Total War: Rome also kind of implemented an "auto-governor" where the player could specify a town for "growth", "military" or "finances" and the player could set the tax rate, but the AI would do the rest and the player didn't have much input as to what the AI would actually build. I too mostly use the same build list order in Moo2 for all my planets, but I think some strategies would prioritize getting research improvements vs production vs terra-forming vs pop growth. I've never played MoO3, but I've read there was something like that and it really turned people off, where they talk about setting up your governors and then sitting back and watching the game play itself. So I would be careful with how much automated governing was added. Still I think end-game micromanagement in MoO2 is a tedious chore that distracts from the enjoyment of the real end-game action. It means I generally go for an Antarean victory once I have about 12 battleships just to end the painful endgame micromanagement, even though I might have rather prefered to do play the game to a full Diplomatic or Conquest victory.
@ Rhombus: I assume that you have played the game enough so that if you start tinkering with the racial traits or the tech tree you know what that could mean to game balance. Those two features (along with multiplayer) are probably the two most fan-revered features of MoO2.
The standard races of MoO2 are pretty well balanced for SP games imo: they all have inherent strengths and weaknesses depending on the game setup. if you started adding in more "OP" races into the mix, I would expect to see the standard races being dominated by the OP ones in every game, which I think would be unfortunate. The current customization systems ensures that the only OP race is the player's.
I think some minor adjustments could be made to the cost of some traits in the existing point-buy system. Unification and Tolerant are considered by most to be the OP racial picks, while others like Feudalistic or Research -1 are considered suicidal in a MP game. So maybe that indicates the costs for those traits need to be rebalanced (there are others, thats just an example).
I'm not sure what completely new techs you are thinking of adding (drives, shields, beams, missiles, bombs, exotic), but I am sure you are aware that the 6 "bonus" non-researchable techs you get when you conquer Orion are all in their own way game-breaking. An Orion-kill basically = a win in SP and is generally not allowed in MP for that reason. So adding new cool "super techs" is pretty dicey, although if you stick them way up at the end of the tech tree, then I don't suppose it will hurt the game much.
I would say the answer to your question would be to make the game easily mod-able, so players can make their own mods and rebalance techs and traits as they see fit. If the game became popular, I am sure some mods would become "canon" in multiplayer. If you have ever played the "Dominions" series of games by Illwinter Studios, this is their strength: the devs have made the game super-moddable and really taken the feed-back to heart from the most popular mods to improve balancing issues and even core game concepts. Dominions IV is the product of YEARS of fan-based playtesting and input. MoO2 is the same actually, only the original studio is gone that would have listened and incorporated the changes.
As a suggestion, I would studiously check out the Difficult Choices
(based from the DC mod) and understand why both those mods made the changes they do. If you haven't played MoO2 about 100 times already, you probably won't see why those mods are so fine-tuned.
I think that is why WingedKagouti's response to MoO remakes is the standard one: Don't change anything, just add higher resolution and make it native in newer OS. Hope this helps.
EDIT: Further Suggestions (implement with caution)
Maybe add in a feature that allows the player to define how many racial picks points are allowed per game (say between 15-30 maybe, if you included the 10 negative picks). Maybe add a feature that also allows the AI to play a user-specified custom race, but realize either of these suggestions will break the balance of the original standard races.
My only complaint with existing weapons available in MoO2 is that fighters are quickly eclipsed by missiles and beams, and by mid-game they are not really viable. This probably has to do with their tendency to get destroyed in the ensuing explosion of the ship they just attacked. Bombs are mostly totally useless, probably because beams and missiles are sufficiently deadly during planetary bombardment to make them unnecessary. But other than giving fighters more hp or reducing % damage done to planets by missiles and beams I wouldn't begin to know how to suggest a way to rebalance this.
You could probably add in a fourth "Semi-Uncreative" racial pick that would eliminate 1 tech from each level of the tech tree rather than 2. That would probably fold into the original game balance pretty well. I like the tech tree concept used in the "Sword of the Stars" series, where about 20% of all techs are randomly eliminated from the tech trees of each race in every game. SO no two games play alike, and you never know "exactly" what techs are available to your race. Stealing/capturing missing tech from the enemy becomes paramount. THat works in SP but probably would not go down well in MP. Still, it could be a viable optional choice at game start.
There is the more extreme tech-tree option used in an old mac System 7.0 game called Starbound II
: the tech tree for each race is completely different (ie. no mutually exclusive techs, rather completely different location of techs on the tech tree). This was a cool idea, but obviously had massive balance issues. Unfortunately the game dev stopped publishing the game before it could really catch on and iron all the kinks out.
Make the armament of the Orion Guardian partly random, or make the number of guardians present in the Orion System random, so players never are sure what they will be facing until they actually explore Orion. Make it much harder to kill the GUardian so 12 destroyers outfitted with Fast-Rack Mirved-Merculite EGM missiles can't do it alone (ie. in pure vanilla, killing the Guardian is possible after investing a total of only about 12000 research points into the right techs, which is WAY too low).