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 Post subject: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: November 21st, 2013, 4:54 am 
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This is a game in which you will run an intelligence agency on behalf of your government in a world where intelligence is the key to prosperity or destruction.

As a player your job will be to run the agency and assign agents to the task of gathering and analysing intelligence. From this database of intelligence it will be your job to propose recommendations to other parts of the government as well as do your best to fulfil state assigned objectives.

Intelligence will come from agents, who you can assign to work on gathering intelligence from a variety of sources. Some may be planted in other countries, some may gather intelligence from academia or other mundane sources such as foreign media. Gathered intelligence will form a database from which analysis will provide more complex and useful intelligence. For instance intelligence about a country's industry and raw material production may lead to analysis which uncovers a country's war production capability.

This intelligence is then used to meet objectives and provide recommendations to other government departments. The military's order of battle plans for instance will hinge on information that you provide. You may also have some capability to conduct clandestine operations of your own, which effectiveness will also hinge on the intelligence you have available. Objectives might range from breaking up spy rings and obtaining a certain piece of highly valuable intelligence. To conducting a full scale espionage war.

If you're successful in meeting objectives you'll be rewarded with more funding and a higher degree of breaucratic freedom. If you fail in meeting objectives or your actions upset the people in power, you'll lose funding and may have tighter controls placed on you.

To make things interesting and really press the importance of intelligence, the world will be a randomly generated alternate history world. Maybe in this reality the North lost the Civil War. Maybe the British Empire didn't fall apart and instead deposed the monarchy and became a fascist state. Either way, you'll be going in blind and won't be able to rely on a hindsight knowledge of history to help you out.

A typical game might go like this: You start off with a secure government building and a pile of cash in the budget. Your first job will be to hire agents and start to assign them to gathering and analysis. The agents will have different capabilities you'll need to consider. Do you hire people with a background in academia? Mathematicians would be better for code breaking and logistics analysis. Academics in science or engineering fields would be better at analysing enemy research documents, and they could be better at inventing or utilising technology for your own advantage. Academics in the Arts or Psychology can give you an edge when developing propaganda. Or do you pick people with other backgrounds? Military backgrounds could be better for clandestine operations. Law Enforcement could be better at investigating people in order to uncover spies.

Once you've got your agents hired you'll have to set up the various departments in your agency. Do you invest your capabilities into message interception and code breaking? Do you focus primarily on clandestine operations? Do you focus on countering enemy espionage efforts, keeping spies out of your country? Or do you focus on trying to get spies into their country instead?

Your first objective may be something like this: If your country is currently at war, you'll be asked to assist the military in winning the war. If you're not at war you might be asked to investigate potential enemies and advise the government on whether hostile action is likely.

To meet these objectives agents can be assigned to investigation or analysis. Agents may be planted in other countries or even in other domestic departments if you feel those departments can't be trusted or relied upon. Intelligence gained outside the agency will be sent back to the agency via a channel (letter, runner, telephone, pigeon etc.). Compromising a channel means that any intelligence transmitted via that channel will also be obtained by anyone with access to the channel.

Agents can also liaise with other groups within the world. Sympathetic partisans, allied intelligence agencies etc. Intelligence can be passed to these groups. Maybe it's in exchange for other intelligence. Improve relations. Or maybe you're just playing them and the intelligence you pass will get them to behave how you want them to (convincing them that they have a common enemy with you for instance). At the same time you'll have to deal with hostile groups who might try to manipulate you by giving you bad intelligence.

As well as assigning agents you'll also have the final word on agency policy and will be asked to make decisions if anything major comes up. For instance, you might be asked to decide if a known war criminal who's looking to defect will be given amnesty in exchange for any intelligence they provide. Or decide if uncovered spies should be assassinated, arrested and tried for treason (this might expose your sources and allow other spies to escape), try to turn them double agent, or just feed them lousy intel.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: November 22nd, 2013, 5:20 pm 
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Posts: 155
This is a very interesting idea.

