Love the game. Love the debate. Love the fact civ3 is still is receiving a great amount of the devs attention. The opening cinematic will ever get old for me. I won't quote but so much said so far. I struggle to remember who said what and where, if I had the same idea or just taken it on board as something I believe is worthwhile looking at. The are a two major issues that many have identified that I wish to further discuss and explore.
One main issue is pop and raw production. Improvements and their value tied in closely with this. Always hard to fully flush out but a few things (combinations or all of the below) could be tried to offer more flexibility and variety in gamestyles.
Personally RAW is everything. Only thing that is really worth optimising and focus when playing. A great raw always equates to good manufacturing, research and economy. The bonus pop brings for raw transfers into pop-centric empires. A direct 1 to 1 is just too much and needs a little adjusting so the AI isn't left in the dust. Morale could be a little more dynamic as well. Might try having harsher morale penalties (neg growth?) and/or have so that is is a little harder to attain big morale sustaining a large pop.
Changes could be made to the base pop given or the food needed or each city would could diminish the following cities effectiveness or increase following cities cost. Possibly even link cities to tech/era with when they become available, how many you can support and how effective they are. Another road could be to reduce adj bonuses so farms/cities just aren't as efficient (extreme measure take all pop adj bonuses away).
Improvements are currently just not competitive. They really need to be a viable option against pure raw. Not sure on how but you might try looking into removing basic buildings like space elevator and comp core etc and giving a base buff to corresponding basic buildings that will upgrade with tech (eg factory will now give +1 to construction on top of previous bonus). Hopefully this might bring back specialised planet builds as a viable option.
The second main issue for me is the AI. Don't get me wrong, it is much better than other games but still lacks finesse. To put it bluntly, the AI is still making fundamentally bad decisions even at the highest level. It would be great to turn the AI from a sledge hammer into a scalpel. No more buffs, just better general gameplay. I dont even pretend to know how, or if, anything following is possible
First off, the AI just cannot compete colonising (seriously wtf is a trade ship doing approaching my homeworld only 15 turns in?). It needs to have a higher priority/easier for higher AI levels so they aren't hamstrung right from the get go. Might even suggest a slight admin buff (nothing too extreme) or even extreme colonisation as a starting tech. Same goes for plopping starbases out to claim resources (not as bad but not great either)
The AI does not tech up efficiently. It would benefit to bee-line important techs a bit more (possibly link preference to race) and counter teching to nearby/bad relation races
Optimising ship builds. 2 constructor modules for one ship, tiny ships end of game, support ships not buffing fleet, need I say more...
Optimising planet builds. For gods sake, just build a few farms and cities. Together. Stop half arsing planet specialisation and put a damn comp core on a precursor experimental world and bomb the crap out of it with research centres or whack a space elevator on that wasteland tile with factories crowding around pumping it up. A couple of these and a couple of those leads to a couple of under performing useless planets.
Suicidal diplomacy (looking at you Drengin) The AI seems way too focused on military strength (see below). Period. There seems to be very little consideration for important aspects like distance and RAW and tech level. Couple that with unwillingness to treaty and all too often a godlike opponent is shown the exit door.
Lastly trading. OH MY GOD. Everything is available. Everything is cheap (nearly). Constructors, starbases, high level techs, resources, planets, wars on other civs etc. The AI should place a higher value on these, trade like for like and even have no interest or not appearing in trade screen for others (that said if raw/pop is reduced ergo less income then inherent value is auto increased). On the other end of the scale is the resource hard cap and ship value. I understand the AI needs to have some protection but the AI will not take an outrageously great deal if you break that 1/4 barrier and conversely well over estimates the value of its pitiful fleets that best used for cannon fodder.
I'll finish up with a few random ideas/tweaks/observations I have jotted down on scraps of paper while playing. Not saying anything is good here but has crossed my mind
Ship movement. First click show path, second click move. Even a shading to highlight travel range for turn/more. A waypoint system because the auto-explore mode is terrible. Just a few of the options for tinkering
Starbases. For an admin point they are way too easy to drop (a single ship to can all too easily strangle the AI for range and resources) . Military definitely need a buff for range extension tied into map size (plus one range per level size). Also AI needs to build more economic for planetary boost.
On map size, influence needs a major buff on larger sized maps. Ludicrous map I have 50% of planets and 260 starbases and 350 turns in and still only 1%. I know my initial settings bu c'mon. At least give me 2%...
Another button for trading ie << and >> outside the usual < and > for a larger quantities eg 5/10 resource or 100/1000 credits.
Carryover. For research manufacturing and ship production. Seems any surplus is fully transferred to next project. Many turns storing surplus can just be pumped into an instant <insert project wanted>. Can happen a fair bit after early game, most notably shipyards just doing constant missions and later with planets. Maybe only 50% can be carried onto the next turn. Could even apply to when you cancel current project (and not just put on hold).
Manual toggle to turn on repeat projects, like missions in shipyards and recruiting on planets (personally I hate the auto repeat on a planet). And auto govern on acquiring a planet, don't even get me started
Buildings that give civ wide a bonus might have production cost tied to the number of planets you own. Makes sense if you get more out of it you are willing to pay more for it
After researching one of the cap techs might it be possible to a single branch tech that has a (for lack of a better word) "sister" tech already discovered. One for one only
Economic starbases are still overpowered. A reduction in range techs (only one not two range per tech/module) and increase cost (double credits) would mitigate that somewhat. A balance for just in case for a slight misplacement could be a drive module for each major drive tech that allows one movement but is burnt out after said single tile is moved. And wouldn't hurt to pay a little more credits for all economic modules. Lets face it, they are more than worth it
Orbital institute and interstellar collectors. Why so expensive? Cheaper (and more beneficial) to just recruit citizens (orbital) or do a few missions for more constructors (interstellar)
On missions, constructors and survey ships pop up quite often. Designed quirk so admins aren't capped or just oversight?
