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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Ezumiyr

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There being different categories for intel is a good thing ... provided that's something that a player can actively interact with.
I'm more worried that the AI will remain very passive regarding Intel, which could lead to even less important conflicts between AIs.
Intel is a great mechanic for players or in PvP games. But AIs are notoriously bad at managing that kind of mechanics (and as a result most AIs are "told" to ignore entirely fogs of war and that kind of mechanic). Here it looks like diplomatic interactions are limited by Intel. But how would an AI decide to declare a war if they don't know the relative power of a potential enemy?
Will that lead to the AI declaring "stupid" wars that it has no chance to win, or on the contrary will that make the AI so careful that it won't declare a war without enough intel to tell that? Or will the AI always know relative power, so when it is good to attack?
 
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It's interesting how this change has some implications for sensor range tech, sensor components and sensor starbase modules. Might be neat if this creates a scenario where you could say have two different sensor options to go with. One being you sacrifice combat accuracy to be able to see into more systems and the other where you sacrifice range to have better combat accuracy. This then also creates an interesting choice in how much of your fleet is running with long range sensors. The more you have on long range sensors, the less effective your fleet is at combat; however, if you only have one ship with such sensors, you do run the risk of losing a ton of sight if it gets destroyed.

Will also be interesting to see how this impacts the sensor array. I'd assume it probably makes the structure more valuable than it currently is, to the point where it might be a higher priority for certain playstyles than it currently is.
 
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This all looks good, but I am skeptical towards Intel Value.
As far as I understand, the main goal is to drive up the Intel Value which leads to revealing everything eventually?
I don't have to choose what I want to try to reveal?

You mention categories of Intel, but as I read and understand it, it's more like mile stones on a progress bar (similar to unlocking perks in Federations) instead of decisions what I want to uncover with said Intel points or have weighting for specific categories.

Correct me if I am wrong (I hope I am).
 
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View attachment 658443
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.

One minor problem here is that you can infer an empire's size by looking at their flag size on the galaxy map. For example we can see some empires in the Western part of the galaxy are quite small, but Space Vampires are fairly large.

Also just a suggestion, but on the issue of giving away too much information for free, it would be interesting if you had the ability to purposefully lower your diplomatic weight in order to mask your real power. So your military weight is truly massive, but those with low intel think it's only modest. This is balanced by the fact that your votes in the galactic community and any federation reflect that reduced number.
 
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Will the psionic path have better intel than the other ascension paths? It seems like it would be a natural fit, that mind readers and precogs would be better informed.
 
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Also... anyone have any ideas what the hell "REDACTED" is, at this point? It's not Intel, we already see the Espionage tab, so I'm guessing it's not espionage. It was expressed as a percentage in last week's dev diary (ie. +33% REDACTED).
 
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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.

In certain sci-fi universes, the homeworld is often one of the most carefully guarded secrets. Any reason why the location of the homeworld is exposed upon contact?
 
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Does stale intel remember the absolute or relative value it was at? For example if I find out early game that one of my neighbors was equivalent in all categories, then have stale info for 50+ years, will it show as equivalent[stale] because that's what they last were compared to me, or pathetic[stale] because my current empire utterly outclasses what they were 50 years ago?

I'll also jump on the train of "empire capital should be more hidden". This is mostly for the story/rp, but also on the early conquest front people often just snag the capital as it's the most pop dense and completely cripples the other empire. Protecting capital location might make that a little harder.

I'm actually fine with the origin being a mid-tier intel thing. Assuming the knowledge of location of capital doesn't actually give vision, they won't be able to see things like if there is a gateway or bunch of habitats. Primary species too wouldn't be readily available. I do think that the government flavor type (stuff like evangelizing zealots or peaceful traders) should be at the same level as civics, as its often a dead give away what civics an empire has.

How much do the size and location of the empire icon on the fog of war map correspond to their actual size and location? I think it'd be good to have some obscuration but also an upper cap on how big the icon can be: that way you never know if an empire on the borders of your intel is absolutely massive.

Having opinion at intel level 10 makes it very easy to find out if your neighbors are genocidal. Which I suppose makes sense and is a good thing for balance, but it makes my secret fanatic purifier dreams all the harder :p
 
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would it be harder to get information from an isolated empire as opposed to a super frendly one?
 
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O.K., I am in love with the idea of this. Fog of War is one of my favourite mechanics in Strategy Games. I hope Isolationist Empires and the Inward Perfection archetype will now have a truly 'isolated' feel, too. It would be super cool to just live in a galaxy, devoid of any knowledge of the outside, just focusing on yourself...

