Good idea. Hmmm. I think I should say something more. Here go my thoughs on related subject
Race type could be determined during race creation (do we have any list of races types yet?*).
Meeting each new race should make available the study of several xeno dyscyplines:
- xenolignustics, which would be requiste to allowing in game communication (here is a question how we deal with multiplayer and email exchange?)
- xenoculture/xenosociolgy, which would give bonuses in diplomacy, espionage and trade, allowed multispecies colonies/empires, etc.
- xenobiology, which would allow construction of bioweapons, but also should open (or at least boost) other areas - for example, discovering a (sentient or not) alien life, their dna structure (not mentioning the things like living crystal or energy forms) would surely be very valuable to science, resulting in discoveries in medicine, biotech, construction.
Even the mentioned xenosociology could lead to other forms of social order. Dont forget about things like religion (one of my favourites sf stories deals with the question of aliens can be converted to Christanity...dont want to start OT thread here though). Perhaps something like the cultural influence of Civ3 could be developed along those lines?
*note about racial types
During race creation, the following choices could be made, each determining some race parameters (economic efficiency, habitable planet types, population growth, whatever) AND contributing to race type that would later determine the difficulty of communication with others.
Level one: physical structure: mattery/energy (ideas - races that inhabit stars, open space, hyperspace...)
Level two-alfa: mattery, creation origin: biological (evolved)/artificial (AI)
Level two-beta: organism structure/evolution history: size, x-side symmetry, subterrean, low g, heavy g, radioactive/temperature levels, ocean based, winged, mammals, insectioids, etc.
Level three: for biological: periodic element structure: carbon based, silicoid based/etc.
Level four: psychological strutcture (this might be tied to goverment strutcure thingy) - communal mind, telephatic, individualistic, immortal
Note that level four may be merged with level two-beta, I am not sure if this division is crystal clear