Stellaris Dev Diary #196: [REDACTED]

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Stellaris Game Director
Paradox Staff
Apr 4, 2019
Attn: Spymaster Utra, daughter of Roba,

Our operatives have provided information on the activities of the vile Paradoxians. Despite their attempts at secrecy, we have managed to acquire some intel. The images our agents have taken appear to be of crude prototypes that they are still refining, but we thought it best to pass this dispatch along now so you can better prepare for the future.

Agent Tiny Sorbet signing off.

-‚ا© ŘŮ æ¢Ã£»£æ¢Ã -•

Hello and happy new year!

In Dev Diaries 193 and 194 we explored the mysteries of first contact, hidden information, and intelligence gathering through diplomatic means.

It may come as a surprise to many, but sadly there are starfaring civilizations out there with whom peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial diplomatic ties are simply not an option. Against these threats, it may prove useful to utilize the more intrigue-oriented members of your society, and turn to espionage.

Espionage and covert operations are a frequently requested feature that seem to be natural extensions of the intel system that we’ve described in the recent dev diaries. With the obfuscation of knowledge, naturally there should be systems to acquire that information.

Envoys and Spy Networks

Envoys will have a new diplomatic task available to them called Build Spy Network. They will take their place as the Spymaster of a network of covert operatives and agents that they will grow in power over time. Needless to say, the other empire will not be informed of your envoy's new position.


Build Spy Network diplomatic action


Baby steps.

While an envoy is managing a Spy Network as Spymaster, the Network will grow over time - quickly at first, but slower as the Network gains in strength. Networks are far faster to build in large, sprawling empires, and if the target empire’s Encryption rating is much stronger than the spying empire’s Decryption, growth may also slow to a crawl. (Machine Intelligences have a natural knack for Encryption and Decryption, while Hives and psionic empires tend to excel at Counter Espionage.)

Unmanaged Spy Networks (those without an envoy directing them) pause all ongoing activities and rapidly decay.

Spy Networks initially cap out at a maximum level of 50. Several things such as civics or edicts can increase it, and if you have acquired (disposable) Assets within the target empire they also provide a boost - each Asset increases the Spy Network cap in that empire by 5.

Assets are useful pawns, hacked backdoors, deviant drones, or other resources that could come in useful to your Spy Network. An Asset could be a disgruntled Bureaucrat that's been passed over promotion one too many times, a faulty Pheromone Emitter that your operatives have found a way to manipulate, or even a Logistics System that you've hacked into. More details about the acquisition of Assets and their uses will be in a future diary.


Here’s a non-comprehensive sample of some civics, ascension perks, and edicts that have been updated during this espionage pass. Several new Encryption and Decryption related technologies have also been added. (Numbers are still subject to change!)



Some civics lend themselves nicely to covert activities.



Others can modify Counter Espionage, making the lives of enemy Spy Networks easier or more difficult.


Tell us your secrets.


No, really.



More of the new Edicts.

Putting Your Spies to Work

Now that you’ve built up your Spy Network, what can you do with it?

Back in Dev Diary 194 we had a redacted value shown in the Intel breakdown tooltip - Spy Network level is that third hidden value alongside Diplomatic Pacts and Trust.


No more redactions here.

While your Spy Network passively provides intelligence, you can also have them be more active. Your Spymaster envoy can send agents out, using the Network's bandwidth ("Spy Power") to run Operations within the targeted empire while they stay safely at their base.

Operations exist in the following major categories:

* Subterfuge - Information gathering and operations that improve the spy network itself
* Sabotage - Ruining things (physical or immaterial)
* Manipulation - Replacing the truth with your own improved version
* Provocations - Don't do these, they're bad

Most Operations also have a subcategory of Government, Diplomacy, Economic, Technology, or Military, matching the Intel Categories.

More details on how to perform Operations (and how Assets can be used to improve them) will be the focus of next week’s diary. See you then!

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Stellaris Game Director
Paradox Staff
Apr 4, 2019
How will work building spying network for FPs which don't create diplomatic relations and don't send envoys?
Fanatic Purifiers will be able to use their envoys to build spy networks. It's not exactly diplomacy.

If I beg will you give us a teaser of what you can do with a Provocation?
You need to keep building your Spy Network up, Provocations need a pretty extensive one to pull off.
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Stellaris Game Director
Paradox Staff
Apr 4, 2019
Will we have a way to counter spying ? Prenvent our tech to be stealing for exemple.
Building up your Counter Espionage value and having high Encryption and Decryption will make it more difficult to run operations within your territory and give you greater chances of causing catastrophic failures for those that dare touch your research databases.

Early iterations had a more active defense, but Counter Espionage felt more like an Envoy tax than an enjoyable experience.

Can we make the leader of our rival have a tragic accident ?
No. Early on we had something like this in the list of possible operations, but part of the difficulty of espionage systems in general is that they have to still be fun when you're the one getting dogpiled by a dozen empires running them on you.

While there are some operations with (sometimes pretty big) negative effects, we were trying to be pretty careful with what they can do, while simultaneously make sure they're worth pursuing. I'll likely go into more of that next week when we talk about burning Assets.
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Stellaris Game Director
Paradox Staff
Apr 4, 2019
No, a Bureau of Espionage would definitely be represented by an Edict rather than a building. Edicts in non-Gestalt Empires represent the creation (or dismantling when cancelled) of powerful bureaucracies that promote specific policies - that's why you can implement Edicts above your Edict capacity at the cost of Administrative capacity.
That's the general idea - edicts can represent additional focus on certain institutions of the empire to a degree.

Incidentally: any plans on making egalitarian rabble good at something?
Egalitarians are pretty good at accumulating Diplomatic Weight from their happy pops. Fleet power does tend to overshadow it later, however.

Are we going to be able to Arm Rebels and Pirates? cause that sounds like something that would be fun
They prefer the terms "privateer" or "freedom fighter".

So, in simple words, what's the difference between Decryption and Counter-Espionage and why are these different values?
Decryption is cracking communications and is passively compared with the other empire's Encryption. Differences in relative *cryption are used to determine magnitude of failures, for instance.

Counter Espionage is active defense within your empire, increasing the chance of that failure occuring.

So what about Criminal Syndicates? Does having illegal branch offices increase your spy network's power in some way? Throw the criminals a bone!
The Disinformation Center is changing a bit, and will have benefits to espionage. A Ruthless Competition / Public Relations / Criminal Syndicate will be very good at what you would expect them to be very good at. (Especially if they're Authoritarian Telepaths.)

Im loyal citizen, but i dont thing i would be happy knowing that someone knows my every move xD
That was the thought there.
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Stellaris Game Director
Paradox Staff
Apr 4, 2019
And yet You made bonus to authoritarian attraction...
The people are generally unhappy at having subdermal tracking implants forced upon them recording everything they're doing, but over time may grow to start agreeing to a degree that "it's keeping us safe!" and "if you don't have anything to hide..." as they are indoctrinated by the state's propaganda.

The Thought Enforcement edict, on the other hand, is explicitly changing your mind for you.

They're both intended to be relatively sinister and dystopian institutions.

Many People said:
<Envoy Counts>
While the number of uses for Envoys are increasing, the number available will also increase.

And that's even before we get into the point that for the vast majority of human history, most of the straight-up unironic-black-ops spies were recruited from / placed in the diplomatic corps.
This is what we were going for here.

In an early iteration, we considered having Build Spy Network be a covert option attached to the overt Improve and Harm Relations. (Possibly with an "expel envoys" option.) We ended up going with the distinct Build Spy Network mission to keep things clearer though.
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