I'm still working on the players setup screen. While working on this screen, I thought about several things, and those led to some other things, and so forth. First thing that I was thinking about is "What if different empires can be the same color, meaning they're allied for the whole game?" Then I realized that it'd be confusing to the player if different empires share the same color (which systems are yours, and which are theirs?), but the idea of "permanent allies" struck a chord inside me. So I decided that it will be a feature of the game. In "Game Setup" screen, you will see a checkbox for "Permanent Alliances" which means you can't ally or unally during the game, you stay allied with your teammates for the whole game, and win when all non-allies are eliminated. In Player Setup, you pick the team number (ranging from 1 to # of players) for each empire. Regardless if permanent is on or not, if you're on the same team with other empires at the start of the game, you're automatically allied with them. If permanent isn't on, you can break up the alliance later.
This got me to thinking about the diplomacy, and I realized what I have so far is pretty much pathetic. It's just a very basic system, and I felt that there's much to be desired. So I thought about how the "Permanent Alliances" will impact the game, and felt that there should be more options. So instead of a bunch of generic actions that you can do, you click on an empire, and it brings up a window with two lists. They will consist of things that you can offer, and things that the other empire can offer. This will include planets, money, treaties, technologies, declaration of war, and... Ships!
Yes, you will be able to trade your ships for something other. I don't think this particular feature is offered in any other 4X games. But often when I play with my brother, sometimes he'll get in a sticky situation, and I want to help him out, but that means at least one of my friends (computer players) will get mad at me for helping him out. So I have to either sit back, or help and make my AI friends mad. So being able to trade (or gift/demand) ships will handle this situation. USA sells its F-Series fighters to other countries, why can't we do that in a 4x game? If the ships contains technologies that you haven't researched yet, you have a decision: scrap the ships in hopes of recovering those technologies (not 100% success rate), or keep them and use them to do battles for you.
However, when you're in diplomacy screen, you can't see what the other empire have to offer in terms of ships unless you're allied with them. This is to prevent players from gauging the other empire's strength.
Now, while thinking about this cool idea, I realized one problem. How do the game know which ships you want to give, and to keep? So I pondered on this for a bit, and I think I've come up with a good compromise. You will have ships on "Reserve", and "Active" ships. All built ships are automatically put into reserve list (with the added bonus of low maintenance compared to active ships). To activate ships, you go to a system that have at least one of planets owned by you, and click on "Deploy Ships". It will bring up a list of ships in reserve that you can deploy. It will then deploy ships to that system. This will be kinda similar to how MoO 3 works, but there's no task forces, and you can't disband the fleets anywhere. You deploy as many ships as you want. To put ships back into reserve, you will need to put them adjacent to a system that you own, then click on "Put into Reserve"
When an empire trades you ships, those ships are put into your reserve list.
With this system, the ships that I trade with other empires will be direct from the reserve list, so it don't mess up my plans with active ships. I don't like the idea of Active/Reserve status, but I think it's the best solution, because I really want to be able to gift/trade ships with other empires.
This may seem like a huge change, but it's a minor change in core code. Most of the changes will be with the UI screens. When those are implemented, this will be the final diplomacy structure. My plan is to re-do a screen, replacing the artwork with the new ones from the artist, and fully flesh out that screen (all the missing features, etc), then move to next screen. That's why all of this is happening, because I want the "Player Setup" screen to be feature complete and final :)