Stellaris’ new game director doesn’t want you to become Galactic Emperor (Yet)24 Oct 2019 1
PDXCon seems like so long ago now… in fact, it was this time last week that I was on my plane flying out to Berlin! One team I was very keen to catch up with was Stellaris. They announced two things at the show - the Lithoids Species Pack (released today) and the next big expansion, Federations.
Federations is going to be the big ‘Diplomacy’ update, although it still doesn’t have any kind of release window. Indeed, the Stellaris team seem to be having a rather difficult time the past few months, as new Game Director Daniel Moregård mentioned to me during our interview:
This year has definitely been difficult for us - a lot of people switching teams. Martin leaving... MegaCorps release was also difficult and set us back. We had a lot of expectations on our team this year.
Even though Daniel has only recently taken the reigns, he’s been very instrumental in the direction the game has been going this past year. Ancient Relics was wholly his brain-child, and now he’s looking forward to training up his new team and leading the charge on Federations and future projects. I asked him if he felt there was anything big left to work on after Diplomacy:
There isn’t a large box that we haven’t tackled yet, but Diplomacy is such a large and vast concept that there’s a lot of things we haven’t done. For this expansion we’re focusing more on the collaborative efforts of diplomacy, but there’s also dark sides, like Espionage. I really want to do one but i don’t know what’s going to happen because I’d need to find a good way of doing it. It’s one of those tricky things to do.
I don’t think focusing on spy actions is a good idea, for example. You don’t want to run the risk of a player being targeted by a bunch of AI nations and suddenly their orbital bases blow up or their fleets get sabotaged. That’s not fun. Instead you’d have to do something like focusing on the intelligence aspect and counterintelligence. How much information do you have about other empires.
There’s other things as well - should you be able to become Galactic Emperor via the new Galactic Community? Should there be an HRE-like mechanic? They don’t exist right now, but we have thought of them - they were rejected initially because we didn’t like the implications but maybe if enough systems are put in place we can re-look at enabling that fantasy.
Moregard’s view on what Stellaris is and the language he used was especially fascinating. Using terms like “toy box” and “action figures”, he sees it as his job to create a platform for players to live-out any kind of science-fiction related dream they want. And they’re not necessarily bound by what’s already been done in science-fiction, either:
Archaeology was a bit like that. There are some works that deal with space archaeology but it’s not a big trope. I think Ancient Relics showed it can be a thing. When we were designing it we looked around for inspiration and there wasn’t much around. We felt like we’d explored it more than others had.
Stellaris is about adding action figures and when you want to play a game, you take out a specific set of figures and you play with them. Stellaris is not about creating a fixed timeline. It should be possible to design and write your own story.
Now that CK3, it'll be interesting to see what happens with the current generation of Paradox PDS titles. Stellaris & Hearts of Iron 4 are both three years old but the legacy of games like CK2 and EU4 already already in danger of creating problems down the road, as Imperator learned to its detriment. Moregard doesn't think replicating the long tail of expansions that past games have done is necessarily a good idea, but until Federations turns up at least a 'Stellaris 2' will have to remain an unrealised fantasy.