Stellaris Dev Diary #197: Operations and Assets

Stellaris Dev Diary #197: Operations and Assets

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Don't get me wrong, I am interested like everyone – some of this stuff sounds very cool – and will happily play it with an open mind, however, it seems a little lofty to expect Stellaris to succeed where all I've seen in other games has been seriously underwhelming. (If anyone disagrees and can think of a game with an espionage system that is fun & engaging even when you're the one being targeted, do let me know; I would love to be wrong here.)
One game where it seems generally to work reasonably well is HoI4 - and I think that is in part a model for the team, here. "Intelligence" in HoI4 is mostly about just that - intelligence about the enemy. The "offensive" operations generally are either about increasing the intel level, "stealing" technology (one of the poorer parts of the system, tbh) or supporting resistance movements that are already present (but not as dangerous as you can make them by supporting and supplying them). A potentially problematic part of the system is the fomenting of "coups", but that comes with significant preconditions which limits its application.

I agree with others who say that some level of "fog of war" and uncertainty is good, but it's good for the active party as well as the defender. One idea might be to have defensive "operations" like honey traps for active infiltrators. This might work as an "asset" that is made available to external agencies; if they look for an asset, they might get this instead. It's like a normal asset, but it reports back to the home counter-intelligence with details of operations it is used for and the intel level of the external agency it is attached to. An example of this would be the "gestapo officer" that was used by MI5 in the Second World War. Many of those with nazi sympathies in the UK were happy to report their "intelligence" to this individual, who was "known" in the circles in which nazi sympathisers moved as an agent of the Third Reich. Except that he worked for British Intelligence, who passed along the "intelligence" they gathered to the Abwehr via other channels where they thought it might be useful to the allied cause...
 
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hrusnik

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Hi! And sorry my ENGLISH!

What can you say about such unity?
1. you will have a tree of unity, on the branches of which you can change "leaves", and these leaves are opened for points of unity.
2. Over time, the tree will "grow" the more population, the more branches. Every time a society splits, a new tree of unity appears ... i.e. the number of "trees" will depend on the number of the faction, and its growth will depend on the number of priests in the faction ... also, each type of faction will have its own tree, in which, for example, you cannot hang some leaves, and some leaves will give an increased bonus for synergy .. ...
3. Also in the later stages of the game it will be possible to increase the levels of leaves (like paragon in Diablo 3)
 

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Tamwin5

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One game where it seems generally to work reasonably well is HoI4 - and I think that is in part a model for the team, here. "Intelligence" in HoI4 is mostly about just that - intelligence about the enemy. The "offensive" operations generally are either about increasing the intel level, "stealing" technology (one of the poorer parts of the system, tbh) or supporting resistance movements that are already present (but not as dangerous as you can make them by supporting and supplying them). A potentially problematic part of the system is the fomenting of "coups", but that comes with significant preconditions which limits its application.

I agree with others who say that some level of "fog of war" and uncertainty is good, but it's good for the active party as well as the defender. One idea might be to have defensive "operations" like honey traps for active infiltrators. This might work as an "asset" that is made available to external agencies; if they look for an asset, they might get this instead. It's like a normal asset, but it reports back to the home counter-intelligence with details of operations it is used for and the intel level of the external agency it is attached to. An example of this would be the "gestapo officer" that was used by MI5 in the Second World War. Many of those with nazi sympathies in the UK were happy to report their "intelligence" to this individual, who was "known" in the circles in which nazi sympathisers moved in as an agent of the Third Reich. Except that he worked for British Intelligence, who passed along the "intelligence" they gathered to the Abwehr via other channels where they thought it might be useful to the allied cause...
I don't think you should launch operations in your own space. Rather, what I'd like to see (and have mentioned a couple of times already in this thread) is for "defensive operations" to actually be aggressive: you go to another empire and launch and operation to try and find out info on a spy network on you, or to compromise an asset they have. This way, there is an inherent risk, in that you are being the aggressor. It takes up operational bandwidth, and if they weren't spying on you you might cause an incident and worsen your relations.
 
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Tyrannical Prince

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I like the idea of Defensive operations

An example could be a manhunt for a spy where the defender empire has to try to capture the spy or informant using a bunch of archeological site type things before the spy escapes, is killed or proves their innocence.

It could kind of be an interactive operation between the 2 empires where 1 empire is trying to extract or kill the asset and the other empire is trying to capture the asset.
 

