Concept for stealth and cloaking mechanics

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A2ch0n

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Dear Paradox team,

Stealth and Cloaking tech is well known in almost all sci-fi universes and would be a powerfull enhancement to many existing systems in Stellaris. It was said in Dev Diary #164 that cloaking mechanics are already planned and originally a part of the espionage mechanics.

Espionage: Intel to determine how much you know about another empire, spy actions, cloaking, sabotage & general mischief.

As far as we know, cloaking is not a part of Nemesis so here is my idea and maybe it will be in the game in a later expansion. In the following i will describe how i would like how stealth and cloaking could work and how it would be a interesting mechanic that would fit in many other stellaris systems and enhance them vastly.

First, what i would like to highlight is the difference between stealth and cloaking: A ship with a stealth components has technically a lower profile and sensor deflecting abilities. A cloaked ship is completely invisible and can only be detected by special technologies and sensor grids. This means from a gameplay perpective, that a stealt ship is most likely only detected by ships in the same system (optical) or few system away, reducing efectively the sensor range from enemy/neutral ships. A cloaked ship can not be seen until your fleet/sensor ship is very close to them with a dedicated detection component.

The first step, would be stealth. This is unlocked by a tech (somewhere between tier 2 and 3) or by a civic that give you a headstart in this mechanic. What it does is basically unlocking a few ship components with stealth mechanics that have multiple upgrade levels like normal components.

These components are: a stealth coated armor, a low profile reactor "booster" and a sensor deflecting shield. Each component is from a military perspective weaker than normal technologies. As an example a normal Tier 1 Nanocomposite Armor is giving 300 armor, but the stealth variant would only give 200 (example, of course a balancing question). Same with the shields. The advantage of a ship that has only (!) stealth coated armor equipped has the opponents sensor range reduced effectively by 1 or at higher levels 2. The same for the shields. So it's only usefull if you exclusively use stealth components in the respective category. The reactor booster has a different approach by lowering the reactor profile (reducing it's energy output by a certain amount like 20% or similar). In return the sensor detection range is further reduced and this is additive with all other components at the cost of output.
A enemy ship will of course only detect a ship in sensor range. If the sensor range against the stealth ships is reduced to 0, the enemy ship will see them only if it's in the same star system. So basically stealth is a trade-off from military strenght to hide your fleets and to have the option for a ambush.

Now cloaking. This is a far more advanced tech and should be enabled by an Ascension Perk (prequisities are stealth tech and 2-3 other Ascension Perks picked) to demonstrate the dedication of the empire to stealth technologies and to pay the advantage coming with this. Cloaking will apply only to some ships like science shis, construction ships, huge vessels with a Aura-component slot (titan and juggernaut) and a new type of espionage vessel.
So basically after picking the Ascension Perk, you unlock a special Project to invent a cloaking device. After completion, all science and construction ships are invisible and for the titan and juggernaught can a cloak field generator equipped in the Aura slot. A fleet with a Titan that has a Cloaking-Generator eqipped makes the complete fleet invisible. A Juggernaut has an area around, that cloakes every ship within.

So what does cloaking do? First a cloaked vessel can cross closed borders like they are open. This will help science ships to get to some anormalies and projects that are otherwise only reachable during a war or truce and can explore systems with dangerous wildlife ore leviathans in it. A Construction ship can skip closed borders to build in a system behind and are less likely destroyed on their way. Military fleets can skip closed borders as well and whats more important, don't attack a enemy fleet until the command is given. They can fly really close to every enemy as long this enemy don't has a detection tool developed and equipped.
Stealth is deactivated by every agressive action. This means, as soon your fleet attack a target, the cloak is lifted and your ships can immediately attack. As soon the fight is over, a cloak cooldown is applied and the ships will cloak as soon it's over. This cooldown is again a question of balance, so it shouldn't be too short, but not as long as a jump drive cooldown.
Science and Construction ships stay of course cloaked during their work.

