Ascension Perk picks should never require technologies to pick, but instead...

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Nov 22, 2020
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The suggestion
  • Ascension Perk picks should never require that technologies have already been researched.
  • Picking an Ascension Perk should add those technologies, and their prerequisites, as guaranteed research options (once their respective tier and specific requirements are fulfilled).
    • This would be similar to how Voidborne makes Advanced Space Habitation a guaranteed research option but it only appears once Habitat Expansion has been researched. This suggestion includes no shortcuts, no freebies; only a less random path towards the chosen goal.
  • Unlocking the (full) benefits of an Ascension Perk could require that the aforementioned technologies have also been researched, where appropriate.
  • Non-technological prerequisites of Ascension Perks could be made tougher, if appropriate for balance reasons.


The issues solved by this change

The technology-gating of many (17 of 35) Ascension Perks has the unfortunate side-effect of disadvantaging Unity-focused empires in the Ascension part of the game, which they arguably should be the masters of. As the number of Ascension Perk picks is limited to 8, and we can not unpick an Ascension Perk once it has been picked, technology-gated Ascension Perks mean that Unity-focused players are forced to either wait a long time (for the necessary technology) in order to get what they want, or settle for something of lesser value to them. This makes Research-focused empires the winners of the Ascension part of the game; the slower an empire produces Unity relative to Research, the better the Ascension Perks it gets.

(The technology-gating especially hurts the AI's performance, as it does not even know it can postpone spending an Ascension Perk pick until better things come around. Failing to research technologies required by Ascension Perks is probably also much more common with the AI than with human players. The proposed change should improve AI performance as a direct side-effect.)

The suggested solution removes the technology-gating, without offering any shortcuts or freebies. The research work must still be done, letting Research-oriented empires keep their due advantage in that regard. An Ascension Perk would essentially just focus an empire's research in the right direction, but it could still have gotten the same result with lucky research option draws. Where Research empires would get Ascension Perks at a slower pace but be more likely to get them "fully functional", Unity empires would face the opposite situation and the dilemma of whether to pick an Ascension Perk that offers less immediate benefits but the possibility of getting those benefits sooner than otherwise likely, or to pick an Ascension Perk where all bonuses are already active and the Ascension Perk pick starts paying dividends immediately. Or, alternatively, the aided research focus can be regarded as the Ascension Perk benefit until such a time that the technological criteria for the full benefits are met.


Explanation fluff

Per aspera ad astra;
through hardships to the stars.

It is not the easy things that require unity to do, but the hard.
Remember this speech from when the United States of America adopted the Lunar Program Ascension Perk?


We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
The United States did not fulfill the technology requirements when they embarked upon this undertaking. It was rather that the technological advances necessary for this great ambition were born out of the aspirations orated by the late president. Technological development was accelerated in a direction which the nation was united around.

Essentially, Stellaris would treat Ascension Perks as great ambitions and aspirations, as a united focus, where yet undeveloped but necessary technologies are given top priority until the goal is reached and the Ascension Perk is fully achieved.
Mater artium necessitas;
necessity is the mother of invention.
 
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Thoughts on how specific Ascension Perks could be changed
(these are not part of the suggestion, just some illustrations and speculations - feel free to contribute with your own thoughts and ideas)

Voidborne is a good starting example, as this Ascension Perk is already "almost there" in terms of the design suggestion above. One of the current effects of picking this Ascension Perk is that the empire "can always research the next tier of Habitat technology". The only change that would be needed is to remove Orbital Habitats from the requirements, and include it in the list of Habitat technologies guaranteed as research options (as well as its own prerequisite, Starhold).

Eternal Vigilance currently requires Star Fortress. This would translate to that technology and its prerequisite Starhold becoming guaranteed research options (perhaps even Citadel, once its tier and specific prerequisites are met, to slightly boost the value of this Ascension Perk). Since the benefits otherwise offered by this Ascension Perk are relative, there would be no real harm in letting them remain active even if Star Fortress has not been researched.

