Thoughts on Diplomacy

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Thoughts on Diplomacy

#1 Post by haravikk » Mon Apr 05, 2004 11:36 am

I found another thread on Diplomacy but it seems to have trailed off onto talking about luxury items which is not what I am concerned with.

The previous diplomacy models
Having not played MOO1 I can't comment on that, however I find in both the MOO2 and MOO3 models I see some problems:

What the hell is going on?
A big problem I have is trying to work out why a certain empire hates my guts and won't seem to like me no matter how much shiny stuff I throw at them. A much more concise method of keeping track of this is needed, more on that later.

How should I act?
A big one in MOO3 is that there seems to be no clear way of deciding if you should be nice or pleading to an empire, or if you should be argumentative and mean. The only way I see is to try different things and see what result this has, but it seems a very backwards way. From looking at the race and learning things about them your advisors should be able to give you SOME indication about how to act.

Exchanging things
No matter how good an offer I make to a computer player (especially in MOO3) they won't accept it. Even my most glorious allies who have relations with me at +170 won't let me have heavy armour in return for dreadnoughts, plasma cannons and phaser beams. Why? Not a clue. It seems the AI is completely thick, one good tech for 3 good/better ones is a no, since when?

An altered diplomacy model
What I think would be good is an altered diplomacy model broken down as follows. Please note that a lot of actions can be sweetened with praise, gifts, a reminder or 'encouraged' by a threat.

