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Stellaris Dev Diary #152 - Summer Experimentation

Hello everyone!

Summer vacations are reaching their end and most of the team is back as of last week. Work has started again and we're really excited for what we have in store for the rest of the year.

While most of us have been away during most of the summer, we’ve also had some people who worked during July. July is a very good time to try out different designs and concepts that we might not otherwise have time to do, and today we thought it might be fun for you to see some of the experiments we ran during that period of hiatus.

Although we learned some useful insights, these experiments didn’t end up being good enough to make a reality.

Industrial Districts
As I have mentioned earlier, I have wanted to find a better solution for how we handle the production of alloys and consumer goods. I often felt like the experience of developing a planet felt better with an Ecumenopolis rather than with a regular planet. I think a lot of it had to do with their unique districts and that it feels better to get the jobs from constructing districts rather than buildings. Not necessarily as an emotion reaction to the choice, but rather that the choice perhaps feels more “pure” or simple.

An experiment I wanted to run was to see if it was possible to add an industrial district that provided Laborer jobs, instead of having buildings for Metallurgists and Artisans. Laborers would produce both alloys and consumer goods but could be shifted towards producing more of either.

This meant we added a 5th district, the Industrial District. By adding another district we also needed to reduce the number of building slots available. Since there would be no more need for buildings that produced alloys and consumer goods, this should still end up being similar.

upload_2019-8-15_12-14-17.png

A Laborer would consume 8 minerals to produce 2 alloys and 4 consumer goods, and that amount could be modified in either direction by passing a Decision. What I wanted was to have an industry that could have a military and civilian output, and where you could adjust the values between these outputs.

Having a laborer job that generates an “industrial output”, which could be translated into either alloys or consumer goods did feel good, but the specific solution we used didn’t feel quite right.

City Districts & Building slots
Another experiment was to see how it felt if city districts unlock building slots instead of pops. This experiment didn’t have a specific problem or issue it was trying to address but rather it was to investigate how that would feel and work. It was interesting but ultimately it felt less fun than the current implementation. It would have needed more time to see if it could be made to work.
upload_2019-8-15_12-15-12.png

This experiment did include increasing the number of jobs you would get for the building, so a research lab would provide 3 jobs instead of 2.

City District Jobs from Buildings
At the same time, we also tried a version where buildings applied jobs to city districts instead of providing jobs by themselves. One upside would be that you’d need less micromanagement to get the jobs, but the downside is that it would also be quite a large upswing in new jobs whenever you built a city district. In the end, it felt like you had less control and understanding of what a planet was specializing in.

Summary
Although these experiments were interesting, they didn’t end up quite where we wanted to, so they never became more than just experiments. We did learn some interesting things though, which we will keep in mind for the future. The industrial districts are still something I want to keep looking into, but we have to find a better solution.

Dev diaries will now be back on a regular schedule, but we will be looking into changing the format a bit this time around. For now, dev diaries will be coming bi-weekly, which means we will be back again in another 2 weeks with a similar topic.
 
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methegrate

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I remember looking forward to these.Now they are dull.

Couldn't agree more.

Honestly, they've picked the worst of both worlds when it comes to posting on the forums. Lots of participation can be fun, and no participation doesn't really say anything at all. (Who cares if a developer posts nothing as long as they make a great game?)

But aggressively half-hearted participation sends the message "we don't care, and we don't want to be here."

Worse, it suggests that's their approach to the whole game. I mean, previous dev teams had enough ideas to post big, interesting dev diaries every week. This dev team posts a few short thoughts, goes radio silent for months, then announces they're dropping to a bi-weekly schedule. I'm sure it's unintentional, but they're sending the message that they've disengaged so much that there isn't anything more to say.

I'm sure it doesn't help that my perspective differs from grekulf's. I'm not really an aesthetics guy. I like core mechanics. (The countless hours I've spent on DreamQuest...) All of the look and feel issues that he considers critical to building a sense of immersion really don't matter to me, so I've reacted to most of his ideas with a big shrug.

