Design: Detection and Visibility

This is for directed discussions on immediate questions of game design. Only moderators can create new threads.
Message
Author
User avatar
pd
Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 1924
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2004 6:17 pm
Location: 52°16'N 10°31'E

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#16 Post by pd » Sun Jul 27, 2008 1:59 pm

MikkoM wrote:Also seeing the whole galaxy with its nebulas’ and gaseous substances might be more pleasing to the eye than just seeing a couple of stars or a single star at the start of the game.
Nebulae and gaseous substances could be shown even though the stars are invisible. It would look like this, which I find is quite interesting.
Image

I like how this allows for different strategies to explore the galaxy, as mentioned previously. Some players might use just ships to travel from star to star, others might use techs and/or buildings, others might use spying etc.

I also believe that this allows for certain stars to remain hidden until late game, which might produce some interesting situations. In the other case, one would always know, that there are still unexplored stars left.

User avatar
Geoff the Medio
Programming, Design, Admin
Posts: 12459
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:33 am
Location: Munich

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#17 Post by Geoff the Medio » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:28 am

pd wrote:Nebulae and gaseous substances could be shown even though the stars are invisible.
That does look nice. I'm a bit concerned that it required hiding information from the player that the client knows about though... In order to place the gaseous substance around the map, the client needs to know the location of systems in the universe that have gas stuff attached to them. Knowing that means the client knows where all systems are, or at least most if not all systems have gas. This could easily be exploited by a modified client to show players where systems are.

A possible workaround would be to place gaseous substance near, but not on, system locations. This would make it impossible to determine exactly where systems are from gaseous substance locations that the client knows about. It still might give useful information though, if a gaseous substance is seen rather far out on the edges of the map... The player would know a system is out there, away from the rest of the systems, which might be more useful.

At the least, we could have the number of gas blobs and the number of systems be different numbers, so that you can't tell from the number of gasses how many systems are in an area of the map.
I also believe that this allows for certain stars to remain hidden until late game, which might produce some interesting situations. In the other case, one would always know, that there are still unexplored stars left.
Having cloaked systems and starlanes is a bit of a pet feature of mine. We'd need to work out when to display starlanes if systems can be cloaked though... It's not much use hiding a system if the starlane is visible. Would it be worth giving starlanes themselves visibility ratings, or should we just use the lesser visibility of the two systems at the ends of the starlane? The latter would mean there would be no way to hide a starlane between two detectable systems, which could limit the usefulness for players of making new (potentially hidden) starlanes between previously separated systems to surprise another empire with unexepcted bypassing of chokepoints.

User avatar
pd
Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 1924
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2004 6:17 pm
Location: 52°16'N 10°31'E

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#18 Post by pd » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:22 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:A possible workaround would be to place gaseous substance near, but not on, system locations. This would make it impossible to determine exactly where systems are from gaseous substance locations that the client knows about. It still might give useful information though, if a gaseous substance is seen rather far out on the edges of the map... The player would know a system is out there, away from the rest of the systems, which might be more useful.

At the least, we could have the number of gas blobs and the number of systems be different numbers, so that you can't tell from the number of gasses how many systems are in an area of the map.
Interesting point about the exploit, I'd have never thought about this. I agree that randomizing the position and count of the gaseous substances to some degree would solve this.
We'd need to work out when to display starlanes if systems can be cloaked though... It's not much use hiding a system if the starlane is visible. Would it be worth giving starlanes themselves visibility ratings, or should we just use the lesser visibility of the two systems at the ends of the starlane? The latter would mean there would be no way to hide a starlane between two detectable systems [...]
Would it be possible to use the latter as a general rule, but still have exceptions to it? It's hard for me to say if it's worth the effort of course, but it surely sounds interesting.

