Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Dev Diary #23: Operations Part II - Covert Ops, Doctrines, Prototypes

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LennartGS

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Hi there! In this week's journal, we take a look at Planetfall’s Covert Ops and Doctrine systems. The end of the year is a time of reflection; a time to remember the game systems that did not make it. I’ll describe two failed operation prototypes for your entertainment at the end of this journal.

Covert Operations

Covert Operations allow non-warring players to interact by scheming, spying and sabotaging – hopefully without getting caught! The main palette of operations is shared between players and work closely with the diplomacy systems. Most Covert operations target other players as a whole rather than an army or colony

Covert operations make use of Operational Effectiveness and can also fail as a result, which will notify the targeted player of your actions. The success chance is based on how high the Operational Strength of the user is in comparison to the target’s Operational Defense. The higher the strength, the better the success chance. The higher the defense, the lower the chance of succeeding and remaining undetected.

CovertOpsResearch.jpg

The Covert Ops are found in the bottom blue row of the society tech tree

Covert operations are unlocked by advancing through the Operations Tech Group, and cost energy and Strategic Operation Points to prime before they can be launched. Some of these operations require more strategic operation points than you have available. In these instances, the operation will consume strategic operation points on every following turn until it has accumulated enough to be primed.

When Covert Ops are successful there is a 25% chance of being detected; for unsuccessful ops there is a 75% of being detected. This results in the target player getting Casus Belli against the player being caught.

Here are some example Covert Ops:
  • Fabricate Casus Belli. Uses stolen data and forgery to fabricate a casus belli, justifying war against this player
SelectTarget.jpg

Fabricate_Results.jpg

  • Sensor Jammers – Disable the target’s player hidden unit detection for 5 turns, meaning they will only detect concealed units that are adjacent to t their own stacks and structures, it also means your armies will not appear on the target’s player long range scanners.
  • Internal Purge: Attempts to identify and remove any enemy covert operations affecting you.
InternalPurge.jpg

  • Sabotage with Locals: Attempts to damage the relation of target player with one of its NPC factions
  • Steal Map: Steals map data from target player, revealing area they have explored.
StealMaps.jpg


  • Falsify Atrocities. Expertly falsify grievous war crimes committed by the target player. Target player loses reputation, giving all other players a maximum level of casus belli against that player.
Falsify_Fail.jpg


Doctrines


Doctrines are sustained operations that have a global effect on your entire empire and steer your empire’s military and society as a whole. To activate a doctrine, you must spend Strategic Operation Points and energy to prime it. Once primed, it becomes active until turned off. Every Doctrine takes up one of your Doctrine Slots and when all of your doctrine slots are filled, you are unable to activate any more until an active Doctrine has been turned off.

New doctrines can be obtained by: Researching the Doctrine Tech Group Buying them from NPC Factions Annexing gold and silver Landmarks.


Doctrine Slots

Doctrine Slots are used to indefinitely sustain Doctrines. Every player can acquire several doctrine slots, limiting the number of doctrines you can have active at once. Additional doctrine slots can be acquired by unlocking the Empire Upgrades that grant doctrine slots, located in the Operations Tech Group.

The first doctrine techs generally unlock two doctrines, making your first doctrine pick a mutually exclusive choice at the start of the game that affects your initial strategy.

Here are the Doctrines contained in the Celestium Tech:

  • Karmic Amplification: Relation Gains from completing NPC Quests are doubled
  • Missionary Negotiators: Reduces the Influence Costs when buying things from NPC Factions.
  • Celestial Judgement: Not everyone can be shown the light through talking and scriptures. 15% extra damage vs Soulburned units. Additionally every captured enemy town spawns a free Celestium Light Bringer
  • Disincentive Prayers: Marauders will no longer make incursions into the territory of your colonies.
  • Harmonious Existence: Each Colony that is not of your starting race provided +50 to your race relations with that race.
HarmoniousExistence.jpg


Tactical Ops

Tactical operations can only be used during combat, and will allow you to swing the course of battle to your favor by calling in damaging strikes or off-map reinforcements. Your tactical operations take one turn to prime at the start of each combat before you can launch them, and you first need to have enough Tactical Operation Points, energy and Operational Coverage.

The reason we added this one turn delay is to give units higher survivability. Some factions have researchable techs remove this one turn delay.

Looking back: The operation prototypes

The Operations system went through some extensive prototyping in the early phases of development, resulting in some shattered dreams. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this, because it will likely make some of you get excited and ask us to reconsider. :)

Iterations included:

An orbital layer in which satellites, death stars and strategic bombers targeted the world below. You could launch missiles to take them out, and we planned on having boarding parties that could take over space stations using TC combat with lovely space station interiors.

