Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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Apheirox
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Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Apheirox » Fri Sep 26, 2014 5:02 pm

Unacceptable.

Yes, I'm going to be that harsh and say what I believe many are thinking because it's exactly the feedback this expansion deserves, especially when this very expensive expansion (for how little and how poor content it actually has) contains only features that were originally more or less promised for free (offhand quote: "We're going to be supporting this game for a long time. Features we'd like to add include espionage and naval cities.")

I'll just be brief:

1) The implementation of espionage is disastrous. Espionage is either ridiculously overpowered (Steal ALL of your opponents treasury, no matter how large!) or totally useless (archipelago: you will not be able to slip in even a single agent) with nothing in between these two extremes. Espionage will require a major overhaul for there to be any semblance of balance. Also, espionage simply isn't fun or interesting in any way - there's nothing 'covert' about it, you are simply running this new unit straight into your opponent's cities, and it is always obvious who sent the agent.

2) Insane under-the-hood balance changes. The potential bonus from research- and trade pacts have been boosted to 25%, which is absurd: You'll have more income from from pacts than from your entire empire's domestic output. Couple this with the addition of more meaningless diplomacy options like the "private denouncement of third party" when the AI remains schizophrenic (happy to sign a non-aggression pact one turn, then denounce on the following and propose a research pact on the third, then accepts to go to war against a third party for no reason on the fourth) instead of much-needed AI improvements and it is clear development time could have been better spent.

The actual eclipse phase of the expansion is done well enough but it is rather brief and when it's done, well, that was all, with no new content such as new alien types or anything else having been added otherwise.

Final verdict: In its current form, Eclipse of Nashira gets a 3/10. Even dedicated Pandora fans (like myself) who know the game has its quirks but enjoy it all the same should think twice before investing in what feels like a shameless money grab. Anybody else just wondering about the expansion should save their money.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Zak0r » Sat Sep 27, 2014 7:39 am

As you say it, espionage is either overpowered or useless depending on the map. I had one game where I started next to Solar Dynasty and from turn~30 on I started leeching his credits. At least 50 credits every turn and once I got 400 because he cleared a hive that turn. At one point I didn't even know what to buy next because I had everything ... This stealing needs to be nerfed seriously. Make it a small % and give it a hard cap for each agent lvl (maybe first era can carry 25 credits, second 50 and third 100).

The trade pacts need to be nerfed as well. Let's go with 15%. This will be enough to make them more significant than they were but it won't change the whole dynamics of the game.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Tac2i » Sat Sep 27, 2014 8:28 pm

I don't care for the spy unit. Wish it had not been added to the game as an on map unit. The human player can at least block or otherwise minimize the spy threat but the poor AI can be robbed blind. As the first poster said, it just isn't a fun aspect of the game.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Zak0r » Sat Sep 27, 2014 10:44 pm

Well in the tournament game we finished earlier the agents added a lot to the game. AI certainly has its problems but for human players it adds a lot of possibilities. I would still stand by my opinion that the credit stealing has to be nerfed. It is way too strong right now.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Thebitlocker » Wed Oct 01, 2014 5:16 pm

I dont agree that this add-on is terrible.

there are means to block espionage from the opponents e.g make a ring of "soldiers" around your city or block direct ways to your city and kill them when they are 1 or 2 fields away... not so hard. It seemed there is a "espionage-rush" at the beginning. in the later gameplay I hadn't problems with espionage of opponents anymore (without the solider ring too).
I have to say, at the beginning it was annoying but now I think it is a cool element.
I like the new elements - but i miss more balance and more options too, for sure.
The espionage helped me a lot in the middle of the game (destroy buildings, stealing research points,...) :)

I would love to have one more option: "split-of" a city to another player. When a city is more away from capital and nearer to the own border it is "more easy" to "split-of" this city to the own "culture" (take over a city).
This shouldn't be easy as "stealing credits", but it would be cool. Or if a spy could steal "units" or steal teach (not research points)...

Or espionage is easier if you have "open borders" or "other way around" mor difficult if there are no open boarders. The "move" across the border should have something like a risk for a spy.... i don't know how to implement this feature... at the moment it is a little bit to easy to espionage for K.I. and player.

