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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Mavkiel

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One of the issues I see is folks is folks aiming big. How about slightly less grand things.

1. Research Tech, you steal the idea for their tech. (So you still have to research it)

2. Theft. Be it energy, mineral or etc. You have your spies steal a % of your monthly take from whatever system they inhabit.

3. Criminal enterprises. (Bonus for criminal megacorps). You can start up slavery/kidnapping rings. Drug dens, blackmail empires for favors. Or start up an organ harvesting shop that can buff up your leaders.

4. Frame job - Do something nasty and point the blame at someone else. It'd be neat to start a war between two groups I don't like.

5. Arsenal of freedom (Star trek reference) - Spy sells weapon systems to governments. (Think of a situation where you can't get involved in a fight, but would be happy to sell weapons they can use.)
 
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A2ch0n

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There's nothing wrong with not liking war (god knows Stellaris warfare isn't a thrilling time; for every interesting war I've had I've had 10 boring, one sided slogfests). But it certainly can be fun, and since it's mostly a measure of your economic strength, it indirectly involves almost every system and decision in the game, which means it should be more impactful then things which do not do this (like espionage).

As for what you think espionage should do, some of it seems far too powerful. You've already mentioned how you don't like your federation being lost if you stay neutral in the WiH; imagine if any random AI empire could destroy your federation at will without you being able to do anything about it. Likewise, destroying an entire fleet (which is a massive economic investment that takes decades to properly set up) without any counter is too much, and it would only matter if you were already at war with your opponent. Other parts seem too weak or arbitrary, like deactivating a megastructure for a short time. This both makes little sense (how do you "deactivate" an interstellar assembly at all? How do you meaningfully damage a dyson sphere, something by definition the size of star, in such a way that it isn't completely destroyed? The fluff for the SCC and the Science Nexus explicitly mentions how secure they are, how does that square with espionage? Megastructures in general are just too big to really be "sabotaged" by anything short of a Colossus.), wouldn't actually mean much (worst case scenario: random AI #52 turns off my dyson sphere for a couple months; I'm 3K energy credits in the hole... all I need to do is sell 50 alloys on day 2 of each month so I don't have a critical shortage, and I'm completely fine. The other megastructures have even less of an effect on day-to-day operations; they significantly affect your empire in the long run, but losing them for a couple of months won't actually hurt any empire that's strong enough to build megastructures), and would be annoying (randomly turning off megastructures with no way to counter would just be a giant pain in the ass, even if it doesn't actually do anything). As for affecting diplomacy, IMO this should be possible, but strictly limited. If two empires have a long partnership and many pacts (or a federation), you shouldn't be able to just make them hate each other via espionage; they know each other too well for that to work. Likewise, two nations that rival each other, have claims on each other's space, and have fought three wars aren't going to start loving each other because of espionage. Where it should work is in swaying neutrals; if you see your hated enemy starting to sign early pacts, like, say a migration treaty, you might be able to use espionage to get that treaty broken before trust rises high enough for them to sign more pacts, like a defensive pact, or if two empires dislike each other because of border friction, you could use diplomacy to smooth that out. IMO, you should at most be able to move relations between two other empires by one "attitude." So if you want two empires to fight each other, you can try and make it happen, but it'll only work if they're already suspicious of each other (and thus willing to believe whatever bad ideas get planted about the other party). If you want them to befriend each other, you can start the process (by moving them from neutral to receptive) or help it along (by moving them from, say, receptive to cordial), but you can't make them love each other if they're mortal enemies, and you can't jump them from neutral to friendly by yourself. Again, imagine if random AI empire #10 causes your close ally who you've been cultivating for decades to turn around and attack you for no good reason. This would not be fun, and would make diplomacy even less meaningful. If, on the other hand, you can see them starting to cool to you over time, you can take steps to counteract that (like improving relations or hypothetically assigning some counterespionage resources to seeing if there's some shenanigans going on there) and even if you don't, they won't randomly attack you... they'll just be less likely to sign new pacts or form a federation.
It's not too powerfull, its exactly how powerfull it should be to have enough impact! In case of break up a fed, its not immediately, its a slow pocess similar to envoys doing their job. And you can counter it by sending an envoy on your own or by counter espionage to lower the impact. And if you can't make enemys friends or friends to enemys, it would not have enough power to make espionage compete to war. So again, it's definitely not too powerfull. It's stonger against huge empires with war focus/empires with low opinion by others but thats intended.

