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Stellaris Dev Diary #284 - Broken Shackles

Free at Last!

I’m incredibly excited to introduce ‘Broken Shackles’, one of the new origins featured in the upcoming First Contact DLC.

Watch the Video Dev Diary here:

From the very beginning of the project, @Eladrin stressed the word ‘utopian’: First Contact celebrates the discovery of strange new worlds, and all the ways in which different cultures (and different species) interact with and support one another.

As I set out to design an origin for the DLC, this was the spirit and tone I was striving for. What’s more utopian than a rag-tag group of slaves who band together in a daring bid for freedom? Thrown together by the insidious Minamar Specialized Industries, these former indentured assets seize control of their captor’s ship and survive the chaotic crash landing on a habitable planet.


You’ll have to make do with using the remains of your hijacked ship as infrastructure at the start of the game.

While the origin is challenging (players start out at a technological disadvantage, and will need to work hard before they can progress very far into space), a diverse population means that there is ample opportunity to colonize new worlds.


More species = better parties.

As your empire progresses, you will also have the opportunity to seek out each of your former home worlds. Reaching these planets not only represents a triumphant homecoming, but may also propel your people to new heights.


There’s no place like home.

However, not everything is peaches and cream. Different species mean diverse points of view, and the demands of various factions will need to be appeased if players hope to maximize the potential of their burgeoning empire.

Interactive Narrative

Broken Shackles represents a new paradigm for Stellaris origins: along with ‘Payback’, it comprises one half of a full story. But what’s a story without a good villain?

Enter Minamar Specialized Industries, or ‘MSI.’ This ‘benevolent corporation’ prides itself on helping ‘less developed societies’ reach their full potential. They kickstart development by loaning new technology to pre-FTL societies – loans provided at what they promise are very generous rates.

What happens when the bill comes due is another story. Indentured servitude is just one of MSI’s tools of debt collection.


“Enlightenment may not be free. But at MSI, it is always worth the cost.”

Why MSI?


Helmets in the boardroom.

Back in the earliest days of development, there was a discussion about how present the “evil slaver empire” would be. We decided on an advanced empire that can be stumbled across at any point in the game – sometimes they will spawn near your home cluster, while at others they show up on the far side of the galaxy. This random placement can have radical effects on a playthrough.

Initially, we envisioned the antagonist of ‘Broken Shackles’ and ‘Payback’ as a generic authoritarian slaver empire, but as the origins took shape, their motives and nature changed.

Minamar Specialized Industries styles itself a benevolent corporation that provides technological enlightenment for a nominal fee. Some might say that they take advantage of the naivety of the species they propel to the stars, but business is business. In any case, it’s likely that the rank and file at MSI believe the company line, even if the Board of Directors considers itself above such petty issues as morality.

In regards to their erstwhile assets, the ‘indentured servants’ who comprise the starting pops of the Broken Shackles origin, MSI claims not to hold any grudges. In fact, we intentionally shied away from styling MSI as ‘an ultimate evil’ that can’t be reasoned or dealt with. From the perspective of a Broken Shackles empire, MSI may indeed represent the worst instincts of sentient life, but to the rest of the galaxy they’re just another greedy Megacorp.

There isn’t much Megacorp related content in Stellaris in general, and what does exist is all locked behind the expansion of the same name. Playing with the ‘evil corporation’ trope allowed us to give MSI a distinct personality and flavor. To me, they feel like the perfect foil for a utopian origin, and I can’t wait for the release!
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Very interesting. Do you ever intend to make the MSI playable? I enjoy playing Auth-Mat-Phile empires (with a slightly nicer backstory, perhaps), so the opportunity to play as an empire with two rivals readying to present their 'constructive disagreements' with your enlightened policies is very tempting.
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I like the hat! More hats!

Random questions after reading this:
  1. What effects does the Ladder to stars origin have for the MSI nation?
  2. And will there be any special events / conclusions for if they are wiped out by another empire before you meet them? (e.g. you survey a system flagged as formerly MSI's property and realise these were your previous masters) - or have been liberation-warred in to some non-corporate society type?
  3. Will there be diplomatic restrictions on the broken shackles-start empire? e.g. forcing no slavery allowed even if changing ethics later on - or having a locked -X relations modifier with slaving / corporate nations?
  4. Will there be special interactions between the broken shackles and payback origin?
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Neat origin. Very different and unique to many other origins.

