Tech rework idea (simple yet high differentiation)
Although I don’ t play at present (wouldn’t have the time), I’d like to offer an idea for reworking the tech tree in a way that allows a great deal of differentiation between players (of the same species), keeps most present assets, potentially infinite in scaling therefore avoiding the end of the tech tree, and above all else is rather simple to use and implement (aside from balancing calculations). I’ve offered this idea before in between the lines, so I figured it deserved its own topic by now.
Basically the idea is this: every technology can be re-researched indefinitely for exponentially increasing costs, while offering linear improvements. Furthermore, every time a technology is researched, one can set a focus on a certain aspect of the technology in question.
For example, there is a tech for engines. Whenever you choose to research this technology you get a pop up window asking you to set a focus. In the case of engines this could be: Economy (cost/build speed), Power output, Free warp speed, Max warp speed, Fuel efficiency. Half the improvement of the engines would go into the focus area, the other half would be spread out over all aspects, so that each level/tier gives some improvement across the board (aside from cost for balancing reasons).
Furthermore the “general” option to spread out evenly over all aspects could be chosen. Potentially, there is also an option to forfeit the general improvement half for a reduction in tech point costs (i.e. your engine is half a tier lower in comparison, but can give you what you need faster).
Utilizing such a system, with these 6 focus areas would mean that after just one tech level, there are already 6 different engines, 21 after two tech levels, etc (not counting the half tier options). Multiply such diversity with the amount of buildings, ships, components etc and you get a lot of customization options.
On the graphical side, such specialisations could be indicated with scaling hue’s, specularity (shininess), certain parts of a model (i.e. barrel length, width).
One potential downside is that there’d be only one tech of each type, and maybe you want different variants. i.e. fast engines for scouts, high power output engines for battleships, etc. Therefore a final (focus) option must be added when researching a tech: prototype new variant. Which would create another entry in the tech tree of the thing you’re copying.
Rather than selecting a focus area, you’d select the tech tier for your new variant (up unto the tier of the original). The research point cost would be equivalent of a tech of that tier, and the current stats scaled back to that tier. This creates a trade off between a lower tier variant which you can specialize more fully, or one that requires less research to be up to the present level.
Finally an option could be added to specialize certain items for certain conditions, i.e. farms to certain population types, engines to certain hull types, weapons to certain sizes, etc. This would significantly lower their research cost, allowing you to reach higher tiers faster. Such specializations would be available only as new variant options, as you need the base type not to be stuck without a general purpose item.
Edit: in a similar vein, upon reaching a certain tier, new variant options can open up, such as deep mines. A greyed out icon which becomes colourized when the corresponding mining tech reaches sufficient heights ~ and is implicitly a variant on that tech. Technology branches that are unavailable at the start can be similarly locked if necessary.
Thus players would have near complete freedom in how they wish to shape their technological advancement, leading to a high degree of diversity. This in turn will lead to greater incentives for cooperation as players can specialize.
P.S. Theoretically, you could go as far as sliders in distributing your focus, but I feel this would be overwhelming, and much the same can be achieved over the course of many tech levels adding up.