I always used additional engines only in cargo designs, and scouts. I considered them too space consuming to be used in military ships, even in CU. So the difference of approach in FW would not impact on my military ships speed, regarding the others I think it doesn't matter, so if this approach will make the AI to design better ships
I may at some point introduce some engines which use very little space but are expensive, perhaps as an alternative branch to the conventional engines branch, and distribute it among the civs so that there are (incl. Arcean) 3 different approaches ingame. Or maybe just expand the generic one for everyone, but it's not high on my agenda.
From what you write it seems you can decide the rarity of any anomaly.
Yes, I do. In the vanilla game and (still) in the CU all rarity is equalized to the same level so all anomalies occur in the same numbers. For FW I've reduced some annyoing ones (like real Wormholes - because a player can effectively avoid while AIs always use them most likely transporting their only Surveyor into out-of-range regions so they'll loose more anomaly-bonuses than the player...)
I've also used this setting to balance some anomalies against their potential strength - or handicap in case of penalizing anomalies.
I'm asking because I started a new game and after maybe 20 or 25 turns I have already found 2 anomalies that gave me 2000 bc each. That is an enormous amount of money at game start and gives such a big advantage that I wonder if it isn't too much.
Of course if the other civs are getting similar benefits that it's ok.
I've doubled the output of all existing money-anomalies by 100% but introduced a -1000bc anomaly to counterbalance that. In DL there even was an anomaly that gave +5000 bcs so FW tries to cut a middle-path to that. Not saying now that DL or DA are better balanced than TotA, they were different and several regions were OP and they got subsequently nerfed, and perhaps too much to bring in fun for the player.
You are raiseing alot of concerns about general balance, so let me give just a basic idea of my personal view on the subject:
If something is available to anyone and all these factions are also able to use that then it's always balanced by default because an advantage to anyone is a disadvantage to noone. However, that doesn't mean to suggest I can increase bonuses mindlessly throughout the roof because then, certain features will become so strong they do become "no-brainers" - something you always go for regardless of timing, cost-considerations, alternatives or other trade-offs. Essentially a strategy game should force you to make meaningful decisions once the time is right for them.
Regarding anomalies, they've historically been a very strong asset for the player because the AI is unable to muster additional surveyships. In FW I've taken this into consideration and made it more easy for the AI to pick up anomalies (for example, I've introduced an anomaly which does increase the base speed of the ship which picks this anomaly up, so all the initial Surveyship of the AI will become gradually faster thereby shrinking the window of time for the player to lift new surveyors into the air before their all collected. This anomaly also helps returning AI ships from out-of-range positions from wormholes. And for the player I've increased the cost of the Survey-module, although the GGB can get rid of that. It basically boils down that a player will have to prepare/fullfill some prerequisites until he's able to fully exploit anomalies. But once he's there these anomalies should give considerable bonuses because that's fun and I don't want to nerf things so much into the ground that players simply stop to use these things because of lacklusterness.)
That is good, my concern is just if they are balanced with the other civs. They were so much better than anyone else that I think they would have been unstoppable. Anyway, I'll see if that happens again.
But I have to say that also with the CU Drengin and/or Korath were very very often among the best civs, if not the best, sometimes by far.
One of the reasons why Korath have these bonuses is that they're required to counterbalance their spore-SA which the AI cannot use to its full extend. It's even exploitable for the player. I've witnessed many Korath games where they spore worlds, which default to 5m people and without considerable popgrowth-bonuses they take forever to grow to normal size. Most of these worlds simply flip to whoever is also present in that sector. The AI also tries to get rid of planets which have a negative/red economic balance so esp. diplomatically-good civs can trade for them for a bunch of technologies. There's nothing I can do to prevent that, nor can I teach the Korath AI to fill up a population-ferry and transport a 1000m people to a freshly spored world to make it economically self-sustaining. But a player can do all these things and neither will the player give away planets.
The Korath SA debacle is perhaps the reason why Korath do have the superstrong Dark Influnce building - it may prevent these worlds from flipping but still, the AI makes no difference where it does build this improvement. I've therefore reduced its bonus by 50% because the racial bonuses (Loyalty, Popgrowth, Moral) should do enough to throttle the flipping debacle.
It's a common misconception that because someone is "too strong" or "stronger than others" that this is unbalanced or bad for the game. Under many circumstances this is even good. The primary function of all AIs are to give a challenge or obstacle for the player to overcome.
Imagine all AIs are completely the same, the same strength and even the map and everything else is created homogenuously - then for most parts of a game the map would be in a stalemate and without player intervention would stay like this forever. Not that then most games would look/feel very similarily, it would also be easy for a player to simply pick on a single AI, conquer him, repeat on another, and from there game is won.
And that is why exactly here, basically everywhere in the game, a (planned) randomization comes in - anomalies, habitable planet dispersal, bonustiles, different AI behaviour, different strength in technologies, factions that are weak early stronger late and vice versa, Events/ MegaEvents, UP votes etc pp.
IF you have one AI in your game which is so strong it's able to successfully conquer another AI, and keep on anexing more and more planets consequently, then this means you'll also have to gain in likewise strength otherwise the day will come you won't be able to withstand once it attacks you. Of course it shouldn't be always the same AI, but there are indeed some factions which are deliberately designed to be more strong early (and because early bonuses weigh usually more heavy into a game it may appear that these are generally stronger). At the end of the day all of this unbalanced randomness adds greatly to the replayability. It has a very positive function.
One of the main strategies to win a warfighting suicidal game actually is to exactly prevent one AI to emerge victorious by constantly keeping them busy to wage war on all their neighbours, to keep all their military mutually low to give the player time to come out of his defensive play (on suicidal the AI bonuses are so strong they'll force you defensively very very soon^^)
Are Iconian farms worse? The initial one is very good, I think.
And the only one they have - 4mt food against 6mt food. They need 3 tiles for a 20b planet that's 1 more than the generic approach. The tradeoff is that they have it right-away, which may even be a handicap for the AI because you don't need to set farms during the colony rush, but they at least don't need to invest additional reseach.
And the initial industry is heavy-maintenance? It is true that the basic replicator has a low output, so if you need a high output you need to build many of them, but it has not a heavy maintenance, I think it's cheap. What do the other civs start with?
Pardon me, I ment the Molecular Fabricator & the other Precursor fac, those two plus the 2 1pp labs actually weigh heavy on the Iconian game (just like labs/facs in the Thalan tree). How well the Iconians do is mostly decided on how well the AI is able to muster money to keep his global spending slider high.