World Shaper, Hive Worlds, and Machine Worlds currently require Climate Restoration, which otherwise only grants the player the ability to terraform Tomb Worlds. This technology in turn requires Terrestrial Sculpting. As per the suggestion above, these two technologies would be made guaranteed research options (once their tier and specific requirements are met) upon picking any of these three Ascension Perks. In this case, the terraforming option to create the world type in question should not be available until both Climate Restoration and the Ascension Perk are obtained.

Arcology Project could similarly add guaranteed research options for Weather Control Systems followed by Anti-Gravity Engineering, once their tech tiers are reached. Additionally, the Arcology Project planetary decision should probably add the requirement that the empire must have the Anti-Gravity Engineering technology.

Master Builders requires Mega-Engineering. Unless it is gained from the Cybrex homeworld, this technology requires obtaining Battleships, Citadel, Zero Point Power and the rest of their respective prerequisite tech trees. If we follow the suggestion above, these would all become guaranteed research options (once their tiers and specific prerequisites are met). As this Ascension Perk is functionally worthless until the ability to build megastructures is gained, no further changes would be needed.
  • While adding all these technologies as guaranteed research options (once their tiers and specific prerequisites are met) might seem a bit strong, don't forget that this is a benefit the player would pay for with an Ascension Perk pick whose value is impermanent (once all megastructures are built the bonuses become irrelevant). By contrast, the game already gives away the Mega-Engineering research option for free via the Cybrex precursor, which is based on nothing but random chance.
  • Though, if deemed appropriate, this Ascension Perk could always be moved to a higher tier - currently it can be picked after as little as 2 previous Ascension Perks have been picked.
  • This could also be a good time to reconsider the megastructure technology tree and remove Battleships as a prerequisite (while adding more, and thematically appropriate, requirements to each specific megastructure). Megastructures are mostly peaceful projects and it can be argued that a focus in this direction should not directly necessitate advances in military hardware applications.
Galactic Wonders is very similar to Master Builders in this regard. The only additional change that would be needed, would be to move the "built or repaired a multi-stage megastructure" requirement to the prerequisites of the guaranteed research options enabled by this Ascension Perk.

Colossus Project is a tier 3 Ascension Perk that requires (on top of 3 Ascension Perks already being picked) the technology Titans, and picking this Ascension Project would also add Destroyers, Cruisers and Battleships as guaranteed research options once their respective specific and tier prerequisites are met. While this would help focus the empire's research on bigger ship sizes, which can be a quite nice bonus, this could also help make this Ascension Perk slightly more valuable.

Mind over Matter may be the touchiest Ascension Perk to change the acquisition mechanics for. It currently requires the rare technology Psionic Theory, which by design is especially rare and difficult to obtain for Materialists.
  • If favouring Spiritualists and disfavouring Materialists in this regard is still considered desirable, one option would be to alternate the tier requirements depending on ethics; the Ascension Perk could become available 2 tiers earlier with Fanatic Spiritualist, 1 tier earlier with Spiritualist, 1 tier later with Materialist, and 2 tiers later with Fanatic Materialist. This would mean that depending on your ethics, this Ascension Perk would "compete" with low-level or high-level Ascension Perks, meaning that the "alternative cost" would most likely be lower for Spiritualists and higher for Materialists. The reverse could also be done for The Flesh is Weak. Then, if the base tier for the first ascension path Ascension Perk was set to 3, this would mean that Fanatic Materialists would get access to The Flesh is Weak after 1 Ascension Perk, Engineered Evolution after 3 Ascension Perks, and Mind over Matter after 5 Ascension Perks. A potential weakness of this alternative, however, is that it could be bypassed by temporary changes to governing ethics.
 
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Some of these things will give rather late-game tech opportunities, and I can't tell if I am in favor or against. Honestly, I think I'll make a mod to try this out.

On the one hand, I can imagine a bunch of tech beelining being available here. On the other hand, this can all be balanced by saying "you must have X AP before choosing this one" therefore proving a certain depth of playtime, and that could get a unity focused build the toys they need to compete.

Your description of what Master Builders gives you is...Strikingly problematic. I could go pure unity, get the Master Builders, then pivot to pure science, and charge directly up the tech ladder from destroyers to Citadels way fast. I'd argue that this could be mitigated by not giving access to any tech that you don't have that tech's requirements....but that just pummels the unity player in a way this is designed not to do.

