To make contact with another empire, one of your ships or planets must see one of their ships or planets, and they must be able to see you (ie not cloaked or hiding in a storm) and there must be a path of warp points (discovered or undiscovered) between any one of your colonies and any one of theirs.
Contact normally occurs when an explorer ship stumbles through a warp point to discover a ship or planet on the other side that belongs to someone else. However, that is not the only possibility. The sale of ships and planets between empires can often bring about contact with third parties.
Contact between two empires can also be bought and sold by a third party. For example, the Abbidon and the BOB empire have not made contact with one another. However, they have each met the Cue Cappa independently. The Cue Cappa could, if they wished, send a message to the Abbidon offering contact with the BOB as a gift or trade item.
Once contact is made, the other empire will appear in your diplomacy window, and you will be able to send them messages and conduct intel against them (and vice versa, obviously.) The two empires will have no treaty between them, which could result in combat.
For contact to be maintained between two empires, there must be a path of warp points connecting any planet belonging to one of the empires and any planet belonging to the other. Ships and units do not count, only planets. Also, remember that the warp point path could be unexplored/ unknown to either or both parties.
Contact will be broken if, by the closure of warp points or destruction/ change in ownership of colonies, the rules above for maintaining contact are broken.
When contact is broken, the other empire will disappear from the diplomacy screen, and you will have to make contact all over again to carry out intel or diplomacy.
When contact is re-made, any former treaties are forgotten. The AI has no memory whatsoever of your previous relationship under these circumstances, so it is possible to make peace with an otherwise unpacifiable AI enemy by simply closing and re-opening a few warp points. This is generally considered an abuse.
See also turtling in SEIV.
| Manual (SEIV)