Stellaris End-All

Robear wrote:

Steam has it listed for Feb. 16, 2016. :-)

Just in time for me to start parental negl^H^H^H^H leave. Muahahaha.

I wish someone would come out and say "it's mostly EU with more CK than EU but still not a lot of CK and plays like Vicky" so I can get a really good grasp on what to expect. Right now I feel like I'm still putting my own expectations onto what I'm reading.

I think I will prepare for a life where no more games are needed...

So far a must buy for me although, I do wish we could get a great 4x space game that's not on a 2D plane but that may be too complex for the average consumer.

RooksGambit wrote:

So far a must buy for me although, I do wish we could get a great 4x space game that's not on a 2D plane but that may be too complex for the average consumer.

I dunno. Every space strategy game that has tried to go 3D star map has fallen kind of flat for me. MoO3 and Sword of the Stars II both had 3D maps and really struggled with them. (If there is a 4X that does 3D maps perfectly, Veloxi is probably going to mention it.)

Ironically, space being so open means that there's less of a difference between 2D and 3D maps as usually implemented in strategy games to begin with. It's an undirected graph of nodes. 3D matters on the small scale, like in Elite, or in the really grand scale. But when you're controlling individual stars as points in space with no hope of really policing the empty void you might as well map the whole thing down to 2D anyway.

I think a really good 3D galaxy map 4X would have to radically rethink how colonization and control in a three-dimensional space really works. If you can't force an engagement in the empty void you probably need to bump up a level so your main block of interaction is the cluster of stars rather than individual systems.

There's an analogy here in the history of warfare: Arthur Jones's The Art of War in the Western World describes evolving force projection from the army as a point on the map to a line (in WWI) to an area (in WWII). Space opera, because of star systems acting as natural strategic points and the lack of terrain obstacles in three dimensional space, tends away from WWI's fixed borders and towards earlier models, like the turning maneuvers in the Franco-Prussian war, or the medieval defense-in-depth model of the castle (star system) as a fixed, difficult-to-capture point of support for the mobile army.

The original SoTS had a 3D map, so maybe try that (better) game. Listing MOO3 and SOTS2 are examples of game failures not because they used 3D maps, but because of a myriad of other reasons one of which may be the 3D maps.

StarCon 1 is one of the few games I can think of that had a 3D star map.

AI War's 2D map kind of feels 3D because of the way two neighboring systems might not actually have a connection between them.

I love Paradox grand strategy games, but I agree this sounds awfully ambitious. It makes me sad to say, but I'm reserving a real opinion until I hear a lot more about it.

IMAGE(http://www.flamingwallet.com/images/flaming_fire_wallet.JPG)

I'm super excited... been waiting for Paradox to get into this space. Hopefully this will be the next evolution of the space 4X genre.

FeralMonkey wrote:

I love Paradox grand strategy games, but I agree this sounds awfully ambitious. It makes me sad to say, but I'm reserving a real opinion until I hear a lot more about it.

I am very excited for it but I think everyone will get a chance to learn more about the game before it ships. Paradox has become pretty good at marketing to their core audience.

The original Sword of the Stars and Sins of a Solar Empire both have outstanding 3D maps.

2D star maps just bug me. Especially when they try to divide space up into 2D "sectors". Ugh.

It's accessibility dude. Imagine the fustercluck Distant Worlds would be if it tried to be 3D.

I can see having a 2D overview map if you have to show a lot of stuff. But even Distant Worlds could use a 3D map at certain zoom levels.

2D space maps are dumb.

It's not just accessibility, it's also cost effective and easier to develop.

If I'm on a hilltop, shooting arrows at someone or watching them try to run up to me, 3D matters (because gravity). If I'm 17.8 light years away from them, what could it possibly matter if I'm also 1.3LY above them, relative to the galactic plane?