It would be ok if it had a cap like envoys. The impact is limited, but it's still strong.
 
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Pancakelord

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5. Arsenal of freedom (Star trek reference) - Spy sells weapon systems to governments. (Think of a situation where you can't get involved in a fight, but would be happy to sell weapons they can use.)
This very loosely exists already and I feel this will probably end up being one of the "pillars" of any espionage expansion.
  • You can already support independence of protectorates and vassals (I've not seen one actually break away prior to, like, utopia, as it's not really balanced right)
    • You can send them Alloys to build stuff with - though this wont help much if they have crap tech.
  • There is a rare (only had it happen a few times) event whereby a breakaway colony from another empire / civil war will actually diplomatically message you and ask either to join your empire wholesale, or ask for your support in the civil war.
I imagine those 3 would be built upon into a full fledged coup system under espionage.
HOI 4, which probably wouldnt be hard to port implemented features over from, also has a lot of stuff like
  • lend-lease weapons,
  • coup mechanics
  • governments in exile (e.g. Polish Govt fleeing to UK)
    • (in theory you could do this today in stellaris with modding: when an empire dies, if it has high relations with other empires run a final script seeing if anyone will make it an exiled govt by giving them a special branch office and turning them into a special "Exiled" country_type, with special properties (no need for colonies, cant be a player etc) and a promise to return their old home world and/or colonies within say 50 years, or they permanently die. If no one accepts, that empire dies as normal - re-instating an exiled government would give you a fat influence reward + say bonus relations with all other governments in the galaxy that share their authority or ethos [not xenophobes obviously] or have a non-expansionary diplo stance, or some combination of those ).
 

MichaelJanuary

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Random acts of sabotage or mischief (assassinations, etc.) Is just irritating. In some games (TW comes to mind) you just end up ignoring the agent spam because it would take too much resources to counter it, and it doesnt make that much difference in the progress of the war.

I would much rather have an espionage system that matters materially in preparing the groundwork for a war, or assisting in the propagation of the war, than just being there for purpose of irritation and frustration.

Also, the range of missions available should be different depending whether you are in war, cease fire, NAP, Alliance or Federation.

Examples:.

  1. Claims. Instead of just claiming systems with influence, make it so you send an agent on a mission to establish a claim on a system. Shift the influence cost to the purchase and upkeep of the agents.
  2. Empire information. I can't imagine interstellar empires broadcasting information such as the number and location of their colonies and location of their homeworld to the entire galaxy. Borders yes. Everything else should be discoverable by spies or envoys through scouting operations.
  3. Current operations. What techs are they researching now? What have they researched already? Where are their fleets going to? A spy or agent attached toba fleet might reveal exact size, composition and destination orders, which should not be available otherwise.
  4. Relationships and propaganda operations. An agent should be able to run propaganda campaigns to slowly shift opinions that empires have of each other. Whether to improve or decrease opinion.
  5. Scope of influence. I would not want to see an agent shift an entire empires ethics, but you should be able to promote an ethic (or faction) on a targeted planet so that over time all the pops adopt the promoted ethics. This could give you a liberation cassus belli if that planet has a majority of pops converted to your ethic. Cultural shift and ethic shift can be made much more impactful.
  6. Steal research. Peacetime Operation. Steal research might work like an involuntary research agreement (bonus to already researched techs) except it probablybwint be as effective as a voluntary research agreement. An involuntary commercial agreement rather than steal resources, or a 'freedom pipeline' rather than a migration treaty. If caught, could significantly impact your relations (reduce opinion).
  7. Sabotage construction. During cold war or cease fire. Apply a penalty to construction times of targeted planets or stations. I.e., an agent targeting a ring world construction would slow its construction speed, or targeting a planet would slow its building construction. A high level agent might even cause the construction to be set back by a significant percentage. This may even be enough to cancel the construction. Setback percentage and frequency would be a function the agents level. Notification: An unidentified computer virus has caused construction operations in the Alpha Centauri system to be temporarily halted.
  8. Ground Operations. During war, when you have blockaded a planet, you might be able to use an agent that previously infiltrated the planet to sabotage planetary shields or fortresses before troop landings. Randomly blowing up forges or labs would just be irritating. Destroying a planetary shield before bombardment, is constructive.
As to some of the mechanics. Say you had recruited 4 agents. You could task one to 'Industrial Espionage' gaining an involuntary and one sided research agreement with the target empire. You could task a second agent to establish a black market in the targeted empire, gaining the effect of an economic agreement. A third agent could be tasked with counter espionage in your own empire, reducing the effect of enemy operations against you. The last agent is ordered to go from planet to planet and run propaganda campaigns to promote ethic shifts in your favor. The effectiveness of all the operations would scale with the experience of the agents.