It's good that MSI isn't represented as immoral but rather amoral; They simply operate the way they do because that's the MSI way. To the enslaved that might be even worse; they really are just assets. A means to an end. Replaceable cogs in the corporate machine.

Quite interested to see how the Payback origin differs. I've always loved underdog stories.
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-Since the First Contact is a Story Pack, could you state how many new events, anomalies etc. will be added?

...or will it be only 3 new origins?
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The main question here is: can we play as MSI?
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This sounds fun.
Is the Origin challenging only at the start or will you gain benefits you normally wouldn't in the long run to compensate for the low-tech start?
Either way, i am definitely going to try this.
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Really excited to give this one a go. Given that you start the game with nine different species (going by the picture at least) do you get an event for discovering nine different homeworlds? Or is it just the primary species?

I'm intrigued to learn more about MSIs origin and how they play, particularly with how they interact with other primitives on the map.
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Nice, I really like the portrait. Got some body-horror Geiger vibes.

Any option to have MSI be a Fallen Empire? It would be an amazing game-long challenge to climb up to where you can knock down an FE in revenge, and being an FE gives them mechanically enforced apathy to our rebellion.

Can the "Evil Slaver AI" get some code to start invading / exploiting primitives? I've scripted pre-FTL civs into the starting system of slaver empires like the Tzynn and they seem to just watch.

Thanks for the update info!
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Will there be diplomatic restrictions on the broken shackles-start empire? e.g. forcing no slavery allowed even if changing ethics later on

He Who Fight monsters ... Often becomes no better than the monsters

an Empire with Broken Shackles becoming a Slaver empire themselves has potential for delicious story-telling
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Great presentation of this origin, I did see people say that actually being a pre-FTL civilisation would be too difficult to implement but what I see here is an escaped "band" of people landing on a planet - with poor tech and several "high level" ones that that they can research but they'll be behind in other ways such as buildings.

Once they visit other civilisations the story turns into a multiple choice of co-operation / vendetta story against this Megacorp?

Looks fantastic, can't wait to get it.
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I like it! This being more of an emerging storyline kinda origin does ease my fears about most of the story pack’s writing going to the origins instead of the primitives themselves.
Also i assume the extra primitives will match the extra species in your empire, right?
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Playing as Escaped Slaves who have to start from Scratch again? Basically playing a Pre-FTL Empire? God, my heart. I always loved the Concept of playing a Pre-FTL Empire, and now that you aldo can establish communications with other Pre-FTL Empires, its like a Wish came True.

Much love to the Devs!
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is "your ladder to the sky" just a marker for minamar or does it do stuff for them? like does their AI get different parameters from it? DO they behave slightly different?
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Interesting. The origin bypassing the game settings heavily implies the origin will be unavailable to AI.

How will the origin interact with civics that normally start you with a special building? I see that they have no free building slots to put them in.

Other notes:
  • I count 29 starting pops, with no more than 3 from most species, 8 from what appears to be the primary species, and 9 from one other species. Interesting that your species starts as a minority in your own empire.
  • I'm guessing that the other high density species will be shared with the Payback empire.
  • In addition to all the tech and infrastructure deficits, most of your pops start with 20% habitability on your starting planet. Oof. You're not kidding about challenging here.
  • I wonder if you start with the rescued from slavery pop happiness modifier at least?
  • I also see that you don't get the 3 starting Corvettes. Not too big a deal by itself, but there's a good chance that means you also don't start with a science ship. Maybe not even an upgraded starbase.
  • Specifically mentioning that "the demands of various factions will need to be appeased" implies you'll start with a randomized assortment of pop ethics in addition to the randomized species.
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In the name of the toxic god, by the grace of his imperial majesty, every last samurai in the empire will be sent to put an end to this abomination.

My empire of space foxes will not tolerate such a Megacorporation.
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