Stellaris

A Humble Suggestion For Improving Stellaris Research

stellaris 4 - A Humble Suggestion For Improving Stellaris Research
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Problem 1: War is The Best Strategy

One of the "problems" for 4x games, in my opinion, is that it rewards warfare too heavily. You expand out until there is no more unclaimed territory, then you go to war, although Stellaris is better than many games in this respect. In reality, war and military spending is a huge brake on the economy and is one of the things that leads eventually to empires' downfalls (as an American, are you listening USA?). I have a solution that I think would remedy it.

Problem 2: Research is Both Boring and Unrealistic

I don't really like the way technology works in Stellaris. It's too boolean. Once you research a technology, you instantly have it and all the equipment that is possible because of the discovery. Anyone who thinks about how the real world works knows this is unrealistic. Look at fusion, for example. We know how it works, we know even how to do it in a limited way. But nobody really knows if it will ever be feasible. Maybe we need to discover some supporting technologies first, like better superconductors and better ways of manipulating magnetic fields. Or maybe we have the knowledge, we just need to put more money into it to make more prototypes.

But even with technology being unrealistic, it's also boring. There's no game to it. I used to LOVE Master of Orion 2's technology because ever time you were picking a tech, you had to make a really hard choice about what you were going to research because the other 2 options were gone (unless you were creative, or stole it from someone else).

The Solution: 4 Phases of Technology

Phase 1: Tech Tree

This needs a better name, but the basic idea is that you're discovering what's discoverable and what the prerequisites are. One way or another you would be spending resources figuring this out. The further you flesh this out, the more the picture would come into focus and you would be able to tell the quickest way to get to some technology.

Maybe you want to get to particle lances and so you'd tell your scientists to work in that direction at the most theoretical level. The result would be a roadmap with several different paths to Particle Lances. As they flesh it out even further, you would see that there are 2 optimal paths, but one of them requires you to get to 30% implementation of 2 technologies, whereas the other path would require 50% and 60% of the 2 technologies. The other way would be faster.

Phase 2: Pure Research

This is where you actually discover the core technology. This is basically the entirety of the way research works now.

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Phase 3: Prototypes/Implementation

It's not enough to understand how fusion works on a theoretical level. You have to build it and get it to work, and to do this takes prototyping. The number of prototypes required to get a working prototype might change for each technology, and could even change from game to game to keep it fresh ("WHY ARE HYDROPONIC FARMS SO DIFFICULT TO FIGURE OUT!?!?!?!")

Once you get a working prototype, you're at 100% of that technology. Congrats!

Phase 4: Refinement

This is the really cool idea, to me at least. In reality, you don't just figure out steel, for example. You always are making it better. You refine your ideas and make them more efficient. During long wars, you'd be refining your mass drivers, writing better targeting software, etc.

How Does This Make the Game Better?

  1. Replayability: There is a lot of room to make changes to the tech tree at most of the 4 levels every time you play the game. Prerequisites for technologies could change. The number of prototypes required to get a technology working could change. How many refinements are available could change. Every time you play the game, it could be a slightly different optimal path forward.
  2. Technology/Research Becomes Fun: Research should be fun and exciting! Every time you complete a technology, you should not just get new capabilities, but it should be interesting to see what new future pathways area available. I also think it should involve hard choices, not just ticking the next box. Should you improve mass drivers you already have for the war that you might not win, or look ahead to see what other technologies will be available in the future (so you can win the next war)? Or should you research a technology that will allow you to use a new strategic resource?
  3. War Has a Cost: If you're at war, especially a close war, it creates a huge incentive to research enhancements to your current technologies. These provide the quickest way to get a boost from your current gear with only minimal retrofitting. But by doing this, you will be pouring research into "dead ends" that won't help you in the long run. So if your empire is always at war and pouring its research in that direction, it will put you at a disadvantage relative to more peaceful empires. Very few mechanics in 4x games work that way.

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