Proteus Spying


#1

Here has been some talk about how it would be good to change Spying in Proteus so that its not on the old production clock and every tick like everything else. Also, that it’s paying way to much right now.

What kind of values make sense if we were to change it to pay out every tick?

The reason I wanted it a big lump was so that you would get a bit hit in an unexpected topic. I’d like to retain this.


#2

I like the way it is now. Maybe it is paying a lot but that forces you to think about investing in Scanning and where to grab stars and have enough ships to hold onto them. A steady dribble of lessor research amounts wouldn’t be as much fun imho.


#3

cool cool.


#4

I don’t like how it is now. There are multiple issues in my mind:

  1. Unfairness due to timezones
  2. Randomness can be unfun
  3. Bad counterplay

1. Timezones

A game should not give advantage to players based on which country they live in. If a game does this then the advantage should be clear before joining. Right now someone can join a game in the middle of the day but when the games starts the production or espionage is at 4AM.

The espionage effect is not as big a deal as production, but it’s still an unfair disadvantage. The disadvantage grows the longer you are away and with alliance size. In the late game it’s not uncommon to get more science from espionage than science. If you are in an alliance this means everyone needs to be online for the espionage tick, or soon after, to organise what to research going forward. Finishing techs before espionage hits is also important to avoid useless espionage results so it’s also important to be online just before the espionage tick.

Solutions:

  • a. Small payouts every tick
  • b. A big payout on a random tick per cycle

NOTE: a. does not necessarily mean small bonuses on a random tech. Deciding where bonuses get applied is a separate issue from the timezone problem.

2. Randomness

It sucks to get useless espionage results. This can be tech which an ally is researching, your disadvantaged tech or scanning/HR in late game.

Getting multiple consecutive bad results feels unfair. At the very least it is not fun. The main counter to the randomness, when trying not to be screwed, is building more science so the espionage results don’t matter as much. But this benefits your opponents espionage and is practically impossible to do in the late game.

Solutions:

  • a. Small payouts every tick
  • b. Let the player know in advance what will happen. “Your spies succeeded in recovering X points in TECH which will arrive in 17 hours.
  • a & b. “… you get X points in TECH for the next 17 hours.
  • c. Let players choose a target empire to send spies to. The bonus will be the technology which they are currently researching.

b. means you can at least work around a bad espionage result because you have advance warning. c. means you can easily avoid getting a bump in an ally tech and use your knowledge of the other empires to figure out what they are likely researching.

3. Counterplay

The current counter is: don’t build science from mid-game onwards. At the very least, build a lot less than otherwise.

The problem is you already build science and economy away from enemies to stop them being taken. Building away from enemies increases costs. Scanning range has such a wide area that the cost increase of building outside enemy scanning is too expensive. For a constant amount of credits you choose between:

  1. Build 1 science close to enemy. Enemy gets 50% in espionage.
  2. Build ~0.3 science away from enemy. You lose 60-80% because it’s much more expensive. Later in the game they might get the bonus anyway.
  3. Build ~2-3 industry close to enemy. They get nothing, you would probably build it there anyway.

While in theory you should invest in science which is outside of scanning range, the increase in cost of doing this is not worth it. It’s much better just to invest in economy and industry.

Solutions:

  • a. Working as intended?
  • b. Square root the bonus, or something, so it doesn’t grow as big in end game.
  • c. Change the mechanic. Maybe link to fleets so it’s self limiting.

(Part 3. I’m least certain about. It would be interesting if someone with good mathematics skills could do some analysis of this.)


#5

Wow! thanks for the detailed post and for the breakdown @AnnanFay

Also, thanks for linking back to the other thread here…

I new it existed and had skimmed it but couldn’t find it so made this one. I thought perhaps I had read it on Discord because you both hang out there as well.

  1. Agree that time-zones are a problem, and one I have tried to fix with other areas on the game. This Spying stuff is a hold out which is why I would like to update it.

My first thought was to have a random tick per cycle. It encourages players to check their game every tick, but there are a lot of other reasons you might want to check every tick as well. Also, we dont have to do it every 24, we could make it a random number between 36 and 48 hours.

I like the idea of checking in on your game to discover a big reward every couple of days. It would be a shame to lose that.

Right now you get half a point per scanned science per tech level a day. If you make it every 2 days it reduces the impact of spying.

  1. Randomness I agree it sux to get a useless tech, or at least a tech you are not interested in, but on the other side of the coin, its really great to get a hit in the tech you really need!

I quite like C. Having to choose a player to spy on adds flavour, but also reduces the the amount of scanned enemy science around you.