I think isolationist and inward perfection empires would be the opposite. Trying to have perfect information of the outside xeno threat without giving any information away.

I see some issues with this. The victory screen, which shows the exact amount of tech points another empire has for example. Or in military/economy wise if u want to know the exact power there u just go into the trade screen and max out the ressources the other empire is able to trade. This is already used to see, if someone with inferior fleet would be able to fastproduce a overwhelming fleet just by looking at the alloys per month and what is at stock.

This is a real problem. Without changes you coud just circumvent this new system. Making it somewhat pointless.

Will the psionic path have better intel than the other ascension paths? It seems like it would be a natural fit, that mind readers and precogs would be better informed.
Except against synths and robots. What mind is there to read in computers?
 
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Will the psionic path have better intel than the other ascension paths? It seems like it would be a natural fit, that mind readers and precogs would be better informed.

It was confirmed in a previous dev diary they would benefit somehow when it comes to this kind of thing :)

Psionic Ascension will now be the only one without pop growth bonus.
Yes, this is true. They'll have some pretty potent bonuses when it comes to R̵Ę̶͐D̵̩̄A̸͙̓C̶̢͝T̶̩̆Ę̸̈D̴ though, we'll talk more about that in a few weeks.
 
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This is a real problem. Without changes you coud just circumvent this new system. Making it somewhat pointless.
I think the best they could do at that point is to make it a % instead of points.

Distant Worlds: Universe's victory screen shows how many % and empire has done to reach their goal (species usually have species-specific goals). You know they are getting close, but you don't see specifics.
 
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Foxosaur

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Loving this update and last weeks update from you but I would like to ask openly (in front of the community) - as Game Director, what about some of the huge bugs this game has (for which there is hundreds of little ones too)? Will you do a general fixup? Or is PDS's work ethic purely on the features and DLC and never on the over arching game? I think we could all do with a "direction" your taking Stellaris, which I'm sure you and the team are privvy too - there are even things that get labelled now as "by design" by your community team but to everyone outside the gold fish bowl - would call a bug... It isn't a good look at times.
 
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Pancakelord

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I think it would be extremely cool to have the ability to hide that you are a fanatical purifier or a determined exterminator or slaver. This would not only allow for suprise attacks, but id like that for roleplay purposes aswell- especially in multiplayer.
It'd also be a nice way to quietly commit Xenocide (eating pops / livestock / purges etc) without taking the opinion debuff (-1000)
  • Currently if I invade a primitive world and kill everyone before meeting an empire they wont know about my atrocities.
  • If I meet that empire, then do it, they'll know.
Secret genocide when?
 
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Gilbert95

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It may require you to also have the Intel to make such claims or demands (vassalization etc. as well). Final design is still to be determined.
Please spend time exploring the possibilities around this. I think there is a good opportunity to create a progression in the diplomatic game where certain agreements, diplomatic actions, etc. are not available until high enough level intel is available. Coupled with last week's updates to first contact, you could have something like this:
  • No knowledge - First contact protocalls
  • No intel - First contact war or peace
  • Low intel - Conquer CB only; NAP agreements; direct resource trades/bribes
  • Medium intel - Humiliate and subjugation CBs; defensive pacts; commerce/research agreements
  • High intel - Form federation; other new interesting diplomatic options :)
 
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UltimateTobi

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Please spend time exploring the possibilities around this. I think there is a good opportunity to create a progression in the diplomatic game where certain agreements, diplomatic actions, etc. are not available until high enough level intel is available. Coupled with last week's updates to first contact, you could have something like this:
  • No knowledge - First contact protocalls
  • No intel - First contact war or peace
  • Low intel - Conquer CB only; NAP agreements; direct resource trades/bribes
  • Medium intel - Humiliate and subjugation CBs; defensive pacts; commerce/research agreements
  • High intel - Form federation; other new interesting diplomatic options :)
I would loosen these restrictions. Why do I need to be superior to someone to demand subjugation? Let me try, and if I fail, they subjugate me (or whatever war goal they chose).
I think having CBs based on Intel progress is more gamey than the current system.
And diplomatic options for that matter (of course, you can't do deals if you haven't done the First Contact phase, but anything beyond that should be free game).
 
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HighKings_Ruin

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Just want to drop my vote with moving the capital reveal to mid or high intel requirements. The potential to shake up how early wars go is big along with the logic of it.
 
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