Agent-based modeling and simulation is a versatile and promising methodology to capture complex interactions among entities and their surrounding environment. A great advantage is its ability to model phenomena at a macro scale by exploiting simpler descriptions at a micro level. It has been proven effective in many fields, and it is rapidly becoming a de-facto standard in the study of population dynamics. In this article we study programmability and performance aspects of the last-generation ROOT-Sim speculative PDES environment for multi/many-core shared-memory architectures. ROOT-Sim transparently offers a programming model where interactions can be based on both explicit message passing and in-place state accesses. We introduce programming guidelines for systematic exploitation of these facilities in agent-based simulations, and we study the effects on performance of an innovative load-sharing policy targeting these types of dependencies. An experimental assessment with synthetic and real-world applications is provided, to assess the validity of our proposal.