So uh...I'd argue that there needs to be more stacking of "this is a late-game perk, you need X AP perks" but then...that just pummels the tech focused people. Hard to win. You still get my upvote.
 
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On the one hand, I can imagine a bunch of tech beelining being available here. On the other hand, this can all be balanced by saying "you must have X AP before choosing this one" therefore proving a certain depth of playtime, and that could get a unity focused build the toys they need to compete.

Your description of what Master Builders gives you is...Strikingly problematic. I could go pure unity, get the Master Builders, then pivot to pure science, and charge directly up the tech ladder from destroyers to Citadels way fast. I'd argue that this could be mitigated by not giving access to any tech that you don't have that tech's requirements....but that just pummels the unity player in a way this is designed not to do.

So uh...I'd argue that there needs to be more stacking of "this is a late-game perk, you need X AP perks" but then...that just pummels the tech focused people. Hard to win. You still get my upvote.
Perhaps make it so you either need what the currently required technology is OR you need a number of AP perks corresponding to the tier of the granted tech. Tech empires can hit the tech requirement as normal, and unity empires are still delayed.
 
Honestly, I think I'll make a mod to try this out.
Please share the results. :)

Your description of what Master Builders gives you is...Strikingly problematic. I could go pure unity, get the Master Builders, then pivot to pure science, and charge directly up the tech ladder from destroyers to Citadels way fast. I'd argue that this could be mitigated by not giving access to any tech that you don't have that tech's requirements....but that just pummels the unity player in a way this is designed not to do.
Master Builders was one of the trickier ones to think of a good suggestion for (along with Mind over Matter).
Other suggestions are welcome.

Something I have considered would be to not just have those tech trees become guaranteed research options once their specific prerequisites are met, but also once their tier prerequisites are met. Mega-Engineering is a tier 5 technology, which means that in addition to Battleships and Citadel the empire would also need to have reached a total of 6 tier 4 technologies, which would in turn require 6 tier 3 technologies, and so on. The idea is not to let Unity empires "skip the line" in Science; the idea is only to 1) let them assign their AP slots before fulfilling the requirements, and 2) give them Science "help" limited to just the equivalent of getting lucky draws in the research option lottery - no shortcuts, and no free Research points.

Having thought about a tier requirement some more, it seems most reasonable to include it explicitly. Adding it now.
 
Perhaps make it so you either need what the currently required technology is OR you need a number of AP perks corresponding to the tier of the granted tech. Tech empires can hit the tech requirement as normal, and unity empires are still delayed.
I have considered this, but it would unfortunately still leave the problem of Science-focused empires getting better Ascension Perks than Unity-focused empires on average (as the former would be able to use earlier slots for high-value Ascension Perks).

Though, one thing to keep in mind is that picking an Ascension Perk long before the ultimate prerequisite techs are researchable does not give as great an advantage as it may seem at first glance. The Ascension Perk is probably worthless in the meanwhile, and the player would still have to trod through all prerequisite technology tiers (i.e. 6 technologies per tier).

In the case of Mega-Engineering, the player would most likely have gotten the opportunity to research many of the "earlier prerequisites" anyway. The really significant speed gain would be for the Mega-Engineering tech itself, as picking the Ascension Perk would make it a guaranteed research option once tier 5 is reached; normally, it takes quite a bit of luck to draw a single, rare technology from the entire deck of techs.

Since researching 6 techs per tier 1 through 4 takes a bit of time for an empire focused on Unity rather than Science, it may even be better off picking another desired Ascension Perk or two in the meanwhile, and only picking the mega-engineering Ascension Perks once it gets to tier 4 in both Physics and Engineering (to ensure the prerequisites for Mega-Engineering are researched before they reach tier 5).
 
Would it be possible to not turn the relatet technologies into guaranteed research options but instead increase their weight so that they are more likely to apear?
That way you are still more likely to get the techs to unlock the true bonus from the ascension perks you have chosen, but also wouldnt be able to directly beeline towards the final techs that much more than normal.
This would also be in line with your idea of aquiring a tech-relatet ascension perk is like setting a goal for what you want to reach.

