Von Neuman Machines would basically be
1. Improve the Construction Meter Max
2. Improve the Mining/Industry Meter Max
VN based industry would still be limited by population, (for oversight type purposes) If no "population" is used as oversight, then the VN machines themselves are intelligent enough to count as population units.
Well, yes that would make them fit within the parameters of the game, but the whole point of the Von Neumann Machine
is to be able to expand (reproduce) without human agency, indefinitely, so i don't know why we would call a simple bonus to the construction, mining and/or industry meter(s) a Von Neumann Machine.
Well they can produce themselves without human direction [hence a construction meter bonus], but can they produce something usefull without "human" direction?
If they can decide "for themselves" what to produce, then they are a race not a tech. Otherwise they need someone to "tell" them what tye of ship to build.
A simple tech idea would be to allow a planet to be colonized by a "Robotic Population"
Robotic population grows based on the Construction meter, does not consume Food, and all environments give the same Max pop. That would be a VonNeuman machine
Loyalty has no effect... the planet would produce for the owner based on the tech they had (since you need to reprogram the machines)
Early levels would have penalties to certain meters, and the penalties would slowly lift (ie capped at 0, -X, eventually same as for a human world)
The fact is we have "Von Neumann machines" ie things that reproduce themselves indefinitely without human interference already... they are called living organisms... humans are needed to make them useful.
You could therefore have 'biogenetic' von neumann machines as well, when you can reprogram crops to be self harvesting (cows with opposable thumbs that use those thumbs to instinctively slaughter and ship each other to the starport for offworld consumption) [the only difference there is they would grow based on health and consume food, and be based on a certain environment, they would basically just be genetically programmed slave workers.. only difference would be the no Loyalty effect]