Spy System Issue Brainstorm

Stalker0

Baller Magnus
Joined
Dec 31, 2005
Messages
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I want to craft some Spy change proposals next session, so want to collect general feedback around the state of the system. It may turn into multiple proposals depending on what is noted. I'll also differentiate bugs vs features as there are a few bugs outstanding.

Bugs
  • Notifications are sometimes missing yields you gained, or show you phantom yields (like science I gained even though I didn't do a science steal).
  • Kidnap mission never expires, leading to infinitely stacking specialist yields.
  • Negative spy power is possible, leading to weird scenarios where you can have like -1 turn duration missions.
Mission Breakdowns

Coups

  • Too easy in the early game (generally a flat 75% success).
  • It is also somewhat mysterious as to what effects coups suddenly in the late game. You go from this 75% all the time to suddenly drops into 10-20%....and I never understand when or why this happens.
  • CS Coup Mission generates way too many yields. I would argue for a full 75% nerf, that's how high I think it is. My opinion might change depending on how hard we make coups. I would even argue if these kinds of yields are appropriate for this quest. The only other one that gives this type of bonus is the number of followers gained quest, a very unique and often very difficult quest that requires a lot of dedication and planning.
Broaden Surveillance
  • In general I think this mission does its job. A fast, low risk mission that gives you long standing intel. Its pretty solid, I don't use it often but I have used it on occasion.
  • One possible idea might be to roll this up into the other missions (maybe with a shorter duration). So I do a steal, I get X yield AND I gain surveillance for Y turns in the city. This might be a way to generally increase the utility of spy missions compared to CS rigging/coups.
Yield Steal Missions (Gold / Tourism / Religion / Science)
  • General Feedback: The missions are too weak. The yields gained compared to the effort spent (number of spy turns, risk of death/identify) is just not worth it.
  • Specific Feedback:
    • Mission times should likely be compressed. Mission Times of 1-4 turns gives such pitiful results its not worth talking about. Conversely, 30+ turn missions are far too long. I think the minimum should be 5, max 20.
    • Yields should likely be an extra 25% across the board (50% of science, +75% of faith).
    • It can be argued that perhaps security shouldn't adjust mission times for these (as longer missions provide more yields), but perhaps should just lower the % stolen. So maybe all missions here are 10 turns, but at security 1 you get 25%, at security 5 you get 10%, something like that.

Radicalize the Local Populace
  • This is a decent "screw you" type mission providing a variety of hits, so it generally always does something.
  • The growth penalty can become a bit annoying as it can become "permanent" in your capital if you have a few enemies that like this mission.
  • One idea might be to increase the pillage pain but remove the growth penalty. Turn it more into a war type "insta screw" rather than a longer term play like the yield steal missions. This may give it a better niche and provide you more fun active spy tools during your wars.
Kidnap Specialists in the City
  • The bug aside, I like this mission. Its a reasonable benefit for its quick time, and its actually a great mission to use in low security cities.
Target Local City Defenses
  • This is a good well designed mission. It requires some planning but normally is workable in your war plans if your smart about it, its a good and strong effect without being overbearing, and the security impact is good.
Arm the Local Population
  • I don't have a lot of experience with this one, as its hard to know when an enemy city is going to be unhappy.
  • The main issue with it is, I normally would want this in some backwater city where it can cause real trouble. The problem is if that city turns out to not be unhappy when I get there, its usually a city I don't want to do other spy missions in, so I always feel like I have to abort and lose my spy time.
Steal a Tech
  • This is actually way too good right now, letting a dedicated player catch up in tech in the blink of an eye.
  • There are two fundamental problems:
    • The mission times are too wide based on security: I can steal techs in 5 turns of 30 turns...hmm, which one should I do.
    • I can stack spies in the same civ and steal multiple times. It is possible not to steal 1 teach in 5 turns, but 3 or 4.
  • There has to be some kind of cap on this mission. Maybe only in the capital, or only 1 per civ, or maybe 1 period at a time per player.
Copy A Great Work
  • Comes too late in the game. By the time I can do it, my CV play is already going. I don't find a few more Great Works are going to change things. I would much rather steal techs and get to those juicy tourism boosting techs in the late game than snag a few more works.