Negative actions
  • Threat - threaten the target, this will require you to set an emphasis as well as a reason. Reasons would include things like 'Stop spying', 'Stop oppressing members of my race', 'Stop consorting with my enemies' down to 'I just don't like you'.
  • End trade - breaks trade agreements, you may specify a single agreement to break, or just end all trade altogether
  • Trade sanction/embargo - this has a negative effect on the target's trade of money, intelligence and research with other empires. If you are friendly with someone who is also friendly to the target empire then trade with them will be strained. Similarly if two trading empires are situated on opposite sides of your territory and you begin sanctions/embargoes with one then trade will be significantly damaged as you over tax freighters for passing through or outright blow them out the sky, this may damage relations with the other empire(s) hurt by this action.
  • Downgrade pact - Drops a full alliance down to a defensive one, a defensive alliance down to a non-aggression pact or a NAP down to a peace-treaty
  • Declare war - declare war immediately, this should only be done if you have a peace treaty with the target empire, if you have a NAP or an alliance then the diplomatic and unrest penalties will be large
  • Demand - demand something from the other empire, this is not always negative depending upon the relations you have with them already. This includes items like declaring war on your enemies in addition to giving you tech, money, tribute etc
Trade actions
  • Economic Treaty - invest in business in each other's empire, the set-up fee for this is low and the returns are initially low. This agreement however improves over time through a number of levels, returns getting higher each time
  • Research Treaty - a free trade of ideas, set-up for this is low but increases RP's per turn. This can improve in the same way as an econ. treaty
  • Trade goods - a high set-up fee but the resulting trade can bring about much larger monetary returns overall than an economic treaty. An mid-level econ. treaty is required first. This also has a positive effect on unrest. Only available in a NAP
  • Trade knowledge - a free trade of knowledge. If you are researching something the other empire already has then your research into it will be significantly sped up and vice versa (cutting time down by say up to 20%?). Only available in a NAP
  • Diplomatic treaty - put in good words for each other. This agreement slowly improves your relations with empires that the target is friendly with and vice versa. Only available in a NAP
  • Intelligence treaty - share intelligence with one another. This initially just shares the map so you can see what they see. As it progresses through levels you start to see one another's ships and worlds, then ultimately can have your spies work together to greater effect against a common target. Only available in an alliance
  • Exchange items - just like MOO2 and MOO3, you pick things you want, and choose what you will give in return
  • Cease-fire - when at war this ceases hostilities for a short period of time (usually only a few turns)
  • Armstice - a longer form of cease-fire, there are minor penalties to unrest and diplomacy if you break this one early
  • Peace-treaty - the lowest form of pact. Both empires agree to keep forces away from one another (if a ship does enter a system then you can freely issue a threat or chase it away).
  • Non-agression Pact (NAP) - allows two empires to freely move around in one another's territory. Empires will not attempt colonise one another's systems (i.e. if I have a planet in a system and there are a few good ones available then a NAPed empire will not try to colonise them), if they do then relations will be strained and threats may be issued
  • Defensive alliance - your forces will aid the other empire's forces if they are attacked and vice versa. The other empire may colonise your systems if they want to
  • Full alliance - if the other empire is at war with someone then they will expect you to declare war. Your forces will automatically aid one another in all combats (even if one of the allies has good relations with the 'enemy' empire, in the event of both sides having a common ally the ally will not fight)
Positive actions
  • Praise - you shower the target with praise for their actions, emphasis is very important in how this will affect your relations. You may specify a recent action of theirs which you were particularly thankful for, or you may praise them in general
  • Gift - give them something shiny to make them happy, you can give worlds, technologies, task forces or lump sums of money. Other things include sanctions and embargoes, cancelling a pact or declaring war on an empire that your target does not like.
  • Reminder - remind the empire of a particularly good deed you have done for them such as declaring war on their enemy, a big gift you gave them, the huge amount of profit made in trade with you and so on. You may also remind the empire of a particularly bad deed they have done to you such as spying, past war etc. This action if used carefully can greatly improve relations by causing them to think higher of you, or by prompting them to feel guilty and want to make amends for past misdemeanours. This would require each empire to keep a list of good and bad things another empire has done.
  • Conditional surrender - you will surrender to the empire but only if they accept conditions that you lay down. These will be things like retaining control of your empire (by far the most important one), keeping control of your military forces etc. In most cases the other empire will add their own conditions like large tributary payments, total obedience (their wars are your wars or you die) etc, there is more on this later.
  • Unconditional surrender - your empire essentially merges with theirs and you are out of the game. If the other empire is particularly merciful they may leave you with your home-world and any defence fleet it may have left and cancel war status with you.
These are things you can do when threatened, have sanctions/embargoes placed upon you, pacts downgraded, treaties broken or war declared upon you. Some of these will be useful, some not so useful, and some more fun than anything else. You may wish to note that a number of these can be countered themselves.
  • Gift - attempt to make the empire rethink their action by giving them something distractingly shiny
  • Reminder - just like the reminder in the positive actions. This is by far the most powerful method of making an empire re-think things
  • Counter-argument - if you are accused of something (e.g spying) then you may make a counter-argument. These include outright denying something, claiming that your empire needed to, that the other empire did the same first, or that another empire told you to. These may be outright lies but they can be effective at making an empire rethink. If you were accused of spying but in fact did not and made a point of saying so then the other empire may become less susceptible to other empires trying to frame you for such acts and as a result relations with you will improve, and if they catch the perpetrator then relations with them will decrease. If however you lie and they find out, or you are simply not convincing enough then relations may be harmed further.
  • Counter-attack - do something mean back to them, if they threaten you, put embargoes on them, if they put embargoes on you then declare war on them. This shock-tactic can often push an empire hard enough that will do almost anything to repair the damage they feel that is their fault. Against more aggressive enemies this can be an impressive gesture earning new-found respect for you. Or it will simply make matters worse.
  • Insult - tell them exactly where they can shove their mother. This is the most negative action you can take and for most races this will ruin any hope of repairing the situation. However, an aggressive empire may respect your attitude toward threats, especially if you stolidly remain foul-mouthed at the threat or act of war.
When offered something such as an alliance, a treaty, or when demands are made of you then you will have a number of options available to you. These haven't changed much from the MOO3 model
  • Refuse - the answer is no, you will not accept whatever has been asked
  • Stall - hold off on making a decision, this may encourage the other empire to make a better offer, or simply give you time to decide. When you do this it is treated as an offer to the other empire so they can propose a different offer, allow you to stall, request an answer or cancel the original offer
  • Counter-offer - request more from the deal, you may sweeten your counter offer by offering something in return for their accepting the counter offer, just in the same was an exchange.
  • Better offer - outright ask the other empire to make a better offer if they want their original one to be accepted.
  • Accept - simply accept the offer with no further requests to help you 'decide'
Exchanging items
Exchanging items is often a very frustrating action as I rarely seem to get anywhere. It seems to me that the method of weighting an offer so far is poor as the computer players do not appear to recognise a good one when they get it. Further to this, relations with an empire do not seem to greatly improve the chances of getting anything. With a system of counter-offers it should be possible to have the AI put other things onto the table till the exchange is fair to them, that is if the offer is not a good one to begin with. Close friends such as allies should be willing to accept an unfair exchange from time to time, while empires you are on good terms with (but not necessarily allied with) should haggle for a better deal.

