The Real Problems With Stellaris

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MichaelJanuary

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These are empire-wide settings that don't allow proper customization of which pops are allowed or encouraged to migrate to which planets.
Does seem unrealistic to do this on a planet by planet basis, once a pop is a citizen, you then want to institute travel restrictions within your empire? Like ... No Moroccan in Paris, but Marseilles is ok! Personally, I would expect that you'd control this by hab and job availability. If Paris had lousy hab, and no jobs, no-one would want to migrate there. But hab is pretty under-utilised in Stellaris.

This is part of the tedious micromanagement I'm talking out.
Its a lousy interface, and personally i believe it should have more limitations, but if you're going to have robots and slavery, then you should be able to move them where they're needed. I don't think it should be allowed for citizens in a democracy, but in a dictatorship why not?
 
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(it was kind of a consideration back in the days where the Crisis was functional, but even then it was kind of unsatisfying because "I need to blob so I can fight an enemy I don't know about yet in 150 years" isn't great emergent narrative)

This is why I think Stellaris should adopt MOO II's narrative approach. The crisis should be something that starts building from the early game. Your initial days of exploration and advancement should start something. Your era of empire building should be defined by the growing threat. Your height of power should be directed at finally facing that enemy once and for all.

The periodic attacks of the Antarans in MOO II were fantastic both for the narrative and for destabilizing the board. It's certainly a much better emergent narrative to say "I need to blob/create allies/etc. so I can fight the enemy that is growing in strength and just took out the Sirius colony."
 
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This post is about Machine Empires and my experience with them.

Contributing to the post myself, do know that I haven't played much of vanilla, my experience is mostly modded, but I do have some with Vanilla.

Modded, even with parts of the mod-making community, there seems to be a stigma against Machine Empires and I personally don't get why, part of that impression starts with Paradox themselves and the direction they've been moving in.

Currently, playing a Machine Empire is harder than playing a normal. Sure, you have to manage a positive Food income, you need to keep ontop of Goods production, and you need to make sure your people are happy. However, do all of this, and you can easily snowball, a 100% stability is truly quite ridiculously powerful, especially in the late game.
Machine Empires, however, when they manage all their Energy and Alloy upkeep, still can't as easily snowball.

First off, their most major problem is and mostly always has been the opportunity to produce Amenities, of which now only one mostly exists; Nexus Districts. Soldier Jobs CAN produce amenities, but they produce so few that it's simply laughable, while Normal empires can get away with forgoing City Districts, Machine Empires mandatorily require a few, and the best they can hope for, is to stay at 0, while Normal Empires can easily be swimming in them with a couple Civics or Traditions. The solution requires Emotion Emulators to be picked, and if you care about getting Stability bonuses from high amenities, it makes that trait a mandatory choice.
Another problem they have, which Normals have no problem with in late-game stages where it's normal for Homeworlds and early-colonized planets to have 100+ people, is Deviancy/Crime. In the late game, Machines require 1-3 sentinel posts, depending on the population count of the planet in question. If you've been taking heavy advantage of resettling to max out planets one at a time, you may even require 4 in some cases. Normals simply need 1 Hall of Judgement for the most part and they're good. Machines have no T2 Sentinel Post, and it's still sorely needed.

Machine Empires, quite genuinely also only have access to 4 Origins. They have access to 5, but I don't count Galactic Doorstop because I feel it's basically a waste of dev time to have included it, but I haven't tried playing with it. Machine Empires, due to this, don't really have any potential for variability like Normal empires have, and all of this is my problem with how Paradox have so far developed Stellaris.

They change things, with no thought to the consequence, effect, or any alternative changes. They remove Maintenance Depots, and give as much of the jobs to Nexus Districts with seemingly no thought as to how that'll affect district-heavy worlds like Agri Worlds, Generator Worlds and Mining Worlds which definitely could use more useful building slot fillers and beyond refineries, those don't entirely exist, at least not for MEs.

It's mainly just frustrating honestly to a ridiculous degree and I wish they'd at least flesh out their additions more than they do, so much in the game just lacks the fleshing out that they need to truly work.
They BADLY want Xenophilic empires be a frequently-played thing, yet they have 0 mechanics that make Xenophilic empires actually work better and support them, and anything that may be there just ain't up to snuff enough to work right. Like having one pop of each species growing at their respective speeds based off modifiers would be really, REALLY good, and allowing you to limit species and subspecies to a single specific job would be amazing, or to have a civic that allowed pops to naturally resettle based on the availability of their preferred job, and to have it function well no less.
 