Balesir

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I don't think you should launch operations in your own space. Rather, what I'd like to see (and have mentioned a couple of times already in this thread) is for "defensive operations" to actually be aggressive: you go to another empire and launch and operation to try and find out info on a spy network on you, or to compromise an asset they have. This way, there is an inherent risk, in that you are being the aggressor. It takes up operational bandwidth, and if they weren't spying on you you might cause an incident and worsen your relations.
Hmm, that really doesn't get at what I was thinking of. I was thinking that, with defensive operations, you don't get to choose who it is "aimed" at - it's just a literal trap. You create a honey trap asset, then an agency looking to recruit an asset in your space might either (a) fail, (b) pick up that "trap" asset or (c) pick up another, "normal" asset. In cases (a) and (c) defending counter-intel would quite possibly be none the wiser, depending on what a failed operation of the type normally looks like. The 'trap' assets should probably have a limited lifetime, not once taken up, but in the sense that if they are not taken on within that time they are no longer effective as a trap. Once taken on, they might act much as any other asset, except that they tell their owner who they are supposedly working for, and notify them of any operations that include them. The true owner can then choose to burn them to abort the operation or just let it run. The ostensible owner can, of course, burn the asset in the usual way - and they may well be disposed to do so if they suspect the asset of duplicity...
 

Tamwin5

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Hmm, that really doesn't get at what I was thinking of. I was thinking that, with defensive operations, you don't get to choose who it is "aimed" at - it's just a literal trap. You create a honey trap asset, then an agency looking to recruit an asset in your space might either (a) fail, (b) pick up that "trap" asset or (c) pick up another, "normal" asset. In cases (a) and (c) defending counter-intel would quite possibly be none the wiser, depending on what a failed operation of the type normally looks like. The 'trap' assets should probably have a limited lifetime, not once taken up, but in the sense that if they are not taken on within that time they are no longer effective as a trap. Once taken on, they might act much as any other asset, except that they tell their owner who they are supposedly working for, and notify them of any operations that include them. The true owner can then choose to burn them to abort the operation or just let it run. The ostensible owner can, of course, burn the asset in the usual way - and they may well be disposed to do so if they suspect the asset of duplicity...
The trouble with doing these sorts of operations is it becomes a "Well why wouldn't you just have honey-pots active all the time?" It's the same reason why paradox decided against being able to assign an envoy to counter-espionage: you'd just always do it, so it felt more like an envoy tax than anything meaningful. Flavor wise, these sorts of operations are just rolled up into the counter-espionage number. A bit boring, but better gameplay wise imo.
 
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I don't think you should launch operations in your own space. Rather, what I'd like to see (and have mentioned a couple of times already in this thread) is for "defensive operations" to actually be aggressive: you go to another empire and launch and operation to try and find out info on a spy network on you, or to compromise an asset they have. This way, there is an inherent risk, in that you are being the aggressor. It takes up operational bandwidth, and if they weren't spying on you you might cause an incident and worsen your relations.
I don't think it works if you have to pick a specific target. Once you reach a certain size you're always going to have more envoys sent to spy on you than you can send to counter them. Unless there's some sort of system in place that makes it hard to dogpile someone with espionage, which will be incredibly annoying for the player, then counter-espionage needs to either not rely on envoys and/or be a general defensive system. Ideally this system should be as interesting to play with as offensive espionage.
 
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The trouble with doing these sorts of operations is it becomes a "Well why wouldn't you just have honey-pots active all the time?"
The same reason you wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) spam "false flag" operations all the time - because it takes resources to do, has risks and doesn't necessarily have the result you want it to. In making a 'honeypot' asset, you are spending resources to make something that might not be picked up at all (making it a waste of resources) and can be burned by an adversary even if it is taken up. You have no control over who, if anyone, takes up the asset - and even allies might be spying on you innocently (to the extent that they just want to check that you aren't stiffing them).
 
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methegrate

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Espionage in strategy games is one of those things that looks very exciting on paper, but in practice, seems to usually cause more irritation than fun. ... (If anyone disagrees and can think of a game with an espionage system that is fun & engaging even when you're the one being targeted, do let me know; I would love to be wrong here.)

+1 to this
 

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I wonder what Paradox could do with Double Agents.

It would be interesting if some of your spies or your enemy's spies played both sides. If you make use of such double agents against an opponent, you will gain information about the opponent as normal on successful missions.

However, if you make use of such double agents against an opponent, you do so knowing that your opponent also gets similar information about you..... Might add an extra wrinkle to running your operations.
 

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I don't think it works if you have to pick a specific target. Once you reach a certain size you're always going to have more envoys sent to spy on you than you can send to counter them. Unless there's some sort of system in place that makes it hard to dogpile someone with espionage, which will be incredibly annoying for the player, then counter-espionage needs to either not rely on envoys and/or be a general defensive system. Ideally this system should be as interesting to play with as offensive espionage.

On the contrary, it works specifically because you are picking a specific target. This isn't a general protecting yourself from espionage, that's what your counterespionage rating represents. This is you deliberately trying to infiltrate that intelligence agency of another empire to gain knowledge and insight into their actions. It's not supposed to be a general counter-espionage action, because, like you said, that's a bad idea.