It might be good to break it down more:
IMINT - Image Intelligence
SIGINT - Signals Intelligence
HUMINT - Human Intelligence
CI - Counter-Intelligence
Covert Action - Self-explanatory

All of these could be funded to various degrees -- do you build a high-tech SIGINT collection and process capability but lose out on HUMINT due to lack of investment? Do you have great Covert Action but lousy CI, which leads to your operatives getting caught? etc.

These would all have advantages and disadvantages. Great CI without intelligence isn't very helpful. HUMINT networks, although cheap to build and run, are very hard to rebuild if they are rolled up. SIGINT is reliable but expensive and you need to be on the cutting edge. Covert Action can go wrong and land you in political hot water. Poor IMINT can lead to you making mistakes.

A distinction between collection and processing also has to be made. You can have fantastic collection with loads of valuable intelligence coming in but without the processing capabilities (analysts etc.) you can find yourself incapable of working out what it all means (or in time).

What type of government you work for could alter the parameters. An ideological-dictatorial government (like the former USSR) might have great HUMINT due to fellow-travelers but bad SIGINT due to economic problems. Some governments will sanction torture, assassinations, honey traps etc. whilst others won't.

I also think turf wars should be important -- both with allied agencies (like the tensions within the Five Eyes) and with other domestic agencies (like the CIA with the FBI with the NCTC with Homeland Security with NSA with...). Sometimes building your bureaucracy is a victory, even if it doesn't improve your intelligence capabilities.

I'll have some more thoughts in the morning.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: November 27th, 2013, 4:48 am 
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OK, a little later than expected but I'm back...

Espionage is a relatively common topic for videogames but they tend to focus on the action elements rather than on the meat and potatoes of intelligence work. Essentially, they're "Bourne" or "Bond" rather than "Smiley".

The biggest problem for any fairly sensible game about espionage is that it is an activity which is heavily based on the human element and it is therefore hard to quantify. Often the most successful espionage is so specific to the circumstances that it is difficult to create a game comprehensive enough that such a set of circumstances could come about through gameplay.

This is the problem I see with your idea at the moment.

A game that is really specific about espionage can only work if it has very narrow limits. This is why I don't think the alternate history works. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun but it would add a lot of unnecessary complexity; you'd have to make the game very abstract and lose a lot of the historical 'colour'. You'd also need some sort of chronological process, perhaps with a skill/technology tree (to take you from steaming letters open to Stuxnet).

Personally, I think it would be more interesting to have a modern-day set game focused on the intelligence cycle, bureaucratic in-fighting, and balancing the different forms of collection (from SIGINT to HUMINT). It might be especially interesting if it operated in an abstract world where enemies are never (or rarely) defeated, only suffering setbacks. You'd have to balance assigning resources against various opponents.

In real-world terms, this would be like the US Intelligence Community dealing with the Big Four (Russia, China, Israel, Cuba) whilst also taking on Al Qaeda (among other terrorist groups) and dealing with smaller foreign policy considerations (like spying on allies over trade talks).


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: November 28th, 2013, 5:12 am 
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Cyrus wrote:
This is a very interesting idea.

It might be good to break it down more:
IMINT - Image Intelligence
SIGINT - Signals Intelligence
HUMINT - Human Intelligence
CI - Counter-Intelligence
Covert Action - Self-explanatory

All of these could be funded to various degrees -- do you build a high-tech SIGINT collection and process capability but lose out on HUMINT due to lack of investment? Do you have great Covert Action but lousy CI, which leads to your operatives getting caught? etc.

These would all have advantages and disadvantages. Great CI without intelligence isn't very helpful. HUMINT networks, although cheap to build and run, are very hard to rebuild if they are rolled up. SIGINT is reliable but expensive and you need to be on the cutting edge. Covert Action can go wrong and land you in political hot water. Poor IMINT can lead to you making mistakes.



