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Stellaris Dev Diary #194: Intel

Hello everyone!

Last week we started talking about some of the changes we’re making to establishing first contact, and as promised, today we will continue talking about how you can learn more about alien empires.

All of the things we are talking about today is work in progress and may not accurately reflect the finished product. That said, we still want to hear your thoughts and read your feedback!

Background
It always felt like there was so much missing potential when it came to learning more about alien civilizations in the game. We didn’t like that you had so much information as soon as you established communication with an alien empire – all of their borders would be revealed, and the diplomatic window would reveal most of the other information. We aim to change a lot of that.

We want alien civilizations to feel more mysterious and unknown. We want the experience of learning more about alien empires to be an equally important and fun aspect of exploration.

Fog of War
As we briefly showed last week, we are making some changes to fog of war, and what type of information you will be getting about other empires.

You will no longer see all of the systems and borders occupied by the empire you have recently contacted, but it will now instead be tied to how much Intel you have. This really makes alien empires feel way more mysterious, which is something that we really like.

1606994201224.png

The information on the empire to the galactic south-east is very limited. We can see their homeworld and the borders explored by our science ship.

1606994215499.png

The galaxy as seen from the yellow empire in the top-right. There are a bunch of empires that we know very little about, and there are still more that are undiscovered.

Intel
Like mentioned above, our primary objective is to make alien empires feel more mysterious and unknown. We wanted to hide information and allow you to learn more about other empires as you gain more Intel on them. Our goal is to make the Intel game a part of the exploration aspect of Stellaris.

1606995038428.png

An alien empire recently established communications with us. Friends..?

Let’s take a look at how we have designed the Intel game to work.

First off there is Intel, which is a value between 0 and 100. You have a current Intel value, and you have a “target” Intel value, up to which it can grow. You usually have an Intel floor, which is the lowest value it can be, depending on a couple of factors such as:
  • Diplomatic Pacts (Research Agreements, Commercial Pacts etc.)
  • Trust
  • REDACTED (doesn’t look like anything to you)

1606994226596.png

Depending on things like diplomatic pacts, trust or other things, your Intel will grow over time.

Intel Categories
Information is split between different Intel Categories, such as Government, Military, Diplomatic, Economic, Technology. Categories can have different Intel Levels as well, ranging from None to Full. The Intel categories and their levels are what determines what information you have access to. Here are some examples:
  • Low Government Intel (Intel: 10) would reveal basic things like empire name, authority, ethics, capital location.
  • Low Military Intel (Intel: 40) would reveal starbases and relative military power.
  • Medium Government Intel (Intel: 40) would reveal civics and origin.
  • Medium Diplomacy Intel (Intel: 50) would reveal the opinion breakdown and let us see which diplomatic pacts they have with other empires.
The Intel you have on another empire heavily influences the Intel Categories, but it is not the only driving factor. It is also possible to have a higher Intel level in a certain category than what you would normally get from your level of Intel. One such example is Intel Reports, and we’ll talk about some other examples in future dev diaries.

Intel Reports
Intel Reports allow you to gain more information in a certain category, on a timed basis. It would be, for example, possible to gain an Intel Report which lasts for 720 days and gives you a High level of Military Intel, whereas otherwise High Military Intel might require you to have 80 Intel on the empire.

Stale Intel
It is said that knowledge is power, and intel is a form of knowledge. Power usually fades, and so does Intel. It is possible to lose access to information that was previously accessible. In some cases, this information will now be displayed as stale.

1606994248796.png

Intel, now in the scent of working from home for months.

The last information you had about the empire was that they were far weaker than you on many accounts, but perhaps they have strengthened their fleets by now? Stale Intel can also mean that you may no longer see if the borders for an empire change or not.

-------

That's it for this week! Hopefully you've gained some Intel into how the game is changing for the upcoming expansion :)
 
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I hope government category (ethics and civics) aren't hard to discover as the screenshots suggest... because it would make less sense: even the isolationist would want other xenos to know that they are in fact, isolationists.
 
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Tamwin5

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I hope government category (ethics and civics) aren't hard to discover as the screenshots suggest... because it would make less sense: even the isolationist would want other xenos to know that they are in fact, isolationists.

