I'd be interested to hear if you plan on updating/revising the battle mechanics at all? The role system is kinda moot/pointless as are certain tactical components (guardian drones).
If you're revamping the whole tech tree, it would seem an opportune time to ensure that what we research matters.
I believe the combat in the game could be improved on as well. Because the combat was basically the same as galciv 2 I waited until Intrigue to buy this game, because I didn't really like the combat in 2 but only after having played other space strategy games. Other than the randomness of the defences, it makes no sense only one fleet survives and the other one keeps fighting until they are all dead but in 3 I still find it one of the weakest aspects. Is it vital for the game to resolve the combat in one turn? With that I mean wouldn't it open more strategies and tactics if ship combat was only a limited amount of rounds/moves so a losing fleet could fight a series of battle while retreating to a more defensible location or ambush. When I started writing this, the text became longer and longer so I will include this short introduction to the next sections, first I would like to discuss the various weaknesses Galciv3 has compared to it's competition, after that I would like to discuss what I think are the game's strengths.
After a long time of barely any space empire management games there are now a lot of them, some even very popular. Some of these games have similar aspects of Galciv2 and Galciv3 some of those are done better in my opinion in newer games. In my opinion these are some of the weaker aspects compared to the competition.
1. Empire creation. Now there are no 4x games that do this particularly well and while it gets the job done I think galciv has been caught up by the competition on this one. There are a few issues why I consider other games doing this better, firstly it is rather complex and consuming, especially with all the custom dialogue. In Stellaris it is super easy and fast to set up a somewhat unique space empire it even does the harders part, comming up with a name. The downside to what stellaris has is that dispite looking really cool the empires play rather similarly because you only change some numbers arround. This brings me to my second point, in galciv3 empire creation also barely changes anything on how you need to play. The most impactful choice is choosing what kind of life form you want to be. In this regard Endless Space 2 has the most interesting choises before you start the game namely all the empires play vastly different and require different strategies. The downside of Endless Space 2 is that custom empires us one of the existing ones as a template so you're not really free in your choices. I believe that Galciv3 needs to strike a balance between these two to make empire creation a lot more fun.
2. The Government. I really liked that there is some planning to be done when expanding but the tone is just off. You can suddenly become a kingdom to shift to be a republic 20 or so weeks later. When I picked empire as my first pick I got a really cool event telling me the new emperor ascended to the throne with a little bonus on approval. Pretty neat, but who is this emperor? Last time I checked my leader was DL Bradley. The first time I got the chance to go for a government that allows for more colonies I went for the republic. So that emperor must have gave up his power willingly? This creates a wierd context but I believe this can be solved by making 'upgrade' paths for the various governments with some interlinking chains. You should always be able to go from more democratic to more autoritarian given the right context.
This could also be complemented by the party system, why not use election results for active gameplay decisions. Maybe different parties are vying for power in the senate just like in Endless Space 2 which has a simple but fun political system that reacts on what is happening in the galaxy and the choices you make. This makes your country feel alive, those parties in turn could give you missions so you can choose what election promisses will be fulfilled. For example the war party could insist on developing a new ship, or a new weapon type or maybe they insist on sending your diplomat that's going to negotiations with your neighbour over a border dispute in your latest battleship instead of a personel transport. Maybe when your a kingdom the king wants to review the fleet on the national holiday and you're asked to send a huge part of your fleet to the home world for inspection. These missions could be choosen freely but choosing one and completing one gives a small boost to that faction, some may steer more towards autocracy while others maybe steer more towards democracy.
Citizens could also be involved in these mechanics. Every party in the senate could have one specific citizen as leader the ones filling posts in your government could be based on the election result (a big merchant party could possibly result in different merchant bonusses for the different posts, a military coup results in military citizens on those posts). The government officials should also be placed on the map so you can send them to other planets when needed. Maybe the economy on some of your worlds has taken a down turn why not send your minister of financial affairs or maybe a minister of industry or the minister (these could also be missions from parties. The main reason for this is to make context for what is happening, make your empire feel alive and make peaceful times have interesting decisions as well.
3. The Crises/Events. This point has more or less been made in the former one most of these just happen randomly and off the map. This makes them a bit obscure and distant from your empire. While both stellaris and endless space 2 both have quest and events that actively involve the player. The precursor quest chains in stellaris are really cool and adventurous (the first time). There is also this random quest of a comet crashing on one of your worlds, in stellaris you have to send your fleet to blow it up. Maybe some of these events can be made to happen on the map itself it will involve the player more and the map of these games is what sets them appart from most other space 4x games (I'll elaborate on that later).
4. The combat. This is the main reason I put off on buying this game until Intrigue came out, it's because it is too random. Is it vital for the game to resolve the combat in one turn (this goes for land combat as well)? Wouldn't it be more fun if the combat was designed with series of tactics that your admirals can use leaving you to choose the overarching strategy for the war (defensive/offensive)? I don't think the player should have any direct controle because that would make the game take too long.
