Notices: 1. I have read nearly all the posts in this thread, but I may have missed some. Apologies. 2. I do not intend come down on one side or the other, rather I intend to mention some more or less closely related items that bear on the issue, finishing up with what I consider the most important, and suggest the combatants to consider them.
Here are some facts/ideas which bear on the subject of sensor capabilities in GC3.
1. Realism in general. All science or fantasy genres, from short stories to games, all tend to choose a set of unrealistic conventions for purpose of increasing enjoyment. In some cases (maybe the best cases) these conventions are aesthetically irrelevant, because the important issues are moral, emotional, cultural, etc. GC3 is clearly no different. The idea is to give the impression of space flight and so forth but allow, for example, events to transpire on a reaasonably dramatic scale in time and space. My better half and I over the years have come to the conclusion that including unrealistic or even fantasy elements in a genre is acceptable, but with the major constraint that the events in the story or whatever are internally consistent with the rules that have been set up for the given story. Otherwise, stuff just happens arbitrarily, which I translate as: boring. Typical is the story with a major problem to solve which is addressed near the end by plucking some unintelligible fantasy element out of the thin air.
2. Example: the original TV series Star Trek used two principle conventions. First, FTL travel/communication, and second, Transporters. Without these conventions I don't think Stark Trek would have been much fun. I will discuss briefly just the first, FTL stuff. It was demonstrated over a hundred years ago by Einstein that that FTL anything involves intractable contradictions in physics. Of course we suspend this reality in most cases because otherwise space genres would generally be rather dull.
Note that in GC3 one not only sends ships across the galaxy in a matter of weeks, but is able to control them, send them orders, in real-time. This is a necessary convention, at this point, to make the game playable. But it is a convention and it is a BIG convention, directly contravening the facts stated above. I have suggested (and I suppose others) that it might be interesting to have a game in which there is a significant time delay in information transfer between distant units. Problem is, the mechanics aren't easy to figure out and the "fun" element is highly suspect.
3. Another example: Long distance detection: The Hubble telescope can "see" things millions of light-years distant. But it doesn't see them in real time. What it sees is millions of years old. That pretty picture of a star may actually be a star that disappeared after a nova a million years ago. If I was playing a "realistic" GC3 I might be ordering a fleet to explore something when in fact the fleet, or maybe the "something", or both, no longer exist and haven't for a very long time. That wouldn't work in a game. About the limit that one is willing to put up with is, for example, the heroes of Star Wars coming out of hyperspace and finding Alderan destroyed. A one shot event to illustrate the massive evil they are confronting - which worked very well I would say. As a regular event, however, it would not work at all (just my opinion, of course).
4. Modding: I think it is well established by now that the most successful computer games have extensive modding capabilities. Consider the enthusiasm with which modders are still working on Skyrim. GC3 intentionally and with great enthusiasm by the developers has an enormous capacity to support mods. Therefore it may be argued that no one can not be disappointed by any specific feature of the game because it can just be "modded out". However, there are several things that mitigate against too much belief in this panacea. Mulitiplayer because one can hardly play against another human being who is playing with a different set of rules, and Multiverse, because comparisons of results between players' single handed efforts are meaningless unless the games they play are executed with a common set of rulers. Thus there is a real need for a common rule set, or at the least, some method for documenting the rule set used during either MP or Multiverse encounters. Which leads to at lease a common SET of rule sets to be chosen from before such exploits. Those sets must have fairly wide acceptance or otherwise else become useless, as having 1,001 choices renders either endeavor pointless. It would seem to me that choices generated by arbitrary mods would arguably be off the table. Standard choices made within the published game options would be problematic enough.
5. Forum Game Discussion: Full Disclosure - yes, I have participated at times in such things as the "Nobles Club" or "Game of the Month" (Civ 4 BTS) in the Civilization Fanatics forums. And it was a lot of fun and very educational to report my results at various points (playing at Noble or Prince difficulty) and get the reaction of high class players (who were playing at the highest difficulty levels) including their suggestions for improvement. I might mention that I never had the experience of a single poster making unfriendly or demeaning comment at my less than stellar efforts or at my explanations as to why I thought certain moves or goals might be useful. Need I say you can't envision such a forum without a standard rule set and a willingness to play from a common starting situation? I am very hopeful that we might see such a thing eventually with GC3, once things do settle down a bit and we have had a key expansion or two.
