There are aspects of a "Proving Grounds" that I didn't mention. This is one way that ADB has created the extreme loyalty of their fans over the years. If you had something like this, ships accepted by Stardock and added to the game would also begin to appear in the full/story game as a part of that "living universe" that Brad mentioned. Only a few of what I call the "Stellar Nations" of Star Control are actually in the story. There are, obviously, many others out there that are not mentioned. Ships that get added after the fact are assumed to be from a "Stellar Nation" that was not a part of the story, and yet is still out there. So these ships would also begin appearing as a part of that "living universe" once they had been added to the game.
Stardock might have the council pick 6 candidates a month, or if they want a slower pace 12 every 3 months... or whatever seemed good for them. They might accept none, they might like all of them. In the patch notes that adds new ships from the proving grounds you would list the new ships being added, and two VERY important pieces of information. The name of the person who "submitted" that ship through the Proving Grounds and always, ALWAYS, the specific mention that "Brad Wardell" has selected these ships to add to his game. That is very important, and a big part of the point of all of this. Any player who gets a ship added to the game is a lifelong Stardock fan from that point forward who feels a connection to the game, Stardock, and Brad. And, on top of all this... Stardock is putting their fans to work for them. Both in creating new ships, and the council weeding out all the obvious "garbage" for them and just presenting them with the good candidates every once in a while. This creates a situation of regularly adding content, and creating a long term loyal fan of both the company and the designer with each accepted submission.
In the Proving Grounds, players are mostly "self-governing" in the ships they design. Most players designing ships are hoping to see Brad personally select their ship to add to his game, so they design what they feel are balanced ships and intentionally avoid making unbalanced ones. Of course, there are players who don't care about that and just built the most powerful thing that they can imagine to stomp on all the "fair" ships. But that is a good thing for those trying to built balanced ships that might actually get added to the game, the extreme capabilites of the "super ships" only highlight issues with their own balanced designs and help them to understand their own design better.
This is very much SVC's way of doing things, and part of what it does is make, in this case Brad, a literal game design hero to every person he honor's by choosing one of their ship designs to add to his game. This might not have as much impact over in the computer game business where the audience is counted in millions instead of thousands... but then again in the information age of social media, and the reviews these people will write every time Brad makes a new game, maybe it is still a relevant thing to do.