I politely disagree with the idea that the strategy is to ignore worlds and not colonize them. Again, I think the issue is pacing. And every civ will be on the same footing fighting the same constraints--so it is still a rush to get to those remaining uncolonized worlds. It just requires deeper and longer-term planning, careful prioritization, and some luck.
Okay, let's talk pacing. In a zero-sum game the only thing we can really adjust is the speed with which there's a winner. So I'm cool with talking about this in terms of pacing.
In a zero-sum game such as this, it makes logical sense to try and accumulate the limit resources (planets) as quickly as possible. The developers have already presented us with hurdles that slow it down; extreme planets (require tech) and planets that require Atmospheric Cleansing (require more research tech).
So now we're being introduced with more hurdles that are designed to slow us down further (more distance between worlds, way slower growth rate).
But let's get back to something you just posted: "every civ will be on the same footing fighting the same constraints"
I think most of us have played this game long enough to know... that's not even remotely true. Especially once you start increasing the AI difficulty level.
So forgive me, the smallest bit, if I don't buy that argument.
But let's set that aside. Let's imagine, for a moment, that everyone really is on some kind of equal footing.
Then I would return to something I mentioned in Discord the other day: I don't think the "colony rush" is broken to begin with.
This is part of my basic argument: it wasn't broken, it didn't need fixing. And when people try and "fix" things that aren't broken, that's when bad designs emerge.
The colony rush was, to put it as plainly and simply as I can put it: fun. It was somewhat fast-paced (compared to the end-game, when you're managing tons of colonies and every turn takes 20+ minutes), and it was this unique mixture of exploration, colonization, and resource-acquisition. It is arguably the one phase of the game when the largest number of interesting things are happening simultaneously.
And it was just fun.
I don't know about anyone else, but I play games because they're fun.
And the minute they stop being fun, I am going to move on to something else that is fun. So if a game developer is actively moving away from a design that is fun, to something that is less fun, I have to wonder why they are making that move, because it makes no logical sense.
And basically, I'm going to move on.
There are way too many great games out there, and far too many games in my own backlog, for me to devote time to a game that wants to make itself less fun.
But I digress; let's talk pacing.
I don't think it needs to be fixed. But if I were going to fix it, I'd simply use a bigger map. Put more distance between habitable worlds. And by bigger, I mean a LOT bigger than what we're seeing in the Retribution Beta...
Distance adds time. Time adjusts the pacing.
The devs have decided they'd rather adjust it with population growth.
Here's the end result though: when you slow down the population growth the way they have, and shrink the map sizes, you end up with a much, much smaller and slower galaxy to play in. Okay, so you "fixed" the not-broken pacing issue. You now have a slower game. And a simpler game. Fewer habitable planets. A less interesting galaxy.
Instead of needing to conquer 20 or 30 or even 50 planets to defeat an enemy, you need to conquer... 2. Wow. That was better?
Do you see where I'm going with this?
GC3 is a turn-based 4X. You know what's awesome about a turn-based 4X compared to, say, a real-time-with-pause 4x? It's far easier to NOT get overwhelmed by the sheer size of an empire with a turn-based 4X. Because it stops for you. It alerts you to everything that needs your action and input every turn.
It's the stage upon which to play a grand, huge, glorious space 4X game without it being daunting and overwhelming.
And Stardock has basically said, "Nah, we're good with a galaxy that has a handful of planets and a super-slow growth rate. We want this to be simple and slow."
And I just find that really disappointing.