How much of this discussion is because some people want someone else to open a text file and change a number for them?
So your point is, that people just want to see things changed by devs so they can play according to their personal preference. Correct?
You are right, I very much could do that. I occasionally participate in modding threads here on the forum. But to me, that's not the fundamental argument to suggest changes here. I would like to raise several points about this:
1) a new player will not go through the text files and change everything until it is the game he likes. If he doesn't like what he sees, he leaves the game. For me it was well over 200 hours before I even touched the xmls. Most steam reviewers do not have this many hours to their name. If a player leaves the game too early he might not see its potential for modding at all. I don't know if mokus is still around, but he made a thread of having recently bought the base game and not getting it. You need to dig some in it, but I think it highlights part of the issue with current base game.
2) I like comparing how (well) I played to how others played. Every so often I get an epiphany though such comparisons on how to improve my play, which is fun to me. Such comparisons become moot if we play totally different games. Did I mention mokus's thread? I actually adviced both: changing a number or going to v2.33. People argued I shouldn't give such advice. This indicates to me, that I am not the only one enjoying to have a common basis in terms of balance.
3) at some point we have to talk about volume. Hypotheticly: If I understand the game mechanics, make a list of my preferences for it and come up with an estimated 10(/30/100) hours of work to change it, I either like the work and do it as a hobby, or I leave.
And on the basis of this:
Farms+cities are not a subjective personal preference, it is the mathematicly superior choice. If the the AI doesn't do farms and cities, it is not just an imbalance, it is essentially an exploit, since it trivializes the game.