Stellaris Dev Diary #219 - Selectable Traditions

Greetings and salutations space fans!

Today we’re back with another dev diary, and the topic at hand is the feature improvements coming to the Traditions system. Back in dev diary 214 when we announced the Lem Update and the Custodians Initiative, we also talked about how to make Selectable Traditions.

Attn. This post has been updated with some new changes following feedback from the community.

Selecting your Traditions

We know there’s been mods that have extended the amounts of traditions for some time now, and we also know that it's something that parts of the community have been asking for as well. For us, Traditions have always been an important part of customizing and specializing your Empire during play, and although we of course like giving players more customization options, we also need to maintain a balance. We didn’t simply want to keep adding new traditions without having the UI support it well, and we didn’t also want to give players too many options right away, which can lead to Choice Overload. We felt like it was a good time to review the Traditions system, because we wanted to add a few more Tradition Trees, and open up the avenue for doing more of that in the future, where it makes sense.

Let’s dive into the changes, and keep in mind that nothing is final and there’s missing art. Feedback is still very welcome though.

1628750674741.png

We are improving the traditions system so that you are no longer locked to the same set of 7 traditions (with some swaps), but you can rather pick which Tradition Tree you want to go into one of these 7 slots.

1628750700458.png

All the Tradition Trees currently available to the United Nations of Earth.


Some of the Tradition Trees, that were previously swaps of other trees (like Adaptability being a swap of Diplomacy), are now their own trees again. This means that Adaptability, for example, is now available to all non-machine empires. Synchronicity is still mutually exclusive with Harmony (one will appear if you are a gestalt empire, the other if you are a regular one). Versatility is available to all machine empires.

Changes to existing Traditions
Other than allowing you to select your own Traditions trees, we’ve also changed some of the traditions within the existing trees. Let’s take a look at some of those changes:

Domination
  • Judgment Corps: no longer increases crime prevention, but rather makes your Enforcers produce 1 Unity.
  • Privy Council: now also increases Edict Cap by +1
  • Finisher: no longer provides +1 monthly influence, but rather increases admin cap by 20%. This applies to all types of empires.

Diplomacy
  • Open Markets replaced with Diplomatic Networking: Embassy pacts now produce 3 Unity
  • Secure Shipping replaced with Eminent Diplomats: Diplomatic Acceptance increased by +5, and your Envoys that are Improving Relations have a 1% chance per month to gain a Favor from the target empire.
  • Insider Trading replaced with Trust or Bust: Trust Cap +50, Trust Growth +33%
  • Finisher: no longer increases Trust Cap or Trust Growth, but rather increases Diplomatic Weight by +10% and +1 Envoy.

Harmony
  • Mind and Body: now also increases Leader Skill Cap by +1
  • Kinship: effect on demotion time buffed from -50% to -75%
  • Bulwark of Harmony moved to Unyielding, replaced with Harmonious Directives: +1 Edict Cap

Supremacy
  • Adoption: no longer increases Starbase Cap by +2, but instead increases Naval Cap by +20
  • The Great Game: old effects removed, now increases damage done to Starbases by +20%

Prosperity
  • Finisher: no longer provides Merchant Jobs per Pops on a planet, but rather increases Stability by +5 and Pop Resource Output by +5%. This applies to all types of empires.

New Tradition Trees
We are adding 3 new Tradition Trees to the game: Mercantile, Unyielding and Subterfuge. Subterfuge is currently unlocked by Nemesis, Unyielding is unlocked by Apocalypse, and Mercantile (originally supposed to be unlocked by Megacorp) is available to everyone. The reason being that we wanted to see how it felt to have the Trade Policies unlocked through this tree. It will therefore no longer be possible to convert Trade Value into Energy + Consumer Goods/Unity unless you have the (3) Adaptive Economic Policies tradition.

