There is no problem explaining why "race X" is farther behind than "race y"... what is hard is explaining why "race a" is at the same stage as "race b" [the normal situation between major races... that requires a special storyline]
I don't know if it's "hard", but i've already devised IMHO a good explanation
, and you can find others around the forum.
I see nothing wrong with keeping all the "race stats" the same for a minor race and just start them off missing some key techs (ie industrialization, writing, agriculture)/buildings only 1 population, etc.
1) It's boring. If all species are equally competent (in stats) there's less to distinguish one from another. Species who are designed with a significant flaw(s), like the Trayeggadora
can be interesting in ways that aren't possible if overall they are just as capable galactic emperors as anybody else.
Well no reason why some races Couldn't be designed as minor races only.... but then why bother with them, even the Natives in MOO2 had +3 food a major bonus (balanced by their 0% growth rate, but...)
I didn't say that the best stat of a minor species should be worse than the worse stat of a major species. (Is that clear?) In my view, a minor species could provide moderate
farming skills to an overlord with bad
farming skills, but wouldn't be of much use to an overlord that specialized in farming. Except possibly on their homeworld, because every species (major and minor) gets a production bonus on their homeworld. I describe some other possible advantages in my wiki section on minor species
4) For a sane interface (how many different "red" empires can you distinguish?) and manageable AI calculations there is probably going a limit on the number of empires per game. Thus we can't have a lot of minor species if they are simply NPC empires with a slower start. They are in a wholly different category, in my proposal, in part so there can be a lot of them, but without cluttering up the diplomacy screen or galaxy map. They would all be considered "neutral" unless you get them to join your empire.
Here I'd agree, but allow Empires to be forced back and forth between the Major (considered in diplomacy/maps, etc.)<-> Minor ("invisible", generic neutrals) . You would be in danger of becoming a Minor one if you are a) not the human b) automatically if you are without startravel c)less than one starsytem, etc.
So if you play a game with a low # of starting empires and a high level of "natives" then throughout the game new empires could be popping up... up to a certain point (ie near the empire limit)
When they are not an empire they would be "managed" by a much simpler AI. When they transition to an empire, more complete details are provided and the "player AI" takes over.
I think the empire number limit is an important point which IIRC we failed to bring up in the discussions on diplomacy and rebellions and factions.
It seems kludgy to allow any indigene to develop into an empire, but magically stop them from crossing the threshold until there's a "free spot" for a new empire. What is that pre-empire doing while it waits? Building up a huge surplus of ships and/or resources which it can't use until another empire falls?
Spawning new empires due to rebellion and/or civil war seems to be less troubling. Of course it still couldn't happen unless there was a free-spot for a new empire, but the arbitrary limit on empires is less obvious to the player, since unhappy citizens can do other things than splinter, i.e. riot, or rebel and join an existing empire.
The idea that an empire could go back and forth from major to minor status is also troublesome. An unlucky empire may be pushed back to it's homeworld, but that might be too highly fortified to take easily. They might also have a significant fleet somewhere. I don't think such an empire should be taken off the galaxy map and classed "minor". If the game was at the empire # limit when such an empire was demoted to "minor", a previously minor species could suddenly turn to an empire, and arbitrarily prevent the unlucky empire from ever regaining it's power.
IMHO it is much less problematic to class each starting species as either "major" or "minor" at the start and leave things that way. Minor species would be confined to their homeworld, until adopted by a major, and would only develop tech and construct stuff appropriate to a planet-bound species.
You did give me an interesting idea for an exception. Some players would have a lot of fun if they could literally "bomb an enemy back to the stone age". I.E. if an empire is down to it's last planet, and was sufficiently damaged, the could permanently degrade to a primitive status... i.e. their culture and society are so thoroughly destroyed, that they have no hope of regaining their former empire.
One point on Color, because the empires will probably spread out in a totally interconnected group, four colors might be enough map wise (although there is diplomacy+ships... for that flags+extra colors might be useful as well)
"...probably spread out in a totally interconnected group" is not assurance enough to design an interface with only 4 empire colors. It's quite possible for a single system
to support more than 4 empires. And especially during intense fighting and invasions, empires will end up with disconnected bits. That's why we've spent so much time discussing supply lines.
Each major empire needs their own color,. The "neutral", "minor" powers can all share a color, probably grey or white.