Yes, intelligence definitely needs to be broken down. I think there will need to be a distinction between the source of the intelligence and the type of intelligence gained. Although those ideas are somewhat linked. For instance a human source that tells you about the layout of a city might be OK but won't be anywhere near as useful as an aerial photograph of the city. Having said that though a human source may be able to obtain an aerial photograph of the city. Each source and channel will have different advantages and disadvantages based on the intelligence you're after.

Quote:
A distinction between collection and processing also has to be made. You can have fantastic collection with loads of valuable intelligence coming in but without the processing capabilities (analysts etc.) you can find yourself incapable of working out what it all means (or in time).


I agree. There's also certain useful pieces of intelligence that can only be gained through analysis of primary sources of intelligence. There's also the matter of cross checking intelligence against other sources to make sure it's not a mistake or a forgery.

Quote:
What type of government you work for could alter the parameters. An ideological-dictatorial government (like the former USSR) might have great HUMINT due to fellow-travelers but bad SIGINT due to economic problems. Some governments will sanction torture, assassinations, honey traps etc. whilst others won't.


Agree with everything here. One problem the CIA faced when they discovered that Kim Philby was a Soviet agent was that they couldn't prosecute him for treason without revealing their sources. Had they not been restrained by due process they probably could've disappeared him before he fled to Russia.

Quote:
I also think turf wars should be important -- both with allied agencies (like the tensions within the Five Eyes) and with other domestic agencies (like the CIA with the FBI with the NCTC with Homeland Security with NSA with...). Sometimes building your bureaucracy is a victory, even if it doesn't improve your intelligence capabilities.


Also agreed. Getting good results in your objectives should give you some leverage for expanding your bureaucratic capabilities. (Maybe other agencies have to answer to you know rather than vice versa)

Quote:
The biggest problem for any fairly sensible game about espionage is that it is an activity which is heavily based on the human element and it is therefore hard to quantify. Often the most successful espionage is so specific to the circumstances that it is difficult to create a game comprehensive enough that such a set of circumstances could come about through gameplay.

This is the problem I see with your idea at the moment.

A game that is really specific about espionage can only work if it has very narrow limits. This is why I don't think the alternate history works. It sounds like it would be a lot of fun but it would add a lot of unnecessary complexity; you'd have to make the game very abstract and lose a lot of the historical 'colour'. You'd also need some sort of chronological process, perhaps with a skill/technology tree (to take you from steaming letters open to Stuxnet).

Personally, I think it would be more interesting to have a modern-day set game focused on the intelligence cycle, bureaucratic in-fighting, and balancing the different forms of collection (from SIGINT to HUMINT). It might be especially interesting if it operated in an abstract world where enemies are never (or rarely) defeated, only suffering setbacks. You'd have to balance assigning resources against various opponents.

In real-world terms, this would be like the US Intelligence Community dealing with the Big Four (Russia, China, Israel, Cuba) whilst also taking on Al Qaeda (among other terrorist groups) and dealing with smaller foreign policy considerations (like spying on allies over trade talks).


It's definitely a challenge coming up with a system that allows for some interesting espionage gameplay. I'm currently trying to nut out the fundamentals (i.e. how intelligence will work) then trying to see what sort of interesting systems can be built around that. I'll post what I come up with when I get something.

Keep the ideas coming.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: November 28th, 2013, 6:51 am 
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I love this idea, and I know I say this a lot but I had a similar idea some time ago. It was essentially Crusader Kings 2 set in the Cold War, and you play as a Handler. Handlers would manage agents a bit like CK2's council members, but everyone in the espionage game is effectively a Handler, its just that some handlers handle handlers and some handlers handle the handlers of handlers (if that makes sense :mameshiba:).

I figured using a CK2-like map is a good platform for the game mechanics for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is so character-centric, supporting various 'personalities', motives and influence. I will try and do a more extensive write-up of how I figured this game would work and I'll post it in this thread if that's alright Skoosc.