Height matters on planets because of gravity; that is, an external force that scales with distance and affects all in the conflict. I just don't see an analog to that in interstellar space. It *does* matter when you are in-system, because of the influence of the star and planets, but given the natural tendency of objects to sort themselves out into a 2D plane orbiting the star, it's not as varied an influence as it might be.

I'd say 3D is more important in games that model in-system or planetary surface encounters. At a galactic scale, movement might as well be 2D and combat non-existant. And locally within a system, it could still be modeled in 2D as a field effect trending towards one side - easily (and necessarily) accounted for by both sides and thus probably not worth implementing. (That latter is a first pass; maybe there's a good reason to model solar or planetary effects I'm missing but it's not obvious to me.)

For both Sword of the Stars and SOTSE I do not think the 3D maps changed the way I played. It makes more sense in a tactical game like Homeworld. I'm not saying that it isn't possible (game design along these line is important) but it is not a selling point to me.

I agree, it's more of a cool thing to have than necessary. I am, like Ken, bored of 2d maps.

Jump lanes in a space game make 3D space essentially an affectation. You fight over points connected by lines.

It's all graphs with systems as nodes.
Actually can I have a pure node/edge map? I would enjoy that.

Robear wrote:

If I'm on a hilltop, shooting arrows at someone or watching them try to run up to me, 3D matters (because gravity). If I'm 17.8 light years away from them, what could it possibly matter if I'm also 1.3LY above them, relative to the galactic plane?

Exactly. I think the only time 3D matters in a space 4x is tactically, and that's pretty much because in 3D you have four options for flanking instead of two. There's only a handful of games that have pulled it off successfully - the Homeworld series for RTS, and Ascendancy for turn-based (which tanked because of its incompetent AI, not because of the excellent 3D combat). And given that Paradox is not usually into tactical combat, they may not simply abstract it away.

boogle wrote:

It's all graphs with systems as nodes.
Actually can I have a pure node/edge map? I would enjoy that.

Play AI War. There are others, but that one is unique.

Hey folks, the PR person I'm in touch with said the dev team could take some questions for a written Q&A (sadly they're too busy to come on a podcast, apparently), so what questions did y'all have? I'll put together the best ones I get and send 'em over.

Is this game more EU or CK?
Have you guys played Distant Worlds? Will this be more amazing than that?
Why is Brian Rubin so damn sexy?
How will diplomacy be handled? Which Paradox games does the diplomacy compare to?

There is an extensive preview in a German magazine that someone was kind enough to summarize.

Gameplay & Ship Editor
Like Crusader Kings 2 or Europa Universalis 4 Stellaris runs in pausable/accelerable real time.
At the start of a game we tinker our own race via a populace editor. We can choose bonuses and penalties like production or research bonus or traits like"xenophobic", "religious" or pacifistic" which determine the further course of the game considerably. Then we choose one of 100 portraits and with it the appearance of our people - and there you go!
While there are also prefabricated races they are only intended for quick start - for people who don't want to edit. In the game itself you will not meet these races.
After all, the properties of all adversaries are completely randomly generated in every game! So you never know in advance if you'll meet fanatically religious squid researchers, xenophobic mushroom creatures or isolationist cyborgs in the vastness of space. While this could limit the uniqueness of the races it can increase the replayability. There should be thousands of combinations of the diverse traits.
The galaxies of Stellaris are randomly generated from a chosen size. At the presenation the developers zoomed seamless from individual suns and planets up to the whole galaxy. Which looks big. Bloody big.
Each of the up to 16 adjustable enemy races starts with only one planet and must expand. In addition to these 16 "upstarts" are other inhabitants of the galaxy in different stages of development. More about that in "Phase 1: Exploration".
Spaceships move freely through space and not on predetermined paths. In order to safeguard important flight corridors, one can build starbases or lay minefields.
Battles between fleets take place directly in the game view, there are no separate tactical maps. You can't control the battles yourself, they run automatically - just like Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings.
There will be an editor in which we equip our ships with weapons, reactors, engines, etc and thus can design our own models.
Obsolete Ships can be upgraded at home to the current state of the art, but this takes some time and costs money.

