first and foremost, the synthetic ability should have a StartingColonyPopulation of more than the 10 they get. Given that the PopulationCapYor is set to 15 base in the syntheticlife ability, it should be at least 15. everything below used to be mitigated by using the planetary wheel heavily early on, but now it's exacerbated since it cant really be done & causes a reduction in output from making people unhappy if you try to run 100%. On a map without a bajillion habitableplanets, it seems pretty unusual to see planets <pq8 (and pq8 itself seems rare) the difference between being able to cram 15+ pop on a world at the cost of not having one of these:
- 50% SponsorDecay
- AwardFreeImprovement OnColonizePlanet
- OnConquerPlanet AwardDominantIdeologyPoints 15
- Invasions never cost credits
- Gets Research from Precursor Artifacts
- Trade Routes give Approval bonuses to both parties and 2 extra Trade Routes
- Starts with tourism enabled and with extra credits
- Planets can adjust their planetary Production manually.
- Planets start with 50% more population than is brought on the Colony ship
- Can colonize Aquatic, Frozen and Barren Worlds.
- All starbases get the first module free. All ships are immune to Nebula effects
- Free drones defend planets, shipyards and starbases
- Starts with free Research
- Starts knowing the location of other homeworlds
- or,,, SyntheticLife: Disables Food and natural Growth. Instead an Assembly project is used to produce Citizens.
While the assembly project can be huge once you have a phenomenal manufacturing world(s)... but you are badly hamstrung along the way in doing so & will often see even the thalan with a higher total pop because growth is a flat 0.2/colony regardless of if you have 0.5 mil pop or 50mil pop while a syntheticlife's world starting with .5 mil will take a gajillion turns to do either assembly, or improvements to speed it up.
PopulationCapYor should probably be more like 20 to start out. I say that because even with the +PopulationCapYor techs & power improvement to bump it, you generally need to be one higher on the cap tech and the power improvement than the assembly tech to really make much use of them on built up mfg world with the yor's productive ability at the base 15. Thios is the case because you won't have enough population left over to actually build the next assembly otherwise
even though syntheticlife has a growth of 0, they still get a yellow ! (and appear to get happiness hit) for coming close to/maxing out a planet's pop... something extremely easy to do on a precursor world given the -50% PopulationCapYor they tend to have. the fact that these always seem to be pq15-20+ adds insult to injury given that the 50% food is pretty darned high at 15-20+ before it gets cut in half leaving them with roughly the same population given the ability to drop a good farm or two alongside the synthetic race's unique power improvement
there are a lot of ways that the syntheticlife ability could be bumped, but allowing StartingColonyPopulation to be set from the abilitydefs.xml & setting it to 15+ with a PopulationCapYor of at least 20 would help significantly since participating in the early colony rush beyond their starting colony ship wouldn't cripple their homeworld development for dozens of turns to come