Seems to me the ratio of
space taken up on the galaxy set-up options, vs
variety introduced to gameplay
isn't very favorable.
This probably doesn't address the coding issue, but what about different drive systems then? E.g., a ship with a Mk. I Hyper-Warp Drive takes 2 turns to travel to a star 5 units away and 4 turns to travel to a star 10 units away, but a ship with a Mk. I Quantum-Fracture Drive takes 3 turns to travel along any starlane. That way, the space isn't on the galaxy set-up, but on the ship design menu - potentially even inherent to the hull-type.
Nevertheless, the main reason that this is probably still a bad idea is because, at least with the example of the Hyper-Warp vs, Quantum-Fracture, the bulk speed of the two drives should average out to be the same, when the entire point is to make drives that are distinct.
I mean some stars will still be a short distance a way, and some will still be far.
True, but that isn't what I'm trying to get at. The main idea that I'm trying to figure out how to suggest is a set-up where, given two stars of relative importance, the player generally has a choice between a relatively strait shot between the two stars (e.g., 3-4 jumps) that would take a long time or a long detour (e.g., 7-10 jumps) that is faster for any ship with enough fuel because the jumps on the detour are significantly "shorter" than the jumps on the straight shot.
All options increase the cost of maintaining and debugging the code-base, besides the initial time to code them. I don't see these options adding enough replayability to justify either.
Would multiple types of starlane be easier?
For example, you might have standard starlanes and "fast" starlanes; the standard starlanes work just like the current starlanes, while the "fast" starlanes give ships traveling along them a speed boost, but aren't visible until you've scouted both
ends and might require more fuel to traverse. Alternatively or additionally, there could be "slow" starlanes that slow down any ship traveling along them, but require little to no fuel to traverse.
Of course, the problem there is that it raises a path-finding issue. For example, what if the AI automatically selects the fastest path between two stars and sends the ship on the standard starlane detour, even if you want the ship to take the fuel-saving "slow" starlane that connects the two stars? Conversely, what the AI automatically selects the route with the lowest fuel consumption and sents the ship on the standard starlane detour when you want the ship to take the fast starlane that connects the two systems?