History In The Future: Stellaris Dev Diary

Science fiction is a bit like “history in the future”, says Henrik Fåhraeus in the Stellaris [official site] dev diary below. Having brought medieval Europe to life with Crusader Kings II, Fåhraeus is leading the team that has been given the task of taking Paradox grand strategy to the stars. I’ve been quiet about Stellaris recently and that’s not a sign of disinterest – there’s still no other game I’m more excited about – I’m just trying to stay calm. Chances are, once it’s out I won’t be thinking about anything else for a good while so best to focus my attention elsewhere while I still can.

This isn’t the most complex video – some of the text dev diaries have been far more informative about specific features – but I’d rather dig into all of that when I have a chance to play. What this video does well, I think, is to give an overview of why Stellaris is exciting and how it borrows from Paradox’s vast experience while also doing lots of new, exciting things.

If we can disregard all of the randomised races, endgame complexities and research rethinks for a moment, it’s fair to say that the most intriguing thing about Stellaris might be the attempt to marry a more conventional 4X (Civ-style) opening with the mindset of a Paradox grand strategy game. The historical games, by nature of their setting, have asymmetrical openings, with each AI and human player beginning with a vastly different reputation, share of power and wealth, and even ruleset in some cases.

In Stellaris, everyone begins from the beginning, or at least from the beginning of their adventures beyond the home planet. They’re not all equal though, as each race will have certain qualities and traits that play into short- and long-term strategies, and starting location will surely have an impact as well. But nobody will be in the position that France or the Holy Roman Empire or whoever else you might care to name are in at the beginning of a historical strategy game – they’ll have to earn that right.

Stellaris is less than a month away. May 9th. I’d book the week off work if I didn’t have this ridiculous job. As it is, I’d be cancelling holidays if I’d booked them.


  1. LuckyLuigi says:

    I really recommend taking a look at the “All hail Blorg series. It’s hilarious.

    • HopeHubris says:

      It’s brilliant, I’ve been watching the stream with a friend, both loving it

      • rsf says:

        Here’s a overview at a paradox presentation that is a good introduction for people who aren’t familiar.

        Text dev diaries are here for those who don’t mind very minor mechanics spoilers, and especially for those who are wondering what the excitement is about.

        I can understand Adam wanting to remain calm and avoiding writing too much on Stellaris, but some of the other writers could have linked some of the videos.

        It’s a case of a new genre being brought to space sci-fi, not just forced advertising based on marketing hype without being able to fully review product because all that is available is carefully dripfed information. Given it’s not a well known genre for a lot of players, the game probably could use that time and extended coverage to explain itself, especially given the known AI capabilities of Paradox’s Clausewitz engine.

        The scope of games on the Clausewitz engine is hard to quickly describe in terms of well known games like Civilization or Master of Orion, and it’s harder still to explain the experience to people who aren’t familiar with those but might be drawn in and immersed by the breadth of Stellaris – sort of like playing in the story of a sci-fi novel or novel series, or a multi-season space opera TV seies (Babylon 5 or Deep space 9).

    • Sorbicol says:

      I’ve just logged in to post the same thing! It’s been fantastic to watch and, I hope, is going to serve very well as a tutorial considering how hard I bounced off CK2 when I tried to play that (yes. I know)

      I was a little worried at the start that despite their approach to research, anomalies and ship building that the game felt a little too conservative in its approach to the genre, but as the series has progressed and the political/diplomacy options have come into the campaign it just looks better and better. Can’t see me playing much else for a why next month.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      A great series. They seem like fun-guys.

      Sorry. :P

  2. Grizzly says:

    Mind you, there is an option to give a few random empires a head start, which they use on the all hail blorg stream, but it’s not at all like what happens in eu4

    • BobbyDylan says:

      And there’s fallen empires. The end-game bosses who will f@*k your sh!t up if you p!ss them off to early.

  3. anHorse says:

    I have realised two things

    1.) I really want to play this
    2.) I’ve read like no scifi outside of Banks and the Expanse

    It’s pretty weird not even recognising basic genre touchstones that are being referenced

    • BobbyDylan says:

      The Expanse books are fantastic, and Banks is a legend. You’ve not got a bad pedigree there.

    • GernauMorat says:

      Banks is indeed a legend, you are in good stead. I would recommend some classics such as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.

    • vlonk says:

      I would read anything from Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Nivens “Ringworld”, Robert Heinlein “The moon is a harsh mistress” and maybe “Stranger in a strange land”, Isaac Assimovs “Foundation” Trilogy, Frank Herberts “Dune”,”Enders Game” trilogy from Orson Scott Card and anything from Stanislav Lem and Douglas Adams that fits your humour to undo it all again.

      Some of those books did not age well and have latent or open racism and sexism in it. Partly because they reflect the ideas of their time, partly because the authors are racist or sexist. EVEN THOUGH those books are all worth the read. If you feel uncomfortable just skip right through those parts. The aforementioned books are all worth the ordeal.