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Oscot

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Firstly, PDS is under no obligation to take on ANYONE's suggestions, and its a bit egotistical to think that your specific suggestions are the best or right way to go about it.
Firstly, yes they are obligated to take my suggestions if they want my money.
Secondly... the confusion of ideas that could lead to one declaring "If you think you're right you're an egomaniac" is difficult for me to even wrap my head around. Everyone thinks they're right, it's the human condition. God forbid I might think I'd learned something in my +2000 hours.

This is why I think Stellaris should adopt MOO II's narrative approach. The crisis should be something that starts building from the early game. Your initial days of exploration and advancement should start something. Your era of empire building should be defined by the growing threat. Your height of power should be directed at finally facing that enemy once and for all.

The periodic attacks of the Antarans in MOO II were fantastic both for the narrative and for destabilizing the board. It's certainly a much better emergent narrative to say "I need to blob/create allies/etc. so I can fight the enemy that is growing in strength and just took out the Sirius colony."
This still seems like kinda the easy way out, to set up one ur-opponent whom all your striving is directed against.
In other Paradox games, emergent competition amongst your immediate neighbours -> regional powers -> global powers succeeds in fuelling the narrative without requiring a vauge diabolus ex machina lurking in the far future. The question of whether your in-universe people know of this threat or not; it's kind of a problem that shouldn't even come up, because ideally there's no diabolus ex machina at all.
 
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This still seems like kinda the easy way out, to set up one ur-opponent whom all your striving is directed against.
In other Paradox games, emergent competition amongst your immediate neighbours -> regional powers -> global powers succeeds in fuelling the narrative without requiring a vauge diabolus ex machina lurking in the far future. The question of whether your in-universe people know of this threat or not; it's kind of a problem that shouldn't even come up, because ideally there's no diabolus ex machina at all.

I think my problem with this is that Stellaris does have an overarching opponent. That's not a hypothetical. The crisis is part of the storyline and was always intended to be the player's final challenge. So the question isn't whether the game needs a greater enemy, since it already has one, but whether that final enemy is framed as an antagonist with a real narrative or just a natural disaster that jumps out of nowhere. Personally I would much prefer an antagonist with a storyline that ties into my own.

I feel like this makes particular sense because Stellaris does not have an effective narrative of neighbor -> regional -> global in the way that other Paradox titles do. In part this is because the historic context of other titles let us fill in that story on out own. In part it's because Stellaris plays too small. (The whole galaxy will typically have fewer nations than the continent of Europe in EU or CK.) But mostly it's because the game does such a poor job at staking out the characters and storylines of its various empires. The game doesn't feel like a conflict between relentless slavers, noble diplomats, killer robots, etc. It feels like a bunch of colored blobs with funny names and identical options.

A narrative of fighting against an overarching foe, especially one that you had some hand in bringing about, would fill in that storyline in a way that the current empires just do not. Now I'd have a reason why it's urgent that I form this federation or assemble a coalition of vassals, one with more narrative significance than just "because it turns the map my color."
 
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MichaelJanuary

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So the question isn't whether the game needs a greater enemy, since it already has one, but whether that final enemy is framed as an antagonist with a real narrative or just a natural disaster that jumps out of nowhere. Personally I would much prefer an antagonist with a storyline that ties into my own.

I would also prefer a build up of events or anomolies indicating the imminence of a crisis, bonus if the player has some agency towards it, rather than it just being RNG after a certain date.

i.e., the overall level of galactic infrastructure or volume of hyperlane traffic or number of jump drives in use all may contribute to different pools where once critical mass is reached a crisis explodes. This way, events in the galaxy drive, or attract, or bring about the crisis.
 
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I think my problem with this is that Stellaris does have an overarching opponent. That's not a hypothetical. The crisis is part of the storyline and was always intended to be the player's final challenge. So the question isn't whether the game needs a greater enemy, since it already has one, but whether that final enemy is framed as an antagonist with a real narrative or just a natural disaster that jumps out of nowhere. Personally I would much prefer an antagonist with a storyline that ties into my own.

I feel like this makes particular sense because Stellaris does not have an effective narrative of neighbor -> regional -> global in the way that other Paradox titles do. In part this is because the historic context of other titles let us fill in that story on out own. In part it's because Stellaris plays too small. (The whole galaxy will typically have fewer nations than the continent of Europe in EU or CK.) But mostly it's because the game does such a poor job at staking out the characters and storylines of its various empires. The game doesn't feel like a conflict between relentless slavers, noble diplomats, killer robots, etc. It feels like a bunch of colored blobs with funny names and identical options.