The whole pop ethics thing in Stellaris has bothered me for a while. When you invade an empire with completely different ethics, there is currently no need to deal with an influx of large numbers of pops that have an ethic that is opposed to your empire. There is no need to convert them, educate them or integrate them, and it doesnt affect your faction dynamics or empire stability in any materially significant way.

The fact that your materialist empire have suddenly acquired several hundred pops with a spiritual ethic should be a major destabilizing force. Having promoted materialism on those worlds (with propaganda operations) for years before should make integration and conversion easier.

Perhaps some of this is already there, but the current mechanics in Stellaris about ethic shift and deviance is rather weak.
 
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methegrate

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Is it fun to be on the "receiving" side of a war? Especially if the attacking empire is stronger, what most likely is the case if they attack you? Or if multiple empires attacking you at the same time? I think not!
I disagree entirely. Honestly, I think that’s the entire point of this issue.

A well designed game is fun even when you lose. Indeed, if the game is challenging enough you should lose more often than not. This is one of the biggest problems with sabotage systems. They’re not fun to lose because randomly losing a coin toss sucks. But playing a real game, with give and take, is fun.

If an empire attacks you, it absolutely should be fun. Even if they’re stronger than you, have more allies and you lose. That’s the point of a good game. It isn’t just fun when you win. And that’s why sabotage systems generally suck. They’re only fun when you’re doing it, not receiving.
 
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A2ch0n

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I disagree entirely. Honestly, I think that’s the entire point of this issue.

A well designed game is fun even when you lose. Indeed, if the game is challenging enough you should lose more often than not. This is one of the biggest problems with sabotage systems. They’re not fun to lose because randomly losing a coin toss sucks. But playing a real game, with give and take, is fun.

If an empire attacks you, it absolutely should be fun. Even if they’re stronger than you, have more allies and you lose. That’s the point of a good game. It isn’t just fun when you win. And that’s why sabotage systems generally suck. They’re only fun when you’re doing it, not receiving.
And again...a good sabotage system don't need rng. Just a adequate amount of micro for your cloaked sabotage ship (like an invisible science ship) and of course some time. If you can manage to reach the target and stay undetected during your action you should be properly rewarded. It's not click a button and get a random effect. And as a defending empire you can set up sensor posts and things like this to find the attacker/stop it from the beginning. If one ship slips through your defenses it's a task to find it. And that can be very funny even on the receiving side. Compare it to a submarine hunt. The bigger your empire the more possibilities are given for a sabotage vessel to slip through your sensors.

There is nothing about a coin toss. No rng required. Just good planning as well on the attacking and the defending side. The same you do to defend your empire against a war. Getting choke points and defend them. The real difference is that a big empire (lategame, wide) most likely will have more open hyperlanes then they are able to defend. And thats the goal! Giving big empires finally a weakness that can stop them from snowballing.

In combination with espionage (information collecting and ethics/opinion manipulation) it would give a really good tool for tall or diplomacy based empires, even for parcifists maybe. You can have real impact on the galaxy without conqering everything you see. Everyone want to play stellaris on a different way. So stop trying to keep certain playstyles out of the game. There are many of us who like a "control & manipulation" based approach.
 
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Olterin

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And again...a good sabotage system don't need rng. Just a adequate amount of micro for your cloaked sabotage ship (like an invisible science ship) and of course some time. If you can manage to reach the target and stay undetected during your action you should be properly rewarded. It's not click a button and get a random effect. And as a defending empire you can set up sensor posts and things like this to find the attacker/stop it from the beginning. If one ship slips through your defenses it's a task to find it. And that can be very funny even on the receiving side. Compare it to a submarine hunt. The bigger your empire the more possibilities are given for a sabotage vessel to slip through your sensors.

There is nothing about a coin toss. No rng required. Just good planning as well on the attacking and the defending side. The same you do to defend your empire against a war. Getting choke points and defend them. The real difference is that a big empire (lategame, wide) most likely will have more open hyperlanes then they are able to defend. And thats the goal! Giving big empires finally a weakness that can stop them from snowballing.

