The Internet is Forever… Wrong

For the time being, I continue to play and enjoy Stellaris. After spending some 40+ hours in my first sort of easy-mode tutorial, I decided to start a new Ironman game on medium difficulty with a custom-made race in a Large galaxy.

One thing I have learned since starting this journey though, is that Paradox actually updates the game a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I came in at the tail-end of a big overhaul of the game mechanics via 2.0. Some of the changes have been controversial, but since I never saw the original way the game was played, I don’t have any strong feelings about them.

Well, other than the fact that it’s near impossible to actually divine any currently-correct information about Stellaris on the internet.

Which Traditions are the best to take first? Are there any must-have Ascension perks? What’s the general idea with custom ships? How fast is too fast when it comes to expanding your empire? These are all questions that were solved and optimized at some point in the past, but have quickly turned into historical canards. For example, about half of the old forum posts I’ve combed through have referenced Food like it was a big deal. And it was… until Food was made an empire-wide resource, allowing you to dedicate entire worlds to mining or energy with ease while farming elsewhere.

Like most games these days, there is a Stellaris Wiki out there, but it suffers from the same issue as all game Wikis – 99% of it is simple, in-game information with zero analysis. Yeah, Option X gives me 5% more Y. But is extra Y even useful considering you can get Z instead? Sometimes it is flat out wrong. For example, there are some “Prophet’s Retreat” utopia-esque planets out there that are guarded by otherwise end-game Fallen Empires, who get really mad if you try to colonize the planet. But could I build a Habitat (e.g. colony space station) orbiting the Prophet’s Retreat without angering the Fallen Empire? According to the wiki:

[Habitats] cannot be built on habitable planets, asteroids, moons or planets with an anomaly.

I gambled with 10,000 minerals and several in-game years and it turns out you absolutely can build a habitat in orbit around the Prophet’s Retreat world without angering the Fallen Empire protecting it. So that wiki entry is either flat wrong, or incredibly misleading (perhaps the author meant anomalies would block all attempts?).

I am also beginning to understand that a lot of the Stellaris community is perfectly fine with inefficient/bad options for purely role-playing purposes. Which is fine, whatever, you do you. It’s one thing to pick an option because you want that to embody your virtual empire, and something else entirely when you pick an option that sounds good but is really just a newbie trap.

Stellaris is by no means the only game that suffers such (unintentional) misinformation. But the whole situation does give me pause. The internet is forever… but that also means it will accumulate more and more shit over time, in a perfectly entropic metaphor kind of way. Search Engine Optimization can force the cream of useful information to float to the top of Google results, but that is reliant on an engaged audience still producing currently-useful information. Over time, there will be less and less engagement, and the actual answers will be lost in a soup of nonproductive energy.

…well then, as a fan of Sisyphus, let’s get this rock rollin’: as of the date of this post, in Stellaris 2.0, you can create a habitat around a Fallen Empire-protected, habitable planet with no issues.

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Posted on June 7, 2018, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I get the general point of the post, info on Internet can be outdated or wrong, but more specifically, the post comes across as you wanting to read a direct “how to play” guide to beat Stellaris. Isn’t the whole point of playing to figure that stuff out? Why would you want someone to give you a guide on what is best to do in all situations? Or even in some? Trial and error is basically ‘the point’ of playing a game like Stellaris, isn’t it? Making mistakes, learning from them, and either trying again or attempting to work your way out of said mistake.

    I could maybe see this level of info if you were playing the ‘final’ min/max attempt at the highest difficulty, where the expectation is to know everything and play perfectly. But in your second game on normal? Just play and enjoy it man.

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    • “Trial and error” works pretty terribly when you do not see the results for 40+ hours – at that point, it’s just error. I also absolutely despise blind choices and newbie traps. My fun is generated from personal optimization, which requires some baseline set of correct information. I don’t need the 100% min/max path, but I need to be able to know or figure out that I could be 98% optimal doing something slightly different that is much more palatable to my own playstyle.

      In Stellaris, expanding is heavily punished with a rapidly increasing Research and Unity gain penalty, which only exists as an arbitrary balancing mechanism. The game does not mention this penalty explicitly – you must hover over a corner of the Research/Tradition pane to see it. Dedicating additional buildings on the surface of planets can offset this penalty somewhat, but they generate 1-4 points of X, whereas the penalty is Y%. Trying to crunch the numbers to see if one Unity building per planet is enough to make it worth expanding is not my idea of fun; someone already invented that wheel. My fun comes from knowing that it will require 2-3 buildings (or whatever) to offset the penalty and then using that information to make personalized decisions optimally. “I could offset the penalty, but that planet is too close to my neighbors.” “I don’t want to have to think about colony ships right now.” “Crap world with crap tiles, but I want to win via planet victory, so… gimmie gimmie.”

      Relying on Trial and Error means picking something that sounds beneficial, like the Diplomacy Tradition, and then realizing that you can’t conquer your neighbors for 50 years. Or, hey, you technically can unlock other Traditions without finishing the one you started… you’ll just delay your Ascension perks by a few hundred months. Which can technically be fine, since a few of them have Research prerequisites. But is it worth losing X every month for a decade? There’s no way to “trial and error” that out, because by the time you notice any effects (if you ever do), it’s dozens of gameplay hours later, and all your other choices in the meantime could have muddled the results.

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      • Fully understand all of the above, I just look at it all and to me, that’s the game when playing something like Stellaris.

        Playing the first game and over-expanding, then either trying to fix the unity issue or restarting and not over-expanding, is the game to me, even if that ‘costs’ you dozens of hours. Plus its not like that initial playthrough was ONLY to learn the unity/expansion system. I’m sure you also experienced a bunch of other “huh, so that’s how it works” situations.

        And on the restart, you won’t deal with the stuff above, but will again deal with other items. And so on and so forth until you ‘win’ by knowing most of the things and getting bored. Rushing to reach ‘getting bored’ seems like a bad idea to me.

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  2. Blind, or limited-vision choices are inevitable in a game like Stellaris. Your initial expansion is governed by random map start and fog of war, which sets you up with a suboptimal opening by design. Anomalies, factions and neighbouring empires are pure RNG, and so on. There are few strict newbie traps that I can think of, apart from the tech tree and small things like leader traits, but perhaps I am drawing a blank on some.

    I understand your frustration with not knowing what ought to be knowable (such as the Unity cost/benefit of your next planet, if that’s important to you) but at worst you will end up making a fuzzy choice based on an estimate, which may end up slightly wrong or slightly right, but probably not egregiously wrong or painfully obvious. As you have realised, you will end up compensating for the deficiencies produced by these suboptimal choices down the road, resulting in your not noticing the effects overmuch even many turns later. And that imprecision feels kind of right in a simulation of galactic government (though you could argue that at a galactic-empire level of tech, you’d just ask your damned AI advisors these questions).

    I mean, even in a perfect-information game like Chess, the complexity forces you to make midgame choices based on broad heuristics – development, centre, pawn structure this, open files that. You cannot home in on precise numerical values of a particular board position.

    The point about the internet getting filled with outdated crud is well-taken, though. Even SEO can be your enemy on this score, because if some game feature produced huge outcry two years ago, got fixed, and no one ever talked about it again, those old forum posts will dominate the search results for a long time.

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  3. “I came in at the tail-end of a big overhaul of the game mechanics via 2.0. Some of the changes have been controversial, but since I never saw the original way the game was played, I don’t have any strong feelings about them.”

    Note that if you ever decide to check the original way out, you can do that very easily: if you opt into Steam beta, you can select any earlier patch version and it will work fine.

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