That sort of isolationism would be mainly apparent from diplomatic policy, which from the screenshots is visible even with no intel (as with 10 intel and diplomatic visibility at "none" you still see it). So they are telling people "we don't care about you, stay away". Personally I'm very glad that ethics and civics are hidden, as it means taking a civic that specializes in more "evil" stuff (say, criminal heritage or barbaric despoilers) isn't immediately apparent.

Something that might be a mechanic (unclear at this point) is if there is a way to just tell other empires stuff like "These are our borders, don't cross" or "hey we have a defensive pact with the blorg empire, don't attack". If so, then there might also be a mechanic (possibly locked behind a civic/tradition/AP) to fake that info. Even if it isn't. I'm liking the way the current system looks (the exceptions being that the homeworld should be more hidden and that map icons are too revealing of empire size/location).
 
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styroler

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Information that you do not have details on may be obfuscated to varying degrees.

There are some things that you may be able to infer before being able to prove it - for example, if you find a pop with Gaia World Habitability, well... You've probably figured out what their origin is.
One thing that would be kinda cool to add building on this concept is the ability for some shadier empires to artificially boost their diplomatic power using intel (and the obviously coming espionage) by creating a sort of futuristic ghost (dummy) army like in WW2 (and hoi4). This would make them look way more powerful, but maybe could be revealed by another empire who finds out their secret. In order to not make it too powerful though only certain governments like crime syndicates should be able to do it, since they are by nature don't have as bureaucratic governments as most empires so they could get away with pretending they have some secret private navy hidden in the depths of a galactic nebula and intimidate other empires with this non-existent navy for a while.
 
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Peepijeep

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With Intel, the civics "Shadow Council" and "Cutthroat Politics" can get more flavor.
 
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With Intel, the civics "Shadow Council" and "Cutthroat Politics" can get more flavor.
It wouldn't surprise me if the main focus of the paid expansion is Shadow Councils getting expanded the same way Megacorporations were during the economy rework.
 
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Millbot

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I see intel and the first contact rework being great excuses to rework the following

-Enigmatic Engineering. Probably could turn this into the perk that lets people make it harder for other empires to established first contact with them and gather fresh intel on them as well. Depending on how it's worked, this could make it a good viable niche gameplay perk. The best thing, is that it further erodes technology ascendancy's hold on be perk number one (I'd have to go look at meta stuff, but I do know voidborne will bump it to slot two in some void dweller setups).

-Shadow council, IMO this is essentially a trap civic and that's before we even get into how their is an issue with some of the government types this benefits. Remove the influence cost reduction on this for election and rework it into something far more interesting. IMO maybe give it a bureaucracy modifier, but it's main thing is that opposing empires have to spend intel resources to figure out what your actual government is. So a normal empire with this could appear as a democracy to everyone that hasn't done the intel work needed to see that they are really a dictatorship and what their civics really are. Could even have an interesting impact on galactic opinion, maybe you get the shadow council modifier which is a -10 if they haven't figured out your government, but since they don't see what your government is, you don't eat the usually maluses that would impose. (as an aside, I don't see cutthroat politics getting touched).

-Sensor tech could get some interesting changes to it's value.

-Depending on what they do with starbase stuff, this could create a scenario where you might want to invest in some early starbase defenses to keep garbage empires from abducting your citizens and dissecting them. This is turn could be a route to revisit eternal vigilance and grasp the void perks, both of which probably should be combined. Depending on how things pan out, you could justify only giving 2 or 3 more starbases to the cap, if eternal vigilance and grasp the void are combined into one perk (assuming we get a nifty civil infrastructure rework).
 
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I see intel and the first contact rework being great excuses to rework the following

-Enigmatic Engineering. Probably could turn this into the perk that lets people make it harder for other empires to established first contact with them and gather fresh intel on them as well. Depending on how it's worked, this could make it a good viable niche gameplay perk. The best thing, is that it further erodes technology ascendancy's hold on be perk number one (I'd have to go look at meta stuff, but I do know voidborne will bump it to slot two in some void dweller setups).
Interstellar dominion >>> technological ascendancy. I don't think it's even close; if you're doing a military rush the claim cost is amazing, and if you aren't you want to expand as much as possible peacefully, so the outpost cost is amazing.
 
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-Depending on what they do with starbase stuff, this could create a scenario where you might want to invest in some early starbase defenses to keep garbage empires from abducting your citizens and dissecting them.
Sounds good to me. This might also be represented by the eternal struggle of Cloaking vs Sensors.
If your empire has a level 3 sensor tech, good luck to all level 1 spies trying to abduct your pops. Maybe the FE should get also level 6 sensors in order to cope with any intrusions into their empire.
 
