[Upcoming Diplomacy Rework] Transnational Power Arrangements and Institutions

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Oct 17, 2013
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Concerning the diplomacy rework, I've already said my piece on how a revamped leader system could inject some more personality into the game. Below, I add to this by envisioning a new approach to international relations.

Introduction

We know a diplomacy rework is coming to Stellaris after the performance, AI, and balance issues introduced by Le Guin are addressed. The specifics of this overhaul are unclear, except that it will enrich the federation mechanic and introduce espionage in some form.

I'm no mind reader, but I can speculate (based on my own opinions of the game's current deficiencies) about what issues the devs would wish to solve with such a rework:

  • Streamline diplomatic interactions and provide a framework to make power blocs immediately intelligible to the player. Also perhaps cut down on the amount of diplomatic spam.
  • Give players a variety of active goals to pursue in the mid and late game besides conquering and waiting for the next crisis to appear.
  • De-emphasize map painting, not by stacking even more penalties on expansionists but by providing players with a suite of soft power options that are satisfying to use.
  • Continue adding more viable playstyles and empire types to the game.
I'd like to imagine one possible approach to addressing these problems.

Institutions

International institutions (or organizations) would be new entities within the game that expand upon federations, but also serve as a replacement for existing bilateral relationships. All institutions contain some common elements, making their representation within the UI easier:

  • Every institution has a leader empire and the capacity to add additional empires as members.
  • Every institution has a set of rules.
  • Every institution has a perk tree conferring benefits on its members.
Empires can join multiple institutions though some institutions are mutually exclusive. If needed, an adjustable cap might also restrict the overall number of institutions in which an empire may participate.

Rules are mutable or immutable depending on the institution type and govern a variety of considerations including, but not limited to:

  • How a new leader is selected, if such a thing is allowed at all
  • Whether members can wage war upon each other
  • How to change a mutable rule
  • What makes an empire eligible or ineligible for inclusion (certain ethics, civics, etc.)
  • The minimum number of members required to make the institution viable
  • How to expel an empire from the institution
  • Whether empires are expected/obligated to join fellow members in their defensive or offensive wars
An institution's perk tree provides the main incentive to join that particular organization. Perks can be earned by unlocking all prerequisite perks and fulfilling some additional requirement like pledging a certain amount of some resource or completing a mission, giving the player additional goals to pursue after the early game. The perks themselves can range from direct resource buffs for member empires to unlocking special casus belli or galactic wonders.

Possible Types of Institutions

Military
The most traditional form of institution, military institutions can be created to provide a full or defensive alliance between their constituents. Over time as their perks are unlocked, they might begin to resemble federations in the current game, gaining fleets or admirals with no upkeep.

The ethics of the member empires can drastically affect the nature of a military institution. One led by an autocratic empire might have a feudal character and lead to complete integration. An institution comprising many xenophilic or egalitarian empires could set aside an empty system for a specially created AI-controlled, cosmopolitan, Citadel-esque empire that exists solely to be in charge.

Research/Psionic
Joining these institutions buffs an empire's tech speed or unity production. They could also lead down otherwise inaccessible avenues of research or uncover new ways of interacting with the Shroud.

Economic/Trade
Instead of bilateral commercial pacts, corporations could set up trade leagues that increase resource production, facilitate inter-empire trade, or provide unique interactions with an overhauled galactic market.

Intelligence and Crime
Accompanying a new espionage system could be an INTERPOL-style institution that shares intelligence between its members, handles extradition of rogue leaders, and battles crime or piracy.

Fallen Empire Led
Fallen empires can invite younger empires into their own special institutions with the goal of furthering their ideological agenda.

Emergency
The rise of certain crises triggers the creation of an institution designed to counter and contain the threat.

Conclusion

The creation of such a basic framework to model various international relations in the game would provide a great deal of flexibility and extensibility to the diplomatic system, deepening gameplay without overwhelming presentation. Please let me know what problems you think the game's current diplomatic layer fails to address and how you would like to see it improved.
 
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