I do know that each technology has a certain weight on how likely they can be seen.
The research-ascension-perk modifies the weight for rare technologies, but that is an entire categorie of techs. So im not sure wether it is possible to increase the weight for specific techs.
 
Perhaps make it so you either need what the currently required technology is OR you need a number of AP perks corresponding to the tier of the granted tech. Tech empires can hit the tech requirement as normal, and unity empires are still delayed.
Game files could use a lot more ORs, and a lot less ANDs in general

I have considered this, but it would unfortunately still leave the problem of Science-focused empires getting better Ascension Perks than Unity-focused empires on average (as the former would be able to use earlier slots for high-value Ascension Perks).

Though, one thing to keep in mind is that picking an Ascension Perk long before the ultimate prerequisite techs are researchable does not give as great an advantage as it may seem at first glance. The Ascension Perk is probably worthless in the meanwhile, and the player would still have to trod through all prerequisite technology tiers (i.e. 6 technologies per tier).

In the case of Mega-Engineering, the player would most likely have gotten the opportunity to research many of the "earlier prerequisites" anyway. The really significant speed gain would be for the Mega-Engineering tech itself, as picking the Ascension Perk would make it a guaranteed research option once tier 5 is reached; normally, it takes quite a bit of luck to draw a single, rare technology from the entire deck of techs.

Since researching 6 techs per tier 1 through 4 takes a bit of time for an empire focused on Unity rather than Science, it may even be better off picking another desired Ascension Perk or two in the meanwhile, and only picking the mega-engineering Ascension Perks once it gets to tier 4 in both Physics and Engineering (to ensure the prerequisites for Mega-Engineering are researched before they reach tier 5).
Devs should balance Ascension Perks better, rather than let players fit them neatly into tier lists, they need to cater to different playstyles. Devs also could lift the Cap on the number of traditions we can get but In such a way that your not expected to finish them all in 1 game, save for the heavy unity focused empires.

I think some AP effects should always trigger right away. For example my last game I played as a life-seeded unity focused empire so I could get world shaper to make more Gaia worlds. It took almost no time at all to get terrestrial sculpting, getting Climate Restoration was like pulling teeth after 4 AP slots I gave up and hacked myself the AP. I think world shaper does unlock gaia worlds without Climate restoration, and I think it should, but Climate Restoration could reduce the time and cost of terraforming the gaia world, this allows my life seeded empire to start making Gaia Worlds earlier while accumulating weight points for Climate Restoration.

I think Master-Builders should just give the player mega engineering, all the prerequisite tech will be needed for any megastructure you can build (science nexus etc can still be locked behind citadels and zero point reactors as well as Mega-Engineering), it's also a nice boon to any empire that manages to conquer (or Shattered Ring own) a ruined Megastructure. There are still economic hurdles to overcome rebuilding megastructures, and not all empires will be able to use it early on, making it a situational pick, which I think we could use more of.
 
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I'm glad to see we are of the same mind. I would've liked to post it myself but at least it's here now, and in greater detail. (Perhaps I missed some mention to this effect, but a small attribution somewhere would be appreciated)

Also the title is too long on mobile at least. Otherwise I like your interpretation, and the space program is a good explanation of it, more convincing.

Some of these things will give rather late-game tech opportunities, and I can't tell if I am in favor or against. Honestly, I think I'll make a mod to try this out.
I believe such a mod already exists on Steam somewhere. As far as late game tech goes, I don't think it's an issue if you skip some techs if that were how it worked, considering you'll still have given up many of the techs that should come before. And no matter what, if you're grabbing these early, you've probably created a Unity economy over a Research one.
 
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Some of these things will give rather late-game tech opportunities, and I can't tell if I am in favor or against. Honestly, I think I'll make a mod to try this out.

There's a mod called "Perked Up Perks" which does something similar to this suggestion -- not identical, but in the same vein.

It has some low-prereq APs give you access to the techs you'll need for some higher-tier APs.

What it does for Master Builders is give you Mega-Engineering and access to all the vanilla megastructures techs, but it does have tech prereqs itself.