Sorry for chiming in only now, it's not because I overlooked it or didn't thought it important, on the contrary, I think it's an interesting and important topic, and wanted to think over it a bit more thoroughly. Then I got distracted (as always), and well... now I'm here
Vezzra wrote:especially the idea that you can level up the firepower of fleets deep within enemy territory just by complete researching a tech doesn't sit well with me at all. The idea has been repeatedly suggested, and I've always objected, IIRC we haven't really reached general consensus on that yet.
I think I'm not clear why that specifically bothers you, I don't see it as a massive problem myself thus unless I can understand why you think it is I can't either change my mind or propose solutions to it.
Although the discussion has progressed to a point where my objections you refer to here are probably obsolete, I still want to answer that question.
Dilvish already made a few points (which I agree to). I'd go further and think that even disregarding shields (which just add to the basic problem), being able to upgrade the combat strength of your fleet regaredless where it is (so, even in the middle of the battle zone, deep within enemy territory), is simply vastly overpowered, and IMO playing havoc with game balance.
Please consider we're not talking about a rather minor enhancement here, we're talking about a considerable jump in available firepower. One of our design goals concerning techs and research is that we do not want to have a lot of cheap, minor improvements when researching new techs, but make techs more expensive and have them provide a significant improvement instead. Meaning, if you research a weapon refinement, you're supposed to get a significantly improved weapon.
This of course means that if all ships with a lower refinement level of that weapon get that upgrade wherever they are, even fleets deployed deep within enemy territory gain a sudden, considerable boost to their firepower. That can and will upset and screw strategic planning majorly. Personal tastes/preferences of course vary, and there might be those who find the scenario and situations created by this kind of mechanic interesting, but I'm certainly not one of them. As a player, I don't want to have to worry about sudden significant increases in combat strength of the enemy fleets I'm facing, especially if they are deep within my territory.
Strategic planning would become too much of a gamble. It just feels too much of a cheat to me.
And, considering how challenging it will be even for a human to account for such dynamics, an AI will be totally screwed I think (Dilvish already pointed that out too).