The two instances where you would use this is A) someone you know is spying on you a lot, where you want to hinder their progress or B) an ally who you suspect might be spying on you.

An anti-dogpile system is really simple: just make it so that whenever someone successfully pulls an espionage on you, you get +1 counter espionage for a year (or 3 or 5 or whatever). If lots of people try to spy on you, this will stack up until it's basically impossible.
 
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I think some techs should be easier to steal than others. For example theory techs like "Super solid materials" and such should be super easy to steal since this is likely to be circulated around the empire's society and you can probably just translate it. A military tech though would require somebody to hack something or even be deployed physically, so much riskier and harder to pull off.
 
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I think some techs should be easier to steal than others. For example theory techs like "Super solid materials" and such should be super easy to steal since this is likely to be circulated around the empire's society and you can probably just translate it. A military tech though would require somebody to hack something or even be deployed physically, so much riskier and harder to pull off.
An interesting way to do this would be if non-military techs are far easier to take than military ones via espionage. Since you can already reverse engineer techs from debris, this would complement that and give good ways to get at the rest of the tech tree from other empires.
 
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I wonder what Paradox could do with Double Agents.

It would be interesting if some of your spies or your enemy's spies played both sides. If you make use of such double agents against an opponent, you will gain information about the opponent as normal on successful missions.

However, if you make use of such double agents against an opponent, you do so knowing that your opponent also gets similar information about you..... Might add an extra wrinkle to running your operations.
I think that's what both @Tamwin5 and myself are talking about - assets that work for both sides due to being set up. Maybe 'caught' assets from a failed operation could also shift to be this type of "asset".

On the contrary, it works specifically because you are picking a specific target. This isn't a general protecting yourself from espionage, that's what your counterespionage rating represents. This is you deliberately trying to infiltrate that intelligence agency of another empire to gain knowledge and insight into their actions. It's not supposed to be a general counter-espionage action, because, like you said, that's a bad idea.

The two instances where you would use this is A) someone you know is spying on you a lot, where you want to hinder their progress or B) an ally who you suspect might be spying on you.
This type of plant could conceivably work, but it would be at least partly luck whether the asset gets taken up by the target agency - even more than with a non-specific honey trap, since you are relying on one specific agency to identify and promote the asset. Of course, it could even extend to planting ssets that get taken up as envoys. That would be very powerful, but should work only rarely - hardly ever, in fact.

An anti-dogpile system is really simple: just make it so that whenever someone successfully pulls an espionage on you, you get +1 counter espionage for a year (or 3 or 5 or whatever). If lots of people try to spy on you, this will stack up until it's basically impossible.
Aside from the complete lack of verisimilitude, that could work. I would hate it because of the breaking of suspended disbelief, but it would work as a game system.
 
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Tamwin5

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I think that's what both @Tamwin5 and myself are talking about - assets that work for both sides due to being set up. Maybe 'caught' assets from a failed operation could also shift to be this type of "asset".


This type of plant could conceivably work, but it would be at least partly luck whether the asset gets taken up by the target agency - even more than with a non-specific honey trap, since you are relying on one specific agency to identify and promote the asset. Of course, it could even extend to planting ssets that get taken up as envoys. That would be very powerful, but should work only rarely - hardly ever, in fact.


Aside from the complete lack of verisimilitude, that could work. I would hate it because of the breaking of suspended disbelief, but it would work as a game system.

My suggestion was actually about compromising existing assets they have on you. If you know that a certain mid-level bureaucrat is working for an another empire, it becomes really easy to track all their actions and figure out other parties in an operation, and the target of what they are going after. Personally, the way I envisioned a compromised asset working is that when a an action is launched with that asset, you get a notification that an operation was launched and the target about the operation (Government, Diplomacy, Military, Economy, or Technology). You then can choose to either lay low, or stop it. Laying low will cause the operation to proceed normally, while stopping it will cause the operation to automatically fail in the worst way, the asset lost as well.

Thinking about it, I think it might be good to add a specific counter-espionage edict, as the counterpoint to the beer of espionage (still think it needs a better name) which is geared more towards offensive espionage action. This Counter-Espionage edict would give some bonuses to counter-espionage, a decrease to max infiltration against you, and the chance for the "find asset" operation to grab a compromised asset.

And in terms of the anti-dogpile mechanic, I think it makes tons of sense flavor wise. If you just got busted by an espionage operation, it means that people are going to be on their toes for a little while, far less likely to ignore suspicious activity, insert a random flash drive they found in the parking lot, or hold the security door open for a guy holding coffee and donuts. Now of course, since people are people this won't last very long, but it will atleast give some protection. There is also the technical side of thing where whatever holes in systems were found get patched, software rolls out updates, and that's actually kept on top of for a little bit before, again, people forget or don't want to go through the trouble.
 