I have to say, I hoped for more elements at the diplomacy.
Tech-Trading, free a city for other players, units as gift, or to understand why an opponent is "angry" (i didn't found this information anywhere) or selling "food, minerals,...) to a specific player...

At the moment, it seems i don't really need the diplomacy... (trading.agreement ok, but this is just one click, no intensive diplomacy).
I hoped for something like a planetary council. there was one in SMAC with decisions with a massive impact. I liked that.
Depending of the decisions the K.I. is more friendly or not :) (same goal).
For example it would be great to have a temporary alliance against the messari. After the mothership is destroyed the alliance is canceled again.

And what i would love (but never saw in any strategy game) to trade "fields"... why isn't there any option for this?... it is common in "real" diplomacy (e.g. Alaska, Germany/DDR, ....). I would love this option...

In principle every trade (food, minerals, fields,...) should stabilise the status between the players. For me it is not really reproducible why K.I. acts like it does with diplomacy.

Just my 2 cents...

If it is bullshit, ignore it please :)

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by void » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:16 pm

Hi Apheirox, while it saddens me to hear this feedback I'll go ahead and defend our work since I firmly stand behind our design decisions:

1. From a conceptional point of view espionage is about navigating a unit behind enemy lines and avoiding obstacles. It adds a new playstyle to the game and yes, similar to real life, infiltrating an isolated island is harder than a city web on a big land mass with roads. But that's totally okay with us, on some maps or constellations agents are more useful than on others. Currently stealing or sabotaging takes out between 50% and 100% of the opponent's pool, but we'll reduce that to 25%-100% with the next patch. Succeeding on an operation should feel rewarding though, and if it's still too strong afterwards we'll nerf agents by e.g. increasing their cost or lowering their movement. We might also give agents stationed in cities an infiltration defense bonus to make enemy infiltration more difficult, but the design goal is that players intercept spies on their way in by intelligently stationing units inside their borders. Agents, especially with their incite riot order, are a strong tool against turtling and allow some action even in peace times. Note that performing infiltration orders reduces your standing with the infiltrated player by a variable amount (based on their suspicions).

2. Also note that the 25% from pacts build up over 25 turns and that it's now possible to demand sanctions against third parties (which cancels pacts with them). I admit that these values are a bit generous, but with the Ambassadors and peace/diplomacy being a focus for the expansion we rather aimed for too high than too low. And while we might very well reduce that value again in the near future, I like that one now actively has to consider if it's more advantageous to cooperate rather than to conquer -- and that long lasting pacts aren't terminated lightly.

However I do apologize that we didn't roll out a new version yet with fixes and tweaks, but transfering Steam publishing rights and integrating with our build system is taking a bit longer than anticipated.
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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Xilmi » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:57 pm

void wrote:However I do apologize that we didn't roll out a new version yet with fixes and tweaks, but transfering Steam publishing rights and integrating with our build system is taking a bit longer than anticipated.
Does this mean there's a patch that does a little more than the little beta-patch from yesterday?

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by void » Thu Oct 02, 2014 4:02 pm

Yes.
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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Zak0r » Thu Oct 02, 2014 5:21 pm

Keeping agents at bay with blocking units actually works pretty well right now in MP. The problem I see is the AI because it only blocks them by accident. I think it would already help a lot to just make the AI block a tile from which an agent entered a city for some turns (as long as it has spare units obviously, else you could abuse that for conquering). This would be enough to avoid having the human player run into a border city with multiple agents each turn which is currently the biggest problem for balance of that feature imo.

Void, could you elaborate on that sentence please?

"Note that performing infiltration orders reduces your standing with the infiltrated player by a variable amount (based on their suspicions)."

Does this mean the AI somehow suspects you or other factions of infiltrating? Does it depend from where the agent walks into their territory or how does it work?

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Xilmi » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:04 pm

@Zak0r: It's almost scary how precisly your thoughts match my own. I was going to suggest that the AI should use spare units (which it obviously only can have in peace-times) to surround cities that have been spied from. If the tile that the spy started it's operation from can be determined, it should obviously start with that tile and continue with the ones next to it.