      • onodera says:

        I actually liked Lem’s serious works more than Tichy and the Cyberiad. Pirx the pilot is my favourite, but his failed contact novels (Eden, Solaris, Invincible and Fiasco) are great as well.

      • Apologised says:

        The thing with Sci-Fi, is that it is FULL of absolute lunatics with obvious axes to grind. Heinlein actually spends more time soapboxing than actually writing a story in starship troopers, John Ringo’s third Troy book was nothing but racism against south-americans from start to finish. David Weber once wrote a book about Space Werewolves vs Vampires.
        …I dunno, maybe it was a bad tax year for him or something.

        But NONE of them, not even Lovecraft, come close to how high Orson Scott Card and Ron L Hubbard set the bar when it comes to being completely crazy. That bar is so high only Apollo Astronauts have come close to it.

        • vlonk says:

          Yes Card is pretty much insane. You can grasp that just by reading his books without ever touching on the controversies he sparked. Child soldiers, a cesspool of psychopaths form half the cast, the underlying topics are murder, mass-murder and all kinds of unethical decision making.
          But just take a look at the insane book that is “Ender’s game” because of it! And it is followed by an equally impressive book that deals with basically all kinds of backlash from Book 1, deals with guilt and trust, kindness and cruelty, of overcoming barriers and the truths of life and death. “Speaker for the Dead”, a book that could not be further from the first one. Its a logical follow up to the first yet is nothing like the first book. Those two are worth the read. Then after reading them, browse the internet and ask yourself “WTF, how could this man write those books?”

          Regarding Heinlein, Starship Troopers: “It is the only science fiction novel on the reading list at four of the five United States military academies.” I think he hit a homerun here, but only with a very narrow audience. I did not serve in a military service, I can only assume some of his ideas about rank, the chain of command and modern warfare hit it on the spot. His ideas about learning through physical pain and physical punishment have been thoroughly debunked by modern research! I guess the educational Whiplashes are the reason the military Academy Number 5 did not put it on their list ;)
          Heinlein recommendation list (ordered by enjoyment factor): “The Moon is a harsh Mistress”, “Double Star”, “Citizen of the Galaxy”,”Starship Troopers”(directly followed by the parody-movie of it), “Stranger in a strange Land”, “Farnhams Freehold”(preeetty racist, but still worth the time to skip through those parts).

          Many of the other books from those authors are probably worth a read, but from the top of my head I cannot remember which and picking up a shitty book because of my faulty recommendation is not a mistake I am willing to subject anyone to. :D

        • vlonk says:

          Aaand Hubbard where to begin… started as a scifi author but then wrote about a religion that he invented out of thin air, which is somehow ok as a shtick. Built a church on this believe system that takes itself very VERY serious, which is somehow not so ok.
          His wikipedia entry has over 7.000 versions by now. He is the mastermind behind the timeless masterpiece “Battlefield Earth”, a movie that has an IMDb score of 2,4/10 which is damn near the bottom. I recommend the movie. Just pretend its a comedy, bring over some friends, a couple of beer and popcorn and enjoy the trainwreck.

    • Ovno says:

      I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Alastair Reynolds either…!

  4. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Nice to see some little bits of gameplay. While the concept was interesting, was a bit worried that having molepeople pop up on one of your planets might be done just with a text box saying “some molepeople have popped up on [planet]”. Seeing artwork on the diplomacy screen and that makes me less concerned.

    (Yes, I am enough of a manchild that pretty pictures help me get immersed.)

    • Rizlar says:

      It’s my big concern too, that it won’t be as believable, richly historical and real feeling portrayal of societies as CK/EU when they don’t have real history to drawn on. This seems to be what really fucked Civ: Beyond Earth for me. Fingers crossed.

  5. TheAngriestHobo says:

    My current contract ends ON May 9th.

    PRO: Plenty of time to play Stellaris.

    CON: Too much time to play Stellaris.

  6. klops says:

    I already said this but I never buy new games (Except XCOM2). Stellaris might be an(other) exception.

  7. jonfitt says:

    I have hope that this will be awesome. However the Blorg game start seemed veeery standard space 4X. That part isn’t the space 4X re-think I’m hoping for. Perhaps it’ll surprise in the mid/late game.

    • klops says:

      Yeah. After asymmetry of Endless Legend or even ages old Fall From Heaven II mod for Civ4 it feels a bit too generic by what I’ve seen. But it’s still the game I’m most thrilled about in ages. Hopefully it fullfills the expectations.

  8. Doomlord says:

    Too many other great games come out in May to want to buy this one, for me, this will be a Christmas-time, get-it-in-the-Steam-sale purchase. With Doom, Overwatch, and Total War: Warhammer all slated to drop in May, not to mention Mirror’s Edge 2, this one falls way behind in the priority queue.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      You just listed the 4 games I would cancel to play this a week earlier than May 9th.