1628861271338.png

Mercantile (Free)
  • Adopt: Starbase Collection Range +1, Trade Protection +5
  • (1) Trickle Up Economics: Clerks provide an additional +1 Trade Value
  • (2) Commercial Enterprises: Commercial Zones Building now provides 1 Merchant Job. Also applies to Commercial Districts for Ring Worlds and Habitats.
  • (3) Adaptive Economic Policies: Can convert parts of their Trade Value into Unity or Consumer Goods.
  • (3) (swap) Federal Trade Fleets: Tradition swap for empires that are members of a Trade League Federation. Increases fleet contribution to the federation fleet by +50%, similar to Entente Coordination.
  • (4) Marketplace of Better Ideas: increases trade value by +10%
  • (5) Insider Trading: moved from Diplomacy Traditions, -10% Market Fee
  • Finisher: increases trade value by +10%

1628750966009.png

Unyielding (added to Apocalypse)
  • Adoption: Starbase Cap +2 and Starbase Upgrade Speed +50%
  • (1) Resistance is Frugal: Stronghold buildings now produce 3 Unity and Defense Army Health is increased by +33%
  • (2) Never Surrender: reduces Planet Bombardment Damage by -25%, war exhaustion by -25% and increases hostile claim costs by +25%
  • (3) Bulwark of Harmony: moved from Harmony Traditions, effects are as before
  • (4) Fortress Doctrine: increases the Hit Points and Damage of Starbases and Defensive Platforms by 33%, and reduces the upkeep cost of starbases by -20%
  • (5) Defense in Depth: increases Starbase Cap by +2 and reduces Starbase upgrade cost by -50%. In addition, owners of Nemesis will also increase Hostile Operation Difficulty by +4 for the Sabotage Starbase Operation.
  • Finisher: Max Defensive Platforms +50%

1628750986320.png

Subterfuge (added to Nemesis)
  • Adoption: +1 Codebreaking
  • (1) Information Security: +1 Encryption
  • (2) Operational Security: +1 Codebreaking, +2 Operation Skill
  • (3) Non-Disclosure Agreements: Hostile Operation Difficulty is +1, and Hostile Operation Cost and Upkeep is increased by +50%
  • (4) Double Agents: Whenever a Hostile Operation targeting us fails, we gain 10 Intel on the offending empire
  • (5) Shadow Recruits: increases Infiltration Speed by +50%
  • Finisher: Successful Operations refund half of their cost on Infiltration Level

----

That is all for this week folks! Let us know which Tradition Trees you like to pick, and why. Any feedback is very welcome.

Next week we’ll be back to talk about the additions we’re making to the Humanoids Species Pack.
 
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I'm going to echo the idea of making ascension paths into actual *paths*, where you take the Perk to unlock a new unique tradition tree, and then the tree's finisher gives you the second perk's benefits (more or less). Each path gets some benefits earlier and some later than they otherwise would, and may get some new benefits to cover gaps.

