2/ I'm not interested in playing a modded version of DW. I haven't ever used any mods on DW and I don't ever intend to. The whole idea of replacing the ship icons with "Star Trek" ships, or adding a few new races just seems kinda pointless when the game play remains identical.
I think you're somewhat underestimating what mods can be. Granted, they can be fairly trivial and at times rather meaningless, but how about those that just discretely enhance aspects of the game? One of the best mods for the game so far only changes the icons of resources so that it's much more easy to figure out what's what. Instead of having to spend time memorizing how strat resources look different from luxury resources, it is suddenly very obvious whether a resource is strategic or a luxury.
One option we're apparently getting with the expansion is customized galaxy shapes. Right now you've got two circles, two clusters, and irregular. How about an hourglass? How about "continental" clusters? How about homeworld clusters on the galaxtic edge with narrow expansion paths to a honking big central core that's up for the taking? You can't tell me that you're willing to pay this much for the vanilla game and then not at all interested in simply having more options for your galaxy types.
Another option we're getting is the ability to trigger events like what happens in the campaign. We don't know how powerful this ability will be just yet, but there's at least a reasonable chance that it will feel like basic scripting, which with any luck would mean that we'll be able to design scenarios where one or more AI factions are accelerated through scripting to make them challenging despite the AI's inability to keep up with really determined players. Or how about a "bugs have overrun space" scenario that doesn't have the AI factions sailing your way and splattering your planet within the first hour?
We may even get the chance to customize space critters a bit and if that happens then please do imagine how much fun there can be had in not only having normal space crabs and space worms but also necron tombs and tyrannid nests with friendly greetings from the Warhammer 40k universe, and maybe the odd von Neumann Berserker or silicoid queen of SotS fame? How about that super-worm that lurked inside an asteroid in one of the original Star Wards movies?
I'm not that fond of space critters, to be honest, but adding some guest stars would mean that there's quite a bit more death out there in the universe. And it's not quite as awesome to scout every system in the galaxy within the first ten years if it means running the risk of awakening the necrons or inviting the tyrannids for a snack, is it? Who knows, maybe it will be possible to do this right and maybe it will even be fun to play with?
How about if super luxuries weren't just limited to swamps, deserts, and volcanic planets? What if you had to scout all six planet types? What if there was a tiny chance of a seventh super-rare luxury on floating rocks? Suddenly the reward of manually moving scouts instead wouldn't be somewhat reduced, since you'd have to move the scout near all celestial bodies in the system anyway.
How about if weapons were balanced out somewhat so heading straight down torpedo lane wasn't always the by far better option? Suppose we also make some armor branches that don't end up revolving around chromium? Would that really hurt the game at all, or would it simply improve it ever so slightly?
I'm not much of a modder myself, but I can se a huge pile of opportunities with this game. Things that don't twist it but simply enhance it. Code Force can only do so much in terms of balance and tweaks, but Universe would seem to give us, the players, a chance to get directly involved. This can be used to take the piss, to pay tribute to some tv-show, or to carefully adjust details in order to get exactly the right kind of gameplay one might want. What's not to like about that?