If a cloaked ship is detected behind closed borders and even for a second, it is immediately expelled from that empire (like always) and maybe you loose some diplomatic standing (in case of the later explained espionage vessel this penalty should be even worse). So, how to detect a cloaked ship? First there is a technology, giving you a sensor suite that is around your fleet similar to a Aura component. For each ship with this sensor suite equipped, the range of this aura is increased. It need a huge amount of energy and will not work if the scanning ship itself is cloaked, so no invisible listening posts against cloaked vessels. This is mainly for making cloak tech usefull and giving a cloak tech empire a weakness against the own technology. The aura around your fleet is very small for each ship, so it's not usefull to build a singe ship and position it at a hyperlane chokepoint. But a fleet, especially a huge one, can maybe scan most if not all of a system. A listening post and a Citadel (with a fitting building) have increased detection range too, but not the complete system.

Now the interaction with espionage. As soon cloaking is invented, a new technology can be reseached for a kind of espionage/sabotage ship. This ships are cloaked by default and have a leader slot for a envoy. If a envoy is in, the ship is ready to work. As soon the cloaking tech is researched, your espionage offices in other empires will allow another type of operation. This "reveal weakpoint (category)" operation generates if finished a kind of Archeology site inside that empire only visible to you and availlable for a certain time. This can be a planet, a space station, a fleet or any other object with relevance to the chosen category. The espionage vessel has to manage to get to this position and start it's work similar to any other acheology site. If it's completed the impact is most likely huge. This ranges from stealing resources in bigger quantities, destroy a entire fleet, manipulate ethics, start uprisings, deactivate mega structures and so on. The espionage vessel is of course in permanent danger of beeing detected and has only a certain range to do so (if the detection sensor range is greater then the action range of the target the action will be impossible). If this happend the operation failed and the weakpoint is removed and it has to start from the beginning with a reveal weakpoint operation. A decloaked espionage vessel that has started it's mission is always hostile inside that empire and can be attacked immediately if they can manage to find it. So most likely it will be destroyed if you can't manage to run immediately. In addition you will lose diplomatic standing to that empire, because it's obvious you spied on them and tried a sabotage.

So, this is my concept for stealth and cloaking mechanics and how they tie into existing mechanics. Thanks for reading! I hope you like the concept.
 
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nat.hol

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I like the idea, especially for stealth, but I have reservations on the Cloaking part.
From what you've written, the player using cloaking will have to constantly micro the paths of the cloacked vessel or fleet to avoid detection, a natural result of using auras of detection inside systems. Similarly, the player wishing to prevent infiltration will have to micro the patrols or position their fleets precisely. And I'd really hate to have to do this, personally. Even worse if there is a risk of damaging hostile espionage operations if I let it happen.

To avoid this, I'd suggest this:
- Add a "Militarized Subspace Navigation Module"
(Auxiliary component unlocked by a new tier 2 of the existing Speculative Hyperlane Breaching technology, only researchable with the Cloaking ascension perk)
Will have the same mechanics as experimental subspace navigation, but with cooldown and penalties shared with jump drive
Cannot be used to or from systems where FTL inhibitors are present, unless borders are open (debatable)

This would allow to reach otherwise unreachable systems, even for military vessels. It also allows to reach the goal system without having to manually get there, which could prove micro-intensive depending on the mechanics.

- Revise Cloaking mechanics:
Enabled by an auxiliary component instead (to put a price on the vessel's potential to be invisible, like stealth, while also allowing to send small cloacked fleets)
Countermeasures:
- Listening posts detect cloaked ships inside the system's limits
- Sentry arrays detect cloaked ships (level 1, in its sytem, +1 range for each additional level)
- Researching cloaked ship's debris unlocks a tech which, once researched, provides a new starbase building and titan aura "Cloak scrambler". It forcibly interrupts the cloaking of any hostile or neutral ships in the systems of the starbase/titan. It is worth noting that the enigmatic engineering perk would prevent this.

->Cloaked ships or fleets in "fleeing" or "neutral" stances always avoid crossing system's limits and stay on their borders. They also won't enter systems with scramblers, as long as these scramblers are known.

This would make worrying about the exact paths of the cloaked vessels pointless, at least inside systems. The same can be said for patrols. Overall it would also mean more predictability in which systems are safe from infiltration or inversely.

When I mention the system's limits and borders, I mean this:
stellaris_system_limit.png


These are my thoughts and suggestions, what do you think?
 

