The Real Problems With Stellaris

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Jman5

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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."

I never played Masters of Orion, but your suggestion made me immediately think about the Mass Effect trilogy.

(spoiler alert)

In the first game, it's about discovering the existence of the reapers and fighting a single one of them. The second game I think was mostly about beating their minions. The final game was about uniting the galaxy to stop a full-blown Reaper invasion.

I could see something similar like that playing out for Stellaris. So at the start, the game rolls a dice to decides which crisis you're going to get and then the story plays out with escalating stakes. So for example, the first big test is a single fleet or dreadnought that massively outclasses everyone, but cannot heal. Eventually it gets beat after tearing through the galaxy for a bit. Then maybe you discover that one of the AI empires is working to prepare the way for their masters arrival. You're then on a clock to take them out. The faster you do it, the longer it delays the final invasion. The final invasion does eventually come and we get the crisis we all know.

The game really would benefit from a light story-arc that gently takes you from beginning to end without getting in the way of your own emergent story. The pieces are all there, they just need to be adjusted and fit together. For example:
1. Precursor events leads you to discovering the existence of this existential threat out there.
2. Mysterious Leviathan/Fleet causing havoc is actually the very same mysterious threat that wiped out those precursors! BOSS FIGHT TIME
3. Mid-game crisis is actually working for the end-game crisis!
4. End Game crisis arrives.
5. Discover their weakness, rally the galaxy and win!
 
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I never played Masters of Orion, but your suggestion made me immediately think about the Mass Effect trilogy.

(spoiler alert)

In the first game, it's about discovering the existence of the reapers and fighting a single one of them. The second game I think was mostly about beating their minions. The final game was about uniting the galaxy to stop a full-blown Reaper invasion.

I could see something similar like that playing out for Stellaris. So at the start, the game rolls a dice to decides which crisis you're going to get and then the story plays out with escalating stakes. So for example, the first big test is a single fleet or dreadnought that massively outclasses everyone, but cannot heal. Eventually it gets beat after tearing through the galaxy for a bit. Then maybe you discover that one of the AI empires is working to prepare the way for their masters arrival. You're then on a clock to take them out. The faster you do it, the longer it delays the final invasion. The final invasion does eventually come and we get the crisis we all know.

The game really would benefit from a light story-arc that gently takes you from beginning to end without getting in the way of your own emergent story. The pieces are all there, they just need to be adjusted and fit together. For example:
1. Precursor events leads you to discovering the existence of this existential threat out there.
2. Mysterious Leviathan/Fleet causing havoc is actually the very same mysterious threat that wiped out those precursors! BOSS FIGHT TIME
3. Mid-game crisis is actually working for the end-game crisis!
4. End Game crisis arrives.
5. Discover their weakness, rally the galaxy and win!

Honestly, it's sort of my sci fi fan red letter. I still haven't played Mass Effect... :-/ But yes, that sounds very similar in theme!

I think the other reason why I like this idea ties into what @Oscot was saying before. Right now there is no diplomacy, no politics or galactic geopolitics, and little (if any) meaningful story arc for the various empires. That all should be in there, absolutely, but it isn't. The only thing for the player to really do in Stellaris is declare wars, fight them, then stockpile alloys for the next war.

The narrative of a game should follow its mechanics. The story it tells and the things it has you do should go hand in hand. Right now there are no mechanics to support a story about the evolution of your people, their place on the galactic stage or their political/social future. That's just not in the box.

But there are plenty of mechanics to support a narrative of awakening an enemy, trying to survive and build strength, and facing it down in the end. Since the gameplay of Stellaris is built around war, that's the story it should tell.
 
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Ah yes, that would be why the British Empire controlled 25% of the world's land, because they didn't want it, gotcha.


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.


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?

Question for you. Why did The British invade that land in the first place?

Resources.

It's why the Dutch conquered the Indies, and why Spain Conquered the new world. The world at that time revolves around resources. India had cotton and spices, South Africa had diamonds and gold, and was a poet between the east and west, Australia had arable land to grow food and was a good source of slaves, and New Zealand had tropical fruit and excellent grazing ground. If those lands didn't have resources, they wouldn't have been conquered because land on it's own is kinda useless unless you can do something with it.

A good example of this point in action was the bronze age world. Egypt, Hittites, Greece and the Assyrians. They each needed one vital resource for their societies to function: Bronze. And every nation except for the Hittites lacked either one or both of the ingredients to produce bronze, and those wars in the region revolved around securing tin, copper or both. It's why the Hittites were so militarized: because they had to defend on all fronts. The moment every empire had a secure supply of bronze, wars petered out and trade flourished because there was no reason to wage war.