Engineered Evolution: -25% species modify special project cost. Unlocks the Biological Ascension tradition tree. (Lets bio ascension go a little harder on having The Best Bio Pops)
  1. Biological Ascension adoption: +3 species trait points.
  2. (Req #1) Mass Reproduction: Unlocks Clone Vats building.
  3. (Req #1) Pain Is Optional: +20% army damage. +20% army HP. (A minor bonus that helps bio excel in an area it currently is merely OK)
  4. (Req #1) Genetic Miracles: +1 species trait pick. (Some room for diversity in your species design, rather than just taking the same set of special traits)
  5. (Req #3) Super-Soldier Project: Unlocks Gene Warrior armies. (Replaces Gene Seed Purification tech, comes later to represent the would-have-been-spent research time)
  6. (Req #4) Evolutionary Mastery: +3 species trait points.
  7. Biological Ascension finisher: Unlocks the Genetic Resequencing research option as soon as Glandular Acclimation is researched. Can add or remove Hive-Minded trait by assimilation. Unlocks an ascension perk slot.
Mind Over Matter: Primary species gains the Latent Psionic species trait. Increased Spiritualist attraction. Unlocks the Psionic Ascension tradition tree. (Lets Psi ascension get a few more of its benefits through unity rather than research, and moves up the timelines on some benefits including access to the Shroud project; can't fully fix the balance problems because so many of those come after "completing" the path)
  1. Psionic Ascension adoption: New leaders have a 20% chance to get the Psychic leader trait. Existing leaders can get the Psychic leader trait through events.
  2. (Req #1) Psi-Cops: Unlocks Psi Corps building.
  3. (Req #1) Warriors of the Mind: Unlocks Psionic armies. (Replaces Telepathy technology)
  4. (Req #2 + #3) Mental Networks: +2 Codebreaking. +2 Encryption. +10 Base Intel level.
  5. (Req #2) Thoughtcrime: Telepaths increase Governing Ethics attraction by 10%. Unlocks Thought Enforcement edict. (Replaces Thought Enforcement technology, which is pretty bad, and adds a benefit that is thematic for psychics even if you don't want the edict)
  6. Req #4) Transcendence: Primary species gains the Psionic species trait (losing Latent Psionic). Primary species leaders gain the Psychic leader trait.
  7. Psionic Ascension finisher: Enables special project Breaching the Shroud. Enables Assimilation citizenship option. Unlocks an ascension perk slot.
The Flesh Is Weak: Special project to turn all pops into cyborgs. Unlocks the Synthetic Ascension tradition tree. (Speeds up some benefits but delays others, doesn't replace any techs)
  1. Synthetic Ascension adoption: +10% pop assembly speed.
  2. (Req #1) Efficient Bodies: -10% robot upkeep.
  3. (Req #1) Cybernetic Enhancements: Adds the Cyborg leader trait to all leaders. Leader cost +100% unless leader species is already Cybernetic. (Cybernetic pops no longer automatically give Cyborg leader trait, but splits off part of the benefit such that you can get it without needing the research)
  4. (Req #2) Versatile Bodies: +1 robot species trait points.
  5. (Req #3 + #4) Rapid Retooling: -50% robot modify species project cost.
  6. (Req #4) Perfected Bodies: +10% robot output from jobs.
  7. Synthetic Ascension Finisher: Unlocks the Synthetic Ascension special project as soon as Synthetics tech is researched, Synthetic Personality Matrix tech is researched, and The Flesh Is Weak special project complete. Unlocks an ascension perk slot. (Until you have the techs and prior project completed, does nothing but the perk slot)
Maybe something for Machine Age too, the red-headed stepchild of the ascension paths?
 
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Kaoru Sen'nin

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Certainly cool, but it would be very difficult and time-consuming to balance properly.

Could you enlight us a bit about why sometimes something as important as a policy or a stance is locked in a tree and sometimes it's only very small bonuses that would hardly matter ? Is there an internale debate in the team on that matter which would explain the discrepancy ?

I feel like the team is hesitating between "Tradition should just be small boost" and "Tradition should impact the gameplay".

It's not even spread between the traditions.
Subterfuge is just a few minor bumps there and here while Discovery has an edit and +1 research option (not a stat boost but increase player agency).

Subterfuge could leads to better operations or something.

Also none of the Traditions unlock a special building. That could be something to explore instead of just +x% somewhere
 
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Cat_Fuzz

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Just a thought, but would people like it if most edicts where locked behind tradition picks?

Seems thematically apt both as a way of defining your empire and for spiritualist (who get unity benefits and edicts cost reductions). I can only see edicts gained for starting ethics being excluded and ‘subsidies’ based ones remaining as is, but otherwise taking edict unlocks away from tech and putting them in the tradition trees would make some sense.
 
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Ninjamestari

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I feel like the team is hesitating between "Tradition should just be small boost" and "Tradition should impact the gameplay".

That is the eternal balancing act of game design, you make your feature too weak and it becomes inconsequential and boring, make it too powerful and it breaks the game. There is very narrow road to walk when it comes to these sorts of decisions and that hesitation is a mark that at least PDX is *trying* to walk that narrow path. I'm not going to claim they've succeeded but they are obviously trying.
 
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Certainly cool, but it would be very difficult and time-consuming to balance properly.

How about if ethic could give you discounts on buying certain traditions? Like materialists have cheaper Discovery and authoritarians have cheaper Domination. Though that might need new coding to be implemented, so yeah.
 
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This sounds like the difference between what I think of as a full strategy gamer and a tactical/operational gamer. The second one likes questions that amount to "how (best) should I achieve this (predefined) aim?"; the first one likes to ask themselves the (to me, far more interesting) questions "What do I want to be?" or "What ought I achieve?" or even "What sort of world/galaxy do I want to make happen?" There seems to ba a fairly constant thread of contention between these two, espacially in these fora - possibly because Paradox games can lend themselves to either style.