In combination with espionage (information collecting and ethics/opinion manipulation) it would give a really good tool for tall or diplomacy based empires, even for parcifists maybe. You can have real impact on the galaxy without conqering everything you see. Everyone want to play stellaris on a different way. So stop trying to keep certain playstyles out of the game. There are many of us who like a "control & manipulation" based approach.
(The following is assuming that there's no RNG at all, so a cloaked ship that enters a system with a listening post is immediately exposed and expelled.)
Ok, so let's do a thought experiment then: you're playing a normal-sized empire, you've got 5 sectors and more entrances to your territory than you have starbase cap to spare (because spending it all on bastions is a futile attempt at naval defence). Your options are:
-Ignore sabotage attempts and deal with the fallout
-Go for micro-hell of stationing anti-stealth units at every possible point, cluttering the outliner to an entirely unusable state
-expend starbases (and economy/naval cap) to cover your borders against espionage
-collapse territory until you can cover all entrances with adequate defensive measures

Let's pretend that that is fine. Every empire is going to be doing it, so let's call the effects as being about 10x as strong against you as you can inflict them against others, all else being equal. Sure, a tight empire that has a listening post starbase on all chokepoints will 100% counter it. A wide empire cannot counter it short of spamming ships - so it will spam ships. Congratulations, you accomplished nothing except create micro-hell (or calculation hell for AI) for the wide(r) empire agents. Or if this isn't feasible, you just applied a flat nerf to wide empire economies via a rather arbitrary and un-fun mechanic to be on the receiving end of.

Sure, it may sound good in theory, but have you seen what people have done with Admin Cap and Bureaucrats? This is very much the same kind of issue.


With that said, I'm all in favor of engaging, fun, espionage. Stealth ships and sabotage isn't it. Gathering intel and manipulating other's intel, that has so many implications though. Sure, enable sabotage as an agent action, but only available at an extreme end of infiltration of another empire (it would serve as the ultimate wake-up call of "you really really need to invest in counterespionage now", not the bread-and-butter tool of dealing with opponents). Siphoning blueprints (enable tech research options) without detriment to a target empire? Sure, it passes the "isn't annoying" test (and incidentally, would help the poor AI keep up with a player spamming science, a little bit, assuming some research progress also gets added each time).

Manipulating opinion? Now we're getting into the dangerous territory - this must trigger events with multiple response options, not just be a straight debuff. What options are open must depend on the pre-existing relationship. Ultimately, both parties need agency in what happens, and this must not be annoying for a player to handle. This point right here with events is already dangerously close, event spam isn't fun when it happens throughout the entire game. So counterespionage must have a tangible effect here on reducing the frequency and severity of the events.
 
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A2ch0n

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(The following is assuming that there's no RNG at all, so a cloaked ship that enters a system with a listening post is immediately exposed and expelled.)
I never said they are expelled on detection, only if borders are closed. If expelled everytime you would most likely never fly through an allies territory.

normal-sized empire, you've got 5 sectors and more entrances to your territory
Thats what you call normal sized? I call this huge. One prime sector and maybe two small side sectors, thats what i call normal sized.

-expend starbases (and economy/naval cap) to cover your borders against espionage
-collapse territory until you can cover all entrances with adequate defensive measures
Thats exactly the goal! A empire huge enough to snowball need desperately some weaknesses.

Stealth ships and sabotage isn't it
For you...everyone has another opinion about this.

but only available at an extreme end of infiltration of another empire
Sounds like espionage actions availlable from certain intel levels, i agree. But thats not sabotage.

Manipulating opinion? Now we're getting into the dangerous territory - this must trigger events with multiple response options, not just be a straight debuff.
Manipuation should be the main purpose here. And no, absolute no response actions. If an empires improves/harm relations you don't get a message either and thats exactly the right way. If there would be a message you would immidiately know someone is manipulationg you and you would be able to counter it without percepting it by yourself. The idea of this is an alternative way to fight a war, not a sidenote on your empire screen.
 
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Manipuation should be the main purpose here. And no, absolute no response actions. If an empires improves/harm relations you don't get a message either and thats exactly the right way. If there would be a message you would immidiately know someone is manipulationg you and you would be able to counter it without percepting it by yourself. The idea of this is an alternative way to fight a war, not a sidenote on your empire screen.
I meant more along the lines of causing diplomatic incidents, which already can happen via event and you have a response option. I'd like that system to be expanded with more events in general, and some of them possible to be caused by both "nothing" and espionage.