Counterspying
  • The +2 happiness / -25% yields isn't terrible in a pinch.
  • The specialist boost one is decent but it requires a level 3 spy!
  • I have never used the other ones, don't seem worth it to me.
Security / Spy Power
  • One annoying thing is that security can fluctuate greatly during spy transit. I can send a mission to a Security 1 city, only for it to get there and it's a Security 5 city, makes my efforts completely worthless.
  • Security in the early game is always max, which means my first spies (especially from statecraft) don't have much to do. I either go for the CS coups (because its the best), or I can drop my guy as a diplomat to get experience. Counterspy options aren't great until I get some levels.
  • I personally don't feel that constabularies actually really "do anything" when it comes to security. I never feel their impact.
 
Coups
  • Too easy in the early game (generally a flat 75% success).
  • It is also somewhat mysterious as to what effects coups suddenly in the late game. You go from this 75% all the time to suddenly drops into 10-20%....and I never understand when or why this happens.
  • CS Coup Mission generates way too many yields. I would argue for a full 75% nerf, that's how high I think it is. My opinion might change depending on how hard we make coups. I would even argue if these kinds of yields are appropriate for this quest. The only other one that gives this type of bonus is the number of followers gained quest, a very unique and often very difficult quest that requires a lot of dedication and planning.
I think the odds of success are related to your influence relative to the holders influence. It also drops if you are at war with the city state (but this could just be the same effect). I think the right move is to replace great people points with a different yield, or make it just a single type of great person points.

The main issue with everything else is the time missions take. I don't have much experience with most of the options just because they take so long (I've seen 60 turns!). Conceptually there is a lot that is interesting here, the target defences mission sounds awesome but it takes too long to set up in my experience.

I've just been putting a diplomat out in my rivals capital because, other than city state missions, the vision on their production queue is the most valuable use I've been able to find.

Counterspy missions are cool but I always take the specialist one.
 
I think the coup chance is tuned to have a decent chance before the big influence decay update (when CS can get thousands of influences by late game due to stacking). Now with the decay we don't have that much influences anymore thus the coup chance is way higher than it should be.

Yield steals probably need to change into "gathering X amount of yield based on city current output (2-3 times for example) while mission length is based on security/spy level". It would be more in tune with other action where the results are fixed but missing length are based on security and spy level instead of the other way around like op suggested.

Agreed with the steal tech limitation. Stacking multiple spy on the same civ is pretty strong and can help you catch up tech very very quickly.

I don't have any strong opinion about the rest of the options. Gameplay-wise they're ok, but some number tweak might be needed and that would require more input from others.
Also I feel like we can load up a bit more action for diplomat, as they're generally only used as xp training for now, but it's more of an enhancement with extra effort so just gonna leave it for interested modder.
 
Yield steals probably need to change into "gathering X amount of yield based on city current output (2-3 times for example) while mission length is based on security/spy level".
Not sure what you mean here, this is exactly how it works now.

You get a % of the city's current output every turn, with teh number of turns gathered based on the security level.
 
I often find myself preferring to station spies in CS or counterspying, it's pretty annoying to send a spy into a city only to find out the only available action is broaden surveillance.

I'm in favor of evening out durations for spying, and making yield-amount based on the security level (maybe even fluctuating over time?), and I'd like to know how the formulas interact with the epic speed modifier because the tuning feels off at the moment (or maybe that's a symptom of security > super long spy durations). Especially for the "combat" actions, it can often feel like you're making peace before the events are even close to finishing (again, on epic).

Stealing techs seems too variable, would it be possible to have it give a dump of science instead? That way it can be modified by security level. The yields-over-time action would then be the safe option, and if you want to play riskier/play catchup, you try to steal techs.
... Actually, isn't a burst of science already what a Great Scientist does? Copying a Great Work gives you the outcome of a GWAM? Should these effects somehow be aligned a little more directly? Could be extended to the other GPersons. Would be a little bit like the Kidnap action, but Kidnapping would be the trickle-over-time, and again less risky/rewarding.
 