It should always be as clear as possible why an empire is doing something, especially when refusing an offer, threatening, declaring war etc. It is frustrating to receive a threat with no idea why you have been issued with it.

I like the emphasis system in MOO3, it adds an extra level to diplomacy and it allows you to make your offers that extra bit appealing. However, it needs to be clear which emphasis affects empires positively and which ones negatively. I want to know that being overly nice to the Sakkra will make them think me weak, but also would like to know roughly how mean I can be to them before they take offense. Trial and error is not how I picture diplomacy.

Surrender is an ultimate end to war and having a rich set of surrender options would be nice, even if it may not get used a huge amount.
Conditional surrenders especially should give you a lot of options, if for example you demand to remain in control of your empire and the enemy says yes then you get to stay in the game. You will have all your worlds, technology etc but you will be a subordinate to the empire you surrendered to. This may mean that the enemy starts putting their population on your worlds, take control of your offensive military (so you don't try anything) and will use your research to fill in any gaps they may have.
Other surrender options may leave you in control of your military but may cause you to declare total war against your best friends and suffer penalties if you don't act like you mean it.
Others may leave you in total control of a few worlds with a portion of your offensive fleets. In essence a full but much smaller empire.
Some may disallow all diplomatic contact except with your masters.
Others still may remove all of your worlds, but leave you with a fleet and any colony ships and troop ships you may have so that you can go find a new home-world.

So I've gone into WAY more depth than I intended to, a lot of this actually interesting. Thoughts? Comments?

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#2 Post by Satyagraha » Mon Apr 05, 2004 2:24 pm

there´s interesting stuff, especially the diplomacy treaty is nice... it´s like an expanded form of the "Mediation"-suggestion, players could use it mediate between races at war with each other or as a "backdoor" to improve their own relations with races hostile to them.

however, there are also some suggestions that imo don´t add much to the game, like surrender options or emphasis, some options are too similar in their effects (counter-offer/better offer, praise/gift).

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#3 Post by haravikk » Mon Apr 05, 2004 8:18 pm

Well surrender options are just extra stuff :)
Emphasis I think though was one of the better additions to MOO3, it's just the way it is made 'fuzzy' that I didn't like. Being able to be insulting to a race to try and get them to react differently is something I liked :)

Counter-offer let's you say what you want, but if are unsure how much you can ask for (if anything) then asking the other race for a better offer may work better. You may even get lucky and get something far better than you were considering asking for. I agree that they are similar but there is a bit of a difference, especially if relations are strained and you don't want to push for too much.
Meanwhile praise is really a form of improving relations without having to give anything, which for some races would be good as they may see a race that tries to distract them with 'selfless' acts as weak or attempting to cover something up.

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#4 Post by guiguibaah » Tue Apr 06, 2004 1:31 am

The problem I saw with emphasis in Moo3, was that it never changed with the races. "Oh, I'm dealing with the Sakkra. Ok, well instead of ask I click on Demand. There we go, done. Same ole, same ole.."

It got boring because in each game the emphasis never changed.

What WOULD be more interesting, is this...

1] A race's disposition is based on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is absolute boorish, 10 is spineless wimp.