As for massive empires like Rome or Persia, they expanded for far more complex resources or complex uses for simple resources. Rome constantly expanded due to the Marian Reforms and the desire to appease soldiers with land and secure loyalty. Land alone, land for the sake of land, is never, ever the reason for imperialism. It's always a resource, whether it be people, materials, or something more complicated.
 
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New Zealand definitely doesn't have any native species of tropical fruit. The kiwifruit is native to China and rebranded from the Chinese Gooseberry to its current name because of anti-communist sentiment during the Cold War.
 

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New Zealand definitely doesn't have any native species of tropical fruit. The kiwifruit is native to China and rebranded from the Chinese Gooseberry to its current name because of anti-communist sentiment during the Cold War.

Fertile land for grazing and farming, and the climate to grow tropical fruit.

Did you know Pineapples aren't native to Hawaii and Mangoes aren't native to the Caribbean and Bananas aren't native to Central America? It doesn't matter if those plants are native if they can be grown there in quantity. This is a resource that can be exploited. Also, tropical fruit was considered a luxury item until refrigeration was the norm.
 
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The relationship between expansion(conquest, colonization, megastructures), micro, and resources is at the core of the performance, AI, and micro issues. Each planet added increases micro by the same amount, but the resources you acquire by correctly executing the micro become less and less significant as the game goes on. As much as the tile system allowed for relatively easy preplanning for a planet, it more represented that for the resources your empire had, the addition of one planet was insignificant.

The gameplay loops and systems that players use to interact with the planets, systems, and sectors are basically the same from the first year as they are after finishing the entire tech tree. While placing districts and buildings is rewarding and immersive for the first several planets, at some point, technology and society should progress such that your concerns change. The world changing techs and civics kind of pursue this route, but they effectively keep the gameplay loops intact.
 
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1800s New Zealand didn't have the climate to grow tropical fruit however - AgResearch are only looking at doing that torwards the north and east of the country now in 2020.

New Zealand's early economy was based on wool. Meat and dairy exports only started in the 1870s with refrigerated shipping.
 
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Australia had arable land to grow food and was a good source of slaves
The British colonies in Australia were initially set up as a destination for forced labour (specifically, people convicted of crimes with harsh sentences; I refuse to say serious crimes, because some remarkably petty things were considered worthy of execution or transportation in 1780s England), not a point of origin.
 

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1800s New Zealand didn't have the climate to grow tropical fruit however - AgResearch are only looking at doing that torwards the north and east of the country now in 2020.

New Zealand's early economy was based on wool. Meat and dairy exports only started in the 1870s with refrigerated shipping.

It does, actually. Bananas were often grown on the coast in an attempt to combat the Central American Banana industry, although it did not produce as much due to not having enough land.

New Zealand has a similar climate to Hawaii, except a bit less tropical.
 

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The British colonies in Australia were initially set up as a destination for forced labour (specifically, people convicted of crimes with harsh sentences; I refuse to say serious crimes, because some remarkably petty things were considered worthy of execution or transportation in 1780s England), not a point of origin.

And the land was a resource used.
 

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The relationship between expansion(conquest, colonization, megastructures), micro, and resources is at the core of the performance, AI, and micro issues. Each planet added increases micro by the same amount, but the resources you acquire by correctly executing the micro become less and less significant as the game goes on. As much as the tile system allowed for relatively easy preplanning for a planet, it more represented that for the resources your empire had, the addition of one planet was insignificant.

The gameplay loops and systems that players use to interact with the planets, systems, and sectors are basically the same from the first year as they are after finishing the entire tech tree. While placing districts and buildings is rewarding and immersive for the first several planets, at some point, technology and society should progress such that your concerns change. The world changing techs and civics kind of pursue this route, but they effectively keep the gameplay loops intact.

The new system destroyed the viability for multi-species empires, making the worthless to attempt because you can't employ specific pops to specific jobs. The fact that there is no option to select a species to work a specific job group is astonishing, because it makes me wonder how little the devs listen.

Also, the gameplay loop becomes boring in the mid to late game.
 
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The new system destroyed the viability for multi-species empires, making the worthless to attempt because you can't employ specific pops to specific jobs. The fact that there is no option to select a species to work a specific job group is astonishing, because it makes me wonder how little the devs listen.
This is exactly what I was talking about!