And, once again the same as you, I'm also quite curious as to how that is to be understood. Is this already the case or will it be an addition in the patch? How should they determine the who to suspect? Might it be possible to frame someone else by walking in a way that makes them a greater supsect than yourself?

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Apheirox » Sat Oct 04, 2014 5:10 pm

void wrote:Hi Apheirox, while it saddens me to hear this feedback I'll go ahead and defend our work since I firmly stand behind our design decisions:

1. From a conceptional point of view espionage is about navigating a unit behind enemy lines and avoiding obstacles. It adds a new playstyle to the game and yes, similar to real life, infiltrating an isolated island is harder than a city web on a big land mass with roads. But that's totally okay with us, on some maps or constellations agents are more useful than on others. Currently stealing or sabotaging takes out between 50% and 100% of the opponent's pool, but we'll reduce that to 25%-100% with the next patch. Succeeding on an operation should feel rewarding though, and if it's still too strong afterwards we'll nerf agents by e.g. increasing their cost or lowering their movement. We might also give agents stationed in cities an infiltration defense bonus to make enemy infiltration more difficult, but the design goal is that players intercept spies on their way in by intelligently stationing units inside their borders. Agents, especially with their incite riot order, are a strong tool against turtling and allow some action even in peace times. Note that performing infiltration orders reduces your standing with the infiltrated player by a variable amount (based on their suspicions).

2. Also note that the 25% from pacts build up over 25 turns and that it's now possible to demand sanctions against third parties (which cancels pacts with them). I admit that these values are a bit generous, but with the Ambassadors and peace/diplomacy being a focus for the expansion we rather aimed for too high than too low. And while we might very well reduce that value again in the near future, I like that one now actively has to consider if it's more advantageous to cooperate rather than to conquer -- and that long lasting pacts aren't terminated lightly.

However I do apologize that we didn't roll out a new version yet with fixes and tweaks, but transfering Steam publishing rights and integrating with our build system is taking a bit longer than anticipated.
Void,

Thanks for taking the time to post such an elaborate answer, especially with the post I made. I thought my post was very rude and offensive - I deeply regret posting it and find it to not reflect well on me at all. The only reason I didn't immediately delete the thread was there was already readers. My post does not accurately reflect my opinion on the game or the expansion. So, let's be clear: The expansion is neither 'terrible' nor a 'money grab' nor 'unacceptable'. I made those rather sensationalist claims out of frustration and, honestly, resentment over the fact you were seemingly turning away from the promised "continued support" for Pandora in favor of paid expansions. However, going back and actually looking over how many additions and refinements - including a free expansion - have been made to the game I will say you have made good on your promise - even though I feel aspects of the game, especially with regard to the AI, continue to leave a lot to be desired and feel 'unfinished'. I also think Eclipse of Nashira has good value in the form of the new artwork and the new music.

With that said, however, I do stand by much of my criticism:

1) Espionage

I read your description of your goals for the espionage, and I can see that it is designed to achieve those goals. However, in my opinion the very concept of the way you've laid out espionage remains a fundamental mistake. It is simply never going to work having agents, perfectly visible, be able to interact with units and cities like that for all the reasons I described. Like I said, current agent gameplay can only ever fall into one of the two camps: Either useless, or massively overpowered. That isn't balance! If you want agents on the main map they should probably be invisible and not interact with regular units, similar to how Civ IV handled it. The current system can only ever offer 'cheesy' gameplay: Everybody can see plain as day the espionage happening, there is no 'mystery' or 'surprise' to it - instead, there is the 'cheese' of frantically trying to shuffle low-power military units around to form a blockade, a wall against the agents. This does little to expand's the game's strategy, instead it is only silly. With this system, it doesn't take planning or strategy to infiltrate an agent, just pure dumb luck (and especially: carelessness on your opponent's part). Like I wrote in the original post, there is nothing 'covert' about it, which IMO would be a criterium for it to be 'espionage' - otherwise, it is more akin to a regular unit and might as well be called simply the 'thief unit'. I do not understand how you can be happy with such gameplay. And, even if you insist on having the agent as a normal unit on the map, I can't fathom your other decisions, such as:

*)Agents being able to steal ALL credits/research, as mentioned before. What if the target player is going for an economic victory - you still want the agent to be able to steal that entire 50,000 credit treasury just by slipping in one sole agent to some remote colony? You need to put a ceiling on this; a single agent should never be able to steal several thousand credits at once.
*) Having created an expansion centered exclusively around espionage that the AI is unable to make proper use of and especially defend against. You've taken the arguably weakest aspect of the game - weak AI - and emphasized it?! Adding defensive agents in cities will help the AI, as will lowering the % chance of agent missions to succeed, but you still need to implement at least some basic AI routines for spy defense so it isn't just a sitting duck saying "free cash here".