2] The emphasis target (IE: how you should act towards a race) would change during the game. This could be determined by a few factors such as

a) Empire size (subract +1 for big empires, -1 for small)
b) Fleet size (-1 for big fleet, +1 for small)
c) Research focus (+1 if higher on research scale)
d) Enemies destroyed (-2 per race exterminated)
e) Previous wars (-1)
f) Alliances with other races (+1)
g) Cassus Belli (+1 / -1)

- - -

So as the game goes on, your stance with them changes. Setting the perfect tone would more likely get you the deal.

Your advisors could give you hints based on your recent intelligence. Poor intelligence may reccomend a 7; good intelligence a 5. (Target goal being 5).

Diplomatic and telepathic races would have better advisors.

This could reflect the kind of diplomatic tact we see in nations today.
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#5 Post by krum » Tue Apr 06, 2004 2:04 pm

There was a suggestion that I really like about each action having an associated:

a) length of effect, and b)size of effect, on two ratings --

1)Causus belli, and 2) Citizens' support for a war.

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#6 Post by haravikk » Wed Apr 07, 2004 3:49 pm

That would be really cool to have races become more arrogant as they gain power! Some races should of course be more resistant to this, and others start out arrogant anyway. Would be fun to watch some over-confident race becoming humbled by the sheer squashing power of your empire.

Also, as a further addition to what I wrote initially:

Refusing offers
It would be good if you could specify why you are refusing an offer in an attempt to help the empire understand why. Consider:

Demand declare war/fulfil alliance obligation
  • They are our friends! - if the race to declare war upon are NAPed or allied with you, this could make the race making the demand feel devalued compared with their enemy.
  • They have done nothing wrong - you see no reason why you should declare war upon such a seemingly peaceful race, could very well rub your allies the wrong way though.
  • Not enough resources - you do not feel you have enough ships or are too technologically behind to fight this war. Or perhaps you are already at war on two fronts and don't want a third.
  • Do not wish to at this time - you recognise the reasons but do not feel that now is a good time, this is a more neutral response.
Treaties (or exchange offers)
  • There is nothing in it for us - you feel the offer is unfair towards you as you would receive the least gain or perhaps even make a loss
  • We cannot afford it - you feel the starting fees for this treaty are too great to begin one at this time
  • Now is too early - there is still not enough trust between you to begin such an agreement
  • Now is not the time - again it is neutral, this one does not however imply mistrust (which could prompt a gift) but instead simply shows indecision.
Cease-fire/Armstice/Peace-treaty (in war time)
  • We wish to destroy you! - you simply despise the mere mention of this race's name and want to erase them from existence
  • You did... - you remind them of something they have done to you
  • You are too warlike - either you feel they are so aggressive that they deserve to die, or you are implying they have hurt one of your friends
  • War is fun - you are enjoying the war immensely or feel that the gains are too great to outweigh any potential harm
  • Now is not the time - the diplomatic equivalent of saying "meep"

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#7 Post by Blueicus » Mon Apr 12, 2004 7:47 pm

In my opinion one of the neatest ideas out of the list of suggestions is the ability to share intelligence information (something that seems to be lacking in many of the 4x games I've played (perhaps I simply haven't played enough). However, in many of the games I find myself wanting for more options to cooperate with a computer empire and I thought the coordinate attack plans option for Alpha Centauri was a nice start.

Perhaps an option to coordinate armed forces between empires would be a nice feature as well? Of course, this would require a certain amount of trust and prior diplomatic good will and breaking it could have serious diplomatic consequences.

Another thing that would be neat, IMO (perhaps it only corresponds to my playing style) are more ways of preventing war and more ways to mediate for peace (which is addressed in some of your diplomatic options). Perhaps it's just me, but I find that far too many wars conducted on these strategy games are wars for keeps, there is always one clear winner and loser and I feel that cultures are too easily annihilated, turning the end game to a 1 on 1 affair (something I noticed in MoO2). I guess that's more of an issue with the combat engine (for allowing win/lose wars to occur too often) than with the diplomacy model.

