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  • 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.
     

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    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.
     

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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…


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    THQN Brad


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    Hello there, Dear Devs,

    Congratulations, Dear THQ Nordic, on the big news! I’m sure that Biomutant will be a success, as it promises!

    Kind Regards!

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    Is there a way to counter-spy in general? Or is there a way to at least focus on the happiness/loyalty of some of your knights in order to make it harder for them to be bribed?

    To give an example: I have a spy in my court and would hate to get killed by him. How can I increase his loyalty towards me so that he won't stab a knife in my back as soon as I turn around?

    Edited by Zerg
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    What actions can you take as a player to prevent enemy spies from brideing your knights? Or in other words. What determines the likely hood of an enemy spy bribeing your knights? 

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    Hi,

    Firstly, I am excited for this, and enjoying the devdiaries as they come out.

    I do have a question about spies vision. You said 'imiediately provide vision' of the territory and armies.  Is this literal in the sense that the day you place a spy into a kingdom you can see everything?

    I personally think that spies would take some time to setup their spy network, so let's say after 6 months (this could depend on the skill of the spy) you can see the majority of the territory and armies. That would introduce some time management, and avoid spies being sent to a kingdom a week before declaring war, by that point you already know where to place your armies to counter theirs. 

    I think a build up time would be quite interesting to manage, as you reveal more information are time ticks by.

    Thanks again, and really looking forward to playing this.

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    I have sevral questions:

    1) Like many have already asked, how can we prevent our royal court being bribed? Will we need one of our spies to stay at home court like in KoH in order to counter enemies spies or will there be some other way of defending them?

     

    2) Will it be still possible for you to become a king of other kingdom like in KoH ( place a spy as General and then kill off every heir)?

     

    3) In order to find out where captured enemy spy comes from, do we need to tortue him? If yes, do we lose our crown power? ... Or can we extract that information some pther way?

     

    4) Will our spies have skills as Marshals? (since in KoH they did not have them)

     

     

    8 minutes ago, Rugroll said:

    I think a build up time would be quite interesting to manage, as you reveal more information are time ticks by.

    I totally agree with this, there should be some timer placed as an buffer againts explotation, especially in multyplayer mode.

     

     

     

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    I feel the same worries as stated in the previous comments. =/ Especially the feature of instantly seeing the armies of another kingdome give's me a slight stomache ache. There would be a way to nerf it with high cost or the risk of capture and killing of the spy, loss of kingdom reputation, instant war with the foreign kingdom... for when sending a spy in and out a kingdom. But this mechanic can be exploited pretty big time. Plus it does not feel right - neither the current way nor my mentioned nerf-mechanics. Better maybe give it a timer, make it dependent on specific skills or traditions,... on how fast and how possible this works - that would make more sense for how the craft of espionage works.

    What I do like very much though is the option for hosts to limit spy activity. It sets clear rules for the gamestyle and gives you the possibility to decide whether you want to destroy friendships or not ;D (thank you in advance for that!)

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    45 minutes ago, DoVlaLegend said:

    2) Will it be still possible for you to become a king of other kingdom like in KoH ( place a spy as General and then kill off every heir)?

    Yes, this was indirectly suggested in the diary. See here:

    1 hour ago, THQN Brad said:

    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.

     

    45 minutes ago, DoVlaLegend said:

    4) Will our spies have skills as Marshals? (since in KoH they did not have them)

    Yes, they mentioned in the diary about skills that every knight now has skills and some skills are shared between professions. Just to back up my answer, see dev diary 9:

    There you can see that there is a "merchant primary skill" and this will most certainly be the same for every profession. Quoting directly from there: "As an example, let’s take a look at the “Bargain” skill. It is primary to Merchants and increases the gold from trade to merchants. Spies and Diplomats can also learn this skill of course, but their benefit is the cost reduction of certain actions, e.g. bribery and others."

    Edited by Zerg
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    1 hour ago, THQN Brad said:

    Spies are favorite to many of the fans of KoH and since the release of the first game

    I can't agree with that. I would say it's the opposite. Players usually don't hire knight and rely only on family to avoid having spies.

    1 hour ago, THQN Brad said:

    can now immediately infiltrate any kingdom and your spy never becomes a character in your opponent’s court

    That's a huge improvement already. 

     

    I want to send a spy to Rome to help me find the most corrupt candidate for a Pope. Then to use the spy for bribing other cardinals to support the chosen one on the election. And I would have a puppet Pope for as long as he or my king lives. Unless the pope finds an ally to help him get out of this scheme.

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    What about disinformation?

    Can your spy be tricked into delivering the wrong information to you?  Such as reporting enemy troops where there are none?  (Thus misdirecting your attention/forces.)  Misreports their strength/economy/plans?

    After all, spies can't be perfect, and introducing this imperfection would make things very interesting.

    BTW, loved the flavour of this Dev Diary!

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    5 hours ago, THQN Brad said:

    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.

