Espionage [general discusion]

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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chieftain
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Espionage [general discusion]

Post by chieftain » Tue Sep 23, 2014 12:32 pm

In general, defense against enemy agents is fairly easy, get vision, spot agents, use fast units to eliminate them before they reach your city.
But what can you do when your city center is 4 or less hexes away from enemy city center, who is spaming agents every turn (see picture below)? You can't attack into enemy territory, since we have signed non-aggresion pact, but the enemy can produce agent and send him into my city every turn without me being able to do anything about it.

Is there a dedicated anti-agent unit?
Is there a way to disable espionage completely?

Eclipse of Nashira seems solid so far (after about 5 completed games), but I fail to see the value of this new agents. Either they are too easy to defend, or totaly frustrating to deal with.


Image

Zak0r
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Zak0r » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:08 pm

Well, if the city isn't 3 hexes away like on your screenshot then you can slow down agents with terraforming. But in this case you're showing there I would prepare for war anyway. This city is taking away too many hexes from your city.

Maybe agents should be able to be used for counterintelligence. When you have an agent in the city the enemy's success rate should drop.

Tac2i
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Tac2i » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:12 pm

I remember Civilization 4(?) having an on map spy unit and it was eventually removed from the game. Will see how long the Pandora spy unit lasts. My initial feeling is that it doesn't feel quite right as implemented.

Xilmi
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Xilmi » Tue Sep 23, 2014 1:13 pm

If an agent successfully completes a mission he is automatically brought back to the closest city.
Thus there isn't even need to "spam" them. You can just use your agent over and over again, while he becomes more and more efficient as he levels up.

To defend in a scenario presented by the Screenshot you would have to block the agents path.
There is no dedicated Anti-Agent unit because every unit can simply kill them by attacking them.
Buggies and/or Airplanes certainly make for the best Agent-Hunters as they either have increased vision or are faster than them.
Disabling Espionage is possible via modding. I think the easiest way would be removing the coresponding techs from the techs-folder.

NightReaper
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by NightReaper » Wed Sep 24, 2014 4:20 pm

In my muddled mind, their discovery is quite random. The automatic centering of the screen to events when you end your turn ensures that they will likely remain unseen until they infiltrate their target city unless you only have one city or the centering event happens to be the city under infiltration. At minimum, you should be able to decrease their success rate by having a covert agent of your own in the city as counter espionage (more than one increases effectiveness to negate the infiltration) and this should be enhanced by being able to augment with appropriate buildings such as: homeland defense; defense intelligence agency; or some such tech/nomenclature. Alternatively, their movement could be reduced to one hex a turn once they penetrate the influence zone of their targeted city (call it a stealth penalty...more difficult the closer you get to the actual city center.), thereby at least giving the defending AI/player a chance at stumbling upon them serendipitously or randomly by chance. Nerfing or removing would severely cripple the new faction which is buffed by their presence. Just IMHO... :oops:

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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Megas » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:12 am

The worst part is that agents aren't invisible at all and can be normally seen and engaged by all normal units.
In SMAC probe teams were invisible except to each other so you had a whole another layer where only probes were fighting each other.
In pandora agents are fully visible so counter espionage is done with normal units not other agents.
Any major system changes to espoinage are impossible at this point so the best we can hope for is balancing the spy actions. (like limiting research and credits stolen)

Xilmi
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Xilmi » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:27 am

Am I the only one who thinks that it's fine how it is?

Belanos
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Belanos » Sun Sep 28, 2014 10:27 pm

Tac2i wrote:I remember Civilization 4(?) having an on map spy unit and it was eventually removed from the game.
That's not Civilization 4, the Spy unit was never removed.

Tac2i
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Tac2i » Mon Sep 29, 2014 6:51 pm

Removed (not included in) Civ5.
Belanos wrote:
Tac2i wrote:I remember Civilization 4(?) having an on map spy unit and it was eventually removed from the game.
That's not Civilization 4, the Spy unit was never removed.

TartarusMkII
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by TartarusMkII » Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:13 pm

I just got this game and I thought it was pretty neat to start with, having played Alpha Centuari.

But as soon as espionage comes into the game, I am totally turned off. The fact that I can't stop people from performing espionage seems like a massive oversight. In SMAC you would need to put probes in your bases, perhaps more than one, so that you could defend your frontier bases from espionage.

In Pandora, it seems like your only option is to just take it. You can be technical all you want, and tell me you can still target and kill the agents. But the truth is, bases are often too close together to ever allow a chance at that.

I probably won't play the game again until it's fixed. It makes playing into the late game atrocious.

I had hopes for the game, but at this point, I'll be going back to SMAX.

Zak0r
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Zak0r » Sat Oct 04, 2014 7:35 am

You can block the tiles where the agents keep running with your units. Also the devs have said they will make agents usable as counterintelligence in cities.