A2ch0n

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I like the idea, especially for stealth, but I have reservations on the Cloaking part....()
It is exactly planed for my concept that cloaked ships have to be micro managed. This is a mechanic for subtle and careful players that like to sneak in and do a kind of hit and run tactic with smaller fleets rather then brute force warfare. The stealth mechanics are for warfare with bigger fleets and don't need micro but come at a cost of direct power. You can of course have some fleets with stealth tech and some without.
If you specializing in the cloaking mechanic (this is the reason for the Ascension perk) you have to micro your actions and it's most likely what you want to do if you're into such kind of gameplay. It's quite powerfull and if you use a titan with it, it has massive potential to do heavy damage and vanish after this but the price is that you have to care for it especially because it won't attack on it's own (of course it will as soon it's detected). The same for the espionage vessel. It's really powefull, but only if you take your time to micro that ship(s) and you can't have infinite of them, thats why a envoy is needed, similar to epionage and diplomacy.

And for the same reason, scanners aren't able to passively find each cloaked vessel. This would make sneaking in (especially with the espionage ship) close to impossible and at least for me, thats the focus of my concept for cloaking.

But as an alternative i like your idea of the auxillary slot subspace drive! The only risk is, that every system is filled with countermeasures and thats very unpleasing for the spy/attacker. In addition there shouldn't be a "safe zone" especially not the one from the sentry array. Stealth detection i'm fine with but not against cloaking. If this would be the case, everyone would build the important structures inside that area --> no sabotage possible. So no, not for my concept ;)

So to clarify my usecase for each of my planned mechanics:

-Stealth is availlable for every empire at some point with a focus on military tactics and a extensive use for ambushes and backdoor attacks.

-Cloaking is for subtle players that like advanced espionage and disruptive technics/warfare on smaller scale with the price of an ascension perk and extensive micromanagement and most likely unfitting for huge empires or warmongers.

-Cloaking detection is more effective in huge fleets and military strong empires, that most likely don't like cloaking and espionage aniways. That balances the missing cloaking tech and is of course availlable for every empire as soon the stealth tech is invented. The only micro here is to hunt a cloaked fleet/espionage vessel if detected


Of course i'm open for suggestions and i'll keep in mind what you've said.
 
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nat.hol

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Thanks for clarifying ! But unsurprisingly that means I'm against this proposition.

I'd be (almost) fine with it if only the player having chosen the cloaking perk had to micro-manage their operations, but here even the player being targeted has to, despite what you seem to indicate: if you have fleets with a limited detection range inside systems, you'd want to place them "strategically" (dividing and placing your fleets accurately, perform patrols, and maybe having to move your fleets weirdly if your opponent is human too) in an evolving context. If you don't you get punished, so it forces such management to unwilling players, as I see it.
 

A2ch0n

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Thanks for clarifying ! But unsurprisingly that means I'm against this proposition.

I'd be (almost) fine with it if only the player having chosen the cloaking perk had to micro-manage their operations, but here even the player being targeted has to, despite what you seem to indicate: if you have fleets with a limited detection range inside systems, you'd want to place them "strategically" (dividing and placing your fleets accurately, perform patrols, and maybe having to move your fleets weirdly if your opponent is human too) in an evolving context. If you don't you get punished, so it forces such management to unwilling players, as I see it.
You are right, other empires have du do that in my concept. I don't see another option for two reasons. The first is, that it wouldn't be possible to implement a passive detection option, that wouldn't immediately nullify the advantage from a cloaking device because every player would spam the defense options against this at all valuable targets. And the second is i want players to do so. Cloaking is a offensive tool, but specifically a player should always aware of this technology and use a part of its military power to defend the own empire instead of use it to expand. If someone doesn't defend and expand to agressive, there are maybe surprise consequences (most likely in form of the espionage vessel, because if you have a fleet in enemy territory and start a war, it is expelled actually and thats here still the same). And remember, not every AI and every Player will pick this. So it's still rare.

But i ask you, where is the difference to a Stellaris game without it? You always have a part of your fleet at home or at the borders to protect yourself. With my concept it would additionally maybe slow down extrem agressive empires (player and ai) and that is in my opinion a very welcome effect. Cloaking is a weapon, applied to small fleets and espionage vessels to propose a threat. And it's a powerfull tool for smaller/tall empires that want to shift the micro off from planet management to a different task. Actually beeing big and have a massive fleet determines how strong your empire is. Smaller empires, diplomatic ones and trade empires are always in fear of a warmonger (especially players) that try to conquer them. Why don't add an option that threatens those big empires? And this could be one.