Also with orbital institute costing 25 promethion, it might just be the way I play but even with an abundance of promethion, it disappears faster than a cheesy poof in front of Eric Cartman. Elerium is not much better. Resources on the whole are well balanced and it adds another dimension forcing me to prioritise which is fine and I dont mind but was that intended?
Citizens should cost way more. Only 2.5k production is just too cheap. And spies costing 1 snuggler is a bit high (not too bad though).
Also slower citizen accumulation/production. Arbitrary 10 turns is a bit off (bit quick for slower/larger maps IMHO). Might link in with map size or game speed or era. Even boost with techs if massively slowed. Could help against colonisation rush at start of game
Survey ships can survey planets. A quick glance of the layout might be nice every now and then
Colony Capital can often be in a downright nasty spot. Would love a one shot move. High price (production and resources) and maybe linked to a mid/late tech (like gal governance for example). Might even cost ideology points (colonising gives 10 points and use 10 points to shift)
Just me or ideology points are slow to generate? Will take forever to get that achievement. Design? or might buildings get a little buff? Not to worry, I'll eventually get there...
Back to missions, seems to be a few I use constantly (see above) and others that are just a waste of time. Seriously pilgrims? But might just be me...
A button to re-find my friggin fleet. So often I would love to just click on say the fleet image (or anything) to re-centre the screen on the fleet I have selected
Ships in my borders. I just want to kill. Seriously, get out, go away. If no relations set (like ally or friend), ship is non-trade and within your coloured influence, can't we just pop them at the cost of a bit (or a lot) of diplomacy?
On the diplomacy screen, is it at all possible to see all of something (eg all current wars) at once not just a single civs everything. Just makes looking at galactic politics before GC meetings a little easier
On the GC, more options would be nice. Might I suggest diplo consequences for unfavorable resolutions and maybe even a lobbying period to win votes (not they are really needed due to AI not having any pop ie voting power). More thulium is not what I need...
Is there something along the lines of a Notification journal that has eluded me? The board is a little"bare" and I would like to see what events are active not just when they finish etc so a more in depth journal of sorts to go into would be nice and get a full rundown of current galactic affairs
100% decay is set to 1 for shipyards 0.1 for asteroids. We all use this whether its by accident or not. Might be more reasonable if it set to 0
Anomalies are far too abusable. Capsules giving 15% tech, artifacts giving 10% treasury and the powerful precursor anomalies poorly defended. Capsules need to change (maybe 100 research per era level) so they cant just blow through a huge tech early (huge hull v med hull AI). Artifact could be capped at a lower value (5K to match citizen). And precursor should have a little more def than my admiral's exhaust fumes (bump up every era to give a little challenge). And to top it off, the AI doesn't seem to be interested in anomalies at all. And also are they slowly spawning? Don't mind events making them but I think they should be a finite resource
The tech eras go way too fast. Research a handful, move up and repeat. Next thing you have huge hulls while it seems the AI is still struggling with the concept of the wheel. More points per level is needed, possibly even a fourth era (4 eras - one for each X of 4X maybe)
Commanders and admirals etc so very much in need of upgrading components. Being they are restricted by hull size, can they just simply auto upgrade and be at least useful eg you reduce life support mass, so now there is space for another or hull capacity is increased so lets use it and gain another drive module. Also an admiral and commander per fleet (singular, different ranks so ok in my mind). It was possible (fixed maybe? anyone?) for as many commanders as you want in my last game (my fleets dont need more superiority)
Also the military score ranking you against the computer needs a bit of an overhaul. I am regularly outpointed/outranked yet the AI fleets are softer than microwaved butter. At the games end, when I actually decide to build my final assault fleets I have totally outrageous mil score pumping my overall to obscene levels. Needs a big wind back. Might help ground lofty/ambitious AI and ultimately prevent suicide.
I haven't found too many problems with mercs so far as they stand. AI seems to only have a fleeting interest and needs to recognise the opportunities here. Only overpowered merc is really the Praxis and its malevolent point generating ability. The rest seem not too bad but it wouldnt hurt if they cost more resources.
And I'll finish with a couple a small bugs. Two (of the three) benevolent point generating buildings don't match description (think may have been mentioned before. Hate the fog not clearing when movement is offscreen (clears on save/load) and why oh why oh why is it my overall civ morale seems stuck 99% yet I have every planet running 110-140% morale ie well over 100% (very annoying).
Probably missed plenty but others here will surely fill those gaps. All of this is just from my personal ingame experience so guaranteed is not true for all but I hope you find something that might be useful. Also should be noted I was playing an earlier 2.6 build so some things may have already been addressed and if so I am sorry for including them. Bit long for my first post and I hope it is coherent enough but wanted to have my 2 cents
To the devs, great job so far and I hope you keep going. Just remember, the empty can rattles the most. Remember those who play at a lower level on a casual basis. For us here that try to find challenge can cause others heartbreak. There has been so much put forward in this debate from everyone it will be difficult to foresee all consequences for any/all tweaks and balances. Moderation will be key. Either way I will adapt and optimise and push the limits.