Paradox Interactive have swung into action over the last few months by beginning a push to update their current game offerings with versions that install their own launcher, currently dubbed Paradox Launcher v2. They claim it's because they want to unify their game offerings and for those games that provide multiplayer support, they want to try and bring all that together in one place while feeding you updates and news and giving you somewhere to manage your modifications. Basically they want to shovel shit in your face while getting their launcher on as many systems as possible, most likely for a future attempt to launch a rival platform to things like Steam and Origin.
This article largely concerns my experiences with Stellaris which I bought from GOG.com (for Windows, so sorry Linux and Mac users but I can't directly help you guys, but I can't imagine the methods differ that much). With Stellaris the Launcher is installed when you install version 2.4 or later of the game; at which point the shortcut gets changed to point to an executable named
dowser.exe. This is actually the launcher's installation program and runs the app after completion. The fix to get rid of this extra crap is actually simple; change
stellaris.exe in the shortcut's target field:
You can obviously gain access to the shortcut (in its default location) by opening the start menu, right-clicking on the Stellaris shortcut and selecting
Open file location or indeed just use the above screenshot to find the folder (look at the address bar). Prior to version 2.4 of Stellaris the game had a launcher built-in which was largely superficial and tolerable to most degrees as it could be bypassed, again by editing the shortcut and adding
-skiplauncher in the target box. Now with 2.4 you don't even need to do this, you can even fully uninstall Paradox Launcher v2 if you let accidentally it install to begin with, as it isn't needed for the game to launch.
I'll just briefly bring up two important points however: Firstly this fix has to be done differently for Steam (I'll explain how below). Secondly, for the GOG version I've yet to explore how you disable DLC packs or activate mods, since DLC at least prior to all this was handled via the old launcher (which as I say was built-in to the game). Since this functionality was separated and implemented into the new external launcher, I'm unsure how it now works, but I suspect the launcher just sends command line arguments to the game's executable upon launch, so it might be simple enough to replicate it. I will update this eventually with details on how to do it when I get time to look into it further (assuming I can figure it out at all).
Anyway for the Steam release, to disable the Launcher you just need to go into the game's properties (right click the game name) and Iset it's launch options to accomplish the same thing. I don't have Stellaris on Steam so I cannot test it, but you should only need to put
"stellaris" %command% in the launch options for it to work.
This method for Steam is actually fairly universal as you can use it to do the same for Prison Architect by using
"Prison Architect64" %command% in the game's launch options (I do own this game on Steam and can confirm it works). It even works for other games too that have these kind of launchers. Basically, if you have a game on Steam, Paradox or otherwise and they implement a shite launcher that is a seperate application to the actual game, you should be able to bypass it using this method as the launch option is essentially telling Steam to launch the game directly instead. Just put the same code as above except change the bit in the quotation marks to be the same as name of the game's main executable.
Cities: Skylines has become the latest casualty of this annoying trend by Paradox and I expect others have (or will have) too. Luckily as I suspected you can bypass it entirely by using the same command as above in the launch options for the game; in this case using
"Cities" %command% will work. Unfortunately I still haven't had any time to inspect Stellaris to figure out how to disable/enable DLC and mods but I promise I will try and get to that sooner rather than later.