Xilmi
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Xilmi » Sat Oct 04, 2014 9:11 am

It is mind-boggling how people insist on the proposition that countering spies is "impossible".
All you have to do is blocking their infiltration-paths.

They cannot go through your units! Make use of that!

Apheirox
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by Apheirox » Sat Oct 04, 2014 10:56 pm

Once more into the breach...

Like Xilmi says, espionage is simple enough to defend against - you simply have to block off agents by creating a 'wall' of your own units. Agents can't pass through your units. In the posted screenshot, that would mean stationing three units north of Stakhanov so any Noxium agents would have to go come in from the east. The problem with this is that stationing units in a such way would make them very vulnerable to a Noxium sneak attack, being pushed up against their border like that; you'd be basically guaranteed to have tanks or something else kill them all off the moment war is declared, and then your wall would be broken anyway and agents could still slip in and steal your entire treasury. So, at the end of the day, there really is no defense against espionage, with the seas on water maps as the possible exception. That means diplomacy in Eclipse of Nashira has taken a turn for the worse: You can *never* have peaceful relations with your neighbours in situations such as the depicted one where borders are close, because then you'll always be under threat of agents - or worse, surprise invasion, made possible because of your agent defense... realize, though, that what I'm describing here is only theoretical and/or only relevant to multiplayer games, because the current agent AI is so dysfunctional you *can* maintain peace with your neighbours (though any espionage will greatly sour your relations, as espionage causes diplomacy penalties and it appears the AI magically knows it was you who sent the agent - a very unwelcome AI cheat I also strongly disagree with). This is because espionage is entirely in the player's favor - the AI doesn't know how to 'wall off' and also is very unlikely to launch a surprise attack, especially if you signed a non-aggression pact, so all the espionage cards are decked in the human player's favor. Eclipse of Nashira has made it easier to abuse the AI than ever before.

^ that got quite long; hopefully I made it clear enough that you were able to follow my logic throughout.

As I wrote in the other thread I started, espionage will have to be redone completely, it's beyond redemption. I hope the devs realize this sooner rather than later, no point in trying to save the current model. It could easily be made into something much more coherent simply by making agents invisible: Agents would be on a seperate 'layer' from the other units, with only agents being able to detect and defend against other agents. At the same time, the power of agents will need to be drastically toned down - I agree with the devs that there should be a sense of achievement if you manage to successfully carry out a mission, but being able to steal an opponent's full treasury is crazy and it puzzles me how that could have made it into the game.
Xilmi wrote:Am I the only one who thinks that it's fine how it is?
I hope I have explained my stance well enough but if you still think it's fine I doubt we can reach an agreement, though I will listen to arguments in defense of the model. I view the espionage - which had a whole expansion pack dedicated to it - as an affront to the rest of the game, which otherwise has sane and above-standard balancing compared to the general 4X market. So yeah, this is a big deal for the game - this is something that absolutely must change.

TartarusMkII
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by TartarusMkII » Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:49 am

I agree with Apheirox.

In my experience, I had not been playing well enough to afford a screen of units to block my cities. Apheirox's reasoning is what makes the most sense to me.

I feel like making Agents be able to defend against Agents like in SMAC would be at least a decent way to make it work. That way you can have a reason to give agents better weapons or tools to fight the Agent vs Agent meta combat. Of course normal soldiers could attack Agents if you saw them, like in SMAC.

You say the Devs say they would add this, but I hope it's sooner than later because right now I don't even want to start the game =P

chieftain
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Re: Espionage [general discusion]

Post by chieftain » Sun Oct 05, 2014 7:34 am

Wow, that escalated rather unexpectedly. Thanks everyone for their comments and input.

Please don't take my post about espionage as a rant or complain, rather a source of discussion about game mechanics. I was a bit surprised when I encountered espionage in the new expansion, since I presumed the mechanics worked differently. Therefore I got wrecked in first few games, due to agents stealing 129 (!) research points or 1000 credits, etc.

I am not complaining about the difficulty of defending against agents, they are rather trivial to counter once you know how to deal with them. The only question I am trying to solve is, whether the espionage in its current form adds anything to the deepness of the [single-player] game? From my humble perspective I find the spying mechanics more annoying than fun, yet another feature of the game that you have to deal with. I don't mind the core mechanics, the only thing I really don't like is than even if I sign a non-aggression treaty and closed-border, enemy covert ops are able to cross the border and commit acts of aggression against neutral opponent. Playing on Pangea means you have to invest to static army defenses, even if you want be friends with other races.

Possible suggestions:
-diplomacy option: "Stop spying on me" (same as in MMO2)
-game option, tickbox: "Disable espionage tech"
-units/building with espionage defense bonus (already planned by devs)

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