A narrative of fighting against an overarching foe, especially one that you had some hand in bringing about, would fill in that storyline in a way that the current empires just do not. Now I'd have a reason why it's urgent that I form this federation or assemble a coalition of vassals, one with more narrative significance than just "because it turns the map my color."

Honestly, this is why I stick with Precursor runs. I can RP a reason to do things and prepare for the Crisis.
 

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Does seem unrealistic to do this on a planet by planet basis, once a pop is a citizen, you then want to institute travel restrictions within your empire? Like ... No Moroccan in Paris, but Marseilles is ok!
Egalitarian empires would in fact be unable to fully restrict the ability of citizen species to migrate, only able to encourage/discourage it for certain species, but not completely disallow it.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that in the suggestion thread.
 
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Ok. I would hate to have to maintain an 'allowed species list' on each of my 50 planets.

It's usually enough to set species rights to no migration allowed, then just resettle them to the planets where i want them. Usually only have to do this once, and then they're stuck there.

Then again my default playstyles are authoritarian slaver, machine empire or synth ascended materialist. In all cases there are ways to deal with the pesky xenos.
 

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It's usually enough to set species rights to no migration allowed, then just resettle them to the planets where i want them. Usually only have to do this once, and then they're stuck there.
The problem with that is (due to a bug) you lose growth secretly and invisibly.

When it's time for a new pop to grow, the code chooses from a longer list of species than what can actually grow -- you'll often get a species which can't migrate TRY to grow for a month, then at the end of that month the counter will be forcefully reset by some other code, and then you'll get a blank growth square for a month.

After the blank growth square month, the code will try to grow only from the list of migration-legal species (including the ones on the planet, and I think your main species which can always migrate).

But you'll just randomly lose 2 months of growth per planet.

That's significant.
 
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I think my problem with this is that Stellaris does have an overarching opponent. That's not a hypothetical. The crisis is part of the storyline and was always intended to be the player's final challenge.
That's fair. It is, as you say, a fait accompli. And I certainly don't want them to take the Crisis out - I do actually like them. When you frame it as a question of just "Should they be integrated well or should they be integrated poorly into the narrative" no-one would ever choose option B, right?

I was coming at it from more of a "What should motivate your expansion, immediate geopolitical concerns, or ultra-long-term planning vs Crisis?" angle, and there I like (A) because it's (hopefully? potentially?) gonna be different every game. Go with (B) and we play into our old complaint that every game is the same. The problem with (A) is, as you say, the midgame-level gameplay loop isn't really there to support it, which leads us onto a second question of "OK, our options are to fix that gameplay loop, or backtrack and predicate everything on ultra-long-term planning vs Crisis". And again I find myself pointing at easy-way-out-ism.

I feel like this makes particular sense because Stellaris does not have an effective narrative of neighbor -> regional -> global in the way that other Paradox titles do. In part this is because the historic context of other titles let us fill in that story on out own. In part it's because Stellaris plays too small. (The whole galaxy will typically have fewer nations than the continent of Europe in EU or CK.) But mostly it's because the game does such a poor job at staking out the characters and storylines of its various empires.
There's really no option other than to fix this. Even before Megacorp, before the unconnected-content-bloat and the market trashing the economy, people were complaining that "All I do is sit around for 100 years and wait for the Crisis". So I think that a more narrative-integrated Crisis won't really solve anything. It's just turning the clock back to a 2018 flvour of complaints rather than a 2020 flavour of complaints.
 
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That's fair. It is, as you say, a fait accompli. And I certainly don't want them to take the Crisis out - I do actually like them. When you frame it as a question of just "Should they be integrated well or should they be integrated poorly into the narrative" no-one would ever choose option B, right?

I was coming at it from more of a "What should motivate your expansion, immediate geopolitical concerns, or ultra-long-term planning vs Crisis?" angle, and there I like (A) because it's (hopefully? potentially?) gonna be different every game. Go with (B) and we play into our old complaint that every game is the same. The problem with (A) is, as you say, the midgame-level gameplay loop isn't really there to support it, which leads us onto a second question of "OK, our options are to fix that gameplay loop, or backtrack and predicate everything on ultra-long-term planning vs Crisis". And again I find myself pointing at easy-way-out-ism.


