Wish Upon A Stellaris: Banks, Kennedy, And Beyond

Our Adam had a look at the state of Stellaris [official site] after Paradox released the most-recent update and paid add-on for their space strategy game. He called those “an indication that the studio have ideas as to how the universe can become more lively, without making it more cluttered at the same time, and that makes the future of Stellaris very exciting indeed.” And what of that future? Paradox have shared some of their plans and hopes for the future, which include fleshing out the mid- and late-game, adding a “space UN”, expanding ethics, and making empires more interesting and alive.

“We now have a very solid base game to build on, and that going forward it’s time to scale up our ambitions,” game director Martin Anward said in yesterday’s dev diary. He explained that the future update codenamed ‘Banks’ is still planned to be a biggun, but Paradox will now also release a smaller update, codenamed ‘Kennedy’, before then. It’s due to launch this year and will focus on a few areas that they didn’t have time for with the recent Heinlein update, “such as precursor event chains and endgame crises”.

While Paradox are still keeping mum on what Banks will bring, Anward does tease that the name “may offer some clues”. That’s not much of a hint; the sci-fi novels of Iain M. Banks are full of ultra-intelligent sentient megaships who see their human creators as basically pets, social anarchism, interfering superspies with big bags of dirty tricks, and… goodness knows how many other ideas. Maybe some fun espionage?

Anywho! Anward points out these as the most important – but not the only – areas Paradox should focus on right now:

  • Fleshing out the mid- and lategame through the addition of more interesting narratives and ‘galactic events’ akin to Awakened Fallen Empires that shake up the galactic scene.
  • Improving the internal workings of empires, making pops and leaders more interesting, and making empires feel more alive.
  • Expanding on the ethics system, creating more unique playstyles and enhancing roleplaying.

Anward also detailed a few ideas they have, a few things they might add, but these aren’t promises and there’s no word on when they would arrive.

  • Ship appearance that differs for each empire, so no two empires’ ships look exactly the same.
  • More story events and reactive narratives that give a sense of an unfolding story as you play.
  • More potential for empire customization, ability to build competitive ‘tall’ empires.
  • Deeper Federations that start out as loose alliances and can eventually be turned into single states through diplomatic maneuvering.
  • Ability to set rights and obligations for particular species in your empire.
  • Global food that can be shared between planets.
  • Superweapons and planet killers.
  • Ability to construct space habitats and ringworlds.
  • More interesting mechanics for pre-FTL civilizations.
  • Factions that are proper interest groups with specific likes and dislikes and the potential to be a benefit to an empire instead of just being rebels.
  • A ‘galactic community’ with interstellar politics and a ‘space UN’.
  • Buildable Dreadnoughts and Titans.

It seems that, as with their other games, Paradox are in this for the long haul.


  1. TonganJedi says:

    Global food that can be shared between planets.

    YES! I don’t understand why I can’t set up freighter shipments to move food from one planet to another. This would allow for much more planetary specialization.

    • vahnn says:

      Not being able to utilize trade routes to transfer food to various cities in my empire is my biggest remaining gripe with Endless Legend.I was just ranting about it to my friend the other day. I want specialized agricultural regions to handle my empires dietary needs while the other guys work on other stuff and import the food. Can’t wait for this to hit Stellaris.

  2. Laurentius says:

    I have one an only solution for these genre to move forward: stop designing SP game around MP. Make two separate builds and go for awsome and bang when build SP game. Stlaris is incrdibly flat game because of fear of “unbalanced MP”. Let’s look Stelaris resources. First they don’t have any meaning bhind them like Civ resouces, second they are so boring, so incredibly boring, you make effort of scuring them and they give so boring and insignificat boost they I don’t really see why thay are in there.

    • Gormongous says:

      You’re absolutely right. Stellaris has suffered more than any other game from Paradox in recent years, even Europa Universalis IV, from the multiplayer-first fixation of the studio. All of Stellaris‘ biggest problems (the interchangeable races, the dearth of internal politics, the huge mid-game slump, the fixation on shallow but omnipresent combat) come from its design and testing in a multiplayer environment.

      Dev diaries still talk about giving the game a spin on the office LAN, so I’m skeptical that many of the mechanics listed above, in the article, will have a meaningful effect on the flow of the game. In multiplayer, you don’t want to have to fuss with governors and sectors, but that’s exactly the sort of thing that Stellaris is missing at a basic level.

      • Lacero says:

        Exactly. MP will have lots of wars with multiple races, alliances forming and breaking up as the balance of power shifts. Any over extension will be punished so you must be cautious, any over caution will leave you falling behind.

        Singleplayer just has a lot of stupid AI that never gets tested properly in MP and you stomping over them as nothing interesting happens and you’re never forced into interesting decisions.

        Then a game ending event happens and the AI just stares at it blankly because all testing for the game was done with five human players working together / taking advantage of the distraction.

        • Rizlar says:

          “all testing for the game was done with five human players working together / taking advantage of the distraction.”

          Yeah I’m sure that’s true, I’m sure they did absolutely no single player testing despite single player presumably being the most popular mode. I’m sure every element that isn’t fully expanded on or satisfactory is due to some tenuous relation to multiplayer (like the ‘interchangeable races’, oh wait, fanatic pacifists cannot even declare rivals, collectivists are too self absorbed to make alliances, individualists have a completely different, overpowered form of rulership).

          You are all exactly right and not overstating your case at all.