User avatar
eleazar
Design & Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 3858
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: USA — midwest

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#19 Post by eleazar » Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:48 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:* Assuming the stealth / detection mechanics are the same for the galaxy map and the battle map, do we need entirely separate stealth and detection meters (and techs and ship parts and buildings, etc.) to set / modify / boost them? Either way, we can have effects that only alter the meters in one context or the other, but should the values be presented to players and stored internally as a signle or multiple meters of each type?
Rather than the first question this should be answered last. But obviously if all the other questions bring up no reason to treat these differently, then they should be treated the same.

Geoff the Medio wrote:** Systems (stars) - Currently all these can be seen by all players. However, this makes exploration of the galaxy less interesting and could potentially give advantages to human players over AIs in that humans are better able to infer what direction to scout based on the direction towards the centre of the galaxy.
I agree with previous posters like Josh that having visible stars does not detract from the fun of exploration. We have just 7 types of stars, the interest in exploration is in finding what sort of plants orbit a particular star. Besides making stars invisible is just weird. They are the most visible things in existence. Don't go crying "realism argument" here. My point is in the absence of compiling reasons to do otherwise (which i don't yet see), stars should be what people naturally expect them to be: visible.

I'm not sure i understand the advantage Geoff fears human will have with visible stars, but it doesn't sound very significant.

Geoff the Medio wrote:** Planets - Currently all are visible after a system is explored, but if systems can be seen before reaching them, should planets as well? Being able to see into other systems without sending ships could be a valuable ability for certain strategies that don't use a lot of ships.
No. Seeing into distant systems without using ships is IMHO something for espionage. We don't need to duplicate the ability.

In a slightly related concept, i do think delayed discovery on newly explored systems could be interesting.

Geoff the Medio wrote:** Buildings - Currently buildings are visible when the planet they are on is visible, but it might be interesting to make it generally harder to see buildings... A much more refined or advanced long-range detection system would be useful if it allowed a player to see buildings in other systems that would otherwise be undetectable.
I don't think buildings should have stealth values, IMHO that's taking this too far.
Buildings should be only detectable by ships in the system and/or by espionage.

If this is too simple: buildings could have a binary status: obvious and non-obvious. Obvious buildings would be things like Orbital structures which cannot be hidden, and would be detected when ships are in the system, while non-obvious buildings can only be detected by espionage. Of course espionage could report on obvious buildings too.

Geoff the Medio wrote:** Other Empires' Fleets - Currently these are visible on starlanes adjacent to systems the player can see or in systems the player can see.
...
* How does that distance between the early, middle and late game? Presumably techs and buildings will make it possible to see unstealthy objects further away as the game progresses.
I think what we have is a good system. It's easy to understand, and concrete. With our starlane/chokepoint setup i don't think we need to have the ever-expanding "radar" techs that other 4X space games usually have.

There are plenty of ways to get "vision" in a system, and thus it's attached lanes: colonies, ships, spies, (stealthy probe ships?), possibly outposts. The strategy comes from the various ways of placing sources of vision in systems, and rooting out your enemies source.

Geoff the Medio wrote:*** Should it matter if a fleet is in a system or travelling on a starlane?
A fleet in the same system with a "source of vision" would be considered "closer" than a fleet in an adjacent starlane, and thus potentially more information would be available.

Geoff the Medio wrote:** Starlanes - Currently these are visible after one of the systems they are connected to is explored (ie. the planets in the system are visible).
This is a reasonable normal behavior. Exceptions (if any) should be relatively rare, otherwise navigation will be annoying. Finding a previously hidden starlane would be cool, but it becomes tedious if it's constantly happening. IMHO the whole galaxy should be navigable from the start without finding any hidden lanes, but hidden lanes might become useful short-cuts.

High-Tech empires might be able to stealth lanes adjacent to their own systems, and similarly high tech opponents would be able to see through that disguise.

Geoff the Medio wrote:*** Could you see a fleet travelling on a starlane even if the lane itself isn't yet known / visible?
Obviously we shouldn't have ships looking like they are off-roading. Either
1) the fleet would reveal the undetected Lane, or
2) fleets on invisible lanes would be invisible.