Battles are often very one sided maybe it should be difficult to communicate to focus fire (could be explaned with cyber warfare/enemy jamming communications). Perhaps the amount of devastation can be attributed to your admiral making a fatal mistake by being having the fleet manouver he choose to be directly countered by his opponent. Your ship design could effect this as well. The different roles can be confusing for new players because escorts and guardians are basically the same, assaults and interceptors are also basically the same. Maybe slim down the different roles to just capitals and screens/escorts. But their actual role might differ because of what position they have in the fleet and/or wing formation. Maybe the modules could be adapted to special battle tactics, like boarding pods, or catapults for your carriers to make your drones close the distance with the enemy in an instant. In my last game I designed a frigate class that was basically one big gun, it was a mass driver with all the range buffs, armour piercing, etc. I saved it as a capital-role but in the battles it appeared on the front line, not really a handy place for a long range glass canon. As for carrier balance, maybe the drones they have could be designed the same way as a legion. Instead of a legion is would represent a carrier air group or CAG you could build a few extra of these so you only need to swap them as your carrier returns to port while the damaged group stays behind to get repairs.
One of the post of Brad talked about the removal of some of the special techs maybe they could be taken out the tech tree but assigned to secret labs. Labs build by scientists on dead worlds or an asteroid field you don't need. Maybe there is a dead planet with crystals or elerium that makes for a perfect test site for shields weapons or an asteroid that can be used as a shooting range. If weapons could have multiple "upgrades", perhaps this could give you the choice, should I go for the new weapon in the tech tree or should I try and improve the old one a bit. As for retro fitting ships, refitting them with a remodel of an older weapen could be cheaper than upgrading them with a complete new weapon. So perhaps scrap those ships to just build new ones or sell them to a minor faction.
Wars could also do with some logistical elements like maybe armour needs to be repaired and fuctions as a seperate healt bar or missles being really powerful but only limited supply because they take up more space. This could force you to plan when you want to go on campaign on the other side of the galaxy. There could be a mechanic that you need to take supply ships or use your legions to set up temporal supply bases on dead planets just behind the front line or make a deal with a major or minor nation to use their ports/starbases for repairs.
The camera is also problematic, it's hard to get a really good view of your ships in battle while this could easily be one of the most fun experiences in the game, seeing your very own designs in action. If the ships should fly slower in more orderly formations to give a better view of what is going on.
Gal civ 3 on the other hand has some strengths compared to the competition, I think these are:
1. The ship designer. This one really makes it stand out amoung the competition, you can be infinitely creative with this and seeing your ships on the map is really cool. It has some downsides for me however mostly ui oriented which I posted this in another thread, except for one. When galciv3 was announced I really hoped the designers had taken a look at the designers used in Spore. I was studying mechanical engineering when I first tried spore (years after it was released) and it struck me that it looked like a very rudimentary version of actual design software. There are a lot of parts in the galciv ship designer but most of them could be redundant if there were more options to manipulate individual parts. And secondly in spore you could choose the texture and the colour during the last step of making your design. Wouldn't it be cool if your fleet of veteran ships had a tiger print or some warpaint in galciv3. I highly doubt that this will ever be focus for this edition of the game, change to it is also not really necessary since it's way ahead on the competion at this.
2. The map. While it might eat a ton RAM compared to other games this game choose for a hex boardgame like map. But in my opinion this map is not utilized to it's full potential. There could be lot more enviromental effects that set the stage of the game. Think about it, the geography of earth has to some extend dictated the course of history. The book La Méditerraneé by Fernand Braudel for example was an extensive study of the mediterranean, I wont bother you with the details but one of his findings was that history or time moves at different speeds when studying different objects. Braudel concluded that there are 3 different scales for time when studying history: 1. Long term (geography), 2. mid-long term (business cycle), 3. short term (political decisions, wars, battles). Very interesting but what does this mean? I means that what we see on the surface has been in the making in processes that are slow and hard to notice.
In gal civ terms that could mean that showing the map (geography)and the economic game some love and with just the right balance would create a natural eb and flow in the game for things to happen, and create context to why wars happen other then: "I want your planets." Changes to the map could be the radiation nebula damaging armour and hull until you have the right level of shields to go through them (there could be things hidden behind or in the nebula that you can only reach safely later in the game), or block all sensor range through the nebula (ideal for surprise attacks) or maybe there are only some paths through the nebula which could be very precious trade routes to the empire on the other side. Maybe drop the notion that one tile is one parsec to give us massive black holes (ship speed could be reduced near then, don't get too close!), massive red giants that damage ships without proper shields with their radiation, binary star systems (or any type of star system that has been observed so far). Give different ships different effects like fighting in an asteriod field giving huge bonusses to smaller ships, or give ships defensive bonusses in them that stack for a couple of turns like in Legend of the Galactic Heroes when one feet had entrenched itself in an asteroid field. All in all the map could provide this seemingly unchanging playground only slowely changing but maybe prompting empires to react. (maybe mega events could turn this equilibrium upside down, like a super massive black hole that keeps growing, or a star that's about to go supernova)
3. The U.P.. This system too is not used to it's full potential I believe. Why not spice up the endgame and make it integral to some of the victory conditions. The diplomatic victory could be trying to unite the UP and form a sort of federal government, this unification could be a series of steps that might lead to wars within the UP on what kind of shape the government of this federation will have. This could set up the game for massive wars at the end not focussed on annexing but push your will through on the shape of this federation. Minor factions could be intergrated in this system. There could be more posts than just chairman. (also the timer for choosing the leader of the UP needs to go down drastically the game is mostly already decided before the first term is up)
This might have become a ridiculously long post, I'm sorry. . But I believe if galciv wants to keep up with the competition it really needs to focus on it's weaker aspects and even further improve on the parts that already set it appart from it's competitors.