A general media campaign inducing xenophobia in the populace at large, thus making factions less amenable to maintaining foreign relations should be the other lever, imo, never direct influence on the government itself. But for that to work, factions need more bite than they currently have.
 
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A2ch0n

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I meant more along the lines of causing diplomatic incidents, which already can happen via event and you have a response option. I'd like that system to be expanded with more events in general, and some of them possible to be caused by both "nothing" and espionage.

A general media campaign inducing xenophobia in the populace at large, thus making factions less amenable to maintaining foreign relations should be the other lever, imo, never direct influence on the government itself. But for that to work, factions need more bite than they currently have.
And i do agree with you! Internal politics should be a thing, maybe as addition to the espionage system or as an own dlc someday.
 

DrFranknfurter

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I've been wondering what parts of espionage could be fun and importantly, could be countered without having to invest heavily in using espionage in return. I completely understand the worry that you may have all your level 10 leaders assassinated, your techs stolen and your infrastructure detonated... by your fellow federation members... if an active espionage system is implemented poorly. So how would I make a good passive one?

Ship Design Intel
1. Learn enemy ship designs passively when in sensor range
Keep track of them so you can counter their all-shield designs without having to remember what empire number 15 had when you last saw the patrol fleet pass by your border station. Needs a new tab somewhere to log the information, preferably on the diplomacy screen.

2. Learn weaknesses of enemy ship designs
Passively (and slowly) add bonus damage vs shield/armour/hull, reduce enemy bonus damage, or modify shield/armour bypass amounts (tune your shields to detonate enemy missiles, or time your shots to match the cycle-frequency of enemy shields, spot the weak exhaust ports). If the enemy hasn't changed their ship designs since the last war then with your better intel expect to be able to run rings around their designs thanks to your extensive battle reports (even if they are higher tech like fallen empires, though have less intel generated on designs you can't replicate as you can't fully understand why hitting the shiny bit seems to work, unless you gain debris post-battle and realise the shiny bit was a power cell).

3. Retrofit designs to make enemy intel obsolete
Changing all slots would reduce current enemy design intel to 0, smaller retrofits could have a smaller effect. New ship classes would have a window of opportunity where your equipment and design weaknesses are unknown, especially if these ships are stationed in a hidden nebula system prior to combat. There could be retrofit options that do not change the modules but still cost resources and reduce enemy intel to represent patching of vulnerable systems and incremental design improvements (put a dozen decoy exhaust ports around to distract enemy fire, stick a fake shield generator on the TIE fighter - much to the dismay of the pilot).

4. Sensor Coverage is vitally important. Gain intel on designs in sensor range, bonus for watching battles.
Listening posts/Sentry Array/Tachyon Sensors/Nebula effects/Arcane Engineering/Crystalline Sensors all play into espionage passively, no need for a huge number of additional mechanics and all existing mechanics can be made easily compatible. Watching two enemies fight would provide much more intel than watching their fleets on non-combat patrols.

5. New Role of reducing enemy sensor intel with Counter Espionage/Stealth ship components/Electronic Warfare/Jamming
These could prevent the enemy gaining intel on your ships passively (counter-espionage, stealth components, deep-space black sites) or actively during battle (Electronic Warfare/Jamming), the latter even reducing enemy bonuses and protecting older ship designs by obfuscating their identity.

Positives:
1. Espionage helps you counter enemy ships (increases your fleet power relative to the enemy, the main meat of the game)
2. Espionage is optional (passive effects, active benefits of upgrading and retrofitting designs can be gained by playing normally)
3. Espionage has an economic/tech option to counter it (research new components, paying alloys to retrofit ships renders their intel obsolete)
4. Espionage uses existing mechanics in new ways (Sensors, Retrofitting, Nebula, Black-sites, Arcane Engineering)
5. Espionage is a solid base for new mechanics to sit on top (Stealth Components/Cloaking/Electronic Warfare/Jamming)

I'd still like some active element to espionage, but I think this would be a perfectly reasonable passive backbone to it. But I do struggle to imagine an active element that will satisfy the completely opposing needs that people have... so I'd rather the passive element was the majority of espionage and the active was more minor. A system where investing in espionage can still win battles and the game, but losing in espionage can be countered economically and doesn't involve a death of a thousand alerts from the hostile actions of enemy spies.
 
