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Stellaris Dev Diary #72: Crises & The Contingency

Hello everyone and welcome to another Stellaris development diary. We are now officially back from our break in communication and will be resuming weekly dev diaries and streams as usual. Today's dev diary is going to be about crises, and how we're changing them in the future, particularly in regards to the AI crisis. Before I dive into it, I also want to mention that we are still working to address the issues caused by 1.6 and get another bugfixing patch out, the process has just been somewhat complicated by the Bradbury multiplayer beta. See this post for details and discussion of Bradbury/1.6.2 and keep this thread focused on the topic at hand.

Crisis Improvements & AI
Some time back, when I was asked about issues with the crises and the AI crisis in particular, I said that I did not want to put a great deal of resources into improving the end-game when those resources could be put into the mid-game instead, and that these improvements and fixes would come when we felt the mid-game were in a good enough place to justify them. I now feel that we are in that place, and as such we are going to make a major push to improve, balance and rework the endgame crises for future updates.

Probably the most significant change to the non-AI crises is the addition of a Crisis Strength setting in game setup, replacing the old setting to turn endgame crises on or off. It also replaces the scaling to galaxy size and habitable worlds, and has a default setting for each of the galaxy sizes. This setting allows you to control the strength of crises, all the way down from 0.25x of their base power to a massive and likely unstoppable 5x power boost to their fleets. As before, you can also turn off crises entirely.
2017_06_01_2.png


Additionally, we've also spent a considerable amount of time improving the crisis AI, both in terms of how the crises themselves behave and how regular AI empires react to them. Crises should now expand in a more logical fashion and be better at defending and fortifying the space they have taken over. AI empires, in turn, should be far better at understanding when they are under mortal threat and react to a rapidly spreading crisis by banding together against it and coordinating their fleets to fight it.
2017_06_01_3.png


The Contingency
The old AI rebellion crisis suffers from a number of issues, mostly stemming from the fact that it's so different from the other crises. While the Extradimensionals and Scourge are large invasions that have to be fought with fleets, the AI rebellion is supposed to be primarily an internal crisis, with the dangers stemming from infiltration and subversion rather than outright warfare. The problem with this is twofold: The game mechanics do not support it, and it is inherently unsatisfying. Whereas huge fleets roaming around scourging the galaxy of life is an easily understood threat that can be fought by empires coming together and pooling their resources against the invaders, the AI crisis mostly ends up as a series of frustrating events affecting empires in isolation, or 'Spaceport Destruction Simulator' as it's been called.

In addition to the gameplay problems, there is also the narrative problems: Why exactly do rebelling synths pose a galaxy-wide threat? If sapient machines are so powerful, why are ascended synthetic empires not on the power level of an endgame crisis? Even if we were to simply boost the AI crisis by giving it massive fleets, this really doesn't make much sense that a handful of rebelling synths from a handful of regular empires were able to amass such fleet assets in the first place. It's for this reason that we decided to go back to the drawing board and remake the AI crisis in the mold of the other two endgame crises, while retaining as much as possible of the 'synth infiltration' flavor from the old crisis. Enter the Contingency.
2017_06_01_1.png


Without wishing to spoil too much, The Contingency is an ancient AI whose purpose appears to be to sterilize the galaxy of all higher biological life and control or destroy all other Synthetic life forms. At the start of the game, it is dormant, broadcasting a weak signal across the galaxy that affects Synthetics in unpredictable ways. The chance of the Contingency waking up is directly tied to the prevalence of Synthetic life in the galaxy, and should it wake, it will attempt to use its signal to control Synthetics and force them to aid it in its implacable task of galactic sterilization. Unlike the previous AI crisis, the Contingency has formidable fleet assets with which to carry out this task and has to be fought both in space and at home, as it makes use of subversion and infiltration to soften up its targets before the sterilization units arrive.
2017_06_01_4.png


Just as with the Extradimensionals and Scourge, there is additional events and hidden lore to be discovered regarding the Contingency, and synthetic empires will have special interactions and challenges related to it. The Contingency completely replaces the old AI uprising crisis, but we are currently looking at also implementing a new AI uprising, not as a galactic scale crisis but as a midgame event localized to one or a few empires. But more on that later!
 

Hapchazzard

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The Contingency completely replaces the old AI uprising crisis, but we are currently looking at also implementing a new AI uprising, not as a galactic scale crisis but as a midgame event localized to one or a few empires. But more on that later!

Midgame crises confirmed :) ? Also, is the Contingency guaranteed to exist in every game, or is it a % chance during galaxy generation?
 

Kliwarrior

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Great post.
How can you rate the "1x" strength of a Crisis ? Similar to that prior of the last boost ?
 

Gball

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Since you mention that now you are looking into the end game, I have a couple of question:

-In regards to the fallen empires, do you intend to improve their flavour to differentiate between the different kinds more and do you intend to add more types of FEs?

-In regards to the AI crisis, is it a chance for it to appear in any given galaxy or will it always be there and just activates on occasion?

