One post with wishes for next game is not enough : that's another ! But it's quite different...
In Distant Worlds, we have characters, empire policies that affect behavior, racial bonuses toward certain behaviors (reproduction bonus when exterminating other species...), happiness, government and rebellion. I propose to expand on these game mechanics these ways.
Distant Worlds feels alive because of the private sector that fields private ships. In the same manner, I suggest that there would be more characters. Each ship could have its captain, each planet its governor, etc. There is no need that each of these characters have special bonus : it's fine to have only 3-4 really special captain in a given empire. However, each of these character would belong to a faction.
Factions : Internal strive
The player forms the government of the empire. Not only is he battling against other empires, the player must contend with several factions inside his empire. A faction could want to assimilate all alien species, while another could want to research better medical facilities. Maybe these goals align with yours, but if it's not the case, factions could cause problems : lowering happiness and taxes received, giving other empire informations and techs or cause an empire-wide rebellion. As each of your ships and planet is associated to one character, this could cause a huge civil war in your empire. On the other hand, if you please the factions, you could reap award like lesser corruption. Factions would change depending of the races in your empire, your government type and your empire civics.
Civics : that's who we are
Each empire would have a civic tree representing their social values. To take the same example as before, is your empire devouring your neighbors ? Yes, you are a predatorial empire who gets bonus to your reproduction rate. If you invest in your predatorial tree, you will get even better bonuses. However, you will have problems dealing diplomatically with your neighbors. If you ever stop to eat your captives and try to form an alliance with another race, a faction might rise and demand that you eat them !
Several civic tree might exist :
- biologic predation
- robotic and cybernetic
- fellowship with other race
- warfare as a way to excel as a race
Civics could be upgraded through science or thought another new channel (facilities on planet, cash invested, etc)
Characters are randomly generated from the races of your empire. In addition to this, I suggest that there is a pool of character that you control. In a way, it would be your own faction. These characters could be trained to be used in your empire (leader, admiral, scientist, etc.) for a cost. This would alleviate the randomness of character appearance and increase the roleplaying effect of factions.
This character pool would be different for each government. For a monarchy, it would be the children of the king. In a democracy, it would be people of your political party. Either way, they would be loyal to you to the death.
From these characters, you would choose your heir as next leader of the empire, unless you achieve immortality.
Beside the role of scientist, admiral and such, I would create the role of empress (consort). This character would give a small bonuses to the empire, similar to the leader role. So, you could choose someone loyal from your own faction with the best stats. Or, you could choose someone from another faction as a way to please them. Or, choose someone from an alien race that you try to assimilate, which would give you a huge bonus to assimilation rate. Or, you could choose someone from another empire, as a way to strengthen an alliance with them.
The many kinds of government types would be accessible through the upgrade of the civic tree on a volontary basis. Or, a faction could ask to change from monarchy to democraty.
I lost the election
What happens when your faction lose the election and another faction gets the power ? What happens when half your empire rejects your rule and revolt ? As stated before, internal strive could lead to strong demands from the factions. If the player refuses to comply, the factions could ask their independance. If you refuse them, a civil war would begin. Maybe another empire will seize that time to attack the player. If the player loses against the rebelling faction, several things could happen : a government type change, beginning of another empire, or the worst, the player could become a minor faction in their own empire. In that case, the player would not be in charge of the empire anymore, as if the automation was active, and would only control some parts of the empire (ship captain, fleet, espionnage, etc.) depending on the characters in their own faction in the empire. The player would have to get back their empire or start another, but that would be no game over yet.
Espionnage would be deepen with these game mechanics. A faction trying to kill the leader would have an easier time if the king is married with one of their own. Another empire could send spies to encourage the revolt of factions.
Faction as a tool
Finally, if the player controls a prosperous and happy empire, the player could send his spies to his neighbors to try to create a faction demanding better relations with the player's empire, even annexing some planets to the player's empire.