I prefer #1, since it would encourage players who have secret starlanes to act stealthy, and not use them in from of people who are supposed to be unable to understand.

Geoff the Medio wrote:* Are there levels of visibility?
I think we could do 2 or 3 levels of visibility. It would tie in with the new(ish) fleet icon concept. Something like this:
1) Something is there (number and composition of fleet is unknown)
2) A general number of things are there (I.E. the only info you get is what you can glean from the icon.
3) You can open up the fleet icon and see the precise number and types of ships

Geoff the Medio wrote:* Is it important or beneficial for players to get bonuses to detecting ships if their empire knows something about the ships that are being detected? In particular, if the player has knowledge of the ship's design, should that give a bonus, or is this too complicated to worry about?
Too complicated, and not fun enough to worry about.

Geoff the Medio wrote:* How should we deal with cases where a more-visible object is contained within a less-visible object? For example, a planet might have stealth 5 and the system it is in might have stealth 20.
I don't believe systems or planets should have stealth. Problem solved.
I think you could make a case that the contents of a planet should be stealthed, but not the whole thing.


EDIT: * The above comments should be taking in the context of making content for a game, not in the context of designing the engine.

* I should also mention that I like the idea of a treaty that shares full or partial vision with allies.

User avatar
Josh
Graphics
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:49 am
Location: California, USA

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#20 Post by Josh » Tue Jul 29, 2008 10:57 am

For me, I always thought of stealth and detection mini-games as something related to combat. It is hard for me to imagine it in a playing field wide context that seems to do fine with simple axioms (I think I used that word right...)

That said, star lane stealth sounds okay to me.

Delayed exploration... I have my reservations, but it would be silly to call FO a 4X game if it's missing the first X. I do wish games would explore this venue more often.

User avatar
Bigjoe5
Designer and Programmer
Posts: 2058
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 6:33 pm
Location: Orion

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#21 Post by Bigjoe5 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 1:24 am

Regarding hidden stars: I think that having stars hidden at the start of the game could unleash a whole wave of interesting strategies and techs.

For example: We could have techs for keeping stars hidden from your opponents even after they would normally be able to see them, we could have techs for increasing the number or starlane jumps away that you can see stars, we could have specials like nebulae keep stars and their contents hidden, adding more strategic interest to nebulae. It would allow trading starmaps to have greater strategic importance and give spies a greater role in exploration.

Really, anything I can come up with is just the tip of the iceberg for what we could do with this idea.
Warning: Antarans in dimensional portal are closer than they appear.

User avatar
eleazar
Design & Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 3858
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: USA — midwest

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#22 Post by eleazar » Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:47 am

Bigjoe5 wrote:Regarding hidden stars: I think that having stars hidden at the start of the game could unleash a whole wave of interesting strategies and techs.

For example: We could have techs for keeping stars hidden from your opponents even after they would normally be able to see them, we could have techs for increasing the number or starlane jumps away that you can see stars...
"This idea could lead to more techs!" is not a compelling reason to do anything. Even the minimum game concepts we already have could lead to far more techs than we would want to include.

As for interesting strategies, i don't see any significantly different from the strategies inherent in hiding starlanes, or planets or whatever, except hiding anything other than stars seems less ridiculous.

With precisely the same reasoning you could argue that planets should be totally invisible by default... Only after you've researches the right techs would you discover that your solar-system has more than one planet. But why? It's counter-intuitive, and makes learning what-is-where a lot more work for the player. I've played strategy games where each province has an unknown amount of hidden useful stuff which might be found according to random chance, and the skill of certain units. It sounds cool, but in practice it was a pain and a lot of busywork, since you could "exploring" the same places throughout the game... You never really know what's there, or if you've explored enough. And there was a complicated display which showed at what skill level kind of thing had been searched for in each province. It sounds like something similar Micro-Torture is the logical outcome of some of the ideas aired here.