Still... If I were in their shoes, I'd just commit to not wanting to post on the forums anymore. Maybe drop a Medium blog once a month to keep buzz alive. It would be a lot better than posting just enough to leave people saying "that was it?"
 

methegrate

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Yeah, this is the kind of thing I was imagining - I feel like a system like this would actually force a choice between a more militarized economy and a civilian economy. Also it would make Megacorps actually produce, well, things people want to buy instead of just endless monies via Trade Value.

Right? Personally, I've always thought that Stellaris could do well with three paths to power:

Military - You invade, fight, conquer.
Economic - You trade, purchase and undermine.
Political - You build treaties, alliances and federations.

As you say, I'd love to see a trade system that produces things. One that lets you integrate your economy into other empires', or undermine their economies. One that gives you an advantage on the market beyond just "having money," and which lets you purchase the things you need instead of just being another way of building them.

My image of fighting an economic power would be one where they hire mercenaries to strike back, corner the market on alloys and leverage trade to crash your economy. Three years into the war you can barely afford to keep your population fed, no less your fleet in action. Then they offer a peace treaty that would give you all the money you need to fix things in exchange for three border systems.

Of course, the less integrated someone's economy is into the galactic whole, the weaker they'd be. An all-economic empire would have a hard time against a fanatic purifier. But that's a feature, not a bug. Economic empires would do well against political empires, which would have the allies to do well against militaristic empires, which would have the independence to do well against economic empires.

Edit - I think the critical thing is that, to use the phrase again, a "path to power" needs to have both an internal and an external set of choices. For example, military power is about what ships you build (internal) and how you use them (external).

An economic and diplomatic path would need the same thing. It would need choices about how you develop your economy and how you interact with other empires' economies, and how you develop your nation politically and how you conduct diplomacy with other empires.

But each is a way of directly interacting with another empire. If you can cripple someone's economy, you can win a war and take systems without ever firing a shot. The same with growing alliances and federations. They would be legitimate alternatives to the treadmill of "get alloys, build ships."
 
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methegrate

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I think you're reading motives that aren't there.

Which is why I said "I'm sure it's unintentional" that this message is coming across.

I don't think that's the motive or intent. It's just what comes across. When you publish something information-light you suggest there's nothing more to say, whether or not that's true or what you mean to do.
 

BlackUmbrellas

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Which is why I said "I'm sure it's unintentional..."
I don't get the "message" you're reading at all. I didn't feel like "oh, was that it?" when I read this dev diary... I read it as "oh, hey, they're back from vacation AND they're showing us some cool behind-the-scenes fiddling and experimentation we don't usually get to know about!"
 

methegrate

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I don't get the "message" you're reading at all. I didn't feel like "oh, was that it?" when I read this dev diary... I read it as "oh, hey, they're back from vacation AND they're showing us some cool behind-the-scenes fiddling and experimentation we don't usually get to know about!"

Very fair. Personally, just in terms of my reaction, it isn't this dev diary. It's dropping to one dd per two weeks; the dev diaries we've gotten all year have been much lighter and shorter than before; the dev team in general has largely stopped posting new ideas on the forums in other posts; that by this time the past few years the devs had been posting much bigger, more ambitious ideas than they are now.

It all creates a general sense of disengagement, that they're saying just enough that if they had more to say, they'd do so.

I certainly don't mean to suggest that this is necessarily real, nor to suggest malice or motive. There might be a thousand things happening that we don't see. I'm just saying that, this time last year, I reacted to dd's by thinking "that sounds really cool, I can't wait to see it in practice" and ever since January I've reacted to pretty much every dd by thinking "oh, that was it? Alright I guess."
 

BlackUmbrellas

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Very fair. Personally, just in terms of my reaction, it isn't this dev diary. It's dropping to one dd per two weeks; the dev diaries we've gotten all year have been much lighter and shorter than before; the dev team in general has largely stopped posting new ideas on the forums in other posts; that by this time the past few years the devs had been posting much bigger, more ambitious ideas than they are now.
It's almost as if the game is maturing and the "big", "ambitious" core concepts are all mostly locked in...
 

methegrate

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It's almost as if the game is maturing and the "big", "ambitious" core concepts are all mostly locked in...

