From: Japan (US expat)
if you wish to see some impressive modding, you should check out the civilizations series, total war series, and mount&lade.
I personally think Distant worlds is the perfect platform for a comprehensive Star wars mod, that's probably what Erik would have wanted to do with distant worlds if he had the license.
By comprehensive mod I mean a total conversion, all the ship models, weapons tech trees races resources "authentic" ship combat, and sounds and music and UI, "authentic" custom made universe with all the preset planet names and locations, character portraits/skills, story line triggers and so on based on your favorite sci-fi universe. (not just some star trek ship models)
Now, this all depends on two things, How easy it is to mod the game which we will soon see and how many dedicated modders with a lot of free time actually exist, the latter is a direct function of how popular the game is right now.
I just found the Space Sector announcement today and practically jumped out of my seat. I haven't played DW in about 6 months b/c my personal Star Wars mod can't live up to my expectations (largely because of the DW tech tree....I really get into the weeds when it comes to "accurate" starship armaments). I've been fiddling with my Space Empires IV mod for the past 2 weeks until *that* game's overwhelming limitations also drove me nuts.
I intend to purchase DW: Universe solely off the *possibility* that I can finally create the Star Wars total conversion of my dreams. I own every DW release so far, but had already made up my mind that if this new expansion didn't have tech tree/component modding I wasn't buying it. I read that one blurb in the Space Sector article and immediately changed my mind.
As you pointed out, I too think the DW game engine was practically designed to be a Star Wars simulator (look at the system names, most of them are misspelled versions of Star Wars planet names, not to mention the hyperdrive mechanics and similarity to SW:Rebellion's agent missions) but without the license. Time to make it a reality.
On a side note, mods are pretty much the only reason many older games still have huge followings. Some personal examples of mods breathing life into my games:
Space Empires IV, 2000: I play Babylon 5 and Star Trek (TNG/DS9-era) mods, as well as my own Star Wars mod
Civilization 3, 2001: Occasionally I'll play Rise & Rule mod, with my mix of modern military flavor units.
Rome: Total War, 2004: I only stopped playing Rome Total Realism Platinum mod when I installed Total War:Rome 2 this fall.
Total War Rome 2, 2013: I stopped playing RTW2 in less than 2 weeks because the battles are terribly cartoony. Started playing again in December after finding the Divide et Impera mod which fixes the combat (among other things).
Medieval 2: Total War, 2006: I still play Stainless Steel mod. Just recently uninstalled the LOTR-themed Third Age mod after years of play.
Dominions 3, 2006: I have a bunch of Warhammer Fantasy nations installed. I probably won't pick up Dom4 until they get ported.
So yeah....mods are where it's at.