Interesting thread - I think it raises some questions about just how much one can customize before it essentially becomes 'putting more queens in the field'. I don't play 'to win' like this, but I nonetheless do customize certain things: It's just annoying not being able to build a troop transport early and it seems too stupid and boring to settle for the default tax rates (which all the AIs are forced to use and thus suffer, making you gain the upper hand!).
The real issue, of course, is that things are done non-optimally in the first place - it's just weird that things get designed wrong by default. The underlying issue, however, is that a rebalancing is needed in many fields. This would also let the player just play the game without having to worry about nonsensical and tedious 'optimization' - and it would make the AI a lot more competitive, too! What's needed is things like:
1) Setting tax rate to just a few percent shouldn't completely destroy population growth compared to running 0% tax, it makes no sense at all. Honestly, the way it works is just bad; completely unintutive. I also doubt anybody truly enjoys managing tax rates but the game essentially forces you to because the penalty for not running 0% is so blatantly unbalanced.
2) Research model needs to change, it doesn't make sense that the optimal is having just three massive research stations. Of course one can conduct better research by performing it across many different locations and investigating different neutron stars/black holes/etc.
3) Place some limits on the amount of extractors, cargo bays, docking bays and more on a design by limiting their efficiency past a certain amount. Optimal play should be using designs as they are now so that one can't simply build ultimate editions of anything.
4) No re-designing of private ships to outfit them with sensors or other nonsense exploits (I actually thought this was no longer possible).
Basically, instead of making it optimal for the player to abuse the game rules, change the rules so that there's no benefit to be had from exploits. (Not to hammer on your post, Harrs, rather the game ;) )
Good points Apheirox.
However 2) is plainly wrong from a strategic point of view. You get no better research values from going this route, as compared with having minimal research bases at those three locations and the rest of your research labs in a massive spaceport. There is a distinct advantage in the latter method as you can refit the spaceport as you get better weapons/defenses or your need for labs change. Also with the three massive research labs what are you to do if you discover a better bonus location? So do not regard 3 massive research labs as optimal, far from it!
And 3) already exists to a large degree as the maxiumum extraction rate is capped in Legends at 10 for mines and 40 for gas mines. Hence there is never any point going beyond 3 gas extractors or 4 mining engines and this number drops as your tech improves. The number of cargo bays and docks although handy in some circumstances cannot lift the maxiumum throughput of resources which is limited by the extraction rate. (Note that even putting extractors on bases to reach the cap is not 'optimal' in all circumstances. With the intial mining tech that fourth mining engine only extracts at one third efficiency. Once you have the first mining tech one engine of the four is entirely useless for extracting resources and a second engine only extracts at 50% ability and yet you cannot remove them from the bases and will continue to pay maintenance for them. With the second mining tech 2 engines are entirely useless.
Unfortunately the extra maintenance costs are entirely disregardable with the current state of the economic side of the game. If the lack of challenge from the cpu empires is the players first extra queen, the ease of money-making beyond the early game is definitely the second. Personally I would have them the other way around though. The galactic economy needs an overhaul and part of the benefit of doing so would be to enable playing with scarcer resources something which was held out as one of the big selling points of Legends which quickly went by the wayside, without it may be noted comment from the developers or indeed much from the player base.
... and a good response. :)
It was a while ago so I don't recall why I posted about 'three' massive research stations - you are right, of course, one doesn't even need three, just one big super station. My point remains the same, however: Optimal research should not be possible from this small number of stations - whether one or three, one should be required to spread research stations out across the galaxy. It doesn't make sense that you can pick up a large high tech research bonus from some black hole and this bonus then gets applied empire-wide, affecting high tech research stations at the other end of the galaxy. The whole 'empire-wide bonus' concept is problematic and should be removed/reworked so that you can only get a local, capped one. Empires should be encouraged to spread out and control many research locations.
I'm interested to hear there are caps on the extraction rates - then it works how I want. From your post, however, it sounds like the caps may even be too harsh. What I mean is that it is problematic if one can max out extraction with just a few modules, even low-tech ones - that means there is little reason to invest research into extraction rate techs since the upkeep cost of these extractors is negligible: What is the point of researching an expensive extraction rate tech if all it gives you is a tiny economic bonus by having to pay upkeep on just one less module per station? It sounds like the base efficiency of extractors simply needs to be lowered so that one requires more modules - or, alternatively, upkeep cost on extractors needs to be greatly increased.
I'm not sure I agree about the 'ease of money-making' being a problem in itself - the problem, as I see it, is - as is the whole point of this thread - that the player can greatly outpace the AIs by optimizing designs, taxes and so on. If all the AIs were programmed to use the same 'optimizations' that the player can perform they too should be rolling in money and thus be able to afford some very scary fleets, just like the player - which means the playing field would be evened out and the player put under more pressure, cutting down on his/her superior economy. You may be right - perhaps the economy must be changed, but I will maintain a more pressuring goal is to bridge the gap between the player and the AI by eliminating the possibility of player 'optimization exploits'. This is ultimately what will make the game more challenging (and thus: rewarding!). Like I already said: Integrate these 'optimizations' into the default rules, designs etc so that the defaults designs, settings and so on are already at their optimal to eliminate to possibility of the player gaining an advantage by 'tweaking' stuff - the most basic example of this being to have the AIs automatically default to a 0% tax rate for maximum growth, just as the player would.
TLDR: I hope the 'small, but big' things get cleaned up for the Shadows expansion - a few simple tweaks like these suggested here leaves DW a stronger, more polished game.