If your enemy is researching weapons, you might choose to improve your banking or manufacturing and rely on your spying to get your weapons up. If they don’t want you to get weapons through spying, they would have to change to something else. hrmm. I’m not sure what a good strategy would be, but it sounds fun.

Also, because you are only spying on one player, you will only get half of one players science, not half of all the players around you. This should put the breaks on how big spying can get at the end of the game.

Also, I think its a bit dumb that you can swap stars with an ally just so you can better` scan their empire for science.

  1. Counterplay

I wish choosing where to place your science was more important.

I don’t expect players to pay a lot more to build science on the far side of their empire, but if you are choosing between 5 different locations that are the same price, it would be nice if 2 or 3 of those 5 were better than the rest simply because they are outside the scanning range of an enemy. I think this is mostly kinda sort of working as intended.

Also, I also like the idea that at some point in the game there is a point where it makes sense to stop building science! But when and for how long? And does it really. I don’t know.

I haven’t played for a while, have people decided its a good idea to stop building science?

I want this feature powerful enough for you to want to continue to research scanning, but not so powerful that you stop building science altogether, (or makes the game completely random)


#6

I have never felt time zones to be a problem. The only time that’s bothered me is dark start as I can only plan a few hours ahead instead of the 24 hour gameplan I normally employ.
If you plan your moves far enough ahead and just check in to make sure everything is going as planned it’s not really a problem.

Also, I also like the idea that at some point in the game there is a point where it makes sense to stop building science! But when and for how long? And does it really. I don’t know.

Only when you’re at a huge advantage, otherwise don’t stop.
If I am close to production cycle and want to build within scan range, I will sometimes wait the extra tick or two to maximize what I get out of that science before it gets scanned. Owning the science though is better than scanning it, which is why I feel the once per cycle randomness works.

It sucks to get useless espionage results. This can be tech which an ally is researching, your disadvantaged tech or scanning/HR in late game.

I don’t believe there is a useless tech in Proteus.
The weakest tech is probably range and even that can be a game changer when you can cut farther travel times to 12 hours with warp gates.
Proteus is far better balanced than Triton and even unwanted drops become useful if you know how to use your techs to your advantage.
As for late game drops, you’re either winning, losing or neck-in-neck. That’s the point of the randomness though.
As for your weakness, are you seriously saying you wouldn’t want free points on your most expensive tech?
With the ally researching your drop, what I usually do (if my alliance is good with communication) is after a drop, we check who’s closest to finishing techs and reassign if necessary. This can shave time off research and has often provided my alliance with a tech advantage early on because everyone else grumbles and don’t bother squeezing out an extra tick or ten when the opportunity strikes. If I get something someone else just researched, great, that saves us money. Look at the positives and you’ll see ways to make your gameplay more efficient.

I do like the idea of being able to find out what the enemy is researching, even not knowing the eta, you may be able to figure out what they’re planning.


#7

Should the espionage reward be related to the difference in Tech level between your target and your current Tech?


#8

How about if you get one point (or half a point or whatever) in a random tech per hour per scanned science, but the RNG is heavily weighted toward whatever you got the last tick? That way you get the “every tick” aspect you desire but you don’t have the RNG spreading the points out evenly beneath all techs.

Also I think it would make sense if you could only spy on techs that your opponent is leading you in…


#9

I think fixing Proteus spying will be my next task. I’ll have to review my notes and the various chats I’ve had, but right now I’m leaning towards having players choose a player to spy on, rather than all stars in range.

I’m reluctant to make it only tech you are behind on, because then the random roll can’t ever put you in front on any tech. If you are falling behind, a good roll on weapons when you need it, or some additional experimentation could really help you catch up.


#10

Err OK, so in July I said I would fix this and never did. I never had and idea I was happy with.

What do you guys think about the idea that Spying is something you can choose to do, rather than something that happens every x hours.

The general theme of Proteus has been to remove the things that happen on a clock because its always unfair to somebody around the world.

So I was thinking perhaps you can choose to spend X credits to buy a spy, and they will return some time later with some research in a field of your choosing (based on your scanning tech).


#11

Hi Jay,

I think this is a great idea! I’ve just been catching up on Proteus, and hoping to jump in on the next beta game. I like the idea of choosing whether/when to spy and getting the result a set (or random) time later, as well as choosing who you want to spy on.

Regardless, I think the key theme, that nothing happens at a set time each cycle, is a key change that you shouldn’t mess with. not enough flexibility to check in around odd schedules was always the biggest complaint I got when trying to convince friends to play with me in Triton.

Also, some thoughts on how the research of those in scanning range would effect the time it takes for your spy to report back, and what research you might get. the timing could be based on how far away their nearest star (or the nearest star with science). Regarding what technology you get, it could be what they are researching, or a random technology that they are ahead of you in.