it really is a very simple system, but achieves what most games fail to achieve. the game has unlimited updates.
the best part is each cube should take a certain amount of time to add onto a structure or ship 10 seconds or so. so lets say your ship is 12 cubes and needs 12 cubes and 12 level 2 armor. the time to upgrade would be 8 minutes, 10 seconds. during that time your vulnerable, and need to use your backup ship if you have one. (max of 2 ships) that or you will sit there trading or something.
the upgraded ship above, its armor doubled, going from 90 to 180. but also your speed dropped heavily since no new engines or reactors where added, the speed should have been cut in half on the ship. which is balance they wanted armor, they lost speed, they boost speed, than they have both.
one idea i think would be good is having the ship reactor consume a long burning fuel (uranium) and once the fuel is gone you get depeleted uranium left over, for many uses (armor, components, weapons).
mining would be a huge part of the game, obviously the more resources you get your hands on the better you can do.
there are many things players can do and specialize in, for example if a space station dedicated themselfs to becoming a super farm, it takes a lot of pressure off them militarily, for one if people make them mad they stop selling them food, and 2 food takes up so much space even if they do raid them, it would take forever to remove even a small percent. witht he cost of food being very low most likely, they could gain more money, by doing just about anything else. the bigger players would be making more complex exspensive things like high level weapon systems, high end engines and reactors, going after one of the lowest commoditys for example is a huge waste of time, unless you need it for production, and are unable to get any, from anywhere else.
however there is a balancing plan i have which makes everything easily workable. there will be a building which allows you to travel to other sectors. they are basically pandoras box... the more you open it the bigger the things can come through. which means the bigger the entrance you make for it, the bigger the ships can use it, some ships will get so big there stuck in there sector. which if half your army is stuck in your space, its a good chance your going to have a bad battle in other sectors.
dominant sectors will emerge, they also will fall, fragment and change around. people will need creatures to kill which drop special body parts which are needed for more advanced upgrades. if they dont get them, there upgrades are halted, they also are stuck with tons of low end commodity producing components, while the biggest players eat up the body parts and make the exspensive high end equipment, wont take long for them wanting to branch out and be top of the food chain.
if a reactor with 1 ton of uranium burns for 10 minutes, 1 cube worth would have a ship or building run for 1 hour 40 minutes. if you dont play everyday and wanted to know for sure you building was powered you need 16-20 cubes of uranium per reactor. obviously reactor fuel use is a major area to upgrade.
a reactor formula should be a lvl 3 reactor produces as much power as 2 lvl 1 reactors, it would burn through 1 ton of uranium every 8 minutes, each upgrade like that makes it 1 minute less. and every upgrade aimed at more efficency, adds a minute. so if you had a reactor at lvl 11 efficency and power (equal to 5 lvl 1 reactors output) you have a burn time of 10 minutes per ton. take in coinsideration this reactor would be very exspensive, but could run your low to mid level building (depending on how much power you use). the idea being you took 5 cubes then 70-100 for uranium storeage and turned it into needing only 20 total or so for all reactor operations, which in the long run saves you around 80 cubes you dont need to store things for. this is what i explained above by wanting to upgrade things to achieve higher levels of efficency. if everything is lvl 1 garbage the other pilots will be way faster and more effective. a 10 cube ship can easily rip apart a 100+ cube ship when its at lvl 10-15 for everything in the ship, it will have as much armor, more speed should be around 5 times faster, same power, far better weapons, same armor value. all contained in a ship 1/10 its size.
so basically if someone makes a massive ship thinking its a super battle ship, its going to get ripped apart, brutally. that and upgrades will kill it, it would need 700 metal to get it to lvl 2 armor (70 cubes worth and 51 minutes 40 seconds to upgrade) lvl 3 armor needing 800 metal (80 cubes worth of storeage needed 53 minutes and 20 seconds to upgrade). so basically after 2 hours and a massive fortune of 1500 metal, there batleship has 2k armor. the only small and really minor problem, it probably would need 4-16 reactors, which as mentioned above reactors have a 10 minute burn time, with 16 reactors a 20 minute trip will cost you 32 tons of uranium or 3.2 cubes worth, that ship would be extremly slow and wasteful, you would likely only break even trading, if not taking a loss.
uranium mining would involve going to the edge of the map, the sectors are containedby asteroids of uranium flying around like a grabage disposal, only smaller ships would harvest it. bigger ships would take to much damage. how it would work is using a random number generator you get between 5-20 uranium per attempt, and based on your cube amount gives you a damage amount. a 5 cube ship or less takes 0-5% damage per attempt. 5-10 takes 5-10%. and so on obviously a 100 cube ship or more has a 100% chance of getting blown up, this is a critically important job to do, it litterally keeps the lights on and ships moving, getting uranium is very expensive requiring lots of ship repairs. so they need to stop mining, and repair there ship, which probably only will take them a few seconds. a repair station should probably repair 5 hp a second and on a 25-50 hp ship looking at 9 seconds tops.
