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Stellaris Dev Diary #196: [REDACTED]

-ðsžšåÞя©Â£ŠŘ§Ů½æآé-
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.

1610463889475.png

Build Spy Network diplomatic action

1610463907045.png

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.


Changes

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!)

1610463931398.png

1610463939944.png

Some civics lend themselves nicely to covert activities.

1610463949200.png

1610463957215.png

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

1610463963720.png

Tell us your secrets.

1610465981889.png

No, really.

1610463971674.png

1610463977936.png

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.

1610463984843.png

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!

ops.png
 
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Eladrin

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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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The_Draco

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Well, if i think about it, it would also be somehow realistic if the envoy is Diplomat and Spy-Master at the same time, he would stand close to the "enemy" as an Ambassador, can use his diplomatic channels to share information and his diplomatic immunity (could somehow) safe him from harms if is second job as Spy-Master gets detected, in that case there is no extra envoy needed to create a spy-network.
But i think espionage in stellaris is a much deeper and more complex thing to say an envoy can be both at the same time, and thats the point where it would make sense if you can decide who of your envoys is the better diplomat and who has the better traits to be a Spy-Master, who better works in GC or Federation and who would be more effective in harming or improving relations, so...

MAKE ENVOYS LEADERS! (please)
 

Voltion99

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Apologies if this has been answered before, but it would be pretty cool if you could influence elections in neighboring stellar empires; like tip the scales between two factions and allow the weaker candidate to take power. (If you win you'd gain a considerable asset to do your bidding as well). In return for this aspect, some sort of "immune response" to espionage should be possible a la a "Red Scare" type scenario where your population will begin to fear outside involvement in internal affairs. This anxiety might build up over time, starting as fringe theorists claiming aliens stole elections, or that the emperor is funneling energy to their enemies, then progress to general paranoia among the population and administration. Then, a faction or elite could seize upon this fear in the population as an opportunity for a power grab, and begin a purge of the bureaucracy. This is to say, that the people within empires should have SOME response to spies and espionage occuring around them.
 
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SeekingEtermity

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Damn, didn't know that. Reallywish I didn't :/ That isn't common knowledge I don't think
I assume you're referring to the thing where different AIs use different weapon and defense mixes? It's hard to avoid noticing, if you play for a while, because the AI will cheerfully build absolutely brain-dead ship designs (100% plasma even when you're shield-heavy! Mix of disruptors and anything non-penetrating, which sucks against literally everything! 2/3 shields against somebody who uses strike craft! etc.) based on these preferences, and it becomes pretty easy to note the patterns. But yeah, they're not exactly documented in-game but they're on the wiki.

You can (but perhaps shouldn't) learn these and use them. There are also mods, which either randomize these preferences or remove them entirely (the better AI mods pretty much completely overhaul how the AI designs its ships, reducing variation in AI designs that you see in exchange for no longer being 50% more powerful than the enemy fleet even when you're a little behind on nominal fleet strength). Of course, those mods make you ineligible for achievements, because obviously it's not an achievement if you have to actually put real effort into it.
 
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Jimjam85

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Looking forward to playing multiplayer with this. I think that is where it will shine.

Hopefully you will be able to bribe admirals. Would be great to hear the squeals of my friend on discord if he loses control of a fleet and watch it attack that big powerful but peaceful hive mind next to him.

Also would be interested to see how big sabotage can go. If you have specialised alloy planet which produces 60% of your alloys and that gets hit so all your forges blow up it could be devastating before a big war.

Spy actions need to be potentially really powerful to be worthwhile. If there is a lot of depth to this feature then could quite possibly see my multiplayer speed default to normal late early/ mid game.
 
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StellarisFan1

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Looking forward to playing multiplayer with this. I think that is where it will shine.

Hopefully you will be able to bribe admirals. Would be great to hear the squeals of my friend on discord if he loses control of a fleet and watch it attack that big powerful but peaceful hive mind next to him.

Also would be interested to see how big sabotage can go. If you have specialised alloy planet which produces 60% of your alloys and that gets hit so all your forges blow up it could be devastating before a big war.

Spy actions need to be potentially really powerful to be worthwhile. If there is a lot of depth to this feature then could quite possibly see my multiplayer speed default to normal late early/ mid game.
Sabotage should not be very strong, as it will upset the balance of the game.
 
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The_Draco

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well i think espionage should upset the balance of the game, cause atm there is no balance, research based materialists (synthetics even more) are op everything else...not, especially psionics are way to weak to compare, so espionage should give them the oportunity to become as strong and powerfull as synthetcs already are
 

Liggi

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The only thing that upset me was that it would not be possible to sabotage the leaders of the empire. :(

I'm not sure why people are so interested in this, to be honest. The Leader of your empire barely makes a difference, and it'd be annoying to have constant elections in a Democracy because 6 different empires keep assassinating your leader over and over again. I think it sounds more interesting in practice than it would actually be in reality.
 
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The only thing that upset me was that it would not be possible to sabotage the leaders of the empire. :(
To you, and all "sabotage should be amazing" enthusiasts:

Imagine twelve AIs all doing it to you.
 
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Calvax

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The only thing that upset me was that it would not be possible to sabotage the leaders of the empire. :(

Assassination of leaders makes sense in games like CK which are heavily character driven, stellaris isn't that kind of game. Outside of roleplay leaders are just buffs, having them be assassinated isn't going to do much the vast majority of the time. It's just going to be a frustrating "guess it's time to hire a new leader" wack-a-mole.
 
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Askorti

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To you, and all "sabotage should be amazing" enthusiasts:

Imagine twelve AIs all doing it to you.
Well, then perhaps there should be mechanics that would make such scenarios unlikely...

