Well folks, here we are again, one week later… The development team has mostly weathered the release jitters and nerves are starting to calm down. The ship we worked so hard on for the last three years has been successfully launched and is currently on its maiden voyage. The crew seems mostly happy but some of the inspectors have raised concerns about mid-ship structural issues. As chief architect, I am not entirely surprised, but the reports will allow us to commence upgrades as soon as HMS Stellaris returns from its round-trip to Alpha Centauri. Alright, enough with the metaphor, let’s talk about our future plans for Stellaris!
First off, for those of you who are unfamiliar with our post-release policies, we will release a lot of expansions over the coming years. Each expansion will be accompanied by a major update (for Stellaris, these free updates will be named after famous science fiction authors) containing a whole bunch of completely free upgrades and improvements to the game in addition to regular bug fixes. As long as enough players keep buying paid content for the game, we promise to keep improving the game for everyone, almost like an MMO.
Now, before we begin the expansion cycle in earnest, we will spend the rest of May and June only focusing on bug fixes and free upgrades to the game. We carefully listen to all your feedback, which has already made us alter our priorities a bit. As a veteran designer of our complex historical games, I was anticipating a fair amount of criticism regarding the mid-game in Stellaris compared to that of our historical games, but I was more concerned with the depth of the economy than the relative lack of diplomatic options, for example. I also find much of the feedback on the Sector system interesting; the GUI and AI concerns will receive the highest priority. One area I was not at all surprised to get flak for is the lack of mid-game scripted content, however. We simply took too long getting all the early and late game stuff in, and neglected a whole category of events called “colony events”, which were supposed to be the bread and butter of the mid-game for the Science Ships.
We’ve been digesting and discussing your feedback and how to best go about improving the mid-game to make it more dynamic, both in the short and long run. Let’s start with our short term plans. When the game was released, we had already proceeded to fix a lot of issues. Together with some other pressing issues that have been reported, the plan is to release the 1.1 update - “Clarke” - near the end of May. We will try to cram as much as we can into this update, but the more fundamental stuff will have to wait until the next update (“Asimov”), which is scheduled for the end of June. The “Clarke” patch will mainly be a bug fix and GUI improvement update. Here are some of the highlights:
- Fixes to the Ethic Divergence and Convergence issues. Currently, Pops tend to get more and more neutral (they lose Ethics, but rarely gain new ones.)
- The End of Combat Summary. This screen looks bad and also doesn’t tell you what you need to know in order to revise your ship designs, etc.
- Sector Management GUI: There are many issues with this, and we will try to get most of them fixed.
- Diplomacy GUI issues. This includes the Diplomatic Pop-Ups when other empires contact you, but also more and better looking Notifications, and more informative tooltips on wars, etc.
- AI improvements: Notably the Sector AI, but also plenty of other things. This kind of work is never "finished"...
- Myriads of bug fixes and smaller GUI improvements.
- Late game crises bugs. There were some nasty bugs in there, blocking certain subplots and various surprising developments.
- EDIT: Remaining Performance Issues. We know about them; they might even be hotfixed before Clarke.
- EDIT: Corvettes are too good.
New Diplomatic Notification. This is a mock-up, not an actual screenshot!
New Fleet Combat Summary. This is a mock-up, not an actual screenshot!
After that, we’re moving on to the “Asimov” update, and this is when we can start making some major gameplay improvements to especially the mid-game. As you might have guessed, we plan to add some new diplomatic actions and treaties. Another thing that struck me during our discussions is that the normal lack of access to the space of other empires makes the game feel more constricted than intended. It limits your options since you can’t really interact much with the galaxy beyond the borders of your empire, and you only tend to concern yourself with your direct neighbors. This is bad for your Science Ships too, of course, since they might not be able to finish some of the grander “quests”. Compare the situation with Europa Universalis, where you usually have access to the oceans and can thus reach most of the world, or Crusader Kings, where you can even move through neutral territory with your armies. We also intend to add as much mid-game scripted content as we can. Thus, this is currently the plan for “Asimov”, but it’s not set in stone yet, so please bear with us if something gets pushed or altered:
"ASIMOV" HIGHLIGHTS (NOT SET IN STONE!)
- Border Access Revision: Borders are now open to your ships by default, although empires can choose to Close their borders for another empire (lowering your relations, of course.)
- Tributaries: New diplomatic status and corresponding war goals.
- Joint Declarations of War: You can ask other empires to join you for a temporary alliance in a war against a specific target.
- Defensive Pacts.
- Harder to form and maintain proper Alliances.
- More war goals: Humiliate, Open Borders, Make Tributary, etc.
- Emancipation Faction. We had to cut this one at the last minute. Needs redesign.
- Diplomatic Map Mode. Much requested!
- Diplomatic Incidents: This is a whole class of new scripted events that causes more interaction with the other empires.
CURRENT "HEINLEIN" INTENTIONS
- Sector and Faction Politics: We are working on a design for this. I always wanted to make Factions more closely tied to Sectors, for example...
- Federation and Alliance Politics: As a player, you need more ways of interacting with the other members, push your will through, and get elected, etc.
- Giving Directions to Allies and Subject States.
- Strategic Resource Overhaul: You should need these and search for them far and wide. They should be extremely important.
- Battleship Class Weapons. Some Battleship front sections will be repurposed for an XL size weapon slot. There are currently four ship sizes but only three sizes to weapons, creating an imbalance. Also, Battleships should have fewer small weapon slots and have to rely on screens of smaller ships.
- Fleet Combat Mechanics: Formations and/or more complex ship behavior is needed.
- Mid-game scripted content: Guarded “treasures”, mid-game crises, colony events, etc.
- Living Solar Systems: Little civilian ships moving around, etc.
Now, I am sure you are full of questions about the details, but hold your horses; it will all be explained in the coming dev diaries!