I agree with Cyrus that using real history gives you a lot of political flavour, and I think it would be more prudent to develop a game that starts from a historical baseline and generates tangent historical narratives rather than rewrite everything. The Cold War is the perfect setting, imo, but then I read a lot of John Le Carre books recently so I probably would say that.

With regards to intelligence, I guess it would be simple enough to have it as some kind of blanket generic resource like Prestige/Piety in CK2, but I think that in an espionage strategy game controlling the flow of information is the core of the gameplay. Perhaps it could be more discrete, and parameterized. For example:

<A PIECE OF INTELLIGENCE>
<SUBJECT> ~ (eg. USSR/USA/Cuba)
<TYPE> ~ (eg. Military/Politics/Economic/Personal[Kruschev/Nixon/Castro])
<VALUE> ~ (eg. Unclassified/Secret/Confidential/Top Secret)

With a character-centric system the net value of this intelligence would depend on who they are, how important they are and what their motives are, and that value would affect your reward for passing them this intel.

The focus on Characters helps to model Politicians as well. I think the Politicians are very important to this:
- Ultimately they control your budget so they would need proof of your success in the field via gathered intelligence but at the risk of revealing your own sources/agents.
- The politics of your government affect who you are at war with and who are the targets for espionage.
- Politicians are also prime targets for bribes, assassinations and surveillance.

Another reason the Cold War is such a perfect setting for this is because the technology used for surveillance during was evolving rapidly.
Imagine a sandbox-ish game in which you can stir up civil unrest in the hopes of planting a dummy dictator who is then allied to your cause? That would be fucking awesome.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: December 2nd, 2013, 5:28 am 
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Everyone is welcome to post anything they like. Lots of good ideas coming in.

I've been trying to establish some fundamental rules regarding how intel could be spread through an intelligence system and how it would work. Here's a few ideas to get started. First, let's think of a piece of intel as a fact or piece of knowledge. It might be secret, it might be trivial, it might be real, it might be fake. Primarily your job is to get the best and most useful intel for your cause.

Image

All people and agents have their own personal database of intel. This will be accrued based on their daily activities. A person reading up on history in the library will be building up history intel. People performing surveillance will have intel on what they're observing. People will have intel about the jobs they work and the people they're in contact with.

Intel can be transferred from person to person via a channel. For instance they might be talking, mailing letters, on the telephone etc.

Image

Any intel travelling via a channel can be intercepted and the intel will be transferred to whoever has compromised the channel.

Artefacts are intel at rest in physical form. Files, documents etc. A photograph might be an artefact with intel gained from the photo. The photo itself is not the intel though. Because artefacts are physical, they can be duplicated, stolen, traded, and destroyed.

Image

A very crude agency might look something like this. A central archive where intel is captured, processed and stored. Code breaking and Research are analyst departments. Code breaking would take encrypted intel and convert it into unencrypted intel. Or they might focus on breaking a specific cypher, giving them the ability to more quickly decrypt any future encrypted messages. Agents in the fields might also be able to uncover key or cypher intel that allows the Code breaking department to function more effectively.

The Research department can be focused on gaining more elaborate intel by examining aggregate intel, or by analysing existing intel with respect to academic discipline. Aeronautic engineers looking over aeroplane blueprints might uncover a flaw in the plane's design. Or find something that could be used to improve our own plane designs. Economists looking over the same intel might be able to determine the cost of production of one of these aircraft, and therefore the capacity of that country to produce these craft.

Intel can be uncovered from sigint or through interrogating people of interest. Intel gained is stored in the archive. Intel can also be gained from agents in the field from a variety of sources. Which can also be sent back to the Agency, although being in the field might be more high risk with channels more likely to be compromised.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: December 4th, 2013, 9:04 am 
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Posts: 155
Good thinking there Skoosc. I've got a big reply/post I'm just writing. Hopefully it'll be ready soon.