Colonies & Heroes
Each colonized Planet offers several grounds slots on which we can build one building each. Several similar buildings (for example factories) side by side enjoy synergy bonuses and produce more.
The tiles have different properties with advantages and disadvantages. Alien Ruins for example increase the research output; food farms should be on fertile fields rather than in ice deserts. And areas that are inhabited by dangerous animals must be purged first - which in turn requires the appropriate technology. Thus the planets are likely to greatly stand out from each other, a desert world will never be the food basket of the empire.
In order for a tile to produce something we need to assign workers on it. Per population point we have a "workers unit" available. But beware: Just like a roleplaying character each population unit has individual qualities that Stellaris generates based on the initially selected national characteristics - for example "industrious" (good!) or "xenophobic" (bad if other races live on the planet) .
RPG-like characters play an important role, as in Master of Orion special heroes are available in Stellaris. Namely leaders (lead colonies), admirals (command fleets), generals (commanding ground forces) and scientists (fly research vessels, more on that later).
Each character has certain advantages and disadvantages and levels up by successes. Thus you should distribute your subordinates wisely. This reminds pleasantly to the often illustrious princes, bishops, etc from Crusader Kings 2.

Phase 1: Exploration & nonlinear research
In the first phase of the game you explore the universe with research vessels on which you assign a scientist as a commander. They then naturally bring individual abilities (and maybe disadvantages) with them.
The research vessels can, among other things, scan planets to find out their properties.
In the vastness of space the research vessels can make special discoveries which lead to various follow-up tasks. For example one finds an asteroid on which a temple stands, which is oddly enough dedicated to an ancient human deity. Now one should find out what it's all about.
Depending on the characteristics of their own people and the scientist involved you can choose different decisions. Religious researchers could simply blow up the asteroid as blasphemous and experience a completely different sequence of events than non-religious scientists who could search for more shrines and unravel the mysteries behind it.
Each event can succeed but also end in disaster. When an incompetent researchers examines the aforementioned asteroid there is a risk that the boulders leaves its orbit and is on a collision course with an inhabited world. Then our fleet needs to intercept it.
A quest log (called"Situation Log") lists our open events.
The asteroid is just one example of many. Paradox promises varied events. In addition there are your usual monsters waiting in space like interstellar giant jellyfish.
The regular research extends nonlinearly in Stellaris, there is no fixed research tree!
How does it work? First of all we have the three areas of research for which each a scientist-hero is responsible. The three areas are "Physics", "Engineering" and "Society". At certain intervals these researchers make new discoveries from which we have to choose one out of 3 technologies. For example improved laser cannons, shields or ground forces weapons.
The highlight: the discovered technologies are not predetermined but are drawn randomly from a pool. Here Stellaris also uses the character level and the characteristics of the researcher employed, our national characteristics and the previously selected technologies.
If we, for example, use an experienced laser scientist and have previously developed energy weapons, the chance increases to research high-tech blasters. A "mad scientist" however, produces more experimental technologies. The system should help the individualization of our race and at the same time ensure that the progress feels natural so we don't discover Death-Star technology at the start of the game.