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I really like these changes, but I have two main concerns:

If envoys are becoming more important for intel and such, what is going to be done to potentially increase the ways of getting more envoys? I know giving too many envoys is a lot, but right now you kind of already have an envoy "tax" in that you get penalized for not having an envoy in your federation and you need one in the galactic community if you want to do anything there, plus an additional one if you want to do any diplomatic actions with anyone not already buddy-buddy with you. Needing more for intel purposes too might require re-evaluating the amount of envoys you get an when, and where you explicitly need them.

Secondly, this line worries me a little:

Low Government Intel (Intel: 10) would reveal basic things like empire name, authority, ethics, capital location.

Can the priorities of intel be changed via policies? I really like the idea of playing an empire that shrouds its homeworld from potential enemies, (as seen in many a sci-fi) but if homeworld location is so low, that's basically impossible. I'd ideally like to have policies that would let me set how much I care keeping certain intel about me secure.
 
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I really like these changes, but I have two main concerns:

If envoys are becoming more important for intel and such, what is going to be done to potentially increase the ways of getting more envoys? I know giving too many envoys is a lot, but right now you kind of already have an envoy "tax" in that you get penalized for not having an envoy in your federation and you need one in the galactic community if you want to do anything there, plus an additional one if you want to do any diplomatic actions with anyone not already buddy-buddy with you. Needing more for intel purposes too might require re-evaluating the amount of envoys you get an when, and where you explicitly need them.
I don't think the number of envoys needs a major change. I like the idea that these are a very limited resource and you need to make tough choices about where to focus your diplomatic power.
 
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This leads to all sorts of possibilities

intel building hq and local offices for regional intelligence functions. (I want to see a Barryan
ImpSec building!)

Leaders who run your intelligence services. Mobile figures (like scientists) who can perform intel/espionage/counter intel and other missions like scientists do. They do the wreckage sifting vs scientists.

Perhaps have an embassy you can build with foreign nations? If so then an intel attache you can add?

Stealth intel scouts?
Intel packages, sensor fits to add to special example ships?

Or how about make a corvette weapons set that lets you configure the scout functions to a degree? Or even generic modules so you can fit out a larger warship to also do scouting and science ala the star trek federation? Multiple give you an advantage and multiple working a problem.

So in place of weapons on ships
Science module (labs/sensors/scientist lab)
Military intel module (military intelligence leader)
Long range sensor fit (regional border sensor thats mobile) lets you peek into a neighboring
stealth modules/ A Module vs weapons

As to missions for the intelligence folks
- conceal a force of ships
- fabricate a force of ships
- Conceal or buff up the apparent situation on a planet or region
- Perform espionage and sabotage on other powers
- Perform local counter intel on your own side ( internal secret police special work)
Hire mercenaries through cut outs that are thus not obvious who they fight for? So you can have someone on the other side of an otherwise closed wormhole/jump point doing some
Dirty work for you? (Dendarri Free Mercenary company)

Hmm what about if imperial an imperial auditor leader position that can do special things. Intel/science/troubleshooting? Can we have a Miles the Auditor to go fix problems and break things?
 
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Of course open and egalitarian societies have a harder time concealing things than closed societies.
 
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Peepijeep

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Enforcers could be used to conceal your empire. So Enforcers would be more useful. Even if there is no crime on a planet.
 
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hydra66f

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Can we have the ability into pumping intrigue into the system to make it appear stronger/ weaker than we actually are?
 

Dr. Zeto

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I would love it to see it adding more value to criminal megacorps.
Maybe they are getting some Intel boosts. And it would be great if they could use the Intel about an Empirie as trading goods.
 

The Shacks

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let me play tall and hide my homeworld, I always try do this in clan Mps anyway. Something satisfying about just biding your time on the fringe of the galaxy for hours listening to your mates in discord have no idea where you are then bam, kill em alll.
 
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TG_Maks

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Its hard to discuss more when you shown us so small amount of future features, but i want one thing you will do - delete Sentry Array from the game.

Or at least remake it.
Because currently its a bad thing eating your PC's resources.
Usually i dont build it, but sometimes conquer it from AI. And cant delete them, cant turn off.
It one of most annoying thing in the game.
 
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