Another system docked special Ops units in bases on the ground ; like ICBMs, Airfields for Strategic Bombers, Psionic Sensing Units, along with defenses, and specialized attacks to take out these defenses.

All sounded fantastic on paper but resulted into massive issues once functionally was prototyped. Both the orbital layer and special operations units created a game in itself, too far detached from the core gameplay centered on ground forces. The conflict between these special ops units was abstracted and fiddly. The positioning game in the orbital layer was boring and resulted in a mess of intersecting weapons ranges drawn on the world map. The more detail we added to the system, the more we ran into thematic incompatibles, limiting what type of ops we could make.

Most importantly, the systems just introduced too many steps to launch a basic strike at the enemy, or nice little buff on your units. In our enthusiasm we forgot that most ops are meant to play mainly a supportive role and should be straightforward and flexible to use. Doomsday weapons on their own couldn’t warrant a complex system like this.

Still some things survived the prototypes: the operational offense and defense that can vary per sector, the priming mechanism and the split of tactical and strategic op points. All of these improved the core flow game play. The system can be expanded in many ways, including more smoke and mirror style covert ops and who knows, may be we do something with using orbital objects in the future.


On behalf of the Team I wish you a Merry Christmas, cozy Winter Solstice a Satisfying Bacchanal or any other special thing you might be celebrating this time of year! See you in the New Year with more news!
 
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Quark02

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So all covert ops are either pro-self or anti-others? There is nothing to boost allies? Help your friends against NPC hordes or whatnot?
 

Dr_K

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When Covert Ops are detected there is a 25% chance of being detected; for unsuccessful ops there is a 75% of being detected. This results in the target player getting Casus Belli against the player being caught.

I assume it should be "When Covert Ops are successful there is..." :)

So all covert ops are either pro-self or anti-others? There is nothing to boost allies? Help your friends against NPC hordes or whatnot?

Assuming you are formally allied, I don't see much of a need for Covert Ops in that case. You could just use operations as normal to boost your allies.

However, it would be interesting to use Covert Ops to support another player without your involvement being known. Possibly useful in situations with multiple warring players, where you would prefer one combatant being more successful over the others.
 

Jolly Joker

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There are worse things than trying out appealing ideas and realizing they have too many issues (for example, always asking yourself whether this and that system might not have been waaaay better than what you actually got).

I just hope, you'll whip the AI into shape to use all that with devastating effectiveness (where applicable).

I'm on holiday since 4 hours and enjoy myself a lot. Played Hanamikoji (a 2-player card game) with my wife - killer game giving a lesson in REDUCTION. I mention this because I'm a big friend of condensing and reducing game mechanics to te max, and my impression is, you did that with the "ops" part of the game.

I give the Christmas wishes right back to you and the team and raise by wishing a happy New Year and a fantastic 2019 (I've no doubt the game will play its part there). ;)
 

BloodyBattleBrain

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ok @Jolly Joker thanks to you I will now google this game.


Merry Xmas.


@LennartGS it sounds like you guys took the spell system, made it all future like, trimmed the fat, made it cool.

Which means, and maybe I am making too much of a logical leap, but if it is essentially the magic system of AoW3 but condensed and improved, then the AI should have no issues :)

Either way, it sounds pretty impressive.

To be honest I am really not sure what part of the game is now most appealing to me.

I suspect AoW veterans are going to have to relearn a bunch of systems.
 

Ludomancer2

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Interesting post, as usual. Merry Christmas!

25% chance to be detected on successful Ops sounds high. Will there be faction bonuses and/or hero abilities that lower this chance to be detected?
Some strategy games allow the player to "blame" espionage / sabotage on other players. Will this be the case in AoW:p? Perhaps an extra bit of point investment before launching the Op could provide a "percent chance to blame" in the event the Op is detected?

Ludomancer
 

LordTheRon

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This all sounds very good. Time to activate the Christmas doctrine!

Merry Xmas and a great new year guys. Time for Planetfall in 2019!
 

Quark02

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Do only the parties involved know about the Covert Ops when it is detected or can third parties find out who is doing what to whomever else, ie Player1 finds out P2 is sabotaging P3, whom P1 desires as an ally and thus will take steps to curb P2's power? Could perhaps even demand that P2 cease their fiddling with P3 under threat of imminent violence?
 

prof_doom

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Looking back: The operation prototypes

The Operations system went through some extensive prototyping in the early phases of development, resulting in some shattered dreams. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this, because it will likely make some of you get excited and ask us to reconsider. :)

Iterations included:

An orbital layer in which satellites, death stars and strategic bombers targeted the world below. You could launch missiles to take them out, and we planned on having boarding parties that could take over space stations using TC combat with lovely space station interiors.

