Obviously, the game could be modded to support no starlanes;
however, this involves a significant degree of AI programming, and the 'official' game engine will we written with starlanes in mind. But anyone is free to change it, as always!
- So if I understand you correctly, there will be an option to mod the game although the parameters for the AI will be set, since of course, modding, at least in my experience, and programming AI are very different things. Personally, I'd even accept a half-wit AI rather than starlanes, but each to his own.
Looked through a few pages of the past thread on starlanes. Indeed there seems to have been a fair amount of controversy over the issue in the past. I respect the decision to build the game around starlanes of course, but let me just point out that features that repeatedly attract controversy also tend to influence the reception of the finished product.
Another thing about starlanes. A dimension apart from conquest in MOO II, although underplayed, I feel was exploration. Remember how you started up an entirely new game with a universe full of beckoning pretty stars and mystery? You could estimate what systems were best to settle but there was no way to be sure. Virgin territory. Strange inexplicable things lurked out there and even reaching the nearest stars was a gigantic undertaking demanding every effort of your fledging spacefaring civilization. The GCN symbolizing rumours and scientific hints filtering through about intelligent life, far away.
With starlanes, however, you'll get a universe already criss-crossed by interstellar highways. There is nothing to do but stay on the freeway till you reach the next interstellar McDonalds drive-through. Nothing to see here, move along. See what I'm driving at?
Apart from being platantly absurd, starlanes risk creating a constricted feel of a place where the scene is set and everything has been done.
Of course, I'm digressing a bit since after all, it has been decided that the starlane feature (among other things) should be moddable, which I think is an encouraging and magnanimous resolve, catering to all tastes. Just hope you'll keep it that way, or better yet, why not make it a game option to simply turn it off at game start?
It might hamper the AI, but provided it won't make the game break I can accept that. I'm not demanding any hefty amount of work put into it just to satisfy certain personal whims.