On setting a tone for a diplomatic request, it's an interesting idea, but I think some intelligence on the opponent empire and 'emperor' should be required before the player knows how to deal with the emperor in the desired way. Knowing from the very start that such-and-such Empress of the Meklon should be addressed in hostile tone #6 when threatening them for resources seems like an easy way to take advantage of the computer and even the different members of a specific species should require some variation in diplomatic tactics.
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#8 Post by spiff » Mon Apr 12, 2004 8:50 pm

i know i have already mentioned this :oops: and i apologise, but a lot of the diplomacy issues raised here could be thoroughly addressed with better information.

an emperor should go into diplomatic negotiations knowing all sorts of details, from spy reports on military forces (strengh, alliances, their enemies) to a team of diplomats (you're talking to an alien race alone?!) able to interpret some of the data (e.g. trust: "they still havent forgiven our siding with their sworn enemy at the last war and mistrust us strongly")

with details like this, explaining what is going on, i think even moo3's diplomacy might have been bearable. it makes the whole thing less random (maybe?) even if they declare war and sue for peace next turn.

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#9 Post by Hexxium » Mon Apr 12, 2004 11:04 pm

I really like the idea of "diplomatic spy" reports, which help you choose the right emphasis for a diplomatic action. Would add a nice way for using spies.
I also like the "diplomatic treaty" idea, but that could be made an automatical side effect of good relations/long lasting alliances.

I think the diplomacy ideas as a whole are nice but too complicated. We should keep diplomacy simple but important. I don't see how two different kinds of trade/research agreements could really add to the game. You could just use the "treaty levels" you proposed. They can increase or decrease, depending on diplomatic actions and the treaty's duration.

A simple but very powerful way to make diplomacy important, and prevent players from abusing it (eg. declaring war too easily) would be to consider the amount of time a treaty has been in effect (e.g. using increasing treaty levels over time), and make population react to diplomatic actions.
For example, let's say you have beed allied with another empire for a very long time. Your people have grown used to it, and have started to like that empire and it's citizens. Make friends and stuff, you know ;)
When you decide to end the agreement instantly, wouldn't your population be... irritated at least? What if you even declared war instantly? :twisted:
If you don't want to cause major unrest, you have to decrease or downgrade the treaty levels with that empire over time, then impose sanctions/embargo and so on, until you think your people are ready for war. You could also try to make that empire declare war on you, of course :D
It works the other way round too, going from total war to full alliance with an empire could be possible, but would make your population really upset (what the hell have they been fighting for?).

This would make you choose your allies and enemies carefully, and would help reduce the amount of completely unexpected wars or alliances, which made diplomacy in MoO 2 and 3 so unpredictable. Along with the lack of information, that is ;)

Different races could have different "interracial loyality" factors, making it difficult to break important treaties for a loyal race, and making this easier for a race that doesn't care much about allies.

Some races/empires could also have a natural "war tolerance"/"peace tolerance" level, making some more comfortable with war or peace than others. Birth of the Federation had this: Federation was unhappy with any war, while Klingons suffered when a peace treaty was established. So you have to be a suspicious about treaties with a Klingon type race, while you can't rely on a Federation type empire to keep up their war against your enemies either.

With these three things (treaty levels, population caring about diplomatic actions, different natural reactions for different races), imo we could get a diplomacy system that's easy to learn, but difficult to master. They would add more to the game experience than a great number of complicated diplomatic options, and would help make different races "feel" different.

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#10 Post by Zeno » Wed Apr 28, 2004 2:21 am

:wink: How about adding "secure channel" communications? These would be uncrackable, except for races having much better tech or spies than you. Especially useful if a friendly race wants you to attack another race as a diversion for their own attack on that race, or vice versa. Also, another race may give you valuable intel this way.

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#11 Post by BreadMan » Sun Aug 15, 2004 5:47 am

This being the most recent diplomacy thread, I figured I'd resurrect it instead of starting a new one.