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A2ch0n

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I've been wondering what parts of espionage could be fun and importantly, could be countered without having to invest heavily in using espionage in return. I completely understand the worry that you may have all your level 10 leaders assassinated, your techs stolen and your infrastructure detonated... by your fellow federation members... if an active espionage system is implemented poorly. So how would I make a good passive one?

Ship Design Intel
1. Learn enemy ship designs passively when in sensor range
Keep track of them so you can counter their all-shield designs without having to remember what empire number 15 had when you last saw the patrol fleet pass by your border station. Needs a new tab somewhere to log the information, preferably on the diplomacy screen.

2. Learn weaknesses of enemy ship designs
Passively (and slowly) add bonus damage vs shield/armour/hull, reduce enemy bonus damage, or modify shield/armour bypass amounts (tune your shields to detonate enemy missiles, or time your shots to match the cycle-frequency of enemy shields, spot the weak exhaust ports). If the enemy hasn't changed their ship designs since the last war then with your better intel expect to be able to run rings around their designs thanks to your extensive battle reports (even if they are higher tech like fallen empires, though have less intel generated on designs you can't replicate as you can't fully understand why hitting the shiny bit seems to work, unless you gain debris post-battle and realise the shiny bit was a power cell).

3. Retrofit designs to make enemy intel obsolete
Changing all slots would reduce current enemy design intel to 0, smaller retrofits could have a smaller effect. New ship classes would have a window of opportunity where your equipment and design weaknesses are unknown, especially if these ships are stationed in a hidden nebula system prior to combat. There could be retrofit options that do not change the modules but still cost resources and reduce enemy intel to represent patching of vulnerable systems and incremental design improvements (put a dozen decoy exhaust ports around to distract enemy fire, stick a fake shield generator on the TIE fighter - much to the dismay of the pilot).

4. Sensor Coverage is vitally important. Gain intel on designs in sensor range, bonus for watching battles.
Listening posts/Sentry Array/Tachyon Sensors/Nebula effects/Arcane Engineering/Crystalline Sensors all play into espionage passively, no need for a huge number of additional mechanics and all existing mechanics can be made easily compatible. Watching two enemies fight would provide much more intel than watching their fleets on non-combat patrols.

5. New Role of reducing enemy sensor intel with Counter Espionage/Stealth ship components/Electronic Warfare/Jamming
These could prevent the enemy gaining intel on your ships passively (counter-espionage, stealth components, deep-space black sites) or actively during battle (Electronic Warfare/Jamming), the latter even reducing enemy bonuses and protecting older ship designs by obfuscating their identity.

Positives:
1. Espionage helps you counter enemy ships (increases your fleet power relative to the enemy, the main meat of the game)
2. Espionage is optional (passive effects, active benefits of upgrading and retrofitting designs can be gained by playing normally)
3. Espionage has an economic/tech option to counter it (research new components, paying alloys to retrofit ships renders their intel obsolete)
4. Espionage uses existing mechanics in new ways (Sensors, Retrofitting, Nebula, Black-sites, Arcane Engineering)
5. Espionage is a solid base for new mechanics to sit on top (Stealth Components/Cloaking/Electronic Warfare/Jamming)

I'd still like some active element to espionage, but I think this would be a perfectly reasonable passive backbone to it. But I do struggle to imagine an active element that will satisfy the completely opposing needs that people have... so I'd rather the passive element was the majority of espionage and the active was more minor. A system where investing in espionage can still win battles and the game, but losing in espionage can be countered economically and doesn't involve a death of a thousand alerts from the hostile actions of enemy spies.
The intel level idea was set up in another post about espionage some weeks ago (speculating whats inside the espionage tab). And most uf us agreed that there will be a kind of level/progress bar similar to the federation XP bar. Each level will unlock something. You have to send a spy leader to perform intel collection, so it's limited maybe like envoys and civics and the monstly xp is lowered by enemy counter espionage.