But of course if you don't like that, its fully understandable that you are against it. So no offense here from my point of view :)
 

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I don't think there should be fully cloaked ships. The necessary micro would be horrendous. Stealth ships which can only be detected by a ship/station in system would be fine, but I think it would be as an augment or Titan aura rather than specialized armor/shields.

It's also worth noting you could have a stealth/cloak tech which doesn't give any ship bonuses/components but is rather a buff to espionage. The implication being that your espionage actions aren't using your military ships.

A designated Espionage Ship I don't think is a good idea. Envoys serve as spymasters, coordinating embedded agents from a legitimate diplomatic position. They wouldn't get parked on a stealth ship to fly around an enemy military stronghold.
 

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I don't think there should be fully cloaked ships. The necessary micro would be horrendous. Stealth ships which can only be detected by a ship/station in system would be fine, but I think it would be as an augment or Titan aura rather than specialized armor/shields.

It's also worth noting you could have a stealth/cloak tech which doesn't give any ship bonuses/components but is rather a buff to espionage. The implication being that your espionage actions aren't using your military ships.

A designated Espionage Ship I don't think is a good idea. Envoys serve as spymasters, coordinating embedded agents from a legitimate diplomatic position. They wouldn't get parked on a stealth ship to fly around an enemy military stronghold.
It's not neccessary to specifically use an envoy. Thats a placeholder for a limited "spy-leader" that can't spammed like other leaders. It's simply for balancing reasons. And maybe i'm alone with that, but i really would like to manage a single powerfull ship with huge impact far aside from warfare. So the espionage ship part is the main feature of my concept, at least for me. The titan/juggernaut aura is more a bonus if you specialize in cloaking tech to have the ability to alpha strike against a crisis before it become really dangerous.
I know that some player don't like to micro ships. I for myself absolutely don't like open warefare (if i had to do it myself, but i like two enemy empires fighting each other and i can influence which empire win without fire a single shot) and ship management. Of course, this concept fits into my personal preference and playstyle like most suggestions from other players too. But it would massively enhance the game mechanics imo too.

The micro is needed on the other hand to prevent extremely large empires with a huge amount of planets and many fleets from using this. It's meant for smaller empires as i stated in the upper post. Stellaris is in many of my games a homogenous mass where the biggest empire with the strongest fleet rule. In addition, every empire is the same with only a few differences like ascension perks (even civics are changabe). I want empires to divert from each other in style and gameplay, the longer the game is running. I simply want much more specilization and a cloaking tech is such a specialization in a way i want to play. Form a narrative and a gameplay point of view it will massively change what your preferred actions are and where you take your time to micro. If you manage 1-3 stealth ships there is most likely no time to manage 30+ planets and warefare at the same time. So you have to choose. But in the end the benefit should nearly equal to a warfare expanding empire. This part is only an explanation why i've chosen this kind of concept instead of simply passive stat modifiers.

The technical blueprint for this idea btw (or at least the very basics) are from an old sci-fi game called Hegemonia. The only cloaked ships in that game are espionage/sabotage vessels with a really huge impact, powerfull enough to make it an own style of gameplay (You could win only by using them if you planned carefully and used them smart). And that is what i really want to do. An espionage focused gameplay with many micro to legitimate it's impact.
 
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Tamwin5

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It's not neccessary to specifically use an envoy. Thats a placeholder for a limited "spy-leader" that can't spammed like other leaders. It's simply for balancing reasons. And maybe i'm alone with that, but i really would like to manage a single powerfull ship with huge impact far aside from warfare. So the espionage ship part is the main feature of my concept, at least for me. The titan/juggernaut aura is more a bonus if you specialize in cloaking tech to have the ability to alpha strike against a crisis before it become really dangerous.
I know that some player don't like to micro ships. I for myself absolutely don't like open warefare (if i had to do it myself, but i like two enemy empires fighting each other and i can influence which empire win without fire a single shot) and ship management. Of course, this concept fits into my personal preference and playstyle like most suggestions from other players too. But it would massively enhance the game mechanics imo too.