Yeah, and on Stellaris it gets even more complicated, as the game is marketed as being a mix of RTS, 4X and Grand Strategy, so both the 'win conditions' and 'balance' part of the game get very divergent opinions from the mix of different 'audiences'. When you consider other Paradox games, those aspects are way more secondary, with all the asymmetry on the start of the game, and the overall nature of them (what exactly is wining a crusader kings game in the end? XD)

Now I don't play multiplay, so I'm not sure if having more 'victory conditions' would change much how people are playing, but at least would give some more... 'in-game justification' (for a lack of a better way to express it)... to build empires without having the 'map painting job' as part of the plans, if looking at a time limited score based game... (that's more based on my experience playing with other 4X games with friends, doing 'just score' time runs on CIV is a oddly funny experience... I can see it working well on Stellaris, with some adjustments on how score is calculated)
 
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I'm going to echo the idea of making ascension paths into actual *paths*, where you take the Perk to unlock a new unique tradition tree, and then the tree's finisher gives you the second perk's benefits (more or less). Each path gets some benefits earlier and some later than they otherwise would, and may get some new benefits to cover gaps.

I'm more inclined to have 1 tradition tree for each first accession perk (as I have posted before) to flesh out the option of an empire just getting the first perk, and then the second perk unlocking a 'become the criss' like type of progression, towards the accession end goal.

Something like this (some very rough ideas) :

Engineered Evolution: Unlocks a cloning focused tradition tree (buffs cloned troops, bio-pops assembly, maybe special types of 'clone' traits or polices, could have even more interesting effects based on clone stuff of today dev diary teaser ^^)

Evolutionary Mastery: Unlock 'become the crisis' like progression towards becoming a organic-tech empire (objectives to study and/or purge different species pops, biome type worlds and the like, unlocks using food to create buildings and ships, convert pops between different species, more trait point and limits?)


The Flesh is Weak: Unlock a cyborg focused tradition tree (buffs cyborg armies, pops, maybe allows for cyborg pop assembly or robots-to-cyborg conversion, finisher could allow to mix robot and biologic traits on cyborg pops?)

Synthetic Evolution: Unlocks 'become the crisis' like progression towards conversion to Synth Pops and massive automation (options to gradually convert pops to machines, build special automated jobless structures, a way to 'digitalize' pops minds?, with some special traits and no/little maintenance and housing needs, 'going to live the the cloud/cyberspace' vibe, maybe some special interactions with machine empires? )


Mind over Matter: Would give the Psionic trait (psi-path need some buffing, maybe turn Latent psionic to a expensive normal trait? or origin?), unlocks a psionic related tradition tree (special psionic pop building/jobs, stuff related to spy/intel, may some interaction with hiveminds?)

Transcendence: Unlocks 'become the crisis' like progression towards breaching the Shroud (objective of focusing part of your psi pops to breach the shroud, build related stuff for the process, maybe use zro as a relevant resource for the process?, have more control over the random shroud events, shroud based techs, maybe have pops partially ascend / world become shroud-veiled)


Right now the accession paths are a little too straight forward, you do a special project and *puff*, all your pops are synths, or psionic, or hyper-buff-big-brain-super-people... Using the idea of the 'Become the Crisis' perk (the points progression and gradual unlocks) would make the process more interesting, and have the potential to add intermediary events occurring during the process, like factions revolting and other empires reacting to what you are doing (as we have in a very small scale now with the mega-structures events)
 
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Using the idea of the 'Become the Crisis' perk (the points progression and gradual unlocks) would make the process more interesting, and have the potential to add intermediary events occurring during the process, like factions revolting and other empires reacting to what you are doing (as we have in a very small scale now with the mega-structures events)

I'm not sure I follow the last bit. What "mega-structure events" are you thinking of here?
 

Kaoru Sen'nin

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That is the eternal balancing act of game design, you make your feature too weak and it becomes inconsequential and boring, make it too powerful and it breaks the game. There is very narrow road to walk when it comes to these sorts of decisions and that hesitation is a mark that at least PDX is *trying* to walk that narrow path. I'm not going to claim they've succeeded but they are obviously trying.

Better having strong Tradition that actually makes you wonder if you should rush tech or traditions than just everything being underwheilming.

Tradition should change HOW to play.

The Unyeilding tradition could have "Unlock X weapon slot for platforme defense". So starbase are not garbage after the midgame and you can really go full ultimate turtle defense mode.