In which case it seems perfectly reasonable for a player to lose interest.

But I also don’t think that’s necessarily true. Stellaris has only been out for three years. That’s a drop in the bucket by Paradox standards. (I mean, CK II still gets big, ambitious DLC and it came out in 2012.)

And judging just by the game’s initial promises there are a lot more features to go. I mean, heck, diplomacy alone still needs a ground-up rewrite. It’s not just that there’s plenty of room left to grow, there are a lot of promises as-yet unfulfilled.

Edit - But also, reiterating my other point, I think part of this is a simple split in interest. The new game head seems more excited about the artistic design and atmosphere than I am. This is of course a perfectly legitimate direction to go, just not one that gets me super excited.
 
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Monturiol

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I don't get the "message" you're reading at all. I didn't feel like "oh, was that it?" when I read this dev diary... I read it as "oh, hey, they're back from vacation AND they're showing us some cool behind-the-scenes fiddling and experimentation we don't usually get to know about!"
That's a lot of words to say "Thanks for the nothingburger"...
 

Dr Doc

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I'm really glad to see the idea of replacing Alloy and CG buildings was attempted. I personally would like to see most jobs come from districts and buildings mostly add modifiers to the planet. You only get at max 16 (really 15) so they should feel impactful when you build one on a planet. So I hope the Devs don;t drop the idea and keep working on it.
 

methegrate

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I'm really glad to see the idea of replacing Alloy and CG buildings was attempted. I personally would like to see most jobs come from districts and buildings mostly add modifiers to the planet. You only get at max 16 (really 15) so they should feel impactful when you build one on a planet. So I hope the Devs don;t drop the idea and keep working on it.

I like that they’re working on districts too, although I think I’d go a different direction. I think I’d use them to differentiate planets further.

I like the current system, but I’d add one more district slot for planet-specific districts. And I know this is a bit bold, but I might get rid of generator districts. Make it a little harder to build energy buildings to emphasize the role of trade and markets.
 

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Specifically I'd have them replace 'trade value.' It makes more sense to have the actual goods/services that would be traded be used rather than having this weird, abstracted value for trade.

I do agree at present the system is lacking - I would hope that the trade system would be improved with the diplomacy update, which would then allow for much greater use of CG.
The trade system is another one that's great but... incomplete.

The "best" option would be to somehow have the Galactic Market actually reflect the abundance/deficit of various goods by making it an actual trading floor, but that may well be significantly out of scope (and a performance hog).

Domestic trade, I would like to see reflected as a production bonus rather than an abstraction. The more "trade value" flows to your capital, the more productive it is. The more trade value flows through a system the more productive it is. Rather than just abstractly converting it to money, make it into something that has an impact on the productive and manufacturing capacity of the empire. As it is, it's just another resource to collect which gets processed with decisions rather than buildings.
 

Greenslade

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I like that they’re working on districts too, although I think I’d go a different direction. I think I’d use them to differentiate planets further.

I like the current system, but I’d add one more district slot for planet-specific districts. And I know this is a bit bold, but I might get rid of generator districts. Make it a little harder to build energy buildings to emphasize the role of trade and markets.
As an alternative - make buildings be the specialisers and make them exclusive or unlocked at higher pop levels.

So for eg rather than designating a mining world you build a mineral processing hub.

Or, make it so that if a planet is a mining world it only gets to build mining buildings.

Another option - "capital" building slots where you can add different extremely powerful buildings but only at very high pop levels - say the first one at 15 but the next one at 50, the next at 100 etc, which work as designators for the bonuses (for those big planets which can become mineral mining and alloying hubs, or energy mining and trading)

I think in general buildings should be more powerful but less "spammy." Districts should be the primary "infrastructure" of a planet, buildings should make districts better.