I, too, have been frustrated with diplomacy in the past. I think having an advisor is very helpful, and I think it would be cool if your advisor became more helpful if you had a spy in the empire you're talking to ("We're 85% sure that they will not accept this offer, sir").

What I would like to see, though, is rather than have a treaty for every possible situation, have a build-your-own treaty system.

This idea mainly stems from having to sign a defensive or full aliance to save my ass, and suddenly have a dozen colony ships from my new allies show up within my borders heading for planets I had plans to settle myself, and not wishing to break the new treaties in the event of bringing even more trouble. So how about having variables like...

Proposed treaty will last [x number of turns / indeffinitely]
Request permission for [military fleets to cross borders / colonization of specific planet / colonization of border planets / colonization of all planets within borders / etc.]
Request [sharing of intelligence / increase in x trade / etc.]
Offering [intel / trade / tech / border permissions / etc.] in return.

Also the ability to request an ally's help in defending a certain planet would be nice, somebody mentioned something about coordinating attacks which is along the same lines.

Anyway, just some ideas, nothing fleshed out, but this is the brainstorming forum...

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#12 Post by muxec » Mon Aug 16, 2004 7:30 am

Government related diplomacy.

Democratic govts must warn their enemies 2 turns before declaring the war. If democracy tries to declare war on other democratic space-state it must warn within 5 turns.

Religius govts would probably hate democraties more, unifications would be relatively neutral with all, some govts would probably get money for just being in peace with others...

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#13 Post by Impaler » Mon Aug 16, 2004 7:28 pm

Lots of good material in here guys but I would like to propose something even more fundamental be changed (some of you have hinted at it already). Namely all of the various "inputs" to the relationship (treaties, wars, strength, past treatment ect ect) all end up modifying a single "love/hate" scale when it moves up they like you when its down they hate you. As far as I know this is the core principle underneath all 4X Diplomacy.

My twist is that we break up the single scale into several related ones that each INDPENDENTLY track destinct Emotions/Feelings. An event or relationship can act upon several scales at once but will generaly hit one more then another. For Example If I threaten someone with War their "Fear" metter goes up but "Economic Dependency" would be unaffected. On the other hand threatening to cancel a trade pact would have the oposite effect. A few basic ideas for metters are as follows:

Fear - Rather self explamatory, expresses their fear of military action
Aww/Loathing - Feelings generated by being more/less advanced then them
Trust - Based on how you have keept your word in the past (with them and with others)
Gratitude - Feelings generated by Gifts towards them
Guilt - Feelings about having done you wrong
Greed - Desire to make a buck off you
Need - Generated by Preashure from third parties causing empire in question to be desperate for help
Dependency - A calculation of how much they are dependent on you.

All the traditonal interactions will ofcorse effect these but rather then summing up all the input to one generalized love/hate relationship the AI takes a more nuanced look at things and desides its actions based on the combination of these factors.

On the player side of things we can give you a better idea of their thinking because now they (kinda) ARE thinking "I am slightly afraid of him and I need their help as well so I better be friendly". Your Advisors can give you reasons for things as well "We Belive their is a 79% Chance they will reject our offer because their they feel their Empire is in no need of our help and they dont trust us due to our Broken Pacts". By expressing a relationship in EMOTIONS rather then NUMBERS (or atleast a combination such as 56 Respect, -13 Loathing) we make the AI more belivable and I think theirs great potential to make it smarter as well.
Fear is the Mind Killer - Frank Herbert -Dune

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#14 Post by Prokonsul Piotrus » Tue Aug 17, 2004 5:36 pm

It reminds me of my cultural meters idea. Sounds good, but the devil is in the details I think - how EXACTLY would those small scale affect gameplay/AI?

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#15 Post by Krikkitone » Tue Aug 17, 2004 6:22 pm

The best Idea about how they would affect the AI is by figuring out how they would affect any other Human player (If you feel guilty about mistreating a large power you will attempt to butter them up, discourage them from attacking you let them now there empire benefits by leaving you alive...If you feel guilty about mistreating a small power you might just take them over since they have a reason to hate you if they ever get powerful again)

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