while all true, there is a lot you can do do minimize all this.
-Setting other empires 1 or 2 tech levels ahead of you and putting research cost to 900k prevents early wonder gambits.
-Increasing galactic hostility will cut down on your civilian economy income.
-Increasing corruption, reducing home system quality, and playing with the fewest independent races, will reduce early expansion potential and cut state income.
-Fiddling with colonization and border range can do wonders for keeping everyone's early game consistent with each other (160% borders on 15 sector map with 3-4 sector colonization range will give everyone a guaranteed reasonable area for expansion, but prevent anyone, including you, from spiraling out of control)
-Avoiding tech brokering in games with a lot of empires is always a good idea, since that's kind of an exploit. Trade every now and then for stuff you need, but don't individually approach 19 other empires to see what techs/money you can get every time you get a new one.
-Setting 'Difficulty' to Very Hard will allow the AI to maintain respectable a military.
-Avoid spamming custom research centers, just stick with the default port centers and specialized ones at bonus locations.
-Consider setting some asshole race like the Boskara to close proximity, or perhaps a fast expander like the Teekans.
There are just so many things to fiddle with, I think a lot of you are too quick not to make concessions against yourself at game set-up, then complain about it being too easy.
My settings for example:
Galaxy type: Varied Clusters
Star Amount: 1400
Galaxy Size: 15x15
Difficulty: Very Hard
Aggression: Restless or Unstable
Research Cost: 900k
Space Creatures: Few
Colony Prevalence: Normal
Independent life: Rare
Colony Influence Range: 165%
Colonization Range: 2.5 to 5 sectors
Home System: Harsh
Tech Level: Level 1
Corruption: High/Very High
Every other civ (19): Young/Expanding, Tech level 2 and Excellent Home system.
The varied Clusters galaxy, combine with high corruption is also wonderful for determining at onset your relative economy strength all game. Depending on how you like to play, keep regenerating a map until you have a cluster of appropriate size.
-Smaller means potentially secure, but difficult to expand out of (with colonization range limited) without declaring war on someone (they're all stronger than you). Even if you manage it, the distance will mean very high corruption. You'll also have a relatively small private economy being isolated.
-Larger means lower corruption costs if you do manage to expand a bit, and potentially decent private economy. However given Aggression and early diplomatic penalties, you'll usually die, or get enveloped in someone else borders. The later isn't necessarily bad if you manage to play diplomatically and grow your private economy.
-Center/edge starting location will also determine your trade potential.
Early game this puts me in a rough situation. 1 constructor and 4 explorers is half my bank and I'm running a deficit even before their maintenance. A resort base or colony is my only only option to counter state deficit with private income. Mining bases cannot be spammed right away or I'll crash my economy, you can only afford to build the ones you absolutely need or will generate trade.
All neighbors start with around -25 diplomatic penalty upon discovery for my alien ways, this takes several years of steady interaction to reduce.
Assuming I managed to get a resort base or colony, I can only really afford 6 Destroyers without gimping my economy or growth potential. This puts me at about 1/20 the military strength of most others. Early seizures of worlds I don't have the tech to colonize can be done, but I would not survive the counter attack unless my target is already at war, and the colony I grabbed is remote from the perspective of his capital.
Mid game, if I'm still alive, I'll typically have a decent fleet for defense and a mediocre strike force, but I really have to rely on diplomacy. Trade agreements will be the only thing keeping my economy from tanking under maintenance costs, and mutual defense pacts the only thing preventing some insect race with a larger military than half the galaxy combined deciding they want to kill me. Declaring war at this point to expand can be done of course, with weaker factions, but given I'm reliant on my reputation for diplomacy, and diplomacy for my survival, it can still be very risky, and backfire very quickly. Races no one likes are simply too strong to risk a war with. Races small enough for me to take are generally alive because everyone likes them.
From there it can go any which way. But taking advantage of political climates is always a determining factor. Even in later games, where I managed to get a crazy high private income, so much so that money ceased to be an issue. The simple logistics of such a massive map, and absurd scale of some of the more aggressive races never lends itself to that 'steam rolling time' mentality mentioned. Even if you do manage to get the strongest military in the galaxy, with such a massive map, you're still vulnerable to the smallest of strike forces somewhere. The longer you're at war, the weaker you get, and the more people hate you. The size of the map guarantees that any 'steam rolling' attempt will take a very, very long time. All the while allies will turn on you, those strike forces will turn into invasion fleets, your economy will tank, planets will rebel... The sheer scale ensures that even if you can manage it, it won't be simple.
While admittedly I've never been 'beaten' at this point, I've also never really won either... usually I start a new game as it's gotten so complex that if I leave it for a day and come back, I have no idea what's going on .
All that being said, it would be nice if money were more difficult to acquire, and resources more scarce. But with all the options available, the game can certainly be made a challenge despite this.
Concerning the opinion of 'why would I limit myself to have fun, that's not fun'. A flaw in perception. All games are limits, that's what separates them from reality. If I'm playing squash with my cousin, I could kick him in the nuts and proceed to accrue every point needed to win while he's writhing in pain. I don't do this however, and further, I restrict my actions to fall within the limits outlined in the rules of the game.
A game which allows customizing said rules requires a certain ability to not perceive limits as barriers, but rather, as structure, integrity.
< Message edited by Abraxis -- 4/22/2012 5:06:23 AM >