Another option (just thinking out loud as I post): what if buildings were unlocked with a certain number of districts and could service a max amount? For eg - for every 5 mining districts you unlock a mineral processing hub slot which gives a bonus to those districts? That might be overcomplicating things too much I know.
 

sortulv

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Would have liked to see a system where buildings acts as a type of specialized districts - stuff you don't want many of each of - and that would be unlocked by a general district. That makes size again be the important factor for what can be fit on a world, and means that livestock wouldn't be the most size efficient way to grow.
 

Millbot

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On the critique with resources. I don't think it's an issue for some resources to never really move beyond "and I primarily use this for maintenance or only that." The issue, is that it's only really alloys and to a lesser extend energy that go beyond maintenance and that aspect is really problematic because it's really in a way that primarily encourages wide play and aggressive play. I'd like to see the game go in a direction that makes tall and non-warmongering playstyles just as good as wide & warmongering playstyles.

As for districts on rignworlds and ecumenopoli. Those really should be better than regular planets because one is spending a perk slot to get those. Sure they shouldn't be mandatory, but it's a bit problematic if the devs don't get the math right and it just becomes more feasible to grab different perks (we'll put aside whether there are 8 solid perks) & run with normal worlds.

I do like the idea of buildings being either a planet modifier, strategic resource, housing or hell could even do a few that are empire wide modifiers, since we have a few megacorp buildings like that. Would be a good excuse to trim down the building slot numbers, which I'd argue were never really tuned right after the 2.0 economy went in. 16 building slots really doesn't work well with habitats & really small worlds, outside of a few strategies that find ways to pile on the pops, while still housing them.
 

TurtleShroom

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You made the right decision by not implementing any of these changes, for the very reasons you gave. All of them were horrifically awful and would take away my rights as a player to customize and specialize a planet.

That said, don't add new things until you optimize the lag and AI, and by fixing the AI, I mean implementing the entire Glavius AI system directly into "Stellaris" and retaining- or even hiring -Glavius himself to clean up your messes.
 

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Could have used the much more elegant fortnight.

I use that term all the time. My parents hate it.

Also, that's spelled "Fortnite". The way you and I spelled it is different; they will notice this, I hope.
 

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I'm excited to see the experimentation! I have some ideas:

If you want to do away with the buildings altogether, I wouldn't miss them. Specialized districts would make more sense and not feel so disjointed. I'd like to see more district options like entertainment, ecological, military, or prison types. There's all sorts of things you can do to customize your worlds this way.

What about making mineral resources finite? There can only be so much material in an asteroid field before it's depleted. I'm thinking this would make this game much more interesting especially when it comes to expansion and trade deals. If you can't mine it, you'll need to import it. You could introduce a richness trait on mineral sources so the high mineral sites are more valuable (and worth fighting over). Eventually, empires could research matter-energy conversion and reduce their dependence on mineral extraction but become more dependent on energy production. Mineral-rich empires could keep doing what they do. Systems with limited resources could be skipped altogether.

Can we do something about controlling systems with outposts? Having to build an outpost in every system you control has never made any sense nor has the whole blow-it-up-but-not-really system takeover mechanic. We can establish official borders/owned systems with claims. If other empires also claim the same systems, they could become disputed. Perhaps we could use an influence mechanic to determine who controls the system (or first come, first serve). You can sign a border treaty with your neighbor to settle things. This would allow for things like neutral or buffer zones and demilitarized regions. Outposts and starbases could be used to strengthen influence with diplomatic or communication modules.

We really should rethink ship operating ranges. Without the need to refuel, they can travel anywhere for any amount of time. That's completely unrealistic. Starbases should be part of a logistical system that extends the effective operating range of ships. This would make wormholes and gates far more valuable than they are now. It could also limit the nearly constant empire sprawl. No galaxy is entirely claimed and controlled.

Planetary types are merely biomes found on our planet. Since humans can exist in every biome type, why would a human empire need to acquire habitability for these environments?? Why would we bother with the time and expense to terraform planets with livable atmospheres and temperatures? The planetary types and habitability mechanic need to be reconsidered.
 
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