I understand the latest patch lowered the probability of the agent infiltrating (though you aren't lowering it enough at all - an agent that gains a couple of levels will still be unstoppable), and also that you are considering being able to station agents defensively in cities. However, these are patchwork solutions at best, they don't solve the basic problem: That your current agent design simply isn't fun, and isn't 'covert'. You should seriously consider scrapping the current model entirely, because visible agents on the main map blockable by units will never be good, you have to change it fundamentally. This is not necessarily hard: You could simply introduce the rule that only agents can see agents and fight agents, creating a wholly different strategic layer on the main map. This opens up the door to lots of new opportunities (teams of agents doing battle in the field, seperate from regular forces, waging their own little covert war) and could solve all the balance problems as well (it would make the Mechanization and Transcendence era agent models and their weapon upgrades more meaningful, since these would be better at battling enemy agents. Currently, there is little point in using anything other than the Colonization era agent armed with just the Lady Finger). But this whole concept of 'clear-as-day agents blatantly stealing technology in plain sight, try to form a wall of units around your cities to defend against it' *has* to go - it is, indeed, terrible.

2) Pacts & Diplomacy

I think it's sensible you aimed for 'rather too high than too low' with regard to the pacts. However, the AI diplomacy is still all over the place right now. It will accept pacts that are completely one-sided, for one (player gains xxx credits/turn, AI gains none) and never annull these. It also continues to make what I call 'schizophrenic' decisions - I played a game yesterday and had Divine Ascension sue for peace one turn, which I accepted, then declare war on the following turn, despite being down to 'pathetic' military strength while I was the dominant force on the planet. Similarly, it gets these 'mood swings' of signing a pact with you one turn, then denouncing on the next - where is the consistency? Honestly, the new diplomacy options you've added mostly present new ways to abuse the AI even more by souring inter-AI relations with demands for declarations of war or sanctions. As such, I would have recommended improving the basic AI diplomacy first instead of adding new options.

Final thought: I think it would have done much good if you had published a beta of EoN prior to release to help with balancing.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Xilmi » Sat Oct 04, 2014 8:42 pm

I agree with your opinion on the diplomacy-part and how abusable it is against the AI.
A thing that I consider outright illogical is how the bribing works.
Instead of requesting a certain amount, they request 1/4th, 1/2, 3/4 or all of your current cash.
So if you first spend your cash and then ask them for a favor, you are likely getting it done for next to nothing.

It also seems very easy to have them agree on an embargo. I think that when you request an embargo, you should be forced to partake it in. Otherwise you can just trade with both, while they don't and additionally their relationship gets worse.

Even for war-declarations it is not that hard to convince them. Even better for you! I think this also plays a role in the erratic behaviour you described. Someone might have asked them to redeclare war right after they signed a treaty and they immediately were like yes. Here goes the same thing: If you ask them to go for war with each other, you should also be forced to join.


On the part with the espionage, I'd say, it is little more than your personal opinion based on your personal preferences. Yes, it is unrealistic how it works and somewhat artificial and not very coveropsish. But I personally do not have any issues with it from a game-design-perspective. I feel it is interesting to try and find a way into the city without getting caught. And if you can't prevent it for an enemy-spy, there certainly is enough of a surprise-moment had from that. If it was only chance based it would be really dull. If it was your described agents vs. agents scenario, everyone would have to make them because they otherwise would have no way to defend. Right now you can pick to totally ignore getting your own spies but are capable of defending against them anyways.
I think opinions on the implementation of spies can differ a lot. You consider it terrible, I consider it fine.
What I do agree on is that the AI should be improved in both handling the defenses and the usage of their spies.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Flash Jack » Sun Oct 05, 2014 12:01 am

This is a very interesting discussion and one that has me making my first post on this forum.