Phase 2: Conflict & Contact
Eventually in the course of the game we meet one of up to 16 rivals. The diplomacy system is similar to Europa Universalis 4: We can build alliances and non-aggression pacts, make trade deals and even make inferior nations our vassals.
If you get along particularly well with one or more neighbors you can even set up a federation à la Star Trek, an alliance of semi-sovereign members comparable to the European Union. With the difference that a leader of a member nation rules this Federation as president and therefore determines its foreign policy. Every few years there are elections in which a new president gets elected. Depending on the characteristics of each nation the Federation as a whole will act differently: If pacifists come to power, diplomacy is in the foreground; if an aggressive faction wins the race, expansion is announced.
To start a war in Stellaris we should also have a reason for war (casus belli). For example by falsifying the claim of our people on a solar system. Without official reason for war our reputation suffers and we'll soon see a powerful enemy alliance against us. However this can also happen if we expand too quickly.
Wars are not simply just won or lost, instead there is a "War Score" ie. a points value which indicates how much the enemy would give us in a peace treaty. For example we can demand nothing or just some money, annex whole solar systems or even completely vassalize small states and make them our puppets.
In the galaxy of Stellaris we not only meet starfaring races, but also those which may be scientifically advanced but can't reach into space yet (Poland for example). How we deal with these neutral planets depends on the properties of our people. Pacifists can watch them from hiding to collect research points. More radical scientists can abduct people and subject them to studies; warlike races just conquer the planet. And of course we can give the residents the spaceflight technology to include them as a member of the galactic community. Or add them in our own federation, of course completely altruistic.
Apart from such advanced races some planets are also inhabited by races that have not yet developed self awareness. As a ruthless ruler we can intervene in the evolution of these aliens to tailor us a slave race of our own design. If our own people have problems with surviving on a desert planet - no problem then we simply tinker our own Fremen (Dune, of course). And if we have weak troops we just breed us a race of willing soldiers - the Jem'Hadar from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine send greetings.
And there is a third type of neutral nations: the fallen empires. This great star empires had once powerful technologies but lost all their knowledge - just as the human Imperium of Warhammer 40K. They can still use their high-tech ships and weapons still operating but can no longer repair or rebuild. The fallen empires therefore don't expand and start any wars, but doggedly defend their borders - with very advanced fleets. Whoever attacks them must reckon with hard resistance but also has the chance to get particularly valuable technologies that can't be gained otherwise.
Destroyed fleets leave behind debris which can be studied by research vessels to extract technologies. Anyone who has always envied their neighbors because of their bigger laser cannons can therefore easily steal them. Assuming he defeats one of its fleets.

Phase 3: Endgame & major disasters
Typically the endgame of a space strategy game always develops the same: At some point you're so big and powerful that you simply wipe away the remaining competitors. Stellaris wants to do it differently. When your empire grows it also increases the risk of a galactic catastrophes that makes the endgame particularly demanding.
There are several types of galactic disasters that are always based on the current state of the game itself. For example when somebody intensively researches about wormhole technology it may happen that a portal opens into another dimension inviting as powerful as evil aliens in our universe.
Another example: When we have discovered the appropriate technology we can build robot-workers for our colonies who toil very effective and are never unhappy. Anyone who has seen Battlestar Galactica knows: This can backfire! The robot can in fact develop awareness and establish their own machine state. And eventually decide to extinguish the meat bags that contaminate the rest of the galaxy.
If such a disaster occurs we have two choices. Either we unite all the races of the galaxy and fight the enemies together. Or we lean back, strengthen our fleet and wait while our competitors fight - only to all intervene at the end and mop up what remains.

Veloxi wrote:

Hey folks, the PR person I'm in touch with said the dev team could take some questions for a written Q&A (sadly they're too busy to come on a podcast, apparently), so what questions did y'all have? I'll put together the best ones I get and send 'em over. ;)

How does travel within a solar system work compared to interstellar travel?
Can different planets within a solar system be owned by different empires?
Are moons colonizable just like planets are?
Can we use espionage to interfere with another empire's internal politics (e.g. fund rebels, rig elections)?
Can we use espionage to assassinate characters?

Will my ruler get possessed or think he's Jesus?
Will a pit to Hell open up?

Damn that seems ambitious...

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Will my ruler get possessed or think he's Jesus?
Will a pit to Hell open up?

Well, they already said you could possibly create the Event Horizon, so item #2 isn't totally crazy.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Will my ruler get possessed or think he's Jesus?
Will a pit to Hell open up?

Will he be killed by a manure bomb or shoody railing installation at his capital?

It was the lone bowman on the grassy knoll!