Sort of not what you're asking, but how cool would a mission to Smuggle A Nearby Luxury be? Would allow you to trigger WLTKD during war or when the target's happiness is too low to consider selling.
 
... Actually, isn't a burst of science already what a Great Scientist does? Copying a Great Work gives you the outcome of a GWAM? Should these effects somehow be aligned a little more directly? Could be extended to the other GPersons. Would be a little bit like the Kidnap action, but Kidnapping would be the trickle-over-time, and again less risky/rewarding.
That's an interesting idea. Just give a big dump of GPP to your next GS. So is not quite a tech steal in most cases, and its somewhat self balancing because GS get more and more expensive, so the mission naturally weakens the more you use it.

The flip side is it might make other sources of GS production "weak", and could make rationalism stronger. Though frankly I've been really impressed with industry lately, so rationalism isn't as strong as I once thought it to be.
 
You could also base the dump on a % of the target's next GS, so it's still a catch up mechanism. Or at least modified by the ratio of theirs to yours.
 
I think its worth noting that tech stealing only allows you to get a tech others have already learned, while science boost could be used to research a tech no one has
 
Not sure what you mean here, this is exactly how it works now.

You get a % of the city's current output every turn, with teh number of turns gathered based on the security level.
For example the city is producing 100 gpt, so when the mission is available it will steal a set 300 golds, and the mission length would be X duration based on security/spy level. That means if the security level is high you still get 300 golds but it takes longer, and vice versa. It removes the issue where lower security reduces the result since result is now static (based on city output), you simply get it faster.
And we can set the expected result scaling to a more desirable number (x2 or x3 or x5 or x10) easier than having it depends on 2 changing factors at once.
 
While I agree that security level should be explained better, having one specific element in all action types based on it (mission length) is a good design. Make it easier to balance if something is too good or bad, and more intuitive for newcomers.
Generally it can be security level affects mission length, spy level affects chance of discover/killed, city output affects yield,... instead of having complex calculations.
 
I'd rather have speed be based on spy level and magnitude based on security I think. Spy level is the thing you can shuffle around if you want to control timings, and it also means that security is how you keep things from being worse. If security affects speed, then you're being affected less often (so less overall) but the hit when it comes is still just as big. Obviously it's just a matter of where the numbers go, the end-effect would be identical. Also, I don't remember if security "checks" for identifying/killing spy are by-turn or not, but if it only checks at the end of the mission, then slowing down enemy spies would actually mean you catch them less (all id/kill %s being otherwise equal), since you're rolling the chance less often.

Agreed that having the same parts of the system affected by the same elements is good design though, consistency is important for clarity.
 
Crazier idea. What if we dropped security all together, and made the constabulary / police drop your effective spy level by 1. Meaning a mission that needs a level 1 spy would need level 2 with a constabulary, level 3 with a police station. This also means certain quests become impossible later in the game, so you could create missions that are more appropriate for earlier in the game and have them naturally taper off later.
 
Wouldn't you run into a problem where you have lvl1 spy trying to hit lvl2 for the mission, only to have it blocked by constabulary? I don't have a great feeling of spy XP scaling, so maybe there's enough of a window for that to work. Also, new/replaced spies would be in a bit of a spot trying to do "basic" missions later in the game, needing to train up in CS or poor cities before being useful. Maybe spies could be granted XP from your owned constabularies/police to partially compensate? I don't know.
 
Wouldn't you run into a problem where you have lvl1 spy trying to hit lvl2 for the mission, only to have it blocked by constabulary? I don't have a great feeling of spy XP scaling, so maybe there's enough of a window for that to work. Also, new/replaced spies would be in a bit of a spot trying to do "basic" missions later in the game, needing to train up in CS or poor cities before being useful. Maybe spies could be granted XP from your owned constabularies/police to partially compensate? I don't know.
From what I can tell, all prereqs for the mission are set at the mission onset. So if you enter a city and start a mission without a constabulary, it won't matter if one is built during the duration, your mission will still complete. only the next mission would then need a leveled spy.

Yeah the trick with this is working it with the leveling system. There is always diplomats, cs rigging. Perhaps the survaillance action could have no spy level prereq, and so it always is an option regardless of spy building.
 