How is the player going to manage and understand his "Vision" if there are numerous techs/buildings/ship-parts that create different levels of detection in different parts of his empire? How is he going to know which parts of the galaxy have been scanned to what degree of thoroughness? How is he going to find the holes in his nets of detection?

What ever happened to KISS?

User avatar
Bigjoe5
Designer and Programmer
Posts: 2058
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 6:33 pm
Location: Orion

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#23 Post by Bigjoe5 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:04 pm

eleazar wrote:
Bigjoe5 wrote:Regarding hidden stars: I think that having stars hidden at the start of the game could unleash a whole wave of interesting strategies and techs.

For example: We could have techs for keeping stars hidden from your opponents even after they would normally be able to see them, we could have techs for increasing the number or starlane jumps away that you can see stars...
"This idea could lead to more techs!" is not a compelling reason to do anything.
The key word, which you seem to have missed, is "interesting".

I understand that making stars invisible at the start is less simple, but so is having an espionage system and a diplomacy system. One feature which I would particularly like is the ability to cloak entire star systems; an ability that would be far from inconspicuous on a galaxy map in which all stars are visible.
Warning: Antarans in dimensional portal are closer than they appear.

User avatar
eleazar
Design & Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 3858
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: USA — midwest

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#24 Post by eleazar » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:19 am

in addition to my previous points there are practical issues:

* Hiding stars is nearly pointless if you don't also have all adjacent starlanes hidden. It would be like waving a big sign: "there are powerful important planets here!"

* Hiding stars is superfluous is you also have techs to hide the things that orbit the star. Not that i necessarily support stealth-ing entire planets but it makes a lot more sense intuitively and strategically.

User avatar
eleazar
Design & Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 3858
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: USA — midwest

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#25 Post by eleazar » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:55 am

pd wrote:Nebulae and gaseous substances could be shown even though the stars are invisible. It would look like this, which I find is quite interesting.
Image

I like how this allows for different strategies to explore the galaxy, as mentioned previously. Some players might use just ships to travel from star to star, others might use techs and/or buildings, others might use spying etc.
No, making the stars invisible by default doesn't allow those strategies you mentioned. It's equally possible to make tech/spying/buildings as means to "explore", weather the stars are visible or invisible. Finding a star isn't the point. You can't do anything with a star. The point of exploring is finding what is orbiting the star and how the starlanes connect..

Besides, you certainly can't use spies to explore a system if there is nothing to click on, i.e. if the star is invisible by default... Unless you have an AI make choices about where to spy-explore.

So really if you want to enable alternate methods of exploration we need to leave the stars visible by default.

User avatar
Geoff the Medio
Programming, Design, Admin
Posts: 12459
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:33 am
Location: Munich

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#26 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:18 am

eleazar wrote:* Hiding stars is nearly pointless if you don't also have all adjacent starlanes hidden. It would be like waving a big sign: "there are powerful important planets here!"
Hence my comments about how to stealth starlanes...
* Hiding stars is superfluous is you also have techs to hide the things that orbit the star. Not that i necessarily support stealth-ing entire planets but it makes a lot more sense intuitively and strategically.
Stealth has a distance dependence, so keeping anyone from exploring a system would make it easier to keep things in that system hidden.

Regarding hiding systems at the start of the game (until adjacent ones are explored or sufficiently long-range detection / scanning tech is developed), a major motivation for me is to make exploring the galaxy (not the individual systems) more interesting. I always like the start of a game of civilization when all you see is the tiny patch of land around your start location, and the general feel of the game during the opening exploration phase. Knowing the layout of systems in FO doesn't really give that much useful information - as noted, it's necessary to explore within systems to do anything - but it does greatly reduce the feel of exploration that arises out of seeing the galaxy be revealed as you move your ships around it. Edit: Obviously others disagree about the significance of this, but to me, filling in the initial void / black is great visual feedback that is undermined if you initial see the stars and just fill in the connections and content. /Edit