In the meantime, something that might be useful is the Intelligence Cycle:
1. DIRECTION -- What information do you want?
2. COLLECTION -- Spying through HUMINT, COMINT, IMINT, ELINT, OSINT to get the raw information.
3. PROCESSING -- Work out what information you've got through translating it, evaluating it etc.
4. ANALYSIS -- Work out what the information you have means
5. DISSEMINATION -- Send the information out to whoever needs it, according to its priority.
(6. FEEDBACK -- Work out if you can do anything better next time.)

It's expensive but the essential book to read is "Intelligence Power in Peace and War" by Michael Herman.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2013, 10:22 am 
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So, as promised, my ideas of using the Intelligence Cycle for a game:

The point of the game is to gather and use intelligence.

To do so you must develop and maintain your organisation ("The Agency").

At it's most basic level, you have your "collection department". These are the guys who collect the raw intelligence, whether through HUMINT, SIGINT or something else. Each method has different costs and results.

This intelligence is fed into the "processing department", which translates and evaluates the raw intelligence so that (a) it can be understood and (b) it is known to be trustworthy. A mis-translation means faulty intelligence. A mis-evaluation means that false information enters the system, corrupting your pre-gathered intelligence.

The intelligence is then sent to the "analysis department" whose job it is to examine the intelligence and compare it to pre-gathered intelligence in order to work out what it all means. If every piece of intelligence is a dot then these are the guys who connect the dots to work out the bigger picture.

Having worked it out - or uncovered part of the bigger picture - the cycle begins again.

In addition to this there is the "development" department whose job is technology and training. The better these are, the faster and better the cycle works (like the OODA loop).

There is also a "counter-intelligence department" whose sole job is to prevent false information from entering the cycle and to stop enemy agents infiltrating it. They slow down the cycle's speed but keep it on the right path.

Finally there is a "covert action department£ whose job is basically to mess with the enemy, either through kinetic means (car-bombing an enemy department) or non-kinetic means (infiltrating a mole into "The Agency"). This can allow you to slow down the enemy's cycle or to corrupt it.

The results you achieve will affect "the government" and "the people" for whom you work. Good results mean more funding from "the government". Wrong measures (like the enemy revealing your mass surveillance programme) will lead to "the people" getting angry and curtailing your efforts. etc.

As in any good Strategy game, everything is a matter of balance. Speed vs. Security. Narrow Focus vs. Wide Focus. Technology vs. Training.

Incidentally, there's a documentary called "Manhunt", about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, that is well worth watching. It's overly pretentious and poorly structured but the access is great and it gives a very accessible understanding of how intelligence works in the real world.

If you're not already, it's also worth following @20committee on Twitter.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: January 1st, 2014, 3:39 am 
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I like where this is going. I'm trying to figure out how things like processing, analysis and counter intelligence could work as a discrete gameplay system. So here's an idea:

Image

Each piece of intel comes from a source. As it changes hands this forms the source chain for that piece of intel. The chain can be obfuscated e.g. The person giving the intel doesn't disclose the source. The source might also be manipulated e.g. A rival agent might plant the intel so that it appears to come from a different source. Some intel may also just be filling in the source chain for another piece of intel.

Agents can be assigned to try to uncover obfuscated sources. Intel that can be verified from multiple sources may be better trusted. If intel conflicts with different sources find out why (Enemy agent activity?). If your own intel is leaked investigate the source to find the leak (compromised channel? a mole?).

This also means you have to pay attention to your own chains. You don't want to exchange intel only to compromise a source.

Your processing department can also build up a list of reliable and trustworthy sources by verifying and logging their intel over time.


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: February 11th, 2014, 12:35 am 
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Interesting article that addresses the consequences of leaning too heavily on one type of INT

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/arti ... cret-role/


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 Post subject: Re: The Agency.txt
PostPosted: March 29th, 2016, 2:11 am 
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Very nice, it makes me understand more.
holiday palace casino


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