Having some no-reqs would be good, yeah. Still, it would be unfortunate to send the spy, and in transition/setup have it blocked from any meaningful mission.
 
I'd rather have speed be based on spy level and magnitude based on security I think. Spy level is the thing you can shuffle around if you want to control timings, and it also means that security is how you keep things from being worse. If security affects speed, then you're being affected less often (so less overall) but the hit when it comes is still just as big. Obviously it's just a matter of where the numbers go, the end-effect would be identical. Also, I don't remember if security "checks" for identifying/killing spy are by-turn or not, but if it only checks at the end of the mission, then slowing down enemy spies would actually mean you catch them less (all id/kill %s being otherwise equal), since you're rolling the chance less often.

Agreed that having the same parts of the system affected by the same elements is good design though, consistency is important for clarity.
Spy level is better for discover/kill chance because you can use your own spy to counter espionage, and they can directly compare the level difference to use in a formula.
Having constabulary/police station directly affect what a spy can do is interesting, but since we can have a lot of spy (statecraft for example) high chance there will be some high level ones mid game onward, and constabulary would effectively do nothing to them (while being a big pain to new spy, thus having similar issue with high level unit - they're too valuable you have to grind more). Just have spy level affect their survivability and detection/defensive capability only to avoid abusive behavior.
 
On Spy Resistance/Security Level/Security Threshold
I don't get why it has to be so complicated. We have spy resistance that acts as a per turn delta of security level which affects mission identify/kill chance, and then a security threshold that depends on a whole lot of stuff, most of which (policy difference, tech difference, spy events - what even are those?) can't be actively controlled. And if security level is at the minimum, which is all the time due to reasons stated below, security threshold is so low that all these modifiers don't matter.

Now we look at spy resistance. -10% per trade route from and to the city, -2% per citizen, unknown from unhappiness (puppets get -100%), but only +25% from local buildings until Military Base. Public Works are not counted because they're supposed to be optional as an emergency button for unhappiness, and they only give +10% each anyway (tooltip is wrong).

With no trade routes and unhappiness, the city can have at most 12 population before security level starts dropping if it has the constabulary. You can use counter-spies, but there are way more cities than spies. Result: security level stays at minimum 90% of the time unless you're being ganged on like Arabia here.

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Potential solution: just do away with the spy resistance/security level split and use something like the old system for security level. Security level directly scales with city size, trade routes, unhappiness, buildings etc, and gains a decaying bonus if the city is recently hit by a spy action. Espionage buildings (Constabulary, Police Station, NIA, Bletchley Park) should have a much greater effect to make it possible to have high security. Other buildings would only have an effect on the security threshold of specific missions, e.g. Military Base increasing tech stealing security threshold by +100%.

On Counter-Espionage
It will have to be more impactful (and less luck-based) for it to be used over sending the spy somewhere else.

On establishment in owned cities, a spy would immediately identify all foreign spies of same or lower level acting in the city. Then you can pick from two actions:
1. Immediately attempt to capture/kill the foreign spies. All foreign spies immediately end their mission, and have a chance to be killed based on the original kill chance and spy level difference. Siphoned yields are still stolen but for a shorter duration.
2. Tail the foreign spies. They'll continue their mission with 100% identification chance and higher kill chance. You gain science and culture based on the number of spies acting in the city (like Police Station).

If there's no foreign spy, the city gains X happiness for 10 turns. Regardless of action taken, the counter-spy also has to rest for 10 turns.

On Yield Siphoning
These missions should not have security threshold, but instead last 10 turns with different yields depending on security level.
e.g. 10% at max security, 50% at min security.

On other missions
Since the effects are non-scalable, these missions should use the security threshold mechanism to make the duration scale with security level. However, there should also be a base security threshold and scaler for each mission.

Security threshold = Base + (Scaler * modifiers)

Base should be low for tactical missions like surveillance, pillage, blockade and resistance, so these missions can actually be timed provided that security is low.
The others should have a high base and low scaler, so duration doesn't fluctuate much but higher security still means higher identify/kill chance.
 
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