I appreciate the comments from the developers indicating the thinking behind their design.

Personally I think that it's a design that works great from a multiplayer perspective. Being able to sneak a guerrilla unit past your opponent is the meat and bones of a fun head to head game.

However as a single player design I'm very doubtful. There's not much of a espionage 'vibe' in having to dodge past the opposition and score a touchdown goal, nor is their much in having to form a wall of units to prevent this.

The balance of the design is clearly out of whack with the AI massively out matched. If you take the system, as it is, to it's logical conclusion you'll end up with a map where every city is automatically surrounded by a wall of units which is kind of silly, a bunch of 'busy work' and not much fun.

I'm not sure what an alternative design might be but I think that if you're going to put an espionage system into the game you need to do it in such a way as it adds another layer to the game in a manner that's enjoyable to a strategy player.

A few thoughts would be:
- as MP is typically only a vocal minority you'd probably want to aim for a design that works for the single player game.
- whatever you do give the player a sense of deploying a covert agent, eg. get the 'vibe' right.
- try and come up with something different to what's already out there. You've got a solid 4x game already and having a fun, thought provoking espionage system on top of that would be an excellent selling point. You've managed to come up with some innovative ideas for the game to date, I'm sure you can do the same for espionage.

You've (the developers) have got access to the sales figures and if they're looking good then I'd ignore my, and others, comments and go with what you've got as you're probably a better judge of it than any of we 'back seat drivers'.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Rossthegreat » Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:15 pm

So the agents can rob your treasury blind? How do that even work. I'm sure there is hostile nations that would love to send in agents into USA's fort knox and rob it of every single gold bar magically.
And then, it sounds like the AI will poison your water well every single turn while you gain vision over the entire AI's lands the one who have a fetish for poisoning your water wells every single turn so you can throttle him for once and all when u have an army to stop the spam.

I don't have eclipse of nashira yet, been reading this forum for info.

Because I certainly didn't miss the espionage in civ 4 at all. The one where AIs poison the water well every single turn. >.>

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by rambo919 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:54 am

Alternatively just add a option at the new game screen to disable espionage? The one thing the game should definitely have gotten is graphs, lot's of graphs, so that you can at a glance make sure of who is doing what and how well. Another thing that annoys me is the wildlife is too easy to eradicate, instead of making it more aggressive it would be better to make it expand and create new hives as old one's get eradicated, in the early game where there is still plenty more space left at least. Ocean wildlife though needs no hives so should at least TRY to stay at a certain minimal level. And why only one half-hearted alien invasion that barely makes the global AI take notice?

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by dmantione » Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:12 pm

An option to disable equals to accepting that espionage debalances the game. Further, the diplomatic fraction would be worthless with espionage disabled. I doubt that is a good solution. Now espionage is there, it should be improved until it is both offering it possibilities as well as not introduce a repetitive borinmg task of catching spies en-route to you cities.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Muddy » Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:26 am

I really like this game,it has a lot going for it, BUT. The espionage has killed it for me, I really don't want to play it any more.

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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by SephiRok » Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:50 am

We'll be taking another look at espionage next week to see what we can improve. This week we're doing various other tweaks and fixes.

From what I read, the main complaint seems to be that espionage is too repetitive in single player -- the act of constantly killing spies that are coming in and the act of sending spies that always succeed -- which could also be described as an AI problem. The other complaint is that it doesn't feel covert.
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Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Apheirox » Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:50 am

Rossthegreat wrote:So the agents can rob your treasury blind? How do that even work. I'm sure there is hostile nations that would love to send in agents into USA's fort knox and rob it of every single gold bar magically.
And then, it sounds like the AI will poison your water well every single turn while you gain vision over the entire AI's lands the one who have a fetish for poisoning your water wells every single turn so you can throttle him for once and all when u have an army to stop the spam.

I don't have eclipse of nashira yet, been reading this forum for info.