We likely wouldn't hide the contents of systems once a player gets a ship to the system, or gets sufficient tech to scan into the system (which is probably more than just being able to see the system from afar). A few special cases might work differently (extra stealthy ancient race's planet) from the start of the game, and we might have late-game tech that could hide a whole planet (or system) from other players, but the majority of the game, and the exploration early game in particular, would be almost entirely simpler, with (almost) all system contents obvious if you get any ship in to the system, and (almost) all adjacent systems visible to early exploration ships.
Besides, you certainly can't use spies to explore a system if there is nothing to click on, i.e. if the star is invisible by default... Unless you have an AI make choices about where to spy-explore.
I think the idea would be to use the spies to get the information about a system from another empire... ie. steal their map data. Then you'd know the system exists (or existed) and could order spies to go to it and get more / updated details about what's in the system. We probably wouldn't add any way to explore the galaxy in the first place using just spies... that doesn't really make sense... there's nothing to spy on.

But isues of spying are really beside the point... Hiding most systems until you get a ship close to see them (or someone else does and you get the info from them) would just be relevant during the exploration phase of the game.

User avatar
Bigjoe5
Designer and Programmer
Posts: 2058
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2007 6:33 pm
Location: Orion

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#27 Post by Bigjoe5 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:18 am

eleazar wrote:you also have techs to hide the things that orbit the star.
Now that you mention it, that would be an acceptable and intuitive alternative.
Warning: Antarans in dimensional portal are closer than they appear.

User avatar
utilae
Cosmic Dragon
Posts: 2175
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2003 12:37 am
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#28 Post by utilae » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:25 am

eleazar wrote:
Bigjoe5 wrote:Regarding hidden stars: I think that having stars hidden at the start of the game could unleash a whole wave of interesting strategies and techs.

For example: We could have techs for keeping stars hidden from your opponents even after they would normally be able to see them, we could have techs for increasing the number or starlane jumps away that you can see stars...
"This idea could lead to more techs!" is not a compelling reason to do anything. Even the minimum game concepts we already have could lead to far more techs than we would want to include.
Note that he said "more strategies and techs". Seems like a compelling enough reason to me. I would prefer more functional techs rather than the usual stat/meter adjusting techs.
eleazar wrote: As for interesting strategies, i don't see any significantly different from the strategies inherent in hiding starlanes, or planets or whatever, except hiding anything other than stars seems less ridiculous.
I think rather than hiding planets, we would just hide the entire system. Maybe hiding planets is a low tech version, and hiding systems replaces that.
eleazar wrote: How is the player going to manage and understand his "Vision" if there are numerous techs/buildings/ship-parts that create different levels of detection in different parts of his empire? How is he going to know which parts of the galaxy have been scanned to what degree of thoroughness? How is he going to find the holes in his nets of detection?
There will be some kind of diagram overlay of detection radiuses like there is in Sword Of the Stars.
eleazar wrote: * Hiding stars is nearly pointless if you don't also have all adjacent starlanes hidden. It would be like waving a big sign: "there are powerful important planets here!"
This is a problem. It is a problem inherant in having starlanes in the first place (I liked the way Moo2 did it with fewer wormholes). But surely not a systems should have starlanes connecting to them and not all starlanes should lead to something, it is possible for a wormhole to lead to empty space.
eleazar wrote: * Hiding stars is superfluous is you also have techs to hide the things that orbit the star. Not that i necessarily support stealth-ing entire planets but it makes a lot more sense intuitively and strategically.
Yea, just hide the entire system and at this point replace the hide planets tech with hide system tech.