-Are there plans to add more crisis and more interactions with crisis?

edit: - on your twitter you mention that multiple crisis can negatively affect each other and it isn't a simple switch. Never the less, do you intend to implement multiple of them firing up eventually?
 

ross-g

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@Wiz Great to see all the customisation now available, but would you be kind enough to add a "reset to default" button for the game settings menu please? :)

Also if you've never played Stellaris before, that's a fairly obtuse list of options to be presented with before starting your first game. I think many of them should be tucked inside an "advanced setup" type dropdown section.


It's great to see the AI crisis now re-worked into something more akin to the other galaxy threatening crises, looking forward to encountering it in my next game. Hopefully in a future update we will get a selection of mid-game, empire level crises ... perhaps triggered by factions getting too powerful, sectors becoming too profitable etc.
 

Wizzington

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Great post.
How can you rate the "1x" strength of a Crisis ? Similar to that prior of the last boost ?

A standard 1x crisis fleet is about 60-80k fleet power currently.
 

Wizzington

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Since you mention that now you are looking into the end game, I have a couple of question:

-In regards to the fallen empires, do you intend to improve their flavour to differentiate between the different kinds more and do you intend to add more types of FEs?

-In regards to the AI crisis, is it a chance for it to appear in any given galaxy or will it always be there and just activates on occasion?

-Are there plans to add more crisis and more interactions with crisis?

edit: - on your twitter you mention that multiple crisis can negatively affect each other and it isn't a simple switch. Never the less, do you intend to implement multiple of them firing up eventually?

Fallen Empires aren't really the topic of this DD. As for the Contingency, I'm not going to go further into the lore and such, I want you guys to discover that for yourselves. We do want to add more crises and interactions with crises in the future, the priority is just making the ones we have now as good as possible first before adding more.
 

mackau

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The mid-game is still empty and boring. Defensive pacts & federations cause the galaxy to stagnate. They AI needs to do better, especially at countering snowballing humans.

Honestly, is MP that important that you're willing to disrupt the game being fixed?

Corvette spam (and the fact that higher tech is less efficient than lower tech) needs to be fixed yesterday, and the Sector AI needs to be improved to the point it can be trusted to do literally anything.

That should take priority over pointless MP changes that a small fraction of the userbase cares about.
 

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Happy to hear the ai uprising is staying in some form. I like the idea, but I have never seen it in action.
 

Gball

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Fallen Empires aren't really the topic of this DD. As for the Contingency, I'm not going to go further into the lore and such, I want you guys to discover that for yourselves. We do want to add more crises and interactions with crises in the future, the priority is just making the ones we have now as good as possible first before adding more.

Thank you for your answer.

Could you name, besides the broken AI crisis and the needed improvements to AI coordination/AI crisis, what other aspects of the current crisis you are not happy with or you believe they could use some improvement?

Off the top of my head, I would like multiple entry points instead of one, but maybe that's just me.
 

Silversweeeper

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Looking good!

- Regarding AI crisis handling, will the reaction/cooperation depend on the AI personality (e.g. Fanatical Purifiers being content to let the rest of the galaxy burn), or will all AIs band together to fight off the crisis?

- Will FEs that Awaken (or change their priorities, if already Awakened) be more willing to go far from their own borders to deal with the crisis than regular empires, seeing as they call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy?

- Could we perhaps have a "Multiple crises" setting at some point? It could be an interesting challenge to have to balance fleet compositions and positioning to try to contain/defeat multiple crises.

- Perhaps a bit spoilery, but are there multiple Contingency factions and/or multiple Contingency hubs that can become active?
 

gerishnakov

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Fallen Empires aren't really the topic of this DD. As for the Contingency, I'm not going to go further into the lore and such, I want you guys to discover that for yourselves. We do want to add more crises and interactions with crises in the future, the priority is just making the ones we have now as good as possible first before adding more.

Here's hoping though that once you're happy with the state of the end-game crises you'll take a look at FEs; I'd love for there to be a type of FE for each ethos.
 

Wizzington

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Looking good!

- Regarding AI crisis handling, will the reaction/cooperation depend on the AI personality (e.g. Fanatical Purifiers being content to let the rest of the galaxy burn), or will all AIs band together to fight off the crisis?

- Will FEs that Awaken (or change their priorities, if already Awakened) be more willing to go far from their own borders to deal with the crisis than regular empires, seeing as they call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy?

- Could we perhaps have a "Multiple crises" setting at some point? It could be an interesting challenge to have to balance fleet compositions and positioning to try to contain/defeat multiple crises.

- Perhaps a bit spoilery, but are there multiple Contingency factions and/or multiple Contingency hubs that can become active?

Personalities definitely matter a lot, Federation Builders will probably be the first to lend a hand and Fanatic Purifiers will obviously never help anyone else.

Yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy have been changed to be really gung-ho about fighting the crisis. AIs that are in 'crisis fighter' mode (which GotG are in by default) will also range far and wide to fight the crisis.

Multiple Crisis setting would be interesting, would require a fair bit of work to function well though.
 

Milten

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Why exactly do rebelling synths pose a galaxy-wide threat? If sapient machines are so powerful, why are ascended synthetic empires not on the power level of an endgame crisis?
Well, makes sense.

The Contingency completely replaces the old AI uprising crisis, but we are currently looking at also implementing a new AI uprising, not as a galactic scale crisis but as a midgame event localized to one or a few empires.
Is it related to Sentient AI tech or synths?