Mercantile could unlock an edict to boost trade value the more commercial pact you have (or something).

Subterfuge could have better operations unlocked instead of a measly +× somewhere that doesn't actually makes you play differently.

Domination could unlock "Hegemony" federation and give the "Bring into Hegemony" CB so that you can start working on that ASAP if you want.

Those are just wild idea. Maybe they are dumb but at least to me it is way more compelling and fun than just a tiny little boost on some modifiers that barely matter.
 
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Ninjamestari

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Yeah, and on Stellaris it gets even more complicated, as the game is marketed as being a mix of RTS, 4X and Grand Strategy, so both the 'win conditions' and 'balance' part of the game get very divergent opinions from the mix of different 'audiences'. When you consider other Paradox games, those aspects are way more secondary, with all the asymmetry on the start of the game, and the overall nature of them (what exactly is wining a crusader kings game in the end? XD)

Now I don't play multiplay, so I'm not sure if having more 'victory conditions' would change much how people are playing, but at least would give some more... 'in-game justification' (for a lack of a better way to express it)... to build empires without having the 'map painting job' as part of the plans, if looking at a time limited score based game... (that's more based on my experience playing with other 4X games with friends, doing 'just score' time runs on CIV is a oddly funny experience... I can see it working well on Stellaris, with some adjustments on how score is calculated)

This is one of those, "try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one" situations. They should pick a genre and stick to it; I liked Stellaris a LOT more back when it was just a 4x without trying to be a goddamn grand strategy. I just recently played a couple of games with a 1.9 client and I can't remember the last time I had so much fun with Stellaris or got sucked into the game so profoundly. There just was something magical about the game back then that is sadly lacking today.
 
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Subterfuge (added to Nemesis)

While playing the game I've found myself not paying as much attention to Subterfuge overall. Not the skill but the whole hacking other races and doing things like that.

I suggest adding maybe once a year a report that shows up saying how things have been going in Subterfuge. If your people have noticed anything weird going on and suggestions.

Maybe even make it funny, "The scientist Joe Blow has noticed his printer has been printing double copies but he didn't bother fixing it, he just threw extras in the trash and it was emptied each night by the nice Romulan Janitor!"
 
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evilcat

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Idea:
Can we get the Tradition that really SUCKS?
...pops from other empires using this fancy migration mechanic.

There are chillboys wanting to cityskylines their empire with some migration pacts, so give them the tradition. Peacufull gameplay, more egalitarian side, creating paradise in space is the main theme.
Sample perks:
+5 happiness if at peace
+5habitability +10% output if 100% habitability
-50% cost/time of terraform
influence discount on migration pacts and ringword construction
clerks are giving more amenities
extra pull on migration depending on happiness
can free slaves from slave market
can declare war of let my people go (free slaves from slaver empires)
pops take less housing
basic (non city) district generate 1 more job
unemplyed generate more trade value or ammenity
- turning slavery on (or purification) makes everyone unhappy
can smuggle people from slaver empire using intel

General theme: Peace, Migration, Ringworlds, Gaia, Paradise, so much pops on so little space, cmdr Shepard dream.
 
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I'm not sure I follow the last bit. What "mega-structure events" are you thinking of here?
Going from memory, there are the generic temporary bonus/malus to the construction speed that happens randomly, for Dyson Sphere there is one that another empire will demand 'reparations', as you are encasing the main star of a significant constellation to their culture, the Ringworld has one about some intrusive critters on one of the artificial biomes that are being created, and the Science Nexus has some quest lines that pop up some time after completion (one of then was about integrating one of your scientists brain into its network)... I guess there may be some more but I don't remember or haven't seen.
 
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Onimorphus

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Better having strong Tradition that actually makes you wonder if you should rush tech or traditions than just everything being underwheilming.
What makes this worse is, when you go over the whole partial 'dualism' of Research vs Unity that the game proposes (going by the buffs of the Spiritualist - Materialist ethics axis, and both competing for the same resources usage), you have to look at what uses research and unity have, and currently, unity is used only on traditions (and unlocking ascension perks by consequence) and the unity ambitions.

We are comparing the whole tech tree (and all it unlocks), with the 35 traditions picks that we have, plus the 8 perks during most of the games, if we consider that both the tech repeatables and the unity ambitions are the 'late game sinks' for both this resources (the comparison is not that straight forward, but seems approximate enough).