Lv 1) Basic intelligence (borders, species type, basic ethics, something like that)
Lv 2) Advanced intel, giving you details about fleetsize, economy and science, the things you actually know in 2.8
Lv 3) Revealing fleet position and sensor stations. Here it starts to get interesting because most likely here it starts with active actions too.
Lv 4) Reveal Civics, traits population, details ethics and intel about weaknesses in case of targets for manipulation
Lv 5) Mac Lv. revelaing weakpoints in borders, sensors and so on, maybe an uption to slip through there defense with a sabotage ship.

beside this intel levels you gather "intel points" or something like that, what can be used on active actions. This is most likely manipulation ethics, unrest, diplomatic behavior, opinion between two empires, try to split up a fed and so on. The amount of gathered points and a hard cap (depending on civics, science and APs) limit your amount of actions. And if you do too many at one, you'll maybe get caught. Nothing of this destroys actively things. That is the espionage part.

All active actions with hard impact (tech steal, detroying ships, deactivate starbases/mega structures and so on) are left for sabotage.
 
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DrFranknfurter

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The intel level idea was set up in another post about espionage some weeks ago (spculating whats inside the espionage tab). And most uf us agreed that there will be a kind of level/progress bar similar to the federation XP bar. Each level will unlock something. You have to send a spy leader to perform intel collection, so it's limited maybe like envoys and civics and the monstly xp is lowered by enemy counter espionage.

Lv 1) Basic intelligence (borders, species type, basic ethics, something like that)
Lv 2) Advanced intel, giving you details about fleetsize, economy and science, the things you actually know in 2.8
Lv 3) Revealing fleet position and sensor stations. Here it starts to get interesting because most likely here it starts with active actions too.
Lv 4) Reveal Civics, traits population, details ethics and intel about weaknesses in case of targets for manipulation
Lv 5) Mac Lv. revelaing weakpoints in borders, sensors and so on, maybe an uption to slip through there defense with a sabotage ship.

beside this intel levels you gather "intel points" or something like that, what can be used on active actions. This is most likely manipulation ethics, unrest, diplomatic behavior, opinion between two empires, try to split up a fed and so on. The amount of gathered points and a hard cap (depending on civics, science and APs) limit your amount of actions. And if you do too many at one, you'll maybe get caught. Nothing of this destroys actively things. That is the espionage part.

All active actions with hard impact (tech steal, detroying ships, deactivate starbases/mega structures and so on) are left for sabotage.
I imagine what we will get will probably be an empire-level intel system, probably very similar to the Federation XP level... but my post was about a more granular ship-design intel that would be quite different from knowing the enemy diplomatic weight, mood or intentions.

Also I find a generic bar very 'gamey' and immersion breaking. What actually changed overnight between level 1 and 2? Why does nothing change during the 50 years or more it takes to very slowly go up a level? Why don't the names get thematic descriptive names instead of numbers? Why aren't there any ways of increasing the rate of gain or loss above the ridiculously low cap of 10xp per month? and so on...

So while I like the idea of an empire-level passive intel system hiding relative power and other key information and I don't doubt that it seems to be the case, my post was about a more granular and specific ship-design-level intel system that fits with already existing mechanics (think of it as what I'd want from the free feature, whereas active spies and diplomats would be the paid DLC feature).
 

A2ch0n

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I imagine what we will get will probably be an empire-level intel system, probably very similar to the Federation XP level... but my post was about a more granular ship-design intel that would be quite different from knowing the enemy diplomatic weight, mood or intentions.

Also I find a generic bar very 'gamey' and immersion breaking. What actually changed overnight between level 1 and 2? Why does nothing change during the 50 years or more it takes to very slowly go up a level? Why don't the names get thematic descriptive names instead of numbers? Why aren't there any ways of increasing the rate of gain or loss above the ridiculously low cap of 10xp per month? and so on...

So while I like the idea of an empire-level passive intel system hiding relative power and other key information and I don't doubt that it seems to be the case, my post was about a more granular and specific ship-design-level intel system that fits with already existing mechanics (think of it as what I'd want from the free feature, whereas active spies and diplomats would be the paid DLC feature).
It's the same with federation XP bar ^^. I don't say thats very esthetical or fitting from a narrative point of view but depending on the knowledge about the actual implementations it's most likely something like this.

And your ship insight could maybe one of this "knowledge perks" unlocked on a certain intel LV. I'm not the type for countering ships with a exact counter equipment, so for me this would be quite uninteresting because it would only help in war. But it's still some kind of intel and can be used for some of the lower intel levels. The higher ones are most likely only obtainable after quite some time and with more then one spy. But thats of course speculation.
 

LordNarvi

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2.
Giving espionage the same risk/reward wouldn't make sense based on real life; no country has ever been destroyed by spies, whereas plenty have been by war
Several countries in South America might disagree with you there.
 