As in, countries that have no reason to sabotage you, won't do it.
Also, sabotage, when found, could give CBs, which would be a reason to refrain from performing certain actions if you don't want to provoke the victim into smacking you in retaliation.

There are a lot of good ways to resolve this. Making features toothless for such reasons is a sign of lack of dedication, not a reasonable approach.
 
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Liggi

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One thing: if Manipulation missions let us increase Ethics Attraction in our target empire, PLEASE let us choose which ethics attraction to increase. I want to play out stories like stoking authoritarianism in a rival democracy to give us an excuse to "intervene" even if I'm a democracy, or pushing a bordering empire next to a Spiritualist rival to be more Materialist to push them to hate each other more and give me more opportunities to catch them at their weakest.
 
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-ðsžšåÞя©Â£ŠŘ§Ů½æآé-
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.

View attachment 669526
Build Spy Network diplomatic action

View attachment 669527
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.


Changes

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!)

View attachment 669528
View attachment 669529
Some civics lend themselves nicely to covert activities.

View attachment 669530
View attachment 669531
Others can modify Counter Espionage, making the lives of enemy Spy Networks easier or more difficult.

View attachment 669532
Tell us your secrets.

View attachment 669543
No, really.

View attachment 669533
View attachment 669534
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.

View attachment 669535
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!

View attachment 669541

What will this mean for the Sentry Array?
 

SeraphAscending

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Following this thread it quite clearly shows that people have polarized opposite opinions on sabotage/assassinations.

I feel like most people are saying
"it's a frustrating mechanic in most other games"
"Just a whack-a-mole-micromanagement problem"

While a lot of others feel strongly about sabotage to be a powerful means of waging war.

I very much understand both and even kind of agree with both sentiments at the same time. And i think the people in this thread should help find a consensus that most people can live with.

My personal suggestions would be to primarily turn mechanics to gain buffs instead of destroying things (or people). For example:
  • Instead of sabotage damaging enemy fleets, you get an intel-bonus for hacked communications (i.e.: )
    • +X% evasion against target empire for Y months
    • +X sensor range in systems of target empire for Y months
    • +X% army damage against target empire for Y months
  • Or exposed weakspots in fleets/starbases
    • +X% Shield/Armor penetration against target empire for Y months
    • +X% energy/kinetic/explosive/strike craft weapon damage against target empire for Y months
    • +X% Shield/Armor/Hull damage against target empire for Y months
  • Instead of forcing enemies to whack-a-mole replace leaders you assassinated, you get analysis on how the enemy operates and learn from that
    • +X% leader experience gain for same leader type for Y months
    • +X% research speed for same research field for Y months
    • +X% effectiveness of improve/harm relations against target empire for Y months
    • +X% reduced effectiveness of improve/harm relations against us by target empire for Y months
Things like that should be powerful (especially the more limited the type of buff is) and also be of significant duration.
I think it might also be important that the better you are at espionage (and the better the other empire is at countering it) the more significant the buffs should be.

It would also reduce incentive to dogpile sabotage/assassinations on someone to effectively stunlock their economy.

Other buffs you could potentially gain would be backdoors. i.e.
  • +X% covert op success chance
  • +X% covert op speed
  • +X% reduced chance of critical failures for covert ops
On other operations i think influencing internal politics and events from that would be different as it would be long term plots and not a dead leader per year. Thus not incurring a significant micromanagement penalty.
It forces Authoritarian dictators to keep those pesky egalitarians in check, make the materialists wary of growing cults as well as reminding pacifists that sometimes war can be started internally by a militarist push. It would make internal politics more relevant.
Same goes for Denunciations and making empires hate or love each other. It is not a sudden "whoops, my emperor got assassinated... again... 5th time this year.", but a long term plot you could potentially be noticing - even if you don't know who's behind it.

I am aware that leaving out destructive sabotage or leader assassinations might be met with discontent by some people valuing roleplay highly, but we do also have to consider the people who would rather avoid more micromanagement in the late game by constantly replacing buildings and leaders.
 
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Pale Blue

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I am aware that leaving out destructive sabotage or leader assassinations might be met with discontent by some people valuing roleplay highly, but we do also have to consider the people who would rather avoid more micromanagement in the late game by constantly replacing buildings and leaders.

Killing leaders or destroying buildings is not just annoying but also useless. Destroy an alloy foundry, congrats I have another hundred. To have any impact you would need to wipe all districts of an ecu. What kind of cover ops should accomplish that?
Some people also suggest to sabotage megastructures. They are already rather useless and a vanity project. Do we really need to kill any incentive to build megastructures at all?

Another thing I am wondering do people realise the ai can’t even handle their economy without others meddling in. Direct action like sabotage would just kill the ai. Pdx got the ai in a somewhat working state. I can’t imagine they would willingly undo that, but maybe they miss the player complains about ai?
 
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Askorti

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My personal suggestions would be to primarily turn mechanics to gain buffs instead of destroying things (or people). For example:

Personally I do not like this idea, as in effect it just becomes another way of stacking bonuses, which you already do via technology.
All it would do is just make you more OP than before in things you already did before, that is warfare. It would not add any appreciable gameplay to the game, just more green numbers for you.

No offence to you, but I think it would make it boring and unfulfilling and, just another source of micro to get the same things, just more of them.

In my opinion espionage should be the exact opposite of this, it should be actions that have tangible effects. In my dreams I envision that it would allow you to influence other countries, and relations between them without using your fleets.
Because to be quite honest, warfare in Stellaris is very stale, and the way it currently is, quite boring. So I'm itching for a way to influence the galaxy in another way. Especially since the big "diplomacy expansion" fell so short of achieving anything tangible.
 
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