The micro is needed on the other hand to prevent extremely large empires with a huge amount of planets and many fleets from using this. It's meant for smaller empires as i stated in the upper post. Stellaris is in many of my games a homogenous mass where the biggest empire with the strongest fleet rule. In addition, every empire is the same with only a few differences like ascension perks (even civics are changabe). I want empires to divert from each other in style and gameplay, the longer the game is running. I simply want much more specilization and a cloaking tech is such a specialization in a way i want to play. Form a narrative and a gameplay point of view it will massively change what your preferred actions are and where you take your time to micro. If you manage 1-3 stealth ships there is most likely no time to manage 30+ planets and warefare at the same time. So you have to choose. But in the end the benefit should nearly equal to a warfare expanding empire. This part is only an explanation why i've chosen this kind of concept instead of simply passive stat modifiers.

The technical blueprint for this idea btw (or at least the very basics) are from an old sci-fi game called Hegemonia. The only cloaked ships in that game are espionage/sabotage vessels with a really huge impact, powerfull enough to make it an own style of gameplay (You could win only by using them if you planned carefully and used them smart). And that is what i really want to do. An espionage focused gameplay with many micro to legitimate it's impact.
Micro will never be a limiter to how much a player does something in Stellaris, merely set how much a player will have to pause the game in order to mess with the mechanic. If there is an instance where micro-ing something will make it better/stronger/more efficient, a significant subset of players will feel obligated to do so. Most of the complaints about the current pop system (beyond the slowdown) is that it requires too much micro. Even though it's mainly an issue for large empires, and there is an option to just disable growth, doing this shoots you in the foot, and so players feel forced to micro all those pops anyway. When micro is an unintentional side effects of a system it's bad enough, but specifically designing something so that micro is the limiting factor? This is atrocious game design for a grand strategy.

Furthermore, if you are a large empire beating up on a small empire, you only need to pay attention to their small amount of space when setting up these sabotage ships, while they'd need to do the same to your ENTIRE EMPIRE in order to have the same amount of impact. Ships can be set to automatically patrol in various patterns, or even just parked at hyperlane exit points to catch any ship jumping in. So for a large empire going against a small empire, the large empire will likely have LESS micro involved.

Finally, espionage ships as a whole aren't even necessary in the first place to do the sort of operations you want. If you are trying to take down a bastion you don't need to go in with some special ship and wait around for a project timer to complete, just go to the espionage menu and do a Disable Starbase operation. Operations are already limited by your infiltration gain, and spy networks limited by envoys, so it's already a mechanic that all empires are equal at.
 
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A2ch0n

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Operations are already limited by your infiltration gain, and spy networks limited by envoys, so it's already a mechanic that all empires are equal at.
And thats the real shame if it stay that way. A specialization option (more then a civic) would be very cool. But thats a different topic.

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Nevertheless, what i've written is the kind of gameplay i want to do. So you're of course allowed to disagree but i for myself really wish for a similar gameplay option.
 
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Tamwin5

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And thats the reals shame if it stay that way. A specialization option (more then a civic) would be very cool. But thats a different topic.

-------
Nevertheless, what i've written is the kind of gameplay i want to do. So you're of course allowed to disagree but i for myself really wish for a similar gameplay option.
I mean, there are civics, edicts, techs, APs, etc. for specializing your empire to be better at espionage. Possibly more, we haven't seen everything. My point was that it wasn't something that scales up with empire size/economy.

If something is just the kind of gameplay YOU want, make a mod. If you are making a suggestion post, it's because you think that the gameplay would be a benefit for EVERYONE (or at least a total net benefit when considering its relative impact all players. Not everyone will like every feature, yada yada)
 

A2ch0n

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I mean, there are civics, edicts, techs, APs, etc. for specializing your empire to be better at espionage. Possibly more, we haven't seen everything. My point was that it wasn't something that scales up with empire size/economy.

If something is just the kind of gameplay YOU want, make a mod. If you are making a suggestion post, it's because you think that the gameplay would be a benefit for EVERYONE (or at least a total net benefit when considering its relative impact all players. Not everyone will like every feature, yada yada)
And the initial post is based on this opinion. It would improve the game, I see it as benefit for all players (of course there will be changes). Everything else are explanations and maybe some thoughts about it. So take the main post as standalone and maybe the usecase clarification part in the second.
 