There's really no option other than to fix this. Even before Megacorp, before the unconnected-content-bloat and the market trashing the economy, people were complaining that "All I do is sit around for 100 years and wait for the Crisis". So I think that a more narrative-integrated Crisis won't really solve anything. It's just turning the clock back to a 2018 flvour of complaints rather than a 2020 flavour of complaints.

Agreed. The grand geopolitical middle game that clearly is supposed to exist, and equally clearly doesn't, needs to be built. It needs to be more than pop-up events, they finally need to put in active game mechanics for this.

Personally, I'd like to see the answer be "both." I'd like a crisis that builds over the arc of a game, but it can't just another freaking set of click-through boxes. That's why I like the MOO II example. Including the Antarans as a lethal, unpredictable antagonist was one of that game's absolute best ideas. Yet for all the games that have tried to follow in MOO II's footsteps, I can think of few (if any) that have borrowed this excellent model.

The crisis shouldn't be a set of story boxes. That would help nothing. It should be something that happens to you, a real enemy that emerges over the course of the game. Like how the Federation watched the creep of deleted border colonies in horror as the Borg probed their borders, players should have planets in their empire scoured clean by this enemy. There should be sections of the galaxy that become slowly uninhabitable, or too dangerous to approach. I don't want to just see them borrow from the Antarans, I want to see what someone can do if they add 25 years of technical and narrative development to the idea.

I want to watch this thing emerge with horror and know it's coming. I want to feel like someone doing pushups on the tracks, trying to get strong enough to stop the oncoming train.

But none of that is to say I disagree with you at all. That's one side of what should occupy the middle game. The geopolitical aspect is another, and I completely agree that it's essential.
 
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Thank you nocty1501 for this amazing thread, i completly agree with you on every point you've made.

This is my personnal opinion, but this is not a Stellaris problem, i've just stop playing Paradox games, recent design changes are just messy, i heard a lot of excuses from the community about how they are trying to casualize their games, while in fact their players base are hardcore strategies gamers.

I personnally like how influence works now, and as a DLC content Artifacts and Origins are suitable.
 
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This is the opposite of a problem.
This is a solution.
Stellaris is - in theory - a game of imperialism where you beat up enemies so you can have more stuff yourself.
Planets are strictly advantageous. You always want more clay.
This gives you a reason to beat up your neighbours: you want their clay.
Stellaris needs MORE of this, not less. We perennially complain that we have no real reason to go to war with our neighbours. The galactic market makes local specialist resources obsolete, so you don't need to go to war for oil. Planetary rebellions never happen, so you have no incentive to do the CK strategy of eating a neighbour just so you can give it to your vassal so he hates you less. And the enemy AI is a joke so "I need to take the Xindi's resources so I can fight the Klingons" isn't a consideration (it was kind of a consideration back in the days where the Crisis was functional, but even then it was kind of unsatisfying because "I need to blob so I can fight an enemy I don't know about yet in 150 years" isn't great emergent narrative). There's no EUIV style mission trees or CK2-like grand 'to restore the Roman Empire you need all these provinces' hardcoded locations that you might have to clear others out from. No, the only reason we have to attack someone is "This is a videogame and the objective is to win and the other guy can't win if he's dead".

So your contention that "planets = good" means no meaningful decisions seems like, I dunno, you're trying to solve downstream problem #5 before immediate problem #1. Engineering some subtle balance of EUIV-style aggressive expansion penalty crossed with national unrest metrics weighed against the deliciousness of the clay would be lovely, but at the moment we're kind of on the level of "Oh god another tedious micro planet to resettle everyone from, why do I even care about having more pop growth anyway, it's not like I have any objectives"

This is a very ignorant and simplified version of the main goal and what it could be.

First off, Imperialism is propagated by governments and organizations who either want a certain resource, want to impose an ideological system upon another empire, or who see another empire as a threat. Not all imperialism is about land, very little imperialism is, actually.

You want an objective? Secure a resource and put a monopoly on it, force other empires to adopt similar ethics and governments or simply puppet them, or break up a rival empire into bite sized chunks, like what happened to Austro-Hungary after WWI. Turning Stellaris into HOI4 in space is just stupid, because there is so much more you can do with it.

Also, Micro Hell is a real problem, especially after conquering large swathes of space. After fifteen or so planets, you find yourself rushing around and employing people across the galaxy like your Snag-a-job and not the leader of a space polity. This opens a whole nother can of worms, but micro absolutely mucks down gameplay. Plus, the pop growth makes the game laggy.

