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Intelligence gathering can be conducted by Espionage teams and interrogating alien crew. The potential information that can be gained includes new technology, gravitational or geological survey data on a known system, summary data on an alien ship class, summary data for a missile or weapon system and knowledge of a new star system.
Within the game is the concept of Espionage Points. These can be gained by using Espionage Teams against alien populations or by interrogating alien crew and commanders captured in lifepods. Once you gain a set number of points, there is a chance of gaining intelligence about that race.
An Espionage team can be assigned to infiltrate enemy colonies. They have to be taken there by a ship before they will go to work. This is done using the Personnel/Teams sections of the Economics window, you can direct each Espionage team in the currently selected colony to conduct operations against a single alien population on the same planet. If you have more than one team they can operate against the same alien Empire or different ones.
An espionage team generates espionage points (EP) equal to the team's espionage rating each year. If the foreign empire being spied on is a different species than the team, the EP/year rate is halved (its hard to blend in with a different species). The species of a team is determined by its commander. If communications haven't been established with the foreign empire, the points are further reduced by 80% (its hard to gather information if you can't understand their communication). Finally, if the target population is smaller than 10 million, the rate is reduced even further by multiplying by (population in millions / 10).
Over time, there is a chance an espionage team will be captured or killed. This annual chance of this happening is equal to (150 - Team Skill)/2, with a minimum chance of 10%. If a team is killed, you lose the team members but suffer no further penalty. If a team is captured (one third chance), the capturing Empire gains from 1-100 espionage points against your Empire.
Interrogating captured prisoners
You can gain Espionage points against a foreign empire by interrogating captured prisoners from that empire. Prisoners can be captured from life pods of destroyed or abandoned ships. You get 1 EP for every 10 crew you "rescue". Captured officers give EPs equal to the officer's rank cubed.
So if the lowest rank is lieutenant commander, he will only be worth 1 Espionage Point (1x1x1). A commander would be worth 8 Espionage points (2x2x2) while a captain would be worth 27 Espionage points and a Commodore 64 (no computer pun intended) Espionage points, etc. Hence sending a Vice Admiral (216 EP) into harms way, because he has a high crew training attribute, may not be a great idea. It also very worthwhile to rescue your crews to avoid them being captured by the enemy.
Unlike teams, there is no penalty for different species. The penalty with teams is due to the fact they cannot blend in with the target population. With the interrogation of prisoners that is no longer a concern. The 80% penalty for lack of comms still applies.
When you accumulated enough espionage points against a foreign empire, there is a chance of gaining intelligence about that Empire in the following fields:
- Technology: Attempts to gain information about a technology. There must be an eligible tech to steal from the race. An eligible tech is one for which you have all the prerequisites (i.e., you would be able to research it for yourself). If there's more than one such eligible tech, you get a random one. If there are no such techs, the check fails and you get nothing.
- Missile: Attempts to gain construction blueprints for a missile design. If successful, you can build the missile but you can't duplicate the technology involved in its design. If there is more than one alien missile design that you don't possess, you get a random one. If there are no such designs, the check fails and you get nothing.
- Grav Survey Data: Attempts to get complete gravitational survey data for a system. Eligible systems are those of which your Empire and the target Empire both have knowledge but only the target Empire has complete survey data. If there is more than one qualifying system, a random selection is made. If there are no qualifying systems, the check fails and you get nothing. If this is successful, any jump points in the system become charted.
- Geo Survey Data: Attempts to get complete geological survey data for a system. Eligible systems are those of which your Empire and the target Empire both have knowledge but only the target Empire has flagged the systems as surveyed. A system will be flagged if all system bodies have been surveyed or is an automated survey fleet could not find a target within ten billion kilometers. If there is more than one qualifying system, a random selection is made. If there are no qualifying systems, the check fails and you get nothing. If this is successful you will receive all geological survey data for system bodies within the system that the target Empire has surveyed.
- New System: Attempts to get information on new systems. Eligible systems are those of which your Empire is unaware but the target Empire has located. If there is more than one qualifying system, a random selection is made. If there are no qualifying systems, the check fails and you get nothing. If this is successful, you gain knowledge of the system but no survey data.
- Class Summary: Attempts to get summary information on an alien ship design. The information provided is the class summary page from the Class Design window. Eligible classes are non-Obsolete designs for which you don't already have the summary information. If there are no eligible classes, the check fails and you get nothing. If you are successful, the summary will be shown for the appropriate class on the tactical intelligence window using a new third tab. If you already have some information on the class due to sensors but don't already have the correct class name, this will be updated and you will be informed about it. If you have no existing information, a new alien class record will be created.
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When you get an active sensor contact of previously unknown configuration the Alien Class details for that ship on the Tactical Intelligence window. This should be useful information in determining the capabilities of alien ships.
On the Tactical Intelligence Window, as you select each known race, the class dropdown is populated with the known classes for that race. As you select an alien class, a list of known ships in that class are listed in the grid control showing the last time they were seen (possibly current), the system, the alien ship name, its speed, current shields and thermal signature.
This is on the same window as diplomacy and tactical intelligence and it provides a list of systems for each alien race in which have detected ships/pop of that race and a list of technology you have learned that they possess (through various means).