Quick update on the development side: I'm almost done adding Sliders to the new UI system, and is currently working on having "Screen within screen", where you can refer to another screen inside a screen to reduce typing. For example, planet information display in both selected system display and planet list display. After those are done, I will look into coupling C# scripts with screens, so you can specify which script file works with which screen, and have them share data. This will allow you extra features such as screen transitions, space combat, etc. When all of those are done, the bulk of new UI system will be done, and I can finally finish the Galaxy Generation screen.
Now, for the topic -
If I were to ask you which race was the best one in Master of Orion 1 or 2 (without customization), the obvious answer is Psilons. Why? I mean, they're nerds, don't really have any other advantages in MoO 1, and has disadvantages in MoO 2. So how are they so powerful? The answer is that those games emphasizes technologies. Other aspects in empire management don't affect your empire as much as technologies do.
Here's my approaches that I feel will balance this issue without nerfing the technologies' importance.
1. Production - Whenever you build a technology item, you automatically generate a certain amount of research points in a similar technology. For example, if you build 100 laser cannons spread across 20 ships, you obtain Gatling Laser technology. This is similar to real life. Often when we build stuff, we also seek methods to improve how we build the stuff, reduce costs involved with building, or improve the quality of the stuff that we build (look at our cars for example, they're continuously being improved). But the caveat is that production won't help you in a new technology field. So building insane amounts of laser cannons won't obtain you the plasma torpedo technology. This is to put the production-based races on par with the research-based races while still requiring some effort to research. The amount will be randomized, and the tech tree randomized as well, so it'll be different each game.
2. Spying - In many 4X games, spying is weak, and is mostly to annoy other races. Not often that they dramatically alter the outcome of games, unless it's to obtain technologies. Again, note the importance of technologies? For Beyond Beyaan, I want spying to be something that is worthwhile, and something that you'll want to invest time in about the same with research and production. But how to do it? Well, I'm going to add ability to target specific technologies to try and obtain it. So instead of random draw of luck, you first scout out what technologies they have, then set bounties on each technology that you want. You also set security funding on individual technologies (so you can put a lock down on Death Ray technology, but ignore the obsolete +1% Terraforming). There will be technologies that improves the efficiency of your security funding. Same for planets, ships, etc. You can try and blow up their Death Star with your spies, but ignore their fighters. Or try to incite revolt on a certain productive planet to cripple their economy. In a nutshell, you micromanage the spying and defense, making them about as equally important as production and research.
3. Diplomacy - For diplomacy, most games basically make a diplomatic-race have good relations with other races. But what I want is a intrigue-infused political system where you can play games with other races. Beyond Beyaan will raise events, and those events will open up conversation options with other races. For example, if your spy blew up a missile base on a race without getting caught, you can talk about it with that race, and your options would be something like "Haha, your defense sucks" (lowers relation without arousing suspicions), "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, here's some money to help you rebuild it" (improves relations despite it being you who blew it up in the first place!), "I think that race did it, here's some evidence!" (can either impact your relationship positively or negatively, depending on your diplomacy skill). Also, most of the conversation options that you see will be story/lore options that has a random modifier. For example, asking about their race's history may improve your relations, and at the same time infuse story in the game. Or maybe asking about their opinion of your clothes will negatively impact the relations. As you converse, options will be opened up. So instead of immediately opening up a trade agreement like in MoO 1, you have to converse with them before that option is even opened up. The diplomacy perk will allow you to see what an option's impact on your relation will be, otherwise you'd be guessing. So being diplomatically inclined allows you better control in politic scheming, which can be very valuable.
4. Economy - Another aspect that's largely ignored is economy. Most games it's just a simple "Oh I have this amount of money, I can boost production or buy/finish this ship". Anyone played as Gnolams and used their trade to win the game? I didn't think so. My approach is to have economy impact your military and production. How does it impact them? Let's say that you're not producing enough food to feed your people. Let's say that you're farming about 25% short of what your people need to eat. Instead of just them dying off, their production drops by 50% (double the shortage), which in turn drops income by 50%. Let's say you have 100 upkeep, and 100 income, dropping by 50% means that your ships and ground troops perform 50% as effective due to defective/broken parts, insufficient fuel, etc. Your weapons will do 50% damage, armor absorbs 50% of their normal rate, and so forth. There will be a minimum efficiency, but the idea is that having a bad economy is not a minor inconvenience. It will IMPACT your empire and your ability to fight. If you just lost a planet that supplies 20% of food to your 100+ planet empire, well, crap, gotta fix that or you'll suffer. If you lost a tourist planet that supplies 30% of your income, it will hurt. But if your economy is in excellent shape, surpassing all your population's needs, they actually get bonuses. Let's say you have 125% of what your people need to eat. It means they reproduce faster, work more, research more, etc. There will also be an upper cap on bonuses. So with this in mind, destabilizing another empire's economy is now a viable strategy. Instead of destroying all planets, just target those planets that supply the empire with food/money, and presto! their military is weakened, ready for you to attack them! Spies will also play a part in this. You can offer or receive empires loans or food supplies, and you can also have the option of declaring bankruptcy if you're in red, which will impact your relationship severely but helps stabilize your economy.
Now with all of those, suddenly specializing in research isn't so overpowered because other fields are now about equally as important!
Another problem that unintentionally caused research to be overpowered is the shields in MoO 1/2. They basically cancel a part of the damage. This can imbalance the game because weak weapons are no longer effective in later stages. Think of a tiny ship with Shield X, and 1000 ships with basic laser that does 5 damage. They can't kill the tiny ship because Shield X simply cancels 10 damage before starting to absorb damage.
For Beyond Beyaan, I'm doing the shields and armor a bit differently. Both Shield and Armor will have "Resistance" threshold, with Armor averaging higher. If resistance threshold is surpassed, the damage is passed on to next level. However, both shield and armor have a limited amount of "HP", that if 0, they stop resisting and allows all damage through. So a Shield I absorbs 1 damage, and have HP of 10, it means it takes 10 hits before it stops absorbing. There's no damage canceling. A powerful weapon can punch through both shield and armor, while a large number of weak weapons can whittle them down. This way, you can still use weak weapons effectively (swarms of fighters for example) to attack a powerful ship. You also can have layers of shields (three shield generators for example) to shield your ships. The idea is to make the combat feel organic instead of a number-crunching game. I want to avoid "Min-Maxing" where there's "The One Ship" that can handle everything. An enemy built an ultra powerful Death Star? Make massive number of boarding ships and attempt to take it over. An enemy built thousands of tiny fighters? Build ships with powerful area-of-effect weapons that easily destroys small ships, but is weak against large powerful ships. And so forth.