Also, by the mid to late game, I find myself not wanting more clay simply because building upon all the planets I have is far more lucrative in the long run. Why plop a random pop on a planet, leaving him to just sit there until more grow? Why not just put him to work on a generator planet starving for workers? Hell produce more and I won't have to waste money increasing micro and playing the waiting game.

And by the latter-mid game, I find myself relying more on megastructures for base resources rather than conquering populations that I generally just move back home and employ in energy anyway. Why waste time and money conquering NOW when I can invest in long term solutions and prepare for the endgame? I'd rather just puppet and take some income, and put that income to good use strengthening my own territory.

So, your goal of conquest for conquest's sake is not the objective of Stellaris, or at least it shouldn't be.
 
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I would hate to have to maintain an 'allowed species list' on each of my 50 planets.
I don't think you'd have to. All species would default to allowed, while also respecting the empire-wide settings. The default setting would be as if there were no planetary settings at all.

When it's time for a new pop to grow, the code chooses from a longer list of species than what can actually grow -- you'll often get a species which can't migrate TRY to grow for a month, then at the end of that month the counter will be forcefully reset by some other code, and then you'll get a blank growth square for a month.

After the blank growth square month, the code will try to grow only from the list of migration-legal species (including the ones on the planet, and I think your main species which can always migrate).
It's also another reason why forced pop growth/assembly is a bad and unreliable feature. The blank square also resets the selected species completely.
 
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So, your goal of conquest for conquest's sake is not the objective of Stellaris, or at least it shouldn't be.
Getting no. 1 score without eating at least a third of the galaxy is... tricky.
 
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It's also another reason why forced pop growth/assembly is a bad and unreliable feature. The blank square also resets the selected species completely.
Yeah, good point.

If you were accumulating forced growth for one species, and you shift pop growth to "do whatever", you'll lose all the accumulated growth (not just some %) when the square blanks out.

Getting no. 1 score without eating at least a third of the galaxy is... tricky.
Good 4X games have a variety of victory conditions, not just score by conquest.
 
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I 100% agree with pretty much everything said in the OP. This used to be one of my favorite games. It's unplayable trash now. The AI is so bad and so incapable of playing the game now that I can't even bring myself to load the game up now. I had probably 1000 hours in this game up until megacorp. I have about 1030 hours now. It's so awful now it hurts.
 
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First off, Imperialism is propagated by governments and organizations who either want a certain resource, want to impose an ideological system upon another empire, or who see another empire as a threat. Not all imperialism is about land, very little imperialism is, actually.
Ah yes, that would be why the British Empire controlled 25% of the world's land, because they didn't want it, gotcha.

You want an objective? Secure a resource and put a monopoly on it, force other empires to adopt similar ethics and governments or simply puppet them, or break up a rival empire into bite sized chunks, like what happened to Austro-Hungary after WWI. Turning Stellaris into HOI4 in space is just stupid, because there is so much more you can do with it.
Such as...?
I don't especially disagree with you here, my angle is more that this is a Paradox game coded by Paradox people, I like those other Paradox games, and clay-grabbing is what those games have and what those devs have experience with.
I'd play a Stellaris visual novel with romanceable ayy lmao catgirls to death, but at the same time I try to confine myself here to reasonable suggestions.

And by the latter-mid game, I find myself relying more on megastructures for base resources rather than conquering populations that I generally just move back home and employ in energy anyway. Why waste time and money conquering NOW when I can invest in long term solutions and prepare for the endgame? I'd rather just puppet and take some income, and put that income to good use strengthening my own territory.
...
So, your goal of conquest for conquest's sake is not the objective of Stellaris, or at least it shouldn't be.
This was my entire point, I was complaining that Stellaris doesn't give us any reason to conquer beyond "Just Bcos", and it should give us a reason not to turtle. Because what's the point of playing a game with all these AIs if you don't have to interact with them?
 
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This was my entire point, I was complaining that Stellaris doesn't give us any reason to conquer beyond "Just Bcos", and it should give us a reason not to turtle. Because what's the point of playing a game with all these AIs if you don't have to interact with them?

Gotta say, this is why I run Gigas and Birch World start. I straight-up don't care about making friends with anyone. Envoys basically neutered diplomacy into 'wait long enough and juggle your guys into friendship forever' and the AI is, quite frankly, more likely to drag me into pointless wars they can't win themselves than it is to materially assist in any of mine.
My next run (waiting for the next Gigas update) is best summed up as 'uplift galaxy of primitives, build sentry array, hide in galactic core and laugh at the stupidity'.
 
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