We really need ways to assign which species should be assigned to which jobs. Which species templates should migrate to, grow on, and be assembled on which planets. Which species templates should be prioritized for, or barred from which jobs, and which species should be automatically resettled to where when unemployed.

Better ways to check how many of which species are on each planet without having to check each planet individually or use species modification menu of all things.

Better ways to choose how many of which species template should be modified, rather than all of that template on the planet, which currently forces players to resettle just to modify a specific number of pops.

So much pop management is unwieldy and impractical, and that really needs to change.
 
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Agreed. That's why I ALWAYS play single-species and usually xenophobe. It's a mess otherwise.
 
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FlyingPhoenix

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It does, actually. Bananas were often grown on the coast in an attempt to combat the Central American Banana industry, although it did not produce as much due to not having enough land.

New Zealand has a similar climate to Hawaii, except a bit less tropical.
Yeah what are you talking about? You've got New Zealand mixed up with some other country.

Winter temperatures in Hawaii range between 18C and 26C. Winter temperatures in New Zealand, even in the hottest parts, are much colder. New Zealand has a temperate climate, whereas Hawaii is tropical.
 
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HFY

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Anyway, the important thing here is that OP was right about basically everything, and Hawaii and New Zealand both agree with him.
 
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Magdaki

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Federations for me was a major disappointment. I got zero quality gaming hours out of it (compared to hundreds out of Megacorps), and I sincerely wish I had not purchased it. It has really soured me to Stellaris in general (I come to the forums from time to time to see if anything has been fixed). As the OP points out, a lot of the design decisions seem to be based on "The AI will be able to manage it" for the player. Except the AI is atrocious. So yes, you can let the AI do it so you can be on par with the AI, and avoid any micromanagement, but as a consequence, have a miserable time from constantly dealing with unnecessary inefficiencies. Alternatively, you can do the bare minimum of micromanagement and *blast* past the AI economically. However, this can at least be managed by the player to find some middle ground where the AI can remain competitive. However, the AI fleet issues and crisis issues were devasting to quality playtime. The AI was basically a punching bag, incapable of fighting back in any meaningful way. Now, AI issues in strategy games are hardly new. There are few if any strategy games that feature human-level competence; however, there is a basic minimum threshold required and that threshold has to be above punching bag level. Stellaris for quite some time has not been above punching bag level competence.

Federations, the diplomacy expansion, had ... no real diplomacy to speak of. Send envoy? That was the design decision. A galactic community where almost everything passes, all the time. No wheeling and dealing. No well diplomacy.

I am, of course, hopeful that Stellaris can be recovered, but honestly, I think it will take Stellaris 2.0 for that. The game needs to be completely overhauled (again) and rebuilt from the ground up.
 
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hfel

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I am, of course, hopeful that Stellaris can be recovered, but honestly, I think it will take Stellaris 2.0 for that. The game needs to be completely overhauled (again) and rebuilt from the ground up.

So we are getting“Necroids”... are the devs trying to say something about the state of the game? :D

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.
I think the other reason why I like this idea ties into what @Oscot was saying before. Right now there is no diplomacy, no politics or galactic geopolitics, and little (if any) meaningful story arc for the various empires. That all should be in there, absolutely, but it isn't. The only thing for the player to really do in Stellaris is declare wars, fight them, then stockpile alloys for the next war.

The narrative of a game should follow its mechanics. The story it tells and the things it has you do should go hand in hand. Right now there are no mechanics to support a story about the evolution of your people, their place on the galactic stage or their political/social future. That's just not in the box.
Just wanted to say: I completely agree with your comments on the narrative aspects of this game. I'm more of a roleplayer than strategist myself and have seen the argument that for all its broken mechanics and AI, Stellaris is still good for roleplay. For me, I get bored soon after the early-game expansion, when Stellaris is narratively at its best: anomalies, discovering new species, research options that feel unique (that later just become higher-tier versions of substantively the same things). Mid-game is just a spreadsheet simulator with fancy graphics without any narrative impetus to do anything beyond blobbing for blobbing's sake. And by late game, all empires tend to become the same bland mix of random species, research is even more indistinct, and besides the crisis, all prescripted narrative events have been exhausted. The heat death of the universe... :p

Honestly, it's sort of my sci fi fan red letter. I still haven't played Mass Effect... :-/ But yes, that sounds very similar in theme!
I can't recommend Mass Effect (the original trilogy) enough, my absolute favorite franchise when it comes to sci-fi worldbuilding and lore, better even than cultural icons like Star Wars and Star Trek in my opinion. :)
As luck would have it, there's currently a remaster/remake of the entire trilogy in the works as well.
 
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