's Rules" Comic Strip, this would require every female member of the tribe to be constantly pregnant with triplets.

Examples outside of gameplay
  • Early Shadowrun game supplements depicted several of the Native American Nations with populations in the millions or tens of millions, vastly out-stripping the number of genuine Native Americans that could feasibly exist by the dates when they were set. Later writers for the tabletop game frantically justified this with a combination of non-Natives being adopted into various tribes, poseurs only claiming Native ancestry, and/or inflated demographic statistics released by NAN propagandists.
  • In the Macross universe, humanity rebounded from (IIRC) around a million survivors of the first war to an interstellar civilization with dozens of colonies and huge fleets within 30 years (Macross Plus era). Possibly justified by adding captured zentradi cloning technology into the mix, but that'd do some pretty weird things to demographics.
  • StarCraft's backstory has the Koprulu Sector's Terran expatriate population grow from 32,000 survivors of the three UPL colony ships to twelve billion by the time of the first game. This explosive growth takes 240 years. A little math shows that this would require the population to at least double every decade, for 24 decades. And that's before you consider the deaths due to the Terrans' infighting.
  • In the Homeworld series the population of Hiigara went from 650,000 Exiles to 350 million Hiigarans in the century between the first and last game. Though it is possible that many of those people are descendants of Taiidan rebels (who may or may not be the same species)
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • October 29, 2012
    StarSword
  • October 29, 2012
    NimmerStill
    • Actraiser, Terranigma: in both, the hero repopulates lands formerly barren of people, and as the hero adventures, the population grows. Both also halt the growth when it reaches capacity.
    • In Soulblazer, a similar situation is averted because the hero personally rescues every single character whose soul was captured.
  • October 29, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ The descriptions for all three of those games suggest that the hero is simply rescuing people.
  • October 29, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Not the case, though. Certainly not for Actraiser, where the statistic is even termed "growth". And there's no indication in Terranigma either that all of the population growth is accounted for by soul-rescuing. That's how the initial population gets there, but it increases as you play, if you do certain things.
  • October 29, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Not sure of the earlier versions as I've never had them, but this occurred with planet populations in Master Of Orion III. Particularly in mid-to-end game, once the player terraformed a planet (also ridiculously fast), the population would mushroom to full capacity in a matter of a few years.
  • October 29, 2012
    Rotpar
    These people are also productive adults are they not? When your city population doubles these extra citizens are paying taxes, working fields, and building military units.

    Wondering if Dwarf Fortress is at all relevant as an Aversion. The population grows almost completely from migration rather than reproduction, usually a slow trickle of 6-20 dwarves, and you will have near-useless, uncontrollable children running amok. There is also a hard population cap to prevent the game from murdering your CPU.

    Maybe all members of your population being useful adults is a seperate trope. I'll look into that and maybe YKTTW it.
  • October 29, 2012
    StarSword
    I think I saw a calculation one time that the stated human population in the Koprulu Sector prior to StarCraft would require a theoretically possible but unrealistic growth rate from the (I think it was) 4,000 survivors from the colony ships. I thought it was somewhere on Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale, but I can't find it.

    Also, the link to the 4X page is done with the Wiki Word FourX.
  • October 29, 2012
    MorganWick
  • October 30, 2012
    Frank75
    Just for comparison: A population where every woman has five children would grow 3.3% per year.
  • October 30, 2012
    zarpaulus
    @Rotpar: That is nearly always the case, yes. Like the game designers think that children are inconsequential enough.

    @Starsword: I'd think that would be on the generic "Units" sub-page, though I believe I saw it on the page for Star Craft. *checks* Yeah, it is listed on the works page.
  • October 30, 2012
    StarSword
    @Rotpar: "Maybe all members of your population being useful adults is a separate trope." Specifically, Hide Your Children.

    @zarpaulus: Yep, there it is.

    • StarCraft's backstory has the Koprulu Sector's Terran expatriate population grow from 32,000 survivors of the three UPL colony ships to twelve billion by the time of the first game. This explosive growth takes 240 years. A little math shows that this would require the population to at least double every decade, for 24 decades. And that's before you consider the deaths due to the Terrans' infighting.
  • October 30, 2012
    Antigone3
    I'm pretty sure an old "Murphy's Rules" cartoon pointed out a few examples of this; I'll see if I can find the collection.
  • October 31, 2012
    AgProv
    Mythology: in the Bible, no less than eight people are left alive after the Flood: Noah, his three sons and their wives, and possibly some of their children. From these eight people, by the end of Genesis the world is completely repopulated with ALL its different races and ethnicities, to the point that where the LORD commands a census of the Children of Israel, there are the best part of a million.
  • October 31, 2012
    Frank75
    Given a somewhat realistic growth rate of 3.3% per year, a population could grow from eight people to almost 100 millions in 500 years. That's not too far away in the past for the deluge story.
  • October 31, 2012
    MattStriker
    Another non-game example: In the Macross universe, humanity rebounded from (IIRC) around a million survivors of the first war to an interstellar civilization with dozens of colonies and huge fleets within 30 years (Macross Plus era). Possibly justified by adding captured zentradi cloning technology into the mix, but that'd do some pretty weird things to demographics.
  • October 31, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Just added a section for examples outside of gameplay. Two of the three are in video games but in the background.
  • October 31, 2012
    MrRuano
    Warhammer40000 has two examples:
    • The Orks, who spread via fungal spores, therefore allowing them to never die off as more spores grow into gretchin and the like, giving them a truly frightening population.
    • The Tyranids, who consume literally everything to make biomass. This biomass then becomes used in order to form more and more Tyranids, be it via Mycetic Spores or production from the local hive.
  • October 31, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ Explosive Breeder, looking for examples of species like humans who seem to be multiplying at that rate with little to no justification,
  • November 2, 2012
    SharleeD
    Early Shadowrun game supplements depicted several of the Native American Nations with populations in the millions or tens of millions, vastly out-stripping the number of genuine Native Americans that could feasibly exist by the dates when they were set. Later writers for the tabletop game frantically justified this with a combination of non-Natives being adopted into various tribes, poseurs only claiming Native ancestry, and/or inflated demographic statistics released by NAN propagandists.
  • November 4, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I'm thinking of adding RTS examples too.
  • November 28, 2012
    Arivne
    Other
    • In the play by mail game The Tribes of Crane, tribes could grow by up to 10% per month. As pointed out in The Space Gamer magazine's "Murphy's Rules" Comic Strip, this would require every female member of the tribe to be constantly pregnant with triplets.
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