It's easy to see why a lot of people consider the traditions effects quite weak when the most impactful choices involving Unity during most of the game are the ascension perks, and even then, many of the strongest ones are also gated behind tech, or require/unlock subsequent research/special projects.

Now we still don't know what changes the Devs are planning (or have already implemented/decided and are keeping for future dev diaries) for Unity usage, but right now it's quite clear how research ends up being by far more relevant over a normal game, on the simple matter of the choices and uses (and lack of both) that we have for it.
 
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Onimorphus

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This is one of those, "try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one" situations. They should pick a genre and stick to it; I liked Stellaris a LOT more back when it was just a 4x without trying to be a goddamn grand strategy. I just recently played a couple of games with a 1.9 client and I can't remember the last time I had so much fun with Stellaris or got sucked into the game so profoundly. There just was something magical about the game back then that is sadly lacking today.

Yeah, overall 1.9 was one of most (if not the most) well rounded moment of the game systems development, but honestly even then the game already suffered from the game design dilemmas of being a 'hybrid game'. The game economy was simpler, the AI looked like it could handle it better as consequence, but the whole war aspect was still quite messy (even though I miss the FTL variation, it did mess up the fleet engagements and war dynamic a lot), and balance was always a problematic topic.

I personally like that they decided go more toward the 'grand strategy' side of the spectrum, because going this way its easier to implement more interesting mechanics and double down in the customization/sandbox aspect of the game. I still believe there is a lot that need to be improved (the quasi-total lack of a 'internal politics' system beyond the vestigial 'factions' mechanic we have right now, the military aspect of the game still being quite wonky, even when around half the tech tree is dedicated to military tech, diplomacy getting better over time but still being somewhat limited...).

There are a few good 4X space games already around on the market, instead of Stellaris trying to headbutt them on their field, I think its better to focus on what makes it different, maybe once we have the most lacking aspects of the game more fleshed out, try to have some 'scenarios' game mode (with a more populated already galaxy) as is suggested a lot, use their experience for that sort of gameplay from their other franchises, and have a 'balanced start' scenario (similar to what we have now) for the more traditional multiplayer game experience.
 

Ninjamestari

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I don't know, Stellaris was the most fun space 4x back in 1.9, and in no way did that exclude the sandbox aspects of the game. War was always a bit wonky precisely because of the artificial limitations of "war score" and such; claiming planets should've been as simple as conquering them, instead of making the whole thing more gamey in a bad sense. Apocalypse turned warfare into such a disgusting mess that I didn't even want to bother with it anymore, I absolutely HATE the way wars work in Stellaris now; they were never good, but they've gotten progressively worse with subsequent updates. The game simply isn't fun to play anymore, and every time I begin to play stellaris, I play about 50 years in max and then get bored.

I sometimes dream on what if, we could've had 1.9 style gameplay, the old tile/pop systems, the old ftl, but instead just have the other new features, such as origins.

Right now each update seems hell bent on simply trying to one up the already existing game with some new feature that tries desperately too hard to be "even cooler" than what has come before, which has led to stuff that doesn't work like Juggernauts and the new starkiller thingys; they're not interesting, they're not fun and they cheapen the overall experience. They're trying to outshadow old features on purpose, make the bare bones and way too shallow and gamey instead of creating proper simple mechanics that add DEPTH to the game. In other words, I think the design decisions have been exclusively made by the Marketing Department.

Scenarios and such can't save the game if the game is not fun. It's just not fun. I tell you, I used to love this game and keep hoping it'll become interesting again, but the fact is that it's probably never going to. The only thing that has reinvigorated my hope is what has been promised in the new Lem update.
 
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kwheeler

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Going from memory, there are the generic temporary bonus/malus to the construction speed that happens randomly, for Dyson Sphere there is one that another empire will demand 'reparations', as you are encasing the main star of a significant constellation to their culture, the Ringworld has one about some intrusive critters on one of the artificial biomes that are being created, and the Science Nexus has some quest lines that pop up some time after completion (one of then was about integrating one of your scientists brain into its network)... I guess there may be some more but I don't remember or haven't seen.
Ah, now I see. Thanks.
 
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