DevDiary 18 - Spies and Espionage
Hello friends and welcome to the 18th DevDiary for “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign”! As you are now well infiltrated in our development process, the time has come for you to eavesdrop on classified information about one of the most emblematic features in KoH – the Spy and Espionage.
We must admit that we were greatly inspired of the intrigues in Game of Thrones, amongst many other books, movies and games, and the concept that “everything (and every man) has a price”. We had (and still have) countless ideas around what could be achieved by espionage and how the system should work exactly. The bar we set for ourselves on the Spy class is quite high, since Spies are favorite to many of the fans of KoH and since the release of the first game, we’re humbled in how it seems to have provided a source of inspiration to a few game developers over the years as well. We’ve tried to preserve the “magic” of this feature, but at the same time build on it and add more possibilities and actions.
There was also one very major difference to take into consideration – one of the pillars of the development of KoH2:S– the multiplayer. As people can be much more cunning than an AI, and players in one team can infiltrate several spies in the same kingdom, we had to be careful when designing and balancing what these knights can do and what strategies can the players explore. In result, espionage in KoH2:S has a lot of similarities to the one in KoH, but also at least as many differences and new additions.
Let’s start with probably the most significant difference – how a spy infiltrates a kingdom. Instead of waiting for the enemy to hire a new knight (which then turns out to be your spy, if you are lucky), you can now immediately infiltrate any kingdom and your spy never becomes a character in your opponent’s court. Instead, he can do his dirty deeds alone, or BRIBE some of the opponent’s knights. At one point of the development of the classes, we decided to make a very clear distinction between diplomats and spies and removed all offensive actions from the diplomat (like ruining relations between foreign kingdoms and such) and most defensive ones from the spy. As a result, they are now used for very different strategies.
Upon arrival in a kingdom, a spy immediately “provides” vision over its lands, which includes the position of its armies – a valuable piece of information, especially in case of war. Additionally, he starts collecting various type of rumors about the kingdom he is in – its future plans, some weaknesses and problems, etc. Furthermore, for a cost/price he can start searching for a way to ruin the relations of that kingdom with another one. But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. As time goес by, various opportunities will arise for the spy like murder plots, provoking war, etc.
One of the most common and important among those opportunities is the Bribing. Any enemy knight, except the king, can potentially be bribed and if that is successful, new opportunity types will arise. These opportunities depending on the newly bribed puppets’ class, whether they are governing a town, whether they are leading an army, etc. For example, a bribed merchant can aid in robbing the treasury, a marshal can try to inspire a kingdom-wide army revolt and a puppet spy can aid in the assassination of otherwise unreachable targets like the members of the royal family. A governor can open the gates during siege, and a puppet, that afterwards becomes king… Well, we will let you imagine what opportunities might arise from that.
Every spy action brings some serious risk, though. We can easily say that this class is all about “high risk, high reward” playstyle. If a plot is revealed, this has a negative effect on the foreign relations of the kingdom and can even lower its crown authority, depending on the action. Furthermore, the spy might be imprisoned if captured, or even outright killed. What the chances of success and revealing are depend on many factors, not just the skills and rank of the spies and what exactly are they trying to do. Some of those factors are traditions of both kingdoms, their crown authority, their kings’ espionage attribute, the rank of their best spy (thus spies also play a counter-espionage role), etc…
Besides the risk, most spy actions are very expensive, with their activities and bribes often requiring high upkeep and good preparation before they are executed. It is often a good strategy to combine espionage with other activities, in order to “tweak” the situation for the most beneficial results. Thus, espionage is useful mainly mid and late game for powerful kingdoms and if you want to build the “Ultimate Spy Realm”, well, a lot of dedication is required for ranking up your spies, getting proper traditions and ensuring stable economy, that can provide for spy activities.
Well thought out and executed espionage can be really devastating for a kingdom and for some players, being the victims of these actions might not be so fun. We’ve provided an option for players, who dislike that part of the game – a host can forbid or limit spy interactions by their severity level, so if you are up for a “fair honorable” game with no sneaky stuff, you can set it up like so.
You’d better tell us what you think, or we will make you talk, one way or another! /evilgrin
Does the concept of such infiltration and bribery seem appealing to you, or do you remain loyal to the old concept of the spies, disguising as foreign knights? Are you fond of the espionage system at all, or do you prefer the more straightforward method of “infiltrating” your enemies with 50,000 feudal knights?
We will spread more deceitful rumors about Spies and Espionage in our DevStream on Thursday, May 27th, @ 3:00 PM GMT / 11:00 AM EST, so you can sneak in and eavesdrop on our conversation. The Twitch stream will be secretly hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic and we’ll be stealing responses from this post to answer during the stream. You can try interrogating us during the live stream, if you dare, but you will not find out anything out from us – we will not talk!
We would have told you what we will talk about next time, but our memory is kind of fuzzy – maybe some gold might help us remember… You know where to find us. Until then, we bid thee farewell. Go forth and spread your network of spies!
P.S. CLASIFIED: Curious information from the recently opened top secret KoH dossier, do not read without the proper authorization!!! Note to Brad Logston – do not publish this segment!!!
Maybe you remember how in the first game to infiltrate a spy, you must send him in a kingdom and wait for a new knight to be hired there; this knight would then be your spy. The problem was that royal courts were getting filled pretty quickly as the game progressed, making hiring rare. Thus, it was next to impossible to infiltrate new spies during the mid and late game, rendering espionage practically useless. So, we implemented (unknown to the players) a workaround – knights, that were already hired, could also “turn out” spies. That led to an interesting side effect – your princes could become spies, sent from someone and players were wondering how is that possible. Well, that’s how.
We are not too proud for “cheating” the system like that, but sometimes ruthless decisions have to be taken for the greater good – the fun of the players. It is all about the fun…
This DevDiary will autodestruct in 3, 2, 1…
By THQN Brad
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