A2ch0n

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I'd be (almost) fine with it if only the player having chosen the cloaking perk had to micro-manage their operations
Maybe a compromise could be a additional passive stealth detection that has limited number. Something similar to the starbase cap, but somewhat more limited (maybe at the citadels as stated in my orifinal concept). It detects a complete star system (except the from you mentionend outer borders, so a ship can still pass the system). A small empire could most likely protect most of it's empire with this. A large on would have more trouble. Ships would have the original sensor concept as well for additional detection.
 
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hart30

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Early game u will be basically able to cloak ur whole emoire by sabotaging other empires which try to start communications. And even later u can sabotage their diplomatic and spy actions in order to prevent them from seeing which systems u own beside of those at the border. Especially in mp games such "spy empires" will be able to prevent being early rushed as someone u cannot start communication with, u also cannot being declared war onto. U might be able to stay a black spot on the map for most of the game and preparing bad suprises once revealed and wardeced.
 

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Early game u will be basically able to cloak ur whole emoire by sabotaging other empires which try to start communications. And even later u can sabotage their diplomatic and spy actions in order to prevent them from seeing which systems u own beside of those at the border. Especially in mp games such "spy empires" will be able to prevent being early rushed as someone u cannot start communication with, u also cannot being declared war onto. U might be able to stay a black spot on the map for most of the game and preparing bad suprises once revealed and wardeced.
And i like that idea :) but that would force you most of the time to stay out of galactic affairs i think. If the GC still reveal you it would be hard to play that way. In addition this is a complete different concept and will most likely already be in the game with Nemesis. And there are still some feature informations missing i think
 
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Tamwin5

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Early game u will be basically able to cloak ur whole emoire by sabotaging other empires which try to start communications. And even later u can sabotage their diplomatic and spy actions in order to prevent them from seeing which systems u own beside of those at the border. Especially in mp games such "spy empires" will be able to prevent being early rushed as someone u cannot start communication with, u also cannot being declared war onto. U might be able to stay a black spot on the map for most of the game and preparing bad suprises once revealed and wardeced.
Honestly, as long as First Contact wars are properly doable now, I'd be totally ok with this.
 

A2ch0n

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Honestly, as long as First Contact wars are properly doable now, I'd be totally ok with this.
I for myself don't like this idea. But thats mostly because you can attack someone without even knowing who it is (most likely you don't have enough intel about opponent at that time, so your attacking blind).
 

Tamwin5

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I for myself don't like this idea. But thats mostly because you can attack someone without even knowing who it is (most likely you don't have enough intel about opponent at that time, so your attacking blind).
If it's before you've established translations, you don't actually have intel about them even pretty sure. There is a difference between first contact wars, and attacking someone who you've established contact with but have no intel on.
 

A2ch0n

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If it's before you've established translations, you don't actually have intel about them even pretty sure. There is a difference between first contact wars, and attacking someone who you've established contact with but have no intel on.
Agreed. But i don't like the ability to attack unknown/neutral ships. I loose more then enough science ships early on at anormalies and leviathans. I don't need another option for this by other empires, especially if i want to secure a chokepoint later on to defend myself.
 

Tamwin5

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Agreed. But i don't like the ability to attack unknown/neutral ships. I loose more then enough science ships early on at anormalies and leviathans. I don't need another option for this by other empires, especially if i want to secure a chokepoint later on to defend myself.
"I don't like other empires being able to punish me for being greedy" It's almost impossible to actually kill a science ship with starting corvettes. They have very high disengagement, and even higher If you go discovery. The ability to attack unknown ships is already in the game. What isn't in the game is the ability to take stations or attack planets.

IMO, first contact hostilities should be exapanded. Currently the meta play is to just destroy your starting corvettes for extra resources, and doing that should be able to be punished.
 

A2ch0n

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Currently the meta play is to just destroy your starting corvettes for extra resources, and doing that should be able to be punished.
Agreed again... And i never do that. But as a diplomatic player with mostly no fleet this is a pain in the ***. i at least don't want to fight.

But thats far of topic here ;)