most likely a space station will be set up right next to the uranium field, with a repair station on it, that buys the uranium, and does repairs. all mines should produce small amounts of uranium, so there not totaly dependent on space mining. a planet with 100 players on it may produce 2k-4k metal but only 150-300 uranium every 10 minutes, but consume 500-1k uranium every 10 minutes, if all players upgrade there reactors to level 11 efficency only, then consumption of uranium would be cut in half, or if they replaced unefficent reactors with upgraded reactors in theory there could be a 1 reactor to 1 player ratio if there upgraded high enough, then they would be self sufficent. then they have these things called ships and they need more uranium again. in 10 minutes they should be able to get 500 uranium or 50 cubes worth or more, which then a massive trader loads up and heads to planets with. on the return trip they take back components, metal and things like that.
there also would be hunting outposts, probably the best place for a sector to make its place to enter and leave the sector at, seeing thats where the combat ships will all cluster. selling the monster pieces off to the rest of the sector, which is needed to make any advanced technologies, beyond level 10. all of these groups are equally important, without the planets you get little to no metal/cubes, without uranium miners you wont have power to take your ship out, and without the combat ships aquiring advanced technology you will be in the stone age. a sector needs all 3 groups, along with traders to move huge quanities of goods.
whats nice is every 10 minutes the markets will totaly refresh, people will be auto buying and auto selling things. production runs should take 10 minutes and start at a universaly appointed time. so most likely if you have 1 smelter/with a mine shaft you would produce 10 materials every 10 minutes (a combination of about 10% uranium/90% metal) increasing the speed, would increase the power useage, while increasing efficency drops the power useage, freeing up more power for other things, obviously 9 metal every 10 minutes wont build much of anything, for the 100 cube ship example it would take around 100 minutes or 25 hours or so. by doubling the speed, cuts the time in half, but uses more power, also produces twice the uranium, which would cover the power increase, and allow you to use a 2nd reactor, but would rather have that 2nd reactor aboard your ship. with the mine at level 3, you fill 2 cubes every 10 minutes with material, in an hour you fill 12 cubes, in 12 hours you fill 120 cubes.
most players would spill all extra material into the market rather then shut there equipment off when full, which serves no purpose, unless the market is full. which in that case the market needs to be made bigger. many players will build a cube making factory, which is worth far more money then metal, and the other people will build equipment which is far more expensive yet. a player might sell lvl 10 reactors on the open market with each taking 100 minutes to make, the reactor may be upgraded multiple ways to lvl 10 or higher taking 200 minutes or more to make. that or they take a bunch of low level reactors and upgrade them.
getting away from a computer selling you things at a fixed price is the other aspect of the game. the computer always has unlimited resources and will have an unlimited amount of resources, it takes away from the game if you can go to the computer and buy everything. this system there is 0 computer buying ability where its all bought off players or theres nothing to buy.
starting off there should be very simple choices given, everyone starts with the same ship, its 5 cubes, a reactor, engine and command center with 2 cargo holds capable of moving 20 tons or 2 large objects (2 components or 2 dissaembled cubes) they then start at a main planet of there choice, should be like 6 of these planets scattered in different sectors. the main homeworld has unlimited amounts of players that can be there. the other asteroids and space stations are built by layers and invited by players, with a max of 25-100 players.
whats funny is that if you upgrade a reactor for example, you need another reactor to at minimum power the component builder, while that reactor is getting upgraded, if you have no reactor the lights go out and production is stopped. its the same as if you have no uranium to power a reactor.
i believe in useful monsters not monsters for show, for example if your going to use a monster to advance technologies that should be 1 special monster. like a lightning fast monster, which the fastest ships have issues catching and killing, now that would make sense you find propulson advanced parts from. or you find some monster with the ablity to fire streams of concentrated plasma, good idea to research it for weapons use. and these are examples of how you allow the game to keep going.
there will be battleships, will be stealth ships, and of varying size and speed, some with lasers, some with torpedos, some with both, some going all armor, some going with shields, which obvuiously many of them uranium ships will have one, get there shields topped off, and keep flying back in for more uranium (if you have a 10 cube ship with lvl 1 armor you have 100 hp, now with a shield component at lvl 9 you have 100 shield hp so half damage means you have no armor damage, and shields down, recharge the shields and spend no time in space dock repairing.