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grommile

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Several countries in South America might disagree with you there.
Notably, they were socially reordered as puppet dictatorships by the espionage efforts of major powers.
 
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mial42

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Several countries in South America might disagree with you there.
Last I checked, Chile is still here. And even then, there's two huge differences between that and what's being proposed here:
1. It only worked because the US already had massive political/economic/diplomatic influence over Latin America completely independent of any espionage; ie, it was the result of massive preexisting hard and soft power. Another country with a strong intelligence but without that power, like, say, Israel or even the USSR, would not have been able to do that.
2. The various Latin American Cold War coups were never carried out purely by the CIA or any other intelligence service. They were virtually all carried out by native institutions or actors (usually the military) who were supported financially and diplomatically by the US (again, not possible if the US didn't already have massive preexisting influence). Where these institutions and actors don't exist or have a tiny powerbase, like in Cuba, all the espionage in the world is useless.
 
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DrFranknfurter

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It's the same with federation XP bar ^^. I don't say thats very esthetical or fitting from a narrative point of view but depending on the knowledge about the actual implementations it's most likely something like this.

And your ship insight could maybe one of this "knowledge perks" unlocked on a certain intel LV. I'm not the type for countering ships with a exact counter equipment, so for me this would be quite uninteresting because it would only help in war. But it's still some kind of intel and can be used for some of the lower intel levels. The higher ones are most likely only obtainable after quite some time and with more then one spy. But thats of course speculation.
I imagine such a system could easily be modified to require a certain level of empire-level intel to unlock, but that's more of a balance thing. Also this sort of system would be important even if you were a pacifist who never went to war directly - giving your allies sensor data on enemy fleets would let them do better in battle even if they weren't actively refitting their designs to counter the enemy they'd have an advantage in battle by knowing their weak spots. And you'd have a defensive advantage as you would see their ships moving around your space and gather intel, while they only get intel on your ships when you reveal your fleet and fight. It could even modify your diplomatic weight from fleet power or reduce the enemy weight from fleet power if everyone can counter their designs (for a tiny, incidental non-combat benefit).

But yes, the suggestion was a purely war-focused mechanic, so perhaps it doesn't really fit the theme of improving diplomacy and politics.

As an aside, when I first saw "Federation level and XP" I really, really hoped those were placeholder names and the screen was an early but functional mock-up. Alas that was not the case. There's something unsettlingly fake to me about the following:
1. Resetting the federation to 1 on changing federation type (losing 100% of progress, 200 years of history lost overnight)
2. Hidden/inflexible variables like -50 acceptance penalties towards raising Centralization below 90 cohesion (penalty should if anything be changed to below +1/month cohesion if the aim is to stop the federation from jumping up in cohesion and falling in level because of it), but in general large fixed acceptance modifiers irritate me... like the -1000 diplomatic modifier when in federations blocking protectorate requests and the like
3. Capping max cohesion at +/-100 and XP at +/-10 (why so low and slow?)
4. Having the same XP gain at +0.5/month cohesion as you have +25/month cohesion (why not convert the wasted monthly cohesion into XP?)
5. Almost all instant cohesion changes being hidden negative penalties feels wrong (in theory federation projects are the cool exception, but gaining +25 or +100 instant cohesion when you're at the 100 cap does nothing sadly, and as it's 60 years in to trigger you will almost certainly be at the cap),
6. Positive monthly cohesion only coming from envoys with almost no player agency (can't recruit enough envoys or perform any other action to increase monthly cohesion, even if you could do that it wouldn't actually increase XP gain) and so on...
So I really hope the new system is better than Federation levels/mechanics, more thematic and less rigid and 'gamey'... time will tell.
 
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Cat_Fuzz

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Very late to this party, but for me: intelligence > espionage.

Spies and 'men on the ground' is a very pre 21st century concept. In the space age (and even now in the current world) intelligence gathering and information warfare is a far more effective strategy for manipulating the hearts and minds of other empires than a 007 type spy system. I'm hoping that the focus is more on using information to shift ethics, manufacture slander or threats to goad others into warfare and to sabotage than a spy system that grants a +\- to some stats periodically, but we'll see.
 
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Make it macro scale like Moo1 the only espionage system that scales with the game.

Not this having many agents doing each task nonsence.Not blowing up 1 building,1 shIp stuff either.Macro level.
 
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