I am posting an email that I sent to some of the developer community (apols for those of you I missed, but I don't know who you all are) because I feel it should be up for wider discussion. Please let me kow your thoughts whether you agree or disagree with me:
On 10/24/2012 10:22:50 AM sickidgebanginyard wrote:
Just writing to express my disappointment at the proposed changes to limit the number of spies per colony to 3 x intel min. I know that you have spoken of changes to spying in the past, but this does look rather like a reaction to the issue of one player having more than 10% of all the spies in the game. So a player has amassed 13K spies? This presents players with a genuine problem to solve, which maintains interest in the game. Resolving the problem by making wholesale changes to spying is throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Certainly, it will mean that all the players who have neglected this facet of the game can relax a little, but removing tension from a game cannot possibly be a good thing. The fact that there are two ways of effectively engaging in combat in LE, via weaponry and spying creates a pleasing asymmetry. By rendering spying ineffective, as the proposed changes will, the game is having its teeth pulled.
And I am right in using the word neglected, because this aspect of the game has been apparent right from the outset. One of the things that I noticed in the wiki when I started playing was:
"While the Intelligence Ministry may only train as many spies as it has levels, it is possible for it to control spies far in excess of its level. Some players have hundreds of spies in the Intelligence Ministries. There are a few methods of doing this but probably the easiest and the most comonly [sic] used is running the Incite Mutiny mission on another empire's planet."
I know that I have skin in the game so to speak (only on a much smaller scale), but I ask you not to dismiss this out of hand but to consider carefully whether you want this game to have broad appeal. A perpetual outbreak of peace won't achieve this and I think that you run the risk of transforming LE into a sort of private club for established players.
Note also, that there are no restrictions (beyond the number of docks on a planet) on the number of snarks and sweepers a player can have. Will we be seeing similar restrictions in this area too? I doubt it, and I hope not, but if there is any logic to the spy changes, then perhaps we should.
I can understand your frustration, but there have been many instances in the past where rule changes have been made and some people have been upset because it affected them.
Your comment about restrictions on ships is mis-placed. I could equally say, after the spy rule changes, that 'there are no restrictions (beyond the number of levels of your intel ministry) on the number of spies a player can have'.
The best analogy I can give is that there used to be no effective limit on the number of ships you could have on a colony. The number of docks could easily be circumvented by a number of 'exploits' so that you could have thousands of ships on a planet with just a level 1 spaceport. These exploits were fixed (primarily by me) and I was one of the people biggest hit by the change, losing 10's of K of ships (which was a lot at that time).
Similarly I will be hit badly, almost as much as you, by the spy changes that Norway is introducing.
There is a fine line between 'exploits' and 'normal game play'. The spy 'exploit' of being able to increase your spy army either via insurrection or merc guild, has been there for some time. It has not been tackled until now because there are just so many hours that volunteer developers like Norway and myself can put in. We tackle those issues (such as lag) that affect players the most, or which improve the game-play for the majority of players. We don't like having to fix exploits when we could add new features (like fleet-actions) which we see as more important.
There is a fine line between an 'exploit' and 'normal game play'. JT (the game designer) never anticipated the extreems that some players would push the game play. The number of ships used in attacks (10's of k) the number of spies, etc. He was actually shocked to find out how many spies could be accumulated. Having a few spies over the limit imposed by the intel ministry is one thing, having orders of magnetude more is unacceptable.
You say the wiki states that you can have many more spies than the intel ministry supports. Yes it does, but that is not the 'official' status. The wiki is updated largely by players and of course they will (often) share information. I remember there being information on the wiki about the ability to increase your fleet above the 'legal' allowable value.
You want your 10's of K of spies. The short answer is that neither you (nor I ) can be allowed to keep them. Trying to administer that number of spies is both impractical (RPC limit) and unfair, especially to those players who cannot script).
You will not lose out totally, all the training points from your spies will be used to 'upgrade' the spies you retain. I would not be surprised to find out that you end up with the highest ranked spies in the game after the upgrade.
Thanks Icy. You covered what I had replied earlier in the email.
I do plan to make a few more changes, mainly to help out non-scripters later and they will involve some UI enhancements, but I don't think further changes to current spies will hapen then.
Current plan is to do the first round of spy changes on Nov 1.
Lemmings in Spaaaacccce!
And there I was thinking it was a documented feature!
I still feel that it will have a debilitating effect on spying in the game. On many of the missions, the use of small numbers of spies is not practical because of the very long recovery times. Also the home field advantage will mean that once players hit the ceiling for training they will be immune from opposing spies.
If the home field advantage was removed and the training time for spies reduced then spying could remain a dynamic part of the game. As things stand, I have my doubts. I expect time will tell.
It's only practical for scripters to use large numbers which is another reason to get rid of the huge numbers.
Homefield advantage can be taken care of by taking down the security ministry.
I suspect team work may have to happen again for spies instead of just using the brute force approach.
And also, this is just the first step.
Lemmings in Spaaaacccce!