Is there a stable economy?
Sort of. It works, but don't expect to make a constant profit selling the same ware (like Silicon or Hull Parts) over and over.
The market will be saturated in no time, so if you are a "casual X3 player", your habits (of building 1000 universal traders) will work against you.
Are there micromanagement issues?
There are. :(
What are the bugs like at this point?
But of course!
Most notable (IMO) right now are:
1) Xenon are too weak and quickly go extinct even without player's involvement due to something being broken in OOS combat calculations, most probably;
2) resource collecting AI behavior of station managers is broken, vastly over-prioritizing one resource to the detriment to other resources of the same type (basically, if a station needs both Ore and Silicon, its manager will not send miners for Silicon until the station is full on Ore, and quickly switch everyone to Ore the very moment the station experiences Ore "shortage", even if it is 10 Ore short of full), which basically breaks mega-complexes. Workarounds are present, but they are not pretty.
I'd be interested to know who the bugs vary between personal control (i.e. piloting your own ship and travelling around) versus setting up a large empire and trying to automate a large fleet.
Yes, they vary. Different stages of the game -- different bugs.
For the empire-building see above.
As for the personal control -- it is mostly solid. I mean, NPCs are ugly and unnatural, as usual, sometimes jumping on chairs or flickering (or vanishing upon the gate jump), but nothing game-breaking (like stuck controls).
What kind of rate of improvement have you seen in the quality, are they letting it slide, or is it improving steadily with each patch?
Overall, I'd say yes, it is improving. Some design decisions are dubious, but stability has increased a lot. Now, the game does not crash upon exit on Linux (see complaint
) and FPS do not drop to single digits in map mode. Everything is smoother.
Is it, in your opinion, ready for a casual X3 player to take the next xtep (that was originally a typo, but I quite liked it ;))?
I don't want to lie. From my perspective most of the "die-hard X3 fans" did not like the game (mostly because it is NOT
X3 in any way or form: from ships' design, to gameplay meta). It would be better if you would not have any previous X3 experience at all.