User avatar
eleazar
Design & Graphics Lead Emeritus
Posts: 3858
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:09 pm
Location: USA — midwest

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#29 Post by eleazar » Fri Aug 01, 2008 12:16 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:Regarding hiding systems at the start of the game (until adjacent ones are explored or sufficiently long-range detection / scanning tech is developed), a major motivation for me is to make exploring the galaxy (not the individual systems) more interesting. I always like the start of a game of civilization when all you see is the tiny patch of land around your start location, and the general feel of the game during the opening exploration phase. Knowing the layout of systems in FO doesn't really give that much useful information - as noted, it's necessary to explore within systems to do anything - but it does greatly reduce the feel of exploration that arises out of seeing the galaxy be revealed as you move your ships around it.
I understand what you are trying to do, but i don't think it would really work. Discovering a star (but not what orbits it) has no parallel in Civ. It is more like if Civ had an added stage of discovery, where you would find out if a square is land or sea, but nothing else. I believe the feeling of pseudo-exploration (finding stars, but no info about them) will cease to be interesting rather quickly. It's just an intermediate time-burner before the player can find out something useful and interesting about a system. Basically it's fluff that makes part of the game take longer without adding much to it.

The only game-play justification i can think of for default-invisible stars is to help the player keep track of what part of the galaxy he's explored. But none of the proposals for invisible stars serve that purpose because finding a star is independent of finding it's contents.
Geoff the Medio wrote:We likely wouldn't hide the contents of systems once a player gets a ship to the system, or gets sufficient tech to scan into the system (which is probably more than just being able to see the system from afar).
I don't think i understand the distinction you are making between "sufficient tech to scan into the system", and "being able to see the system from afar."



:arrow:
I think i've come up with an implementation of "invisible" non-ship objects which would side-step my interface/playability objections made so far. It's similar to what was done with Ascendancy:

Planets can be "cloaked." A "cloaked" planet isn't totally invisible, but the entire planet is impervious to any scanning of an equal or lesser tech level— in other words a non-friendly can't tell how many troops are under the cloak, or what buildings, how much population, or even the EP, etc.. The planet would probably be rendered as a featureless sphere.
A higher-level device could provide cloaking for all friendly (and perhaps uncolonized?) planets in a system.

Orbital defenses may or may not be included in the "cloak". Likely "cloaking" could be packaged as a feature of defensive shields.

With this implementation you can still conceal your stuff, but it doesn't require the careful player to do try to keep track of the number of planets in enemy systems to he knows when one is turned totally invisible.
"Guessing" and "Remembering" where planets/stars were or might be are tasks that humans and AIs are not remotely equivalent at.

User avatar
Geoff the Medio
Programming, Design, Admin
Posts: 12459
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 1:33 am
Location: Munich

Re: Design: Detection and Visibility

#30 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:03 am

eleazar wrote:Discovering a star (but not what orbits it) has no parallel in Civ. It is more like if Civ had an added stage of discovery, where you would find out if a square is land or sea, but nothing else.
One could compare it to sending a ship out across the ocean to search for new continents in Civ, and finding one, but not having yet unloaded a ground unit to explore inland, nor having yet circumnavigated the land mass. Really though, I was thinking of it more like just moving a unit towards the black unexplored void of the map, and seeing the newly-revealed terrain. It might take another turn to get the details of what's in the system in FO, but that doesn't make finding the system and exploring it less fun, or the reveal of the map less visually rewarding, and you'd have to move a ship into systems you haven't yet explored even if you know the locations of all systems before getting ships near them, so there's not really any additional time delay compared to the alternative... (see below)
I believe the feeling of pseudo-exploration (finding stars, but no info about them) will cease to be interesting rather quickly. It's just an intermediate time-burner before the player can find out something useful and interesting about a system. Basically it's fluff that makes part of the game take longer without adding much to it.
I don't think we're talking about the same thing here... Finding out that a system exists before you find out what's in it doesn't slow down anything, any more than knowing the location of all systems on the map before you've explored those systems would "slow down" exploration. Not knowing where systems are before you've gotten a ship to adjacent systems also doesn't slow you down, as you couldn't have sent a ship to the (newly-discovered) system anyway, since you wouldn't yet have found the starlanes that connect it to the surrounding systems, and you'd have to get a ship next to the system before it can go into the system in either case. Being able to know that something (a system) exists before getting details about it gives the player more information, not less. The difference is, I suppose, that instead of revealing the location and existence of all systems to players at the start of the game, we delay giving this information until they player can do something about it (ie. they have a nearby ship) or until another player gives them the information, in which case they probably can't immediately do much with the information anyway.
I don't think i understand the distinction you are making between "sufficient tech to scan into the system", and "being able to see the system from afar."
It's the same difference as know a system exists (as for any unexplored system in FO now) and having explored the system (in FO now) and knowing its contents.
* If you "see a system from afar" (without seeing into it), you know the system exists, where it is, and what star type it has. This could be "visiblity level 1" for systems.
* If you "see into a system", you can see planets and fleets in the system (assuming they are otherwise visible), and probably can see the starlanes connecting this system to other systems you can see (at visibility level 1 or above). This could be "visibility level 2" for systems.