Because I certainly didn't miss the espionage in civ 4 at all. The one where AIs poison the water well every single turn. >.>
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Civ IV espionage is *miles* better than Pandora's. You might not have enjoyed it much in IV but it wasn't blatantly unbalanced and the AI also 'understood' it and was capable of using it. It also had that covert 'mystery' factor to it since it wasn't immediately obvious who committed the spying (though you certainly would often have a good guess at who did it). None of those traits are present here (technically, the AI *can* use agents but it simply sends them straight at you with no thought of trying to infiltrate and avoid your forces so it fails almost 100% of the time.)

[btw, fyi the way to defend against spies in IV is to spend espionage points towards the one who is conducting operations against you and to have one of your own agents perform the 'counterespionage' mission in one of the rival's cities. One could also station a spy in a city or build a defensive building to further reduce risk. These countermeasures would be enough to practically eliminate the dreaded poison well runs]
SephiRok wrote:We'll be taking another look at espionage next week to see what we can improve. This week we're doing various other tweaks and fixes.

From what I read, the main complaint seems to be that espionage is too repetitive in single player -- the act of constantly killing spies that are coming in and the act of sending spies that always succeed -- which could also be described as an AI problem. The other complaint is that it doesn't feel covert.
You need to put a ceiling on how much can be stolen at one time, as well (see screenshot). The screenshot shows exactly what I was talking about with regard to the lack of ceiling on the theft when going for the economic victory - one little slip-up and the AI steals 24000 credits from my treasury (and this in a city that isn't even technically mine, it was a city I just conquered!).

I would also request you reconsider how the AI views espionage at the general level. Currently, even if your relations are friendly it will send agents towards you. If the player does the same, however, relations will quickly drop from 'generous' to 'furious'. So, there is some hypocrisy going on. Perhaps the AI should stop sending agents if it wishes to maintain good relations with the other side? That would of course mean espionage tends to get removed from the game - and this is precisely why having visible agents that aren't 'covert' is such a bad idea: You can't spy on your friends without them being well aware of it, which is supposed to be one of the main points of having espionage in the first place. As such, there is no easy solution to this dilemma so long as you keep the current model with visible agents.

A further problem is there is no real use for the Mechanization/Transcendence era agents and their respective equipment - they don't have any higher infiltration chances, just higher combat strength. The problem with this, of course, is that in situations where you can't slip in a Colonization era agent, you almost certainly can't slip in one of the upgraded versions either, because unless you've hopelessly outmatched the opponent to the point there is no reason to spy on them in the first place, your higher-tech agents still won't have the combat strength to deal with real military units. As such, the high-tech versions of the agent are simply more expensive while offering no real infiltration advantages. This problem is in part what led me to suggest the alternative 'invisible agents' model because under a such system, the high-level agents would mean a true upgrade.

It sounds like you and the dev team feel like there might be some 'slight issues' with the espionage, nothing more. I don't envision the current model working well without radical change. Like I've written a couple of times now, having agents as visible units on the main map is something that simply is never going to work well. I'm trying to come up with ideas for something better than wouldn't require a great deal of extra programming on your part - my 'invisible agents' suggestion is one such idea. Whatever you choose, you need to get rid of the current gameplay where agents are either a) useless or b) overpowered. And you need to get rid of the silly gameplay where one has to form a 'wall' to defend against agents, with this wall being the only credible defense one can mount.

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Joined: Fri May 23, 2014 3:21 pm

Re: Eclipse of Nashira = Terrible.

Post by Xilmi » Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:31 pm

Apheirox wrote:A further problem is there is no real use for the Mechanization/Transcendence era agents and their respective equipment - they don't have any higher infiltration chances, just higher combat strength.
That is not true. The blue agent has +0.25 to all operations over the white one and the golden one has +0.5.
Especially for the harder operations where the white one has less than 50% chance this is quite huge of a boost.

The agent-weapons, however, are indeed useless waste of ressources.

Also there is a bug:

When an enemy-agent steals from you, you see her in the list of units in your city. When you click her there, you suddenly see where she really is and now know exactly who spied on you.

I have an idea to make it more covered without completely changing everything:

Make the spies invisible while they share a tile with other units from you. So they cannot be seen hanging around in their city after stealing and you can sneak them unseen to the border by making a line of your units.

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