The Lore just makes who you are playing richer and not just some icon with a few bonus stats.
This is where we really disagree. No offense intended, I understand your point completely, and it's a valid one, but i just happen to think differently.
When i play a strategy game such as DW, i don't want to play someone (the "who you are playing" of your sentence), i just want to play the game.
You mentioned Skyrim (very good game btw), and one thing i like about Skyrim (and all Elder Scroll games) is that you start as a nobody and climb out your way. The lore you're talking about as nothing to do with my character. The game needs the lore in a rpg such as Skyrim, but your character is not part of the lore, except if it has something to do with the plot/goal of the game.
I like to play something where i'm not tied to the lore, and having said that, the lore is then just some fluff, a secondary option in a game where the primary option is to manage an empire/kill critters/clear dungeons or whatever. It's as secondary in my eyes as the ability to have a house, marry someone and adopt childs. The main point is combat system, quest system, leveling system and the main story.
Don't get me wrong, i do like to read the stories in the books found in Skyrim, but once again, comparing Skyrim, the 5th or 6th sequel of a RPG series that always had an emphasis on background and fluff since the first Arena with DW, the first opus of a grand strategy game which focus on technical options (i won't say gameplay since gameplay imply a nice, efficient UI which is not one of DW strong point sadly), is like comparing apples and bananas.
You mentioned the Whitewolf games.. well, too bad, i really dislike the lore of whitewolf games because it is totally incompatible with the game system. So much powerful abilities, so much influence and wealth, and you say they need the Masquerade because they fear humans? Add to that werewolves, fairies, mages and so on and it's a miracle that humans have even survived, let alone be the main species on the planet.
So ok, there are default races in DW, maybe a lack of imagination or lazyness or whatever reason.
You are right to say the races and lore are nothing special and maybe it should be improved. But reading you, i really have the feeling that even if you say lore is no preset things being force fed to anyone, you actually want a heavy lore, influencing the game so that you have the same kind of feelings than when reading a book or playing a real pen-and-paper roleplaying game.
I'm not this kind of player, when i'm playing Hearts of Iron, i usually play as Japan, not because i like mangas, but because Japan is on the historical losing side, has the war initiative being a axis country but not as powerful as Germany while still capable of worldwide conquest.
When playing Mount & Blades, i select initial options that'll give me the bonus points in the skills i want.
When playing Dawn of War, i appreciate the story between missions, but i don't roleplay the missions, i go for the most efficient strategy i can imagine.
I think your opinion could be more persuasive if you could relate lore and gameplay using successful examples of similar games.
But my experience tells me lore and strategy games don't get along as well as RPG games and lore do.
I did play Emperors of Fading Suns and found it similar as Civ1 in space. The lore didn't really help the game when it started to be a tedious as the AI created insane number of units on all planets it settled.
I did play Dune 1 and 2, and if the first one did try to put the lore in the game, i didn't feel anything like reading the books. It was just meet tribes, gather spice (ie money), wait first attack of harkonnens, get rid of harkonnens. Once again, the lore didn't help in making the game better.
Of course, Dune 2, being a RTS, didn't need and didn't use the lore at all.
And i talked about Dawn of War, which used the lore nicely for the story-based campaigns of vanilla and winter assault, but actual gameplay was not really tied to it. The lore disappeared from the game in the 3rd and 4th expansions based on free-for-all campaign with 2 sentences of background.
Dawn of War 2 felt more like Diablo in W40k than actually feel like a space marine commander.
Lastly, you said that money argument is not a good one. Well, if it isn't, what is? I'm sure Elliot and Erik really like to work on DW, but i'm fairly sure that they wouldn't if DW was not a project enabling them to live, pay their bills, foods and entertainments.
Beside, a small team doesn't just means small budget, it also means not a lot of people. Elliot seems to be a great game designer, developper and software architect, but it doesn't mean he's also a great writer and story teller.
And even if they had someone who could write great background, they would still need someone able to merge the great background and the great game design into one great game.
To my knowledge, no game has ever reach this kind of perfection, not even revered games like MoO2.
It seems you think you have what it takes, clear ideas on what to do, how to do and so on, and i hope it's true because it'll mean i'll have a hell of a nice time playing your games in the future, but with all due respect, i doubt it.
I think game design is hard, and even a good game design doesn't mean success. Be it videos games, pen-and-paper rpg or just classical board games.
I think writing and story telling is hard and good writing and good story telling don't mean success.
I think project and budget management is hard, and same, good doesn't imply success.
And lastly, I think gifted people able to do all these things are even more harder to find.
As proof, there have been countless games launched and forgotten, there are countless early access games which will never make it to even beta, countless books written by unknown authors which didn't even pass the editor step.
So, once again, no hard feelings, but i'm definetely not convinced by your arguments about lore and its supposedly easiness to create and include in a strategy 4x game like DW.