Visibility level 3 might show you hard-to-see specials or other information about the star, or somesuch...

We don't want to mix visibility levels of systems with visibility levels of the contents of systems, but I'm fine with having a rule that, no matter how easily you could see details about an object in a system, you have to be able to see the system's contents (and thus know of the existence of the objects in it) before you can see more details about those objects. For example, if a system's at visibility level 1, and a building in the system would be at visibility level 3 for the same detecting ship, you still don't see the building at all (let alone details about it) because you aren't seeing the contents of the system due to its lower visibility level.
Planets can be "cloaked." A "cloaked" planet isn't totally invisible, but the entire planet is impervious to any scanning of an equal or lesser tech level— in other words a non-friendly can't tell how many troops are under the cloak, or what buildings, how much population, or even the EP, etc.. The planet would probably be rendered as a featureless sphere.
A higher-level device could provide cloaking for all friendly (and perhaps uncolonized?) planets in a system.
This similar to what I'm suggesting for systems, except applied to planets, and with a special rule that planets are always at "visibility level 1" (that you describe) or higher. Other than the always visible point, this could be translated to (for example, in terms of stealth and detection meters), a planet with a stealth meter of 5 and an enemy ship in the system with a detection meter of 10. The distance is 0 since they're in the same system, so detection - stealth gives 5. 0 < 5 < 10, so the ship sees only basic information about the planet (level 1 visibility).

Having a special case for planets to always be visibility level 1 would be somewhat of a pain and kludgy to code (which is really just a nitpicky annoyance to me, nothing really substantial).
With this implementation you can still conceal your stuff, but it doesn't require the careful player to do try to keep track of the number of planets in enemy systems to he knows when one is turned totally invisible.
Why is disappearing planets so much worse than disappearing ships or fleets?

Another option is to carefully adjust the available stealth and detection techs that apply to planets. If, for most of the game, it's very difficult to get a planet's stealth meter high enough to equal the detection meter of easily buildable scout ships' detection ratings, then it won't be possible to fully hide a planet. Planets would instead remain visible, but might be hard to get detailed information about for other players. However, which sufficiently advance tech, you would be able to get a planet's stealth meter up high enough to fully hide it from all but the best detection equipment located in the same system. This could make it possible to have interesting storytelling and strategies involving cloaked planets... I recall there was a (bad) early ST:TNG episode about a cloaked mythical planet. Again though, this wouldn't / shouldn't be possible until the late game, excluding special cases (like cloaked mythical planets).

Also, regarding delayed exploration. A way to implement this would be to give increasing bonus to detection with time spent by a ship in same system. If planets (or buildings on them) have various stealth ratings, they would become (more) visible over time as the ship's detection meter increases due to is stationary time-dependent bonus.

Also also, regarding having multiple ways to do things like detection (espionage, ships exploring, long range sensor techs). Consider the Terrans in Starcraft. They can detect using comsat, missile turrets or science vessels. Each has pros and cons and picking which to use, or whether to use any, has important strategic consequences and might depend on whether the opponent is going for fast mobile stealthy units (ie. dark templar rush) or not. Having these options can be a good thing, if they are strategically distinct.

Locked