     

     

    5 hours ago, THQN Brad said:

    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

     

    You are insane. I don't even want to ask "how is this possible in medieval setting", magic radar, fine. But how can you kill all aspect of stealth in a multiplayer with instant effect of just hiring a spy? Why don't you make all the map all the unit visible all the time? It is essentially the same. Human opponent -> hire spy -> instant see all.

     

    5 hours ago, THQN Brad said:

    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.

    You basically creating same end game as original KoH - gold solves everything. I'm not sure how you don't see it, but this is quite obvious.  What you consider "expensive" in early mid game, is total peanuts end game,  and you will just spy through all the enemies at the end. 

     

    5 hours ago, THQN Brad said:

    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.

    So you basically admit right away that you've built a cheat system for a player against AI, and most likely people will disable this part of the game all together in a multiplayer. Ok, at least we are on the same page. 

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    7 hours ago, Sh0ppo from 9ers_Gaming said:

    Syre, we captured a spy.
    We don't know where he comes from and what his intentions are - but we could find out his name: Sir Bradley from the THQ Nordics

    It's Sir Bradford to you! 🙂

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    21 hours ago, THQN Brad said:

    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!

    Now you've got me hooked. What are we going to talk about next time? Perhaps a pre-order, or even an estimate for release?

    Is it just a joke or is there something in it? Something we've all been waiting for a long time... 🙂 

    Either way if you want gold, you can just have it. 🙂 

     

    P.S. - Will Knights of Honor 2 participate in E3 or Gamescom this year??

    Edited by Yavor
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    I really enjoyed reading this dev diary.  I like intricate details and I think espionage in KoH2:S is going to be a lot of fun and much better than what it was in KoH1.  Can an infiltrated spy bribe or otherwise convince a prince or disgruntled marshal to attempt to usurp the kingdom's throne from the king?

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    When we discover an enemy spy, is the enemy kingdom immediately informed or do we get some choices before that happens? I would like option to try bribe him to swich side or become double agent before we lock him in the dungeon.

    Will it be possible to hire spies from other kingdoms or send spies to our allies to help them in counter-espionage?

    Will the distance between the kingdoms have an impact on espionage actions?

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    With the reference to the Dev Stream:

    1) King as a spy is a stupid mechanic. There is no plastic surgery, how can you infiltrate another kingdom as a king, come on. At least make a penalty on kingdom power if you make your king into a spy, "the rumors are spreading that the king left us and nowhere to be found, the kingdom power has decreased". 

    2) You probably want to have dynamic balancing of cost of spy actions based on distance to a target kingdom. It appears to me that in a multiplayer setting it would be very easy to suddenly focus spy power on a single target kingdom anywhere on a map. Such focus fire cannot happen with military power since armies have to walk the distance, but spies, as I understand it, ignore physical distances. 

    3)  In context of multiplayer it needs to be some mechanics to aid an ally with counter spying. If you can have enemy team doing spy actions on you all at once, there should be a way for your allies to help you out to balance that. Or your own counter spying should be more and more effective if there are multiple nations spying on you at the same time.

    4) If you disable or turn down spy actions settings for a multiplayer game remove kingdom advantages and skills connected to spy actions, because people will not pay attention and invest into spy related stuff to find out that actions they were planning to do are not available. Or at least make a notification/confirmation so people won't select it without thinking.

    5) In a contest of multiplayer what will prevent a lot of people from all other the map bribing essentially everyone in your royal court? In a context of single player with human being an enemy for half of the map, what stops AI from doing spy actions to the player to dust non stop? I can envision a player being at war with more AI kingdom at once than you have slots in your royal court.

    6) There is a bunch of spy actions which are revolving around diplomatic relations between kingdoms. In context of multiplayer will a human relations to a human override the action of the spy action ( spy action 'war is declared' - human 'not it is not') or the spy action actually would work over the head of the human player?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    2 hours ago, William Blake said:

    With the reference to the Dev Stream:

    1) King as a spy is a stupid mechanic. There is no plastic surgery, how can you infiltrate another kingdom as a king, come on. At least make a penalty on kingdom power if you make your king into a spy, "the rumors are spreading that the king left us and nowhere to be found, the kingdom power has decreased". 

    2) You probably want to have dynamic balancing of cost of spy actions based on distance to a target kingdom. It appears to me that in a multiplayer setting it would be very easy to suddenly focus spy power on a single target kingdom anywhere on a map. Such focus fire cannot happen with military power since armies have to walk the distance, but spies, as I understand it, ignore physical distances. 

    3)  In context of multiplayer it needs to be some mechanics to aid an ally with counter spying. If you can have enemy team doing spy actions on you all at once, there should be a way for your allies to help you out to balance that. Or your own counter spying should be more and more effective if there are multiple nations spying on you at the same time.

    4) If you disable or turn down spy actions settings for a multiplayer game remove kingdom advantages and skills connected to spy actions, because people will not pay attention and invest into spy related stuff to find out that actions they were planning to do are not available. Or at least make a notification/confirmation so people won't select it without thinking.