You are correct. I want this, despite not having yet see a game successfully add a very deep orbital layer gameplay.
Maybe you guys can spend time post-launch brainstorming, and making it work in a future expansion.
 

Thrake

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Well, I'd lie if I said these prototypes don't look interesting but I trust your judgement. A good idea on the paper isn't always a good idea in practice. The only thing that tend to annoy me with OPs are direct damage abilities, so in AOW3 that would be typically a sorcerer and his damage spells. There isn't much to do to counter it besides killing him ASAP. Now at least we'll get operational defense.

I suspect AoW veterans are going to have to relearn a bunch of systems.

That would be a lazy sequel if that wasn't the case ;)

Best wishes for the festive season and new year!
 

Fo Ren G

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One could certainly wish for an advanced subterran and orbital layer in a future expansion or a sequel.
 

LennartGS

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So all covert ops are either pro-self or anti-others? There is nothing to boost allies? Help your friends against NPC hordes or whatnot?

As in covertly boosting Allies? Not sure if I get what you mean. There all sorts of stuff you can give to your allies without others knowing.

I assume it should be "When Covert Ops are successful there is..." :)

Thanks, fixed!
 

Quark02

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As in covertly boosting Allies? Not sure if I get what you mean. There all sorts of stuff you can give to your allies without others knowing.
Yes. Either like Dr_K said
However, it would be interesting to use Covert Ops to support another player without your involvement being known. Possibly useful in situations with multiple warring players, where you would prefer one combatant being more successful over the others.
, but I imagine being able to counterspy for an ally might be useful (I doubt it is a normal operation) - perhaps your ally has a better operation to run while you rid him of enemy spies? Boost some ally's city's happiness for a while by running a pro-ally propaganda campaign in that city without the ally's express permission? Increase an ally's/friend's reputation with other factions by secretly gossiping good stuff to facilitate truce/peace with other factions (and decrease the chance your buddy gets whacked), especially after an atrocity?
 

TheSpeaker

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Merry Christmas to the Triumph guys and girls, may you all have a very restful festive season :)
 

HousePet

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I've been considering how an Orbital Layer could be done well since Alpha Centauri. I don't think it would ever work.
Too much empty space, so you will end up doing the same thing every game.
Nothing to exploit, except for a couple of different orbits. In which case, you don't need a whole layer for it.
Any attempt at orbital combat will be the same for every game you play, because there is just nothing up there.

Off planet exploitation and conflict could be done though, but you would either use a Cis-Lunar or whole solar system layer, or just not use a layer at all for it.
Doing a layer for a moon or other planets seems tempting, but they will be so disconnected from the rest of the game that the game flow would never work for this sort of 4X.

As a side topic, I did come up with a layer idea that might work for the Alpha Centauri setting. It involved turning the Datalinks into explorable/exploitable layer.
You would be able to data mine it for research, psych and espionage purposes (since espionage was really bad in that game), and possibly also hack into the stuck in orbit Unity spacecraft.
Normally this still wouldn't be interesting enough to justify a full layer, but Alpha Centauri had something that gave it potential depth, the Progenitor network and the planet wide neural network. So not only is there potential for interested exploration to be done, there is hackable xenofungus that can hack you back...

And back to Planetfall:
I'm not sure about Operational Strength/Defence being the same for Strategic and Covert Ops.
I'm hoping that its just used as a base value and that some factions/secret techs/perks would get a bonus to one or the other.
Having defences to stop someone raising mountains in your sectors doesn't sound like something that is going to protect against hacking...
 

Ridixo

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Thanks for the Dev Diaries and good bacchanal to the Triumph team :)
 

prof_doom

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Nothing to exploit, except for a couple of different orbits. In which case, you don't need a whole layer for it.
Any attempt at orbital combat will be the same for every game you play, because there is just nothing up there.

So, I suppose the conclusion is that the concept of doctrines and operations is a decent way to represent more or less anything you'd do in an orbital layer.
The prep time even covers the idea that if you want to do an orbital bombardment, first you need to launch something into orbit.

The fact that you can now store them up makes it an even better representation. Yep, I launched my orbital laser, can fire it anytime I want.

Aside from the fact that all your satellites are single shot weapons, which is a bit odd, it more or less works.