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My suggestion was actually about compromising existing assets they have on you. If you know that a certain mid-level bureaucrat is working for an another empire, it becomes really easy to track all their actions and figure out other parties in an operation, and the target of what they are going after. Personally, the way I envisioned a compromised asset working is that when a an action is launched with that asset, you get a notification that an operation was launched and the target about the operation (Government, Diplomacy, Military, Economy, or Technology). You then can choose to either lay low, or stop it. Laying low will cause the operation to proceed normally, while stopping it will cause the operation to automatically fail in the worst way, the asset lost as well.

And in terms of the anti-dogpile mechanic, I think it makes tons of sense flavor wise. If you just got busted by an espionage operation, it means that people are going to be on their toes for a little while, far less likely to ignore suspicious activity, insert a random flash drive they found in the parking lot, or hold the security door open for a guy holding coffee and donuts. Now of course, since people are people this won't last very long, but it will atleast give some protection. There is also the technical side of thing where whatever holes in systems were found get patched, software rolls out updates, and that's actually kept on top of for a little bit before, again, people forget or don't want to go through the trouble.
The problem for me with both of these is that the whole idea with a fully sucessful espionage operation is that the target doesn't know it's happened! If you want to say that counter-intelligence effectiveness is temporarily increased by a failed operation, that would be fine - but part of the point of a success would be to have it blamed on script kiddies, disaffected workers, malfunctioning drones or bugged code, etc.

I think that a more 'sympathetic' anti-dogpile mechanism would be that operations running in parallel from different agencies may interfere with each other - especially if they are aimed at the same or a related target. You might find two agencies trying to suborn the same asset, for example, or with teams trying to sabotage the same facility. If lots of agencies were acting simultaneously without coordination you might end up with a total comedy of unintended conflicts and interferences. This leads to another avenue: should it be possible for alliances, especially federations, to coordinate intelligence activities? That is what happened in the cold war (to good, albeit imperfect, effect), after all.

Thinking about it, I think it might be good to add a specific counter-espionage edict, as the counterpoint to the beer of espionage (still think it needs a better name) which is geared more towards offensive espionage action. This Counter-Espionage edict would give some bonuses to counter-espionage, a decrease to max infiltration against you, and the chance for the "find asset" operation to grab a compromised asset.
An edict would be one interesting resource for counter-intelligence, but it might be so a high a price as to demand only powerful effects. A set of policies might be worthwhile, also or instead. Maybe one policy adds a chance of any asset gained on you being a double agent type, whereas another will just increase the chance that operations will fail and a third will supress intel ratings or intel gain rates?

Your view of how double-agents/compromised agents work, by the way, accords almost exactly with mine. The problem with compromising existing assets is that you should generally not know who or what they are. The difficult bit is not getting leverage on the asset, it's finding an asset to turn; the agency running them knows who or what they are, obviously - but they're not telling!
 
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I'm skeptical, too, but this looks like a kind of mix between classic (and not very fun) 4X espionage systems and the intrigue system in CK2.
Still looks pretty simplistic, though, and doesn't really take advantage of all the various systems and features in Stellaris. I was hoping for sector interaction, contacting and enlisting the help of specific characters in other empires, and so on. The actual operations might be more interactive, but they're still the same bare-bones missions you have in every other 4X game with espionage.
 
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I also have several suggest about Asset:
+ If an empire fire a leader, there is a chance that said leader will become an asset of one of the spy nerwork in said empire, with weight depend on intel level and mission (one actively work to acquire asset will scout him easier than one just hope for a random meeting, but there is still chance). This chance increase as the leader's ages grow higher, or if the leader have bad trait like "Paranoid", "Traumatized"... The higher the leader level, the better the asset's capability, and they also get a hefty bonus on the field they are working at (a scientist will know how to steal technology that he developep, an admiral will know about the fleet he command, governor will have the entire sector's economy written in his hand).
Doing this will make player think twice about hiring a leader just to fire him instantly to refresh the leader list. That is unethical for them, and at least, must have some repercussion.
+ Planet with low stability, low happiness level, or high crime level, or have criminal job will have a good chance to spawn an assest for any spy network have infomation about it.
+ Corrupt and deviant drone job in Gestalt empire can also help producing assest for enemy.

Suggestion about Provoking:
+ Initialize Rebellion: If a planet is experience sufficient low stability (enough to trigger rebellion), other empire's spy network with infomation about it can initialize an rebellion. You can choose to help rushing the rebellion, which weaken the rebellion and if they fail, you will certainly be discovered to be behind it. Everyone will frown upon you then. You can also choose to carefully prepare the local, but if the home empire somehow help them to become happy again, your attemp to initialize will be reported. However, careful preparation mean that the rebellion will be much stronget, and cannot be traced back to you anymore.
Also, if an empire agree to take in rebel of another empire, then the taker will be suspect of initialize it, have their spy network weaken for a considerable time.