    5) In a contest of multiplayer what will prevent a lot of people from all other the map bribing essentially everyone in your royal court? In a context of single player with human being an enemy for half of the map, what stops AI from doing spy actions to the player to dust non stop? I can envision a player being at war with more AI kingdom at once than you have slots in your royal court.

    6) There is a bunch of spy actions which are revolving around diplomatic relations between kingdoms. In context of multiplayer will a human relations to a human override the action of the spy action ( spy action 'war is declared' - human 'not it is not') or the spy action actually would work over the head of the human player?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    as I understand regarding your issue Nr 1. that only happens if the person you have as spy gets to be king afterwards 

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    6 minutes ago, volkayno said:

    that only happens if the person you have as spy gets to be king afterwards 

    No, they said that you can make your own king into a spy and send your own king to do spy actions in another country. Minute 54 of the stream, in fact Alex said "king is the best spy with extra bonuses".

     

     

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    8 minutes ago, William Blake said:

    No, they said that you can make your own king into a spy and send your own king to do spy actions in another country. Minute 54 of the stream, in fact Alex said "king is the best spy with extra bonuses".

     

     

    oh well, my bad. if its this way around that works as well since in medieval times not everyone knew how the king looks, since information travelled by church priests messengers or the kings traveling within their own country, and drawings made for kings and royalty most of the time are in their own hall anyways or if we take Cleopatra as example or many more they are even fake looking extremely good or how they would want to look or last version they would be really really undetailed like here.

     

    I got to mention there is no social media or photography either

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    image.png

    Edited by volkayno
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    4 minutes ago, volkayno said:

    oh well, my bad. if its this way around that works as well since in medieval times not everyone knew how the king looks, since information travelled by church priests messengers or the kings traveling within their own country, and drawings made for kings and royalty most of the time are in their own hall anyways or if we take Cleopatra as example or many more they are even fake looking extremely good or how they would want to look or last version they would be really really undetailed like here.

     

    I got to mention there is no social media or photography either

    image.png

    image.png

    Half of Europe monarch were practically family. Envoys and other nobility were visiting courts of other nations all the time, you would have dozens and dozens of people seeing a monarch from child years growing up. From teen years you would have multiple countries trying to arrange marriage with you. If anyone in a kingdom would have a portrait that would be the monarch and his family, especially his sons. If you were a monarch you would be present at gazillion ceremonies for public to see, even if you are not heir to the throne, but some 5th daughter people would see you as a part of the royal court for decades. 

    Well, from real history: Peter the Great of Russia, who went incognito as a "common handy man" to Netherlands to learn shipbuilding and carpentry. He was just one in a group of many Russians working at the same place, wore same common clothes, fake name, lived with his peers and no one dared to shows who he is. Yet, EVERYONE knew. not only in Netherlands, but England and France and Germany. 

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    I don't like the idea the king, or the heir or prince to be appointed to do a job such as diplomat, trader, spy. On the other hand if the king has skill for spy, cleric, trader, this skill should be on a global management level and would be added as a global bonus on top of everything else. The only reasonable profession for me is the king to sit on his throne all day long or to lead armies in battle. 

    For prince/heir - minor erands, diplomatic missions, battles could be possible.

    For second/third son - cleric is a good option. Also when the king is too old could retire to a monastery and leave the kingdom to his heir - this could be a good excuse for the player to get rid of a crappy king earlier....

    Queen/ Princess - diplomatic missions - home and abroad, some spy global bonuses, intrigues...

    I don't see anything wrong to mary the princess and use her as a spy though, that would be cool

    Edited by BC Knight
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    From the gamplay-perspective I totally understand why a king can be a spy. No one would ever make their king a spy if some of the actions (like infiltrating another kingdom) would be simply unavailable. Historically it makes near to no sense, but as long as the gameplay is fun, I can live with it. They could maybe change it, that the king can never be captured since it is not him personally infiltrating but just him "commanding" an army of spies. There defintely were monarchs who focues on controlling courts (mostly their own) through intrigue.

    Also, since Brad loves to boast about how extensive the modding tools will be, I am sure that it should be rather easy to disable specific professions or actions for the king altogether.

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    The ideas sound great. Having spies me more active like every other roles makes a lot of sense.

    Still, I didn't quite understand. Will there still be an option to have spies as court member?

    Since I played a of spies and have played a whole campaign trying to get everything through espionage I would be interested in knowing if there is a more active way to become the ruler of a country through espionage.

    In KoH I it was quite boring just waiting for your spy to get hired into the opponent's court, preferable as spy, and slowly but surely carving your way through the ranks.

    This could be helped for example through an special spy class called "Assassin" that can take out specific court members out.

    Counter espionage might be the one thing that should become more difficult the more you use spies to balance out the strength of spies. Maybe having a very high price for spies but also increasing the change of a double cross the more spies your have in your court.

    Spies in KoH was very fun but felt a little bit underdeveloped and overpowered at the same time. Being able to completely take over a country without a single battle is amazing.

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