          • Lacero says:

            Hey if you think they’re just idiots then fine, I think I’m being a little more fair to them.

            You have played an end game event with the default build right? Not a rogue AI event of course, because the AI never builds robots and so it never fires in single player, but one of the others?

          • Gormongous says:

            There are multiple instances, especially in the development of Europa Universalis IV but also with Crusader Kings 2 sometimes, where Paradox has missed huge bugs and has blamed it on their process of testing singleplayer by running it at 5x speed in observe mode and looking for weird AI behaviors. That’s how they missed, for example, that the Netherlands in EU4 couldn’t reach the mid-Atlantic trade node until deep into diplo tech and therefore got locked out of colonization every game. That’s how they missed that the “religious unrest” event in Rajas of India for CK2 was missing its removal trigger and turning India into a hellscape of 0% moral authority religions. That’s how the converter has been non-functional for two thirds of its release lifespan. All of these are big bugs that render major features of paid DLC broken on release, but they were missed because, as Johan has said repeatedly (and other employees have echoed), 90% of their in-house playtesting is intra-office LAN games where everyone sticks to the big players in Europe, like Castile and France, and just keeps an eye out. Even the best employees at the best company couldn’t catch most bugs with that workflow process.

            I think that Paradox wanted to make something revolutionary with Stellaris, I really do, but designing a game in singleplayer and then testing it in multiplayer was not the way to do it. It leads to shallow gameplay systems (like the rival system, which serves only to give you a trickle of influence and made the AI players who love or hate you love or hate you more? Man, fanatic pacifists are missing out) that don’t distract from the social interaction between human players. The fact that there’s nothing to do in Stellaris once you finish exploring is a feature, not a bug. No wonder the endgame crises didn’t work at launch, they just made sure that they could be triggered and then quit to start a new game with fungi that have silly names.

          • Rizlar says:

            @Lacero, yeah, I have played an endgame event. There are definitely issues, I’m not denying it.

            @Gormongous, that’s actually really interesting, I didn’t realise they had stated outright that the majority of testing is done in multiplayer. Still reckon you might be overstating your case though.

            Pacifists not being able to declare rivals has a massive impact on their ability to make deals with other empires without the rival of rival bonus. Might be different now with the changes to diplomacy but it seemed to make fanatic pacifists inevitably distant from galactic politics and inward looking. Anhyoo, there is definitely room for improvement, empire character emerging from systems is basically what makes me excited about these games and it will hopefully be expanded on.

  3. SaintAn says:

    Can’t wait to get more updates for this game. Got it a few days ago and it’s one of my top favorite games up there with Mass Effect 1 and Wind Waker. I’ve never played such a good RP 4X before. Wish Endless Space would copy Stellaris instead of Endless Legends because I regret buying it in early access since it’s nowhere near as good.

    • MaXimillion says:

      If you’re looking for a 4X that does story and atmosphere well, you have to play Alpha Centauri

    • Zenicetus says:

      The current early access of Endless Space 2 isn’t a fair comparison to Stellaris. Only a few of the factions are in the game, and many features like the political system, population migration, and battle mechanics are still in a very early stage. In fact it’s so early that I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying it right now, unless you’re just very curious what direction the new ES2 game is going (which is why I bought it).

      It will be worth comparing these two games when ES2 is feature complete in the last Beta stages. This is still early Alpha.

      I think I’ll probably be playing both games for the next year or two — Stellaris for roleplaying my own custom empires and their emergent histories, and ES2 for a game where the alien races and playing styles are more varied, and don’t play the same way (I hope).

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    Superweapons and planet killers.
    Ability to construct space habitats and ringworlds.
    Buildable Dreadnoughts and Titans.

    Thankfully you can rectify all of these with already available mods.

  5. GrumpyCatFace says:

    In other words… “We’re going to try and finish the game that you already paid for.”

  6. DeadCanDance says:

    Instead of adding new content, fix what’s already there, please.

  7. Nauallis says:

    Ooh, maybe they’ll make building superweapons an elective process! The citizens in my direct democracy can petition their president to build a mobile planetoid base at a cost of 6 trillion units!

    Or my nutty religious fanatics can build hyperspace-enabled superbattleships equipped with advanced plasma weaponry, hide them in a nebula, for a rebellious minor slave faction to find hundreds of years later, reactivate, and then travel to a distant desert world to reactivate an interstellar teleporter ground-crawler than uses direct matter-energy conversion!

    Or or or we can stumble upon a perfect sphere of exotic matter that uses subversive data conversion (from the future!) to subsume all organic and machine life at an atomic level!

  8. haldolium says:

    I just want space battles :(

  9. Meatpopsicle says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what those patches are for?

  10. Calculon says:

    And yet they still refuse address something as critical as economics and economic warfare. Vicky 2 is the only Paradox game that does at a ‘mediocre’ level – but in EUIV and CK2 it’s just pitiful. There are so many interesting options they don’t explore here and it’s a real shame. Then again I’m pretty disappointed in Paradox these days

  11. skizelo says:

    Banks did the Culture series of books. Wiz referred to this in one of the streams.

  12. Phantus says:

    You can’t say you have, “a solid base game” when it’s 1/3 of a game(beginning). It plays like an empty MP game with next to no proper SP content. A game is to be fully fleshed out on release and shouldn’t have to be backfilled with poor, over priced DLC just to meet actual “solid base game” requirements. Paradox is really just finishing the base game in front of everyone and charging money for it.