In a previous post, a player was complaining about how geothermal plants do not work with holograms. This oversight prompted Soren to state that maybe a hologram could make a building invisible for a time, which I think is an incredibly fun and interesting mechanic and I want to start a discussion about how that would affect the game.
The ability to make a geothermal plant invisible for a time would be neat. Make the tile appear blank on the map when a hologram has been placed over it. This would allow players to hide geothermal plants when power costs are high, potentially protecting it from mutinies and dynamites, yet an observant player could still EMP the area.
What about, and I know this is a long shot, the Hologram adding a feature to a building. For example, if I place a hologram on a building it appears invisible to all other players, and adds a button to the bottom bar, alongside the on off and bulldoze buttons, where I can turn on and off the hologram. If I turn off the hologram then the building will appear for all to see, but I can choose to turn on the hologram and make it invisible. However, when a hologram is on, it costs a relatively high power cost. I can only imagine disguising an entire Offworld Market with a hologram would take some amount of power. Players could then buy holograms on certain tiles or buildings and make them invisible for all opponents, but pay a continuous power cost. Observant players could still hit them with EMPs, which thematically should disable a Hologram projection, and would actually make spies worth something.
Beyond just making buildings invisible, the hologram button could have a fold out menu that allows you to select several other possible hologram options. Invisible, geothermal plant, metal mine, farm, etc... Different buildings could have different hologram options, and cost different amounts of power to maintain the hologram. Making a building appear invisible would cost the most power, as it is the most useful for protection, but maybe making a pleasure dome look like just another steel mill next to your base would cost less power, yet still gives the PD some protection.
This makes the hologram useful throughout the game, and makes it a more interactive black market purchase. But speaking of making some black market purchases more useful and interactive, let us talk about the spy.
Presently the spy is a black market ability no one uses. The number of games I have seen a spy come and go as an unclaimed auction is too high to count. If the above hologram idea is implemented it would make the spy more useful, but still not worth of a purchase. I feel it still needs a few buffs to be viable.
Spies currently, as far as I know and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, reveal holograms and show what a advanced building is researching or sending. Not a super useful trait. For example, if you want to know what a patent lab is researching, so you can shut it down to make sure you get it first is near impossible, as you have to wait to buy the spy AND the actual attack on the patent lab. Its so much more efficient to just hit the lab with an attack and get the patent anyway.
I think spies should be subtle thieves as well. Spies that hit a patent, research, or hacker building should steal 40%(number can be changed as is needed to balance) of the research time to that objective. For example: If player A is researching a patent that takes 120 seconds, and has 60 seconds completed, and player B spies on it, then 40% of the 60 seconds (24 seconds) are lost, leaving player A with 84 seconds of research left on that patent. Additionally, if player B now tries to research that patent, it will only take 120-24=96 seconds to research. This encourages players who are competing to research and tech up to purchase spies to gain valuable information about what their opponent is researching, and possibly research it before them.
Additionally, spies could be thieves of resources on scouted buildings. Currently all players can see how much of a resource any tile has produced, and when it is going to ship back to a players HQ. If this information was hidden, spies could reveal the amount of resources contained in a resource building, and steal 40%(can be changed for balance) of the resources produced so far. For example: if a scientific player has a glass furnace away from their base that has 30/60 glass inside of it, a spy would reveal that amount, and then steal 12 glass. Observant players would try and wait until the buildings have collected as much of a resource as possible before hitting the steal option. Once a building has been spied on however, its production is revealed for everyone to see and cant be stolen from again. This would have no affect on buildings adjacent to a player's HQ.
Post below what you think of these ideas, and if you have any other ways to make the hologram and spy feel more rewarding for players to use!