Theoretically, the concept of time is pretty simple in Stellaris. The developers have created a consistent time structure throughout the game, no matter if you wage a battle close to a far away star or work on your research.
But when we look deeper, we realize that time indeed is relative, but not for the reasons Einstein claimed. But first, let’s look how the Stellaris coders envisioned the concept of time to work:
How long is a day in Stellaris?
One day in Stellaris last one real-time second, theoretically. This is how the game is designed. You have the option to speed the game up 2x or 3x, in that case one real-time second would be 2 or 3 days in Stellaris.
This means a Stellaris month on normal speed takes 30 real-time seconds.
How long is a Year in Stellaris?
A year in Stellaris has 360 Stellaris days, or 12 Stellaris months. Since one game day last one real-time second, a year in Stellaris last 360 real-time seconds. If you speed up the game 2x, you will have to wait 180 seconds for a game year to pass, and only 120 seconds or two minutes if you speed up the game to 3x.
But, as with anything in real life, it’s not always that simple. Though we are not sealing with Einstein’s theory of relativity (well, in a way we are), the claims above are not always true.
Stellaris & Relative Time – The Problem of Lagging
Or better, the bigger the mass the slower time passes.
Huh? What are you talking about? Is this something about the technology and research tree in Stellaris?
Nope. It has to do with the weight Stellaris has on your CPU.
Since the game’s inception, Stellaris is plagued by complaints that the game slows down with each passing year.
With each year, you and your opponents expand their empires. The galaxy gets fuller and fuller, more and more fleets amass waiting for battle around some Starbase or circling a distant sun.
Your population is growing, your economy is growing, so are your rivals’.
All this means that with each passing year in Stellaris, your CPU has more and more workload, slowing it down to the point that time begins to pass noticeably slower. Some players even report that the game became unplayable.
So the “mass” of all the pops, fleets, economies reach such a level that they drag down the CPU’s performance, resulting in Stellaris days and years passing slower. Especially if you play with an already huge “mass” of a big galaxy.
So if you are on a slower machine, you might have to stick to playing in smaller galaxies and reduce the amount of rival empires.
Stellaris time in Multiplayer
In Multiplayer, the “synchronicity of time” becomes essential for a working gameplay.
The concept of one second = one Stellaris day and one Stellaris year = 360 seconds also applies to Multiplayer.
For Multiplayer to work, each PC has to be synchronized to all the other players. And if one player’s CPU is becoming slow, all other PCs have to slow down, too.
How does time pass during battles in Stellaris?
One area of criticism about the concept of time in Stellaris revolves around space battles. Some complain that since the one second = one day concept is upheld also during a space battle, these often in game take weeks or even months, which many says is not realistic.
And yes, while it is fun to watch your fleet decimate the enemy or battle with a Starbase, I am watching for say one minute hoping my fleet prevails… while in game the battle went on for 60 days … quite a battle.
This often even gives me time to send in reinforcements from the other side of my empire.
So some say that space battles should only take say one or max. two Stellaris days, not two months.
But would this really be more realistic?
Firstly, I understand why the developers did not change the time concept for the space battles. Changing how time flows for a specific event or area would have drastic consequences for the whole game. I mean, if a battle would be over in say two days there is no way i could send in any support troops.
Some say especially this would be more realistic, and I also see their point.
But in all the battles I have had so far, even though the animation shows a swirl of torpedoes and laser fire and ships circling each other or a Starbase.
But pretty quickly after a battle is won, all space stations (not the planets) also fall into my hands. I mean, the battle animation is just that, a battle animation for me to enjoy.
In reality, ships would take positions, try to hide behind planets or try to avoid direct conflict. This all would take time, and so I can imagine a “real” battle for a star system to take weeks, with the fleets trying to get an advantage over the enemy, before the real fight begins.
Parts of fleets would fight in different places than the main fleet, a fleeing fleet would still have to be chased down and take a stand. All this would take a lot of time.
As I said, after I won a battle, all space stations also fall into my – the victor’s – hands. In reality they would have to be boarded and probably conquered. This would also take some time.
So, we cannot know for sure because for now it’s all happening in our sci-fi literature and in our heads… but I would imagine that a real space-battle for a system could take a few weeks from my fleet entering the system until each space station has been conquered.
To come back to the animation, it only shows 2 fleets fighting each other. But that’s just what it is, an animation for our enjoyment. If we think about what really would take place in a life-or-death battle for a star system, two months seem more realistic to me than just a few hours of ships shooting at each other.
So I think the concept of time in Stellaris is absolutely great.