6. Why bother worrying about realism at all? An excellent question! I can offer a few, I think, compelling reasons. First, when one is creating an entertainment vehicle one enormous consideration is the ability of the consumer to "identify" as much as possible with the characters and situations involved. If we make a movie or a game or whatever by just throwing rules at the wall the result will be total failure, even if we label it "The Fantasy to End all Fantasies! Do whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, and change everything from turn to turn if you change your mood!" So, for example, including the possibility that a player could develop a weapon in GC3 with such power that one could select any arbitrary planet anywhere in the Galaxy every turn and have the result be that such planet is instantly turned into an asteroid belt, would be right out (a British Expression I have enjoyed ever since the Holy Hand Grenade sequence in "In Search of the Holy Grail"). About the limit that one is willing to put up with is, for example, the heroes of Star Wars coming out of hyperspace and finding Alderan destroyed. A one shot event to illustrate the massive evil they are confronting - which worked very well I would say. As a regular event, however, I don't think it would not work at all. Oh no. Now I fear there will be a mad clamor for just such a power in GC3. And it will be my fault for suggesting it. Oh, the shame. And some may add, "In Search of the Holy Grail" was totally unrealistic. Yes: it was a comedy/farce/sarcasm. GC3 is not such. At least I have put a lot of time in the past several months into helping it to NOT be.
Anyway back to the subject of this entry. We want to limit the "unrealistic" portions to a minimum because we want the experience we have while playing the game (or being involved in any genre) to seem interesting to ua as a participant, who are human beings with a set of built-in or acquired intuitions about how things work. We get involved because we "understand" the goals and methods that are available to us. Admittedly an enormously subjective area. We must not feel that we are being stressed constantly to rationalize what is happening. For example, pirates at the moment in GC3 have slow vessels. That strikes me as acceptable because pirates will generally be working with whatever junk they can scare up. Somalian pirates often attacked with not much more than rowboats with outboard engines, not with missile cruisers. However, the one problem that exists in GC3 is that there must be a way for the pirates to at least sometimes surprise very moderately armed or unarmed vessels with success, otherwise their existence in the game is pointless: the potential problems for the strategy gamer that they present would be virtually nil.
7. So what about sensors, that being the topic of this thread? More specifically, what about the very facile manner in which one can assemble a ship that can see a sizable chunk of the galaxy at once and as a result leave one with little need for scout vessels or starbase scanners (for some reason it does seem appropriate to me that a large fixed installation in space would be the best platform for scanning equipment, not the worst. Sort of like, the best scanner we currently have had is the Hubble, not anything we have put on a ship or installed on the planet. But that's just my off-the-cuff reaction from the real world, which as has been mentioned here, isn't necessarily our focus of attention). Let me restate the problem: are mega-multi scanner vessels so overpowered that they detract rather than add to the game? If unrealistic, are they a non-realism convention, like FTL movement and communication, that aids the enjoyment of the game sufficiently, or for a sufficient number of people (which is really the point) that the option to build them should remain intact? (Full disclosure: I have never built one.) I am feeling quite comfortable, one day before the release of 1.0, to say that I am happy that I have neither the inclination or the power to decide this issue, or even to opine whether it even needs to be solved, despite the size of this thread.
8. Perhaps the most important issue. In strategy games I always tend to favor conditions set by the game which provide the player with additional problems, especially in precise circumstances that may never appear again, which are generally trade-offs, and which confront the player with meaningful choices with no automatic canned response available. One last example to illustrate this. While I was playing Civ4 BTS extensively I frequently encountered people asking for the optimum build order at the start of a game. Should I start with a worker, a scout, a warrior, a settler, and please give a list of the first several units you would produce, in order, and what buildings you might erect, etc. I will state now for the record that ANY game for which there might be one optimum build order for the first several units, or indeed for any part of which there exists a cookie-cutter approach that can be demonstrated to be unquestionably the best approach, doesn't sound like a game that would have much appeal to me once I learned this approach. Early in the Beta I would say GC3 did have close to a cookie cutter strategy available that worked like a charm, but I didn't care about it because I knew both that the game was going to change enormously (it certainly did) and that my actual goal at the time wasn't to win it but test it and to find and report bugs, in the mean time trying as many different things as possible, just to see if the mechanics worked. Good strategy games involve problem solving, generally on the fly, with an unpredictable and continually changing set of circumstances. A cookie-cutter strategy sounds more like a puzzle that once solved is put back in the box and placed on a shelf to collect dust. I played a lot of chess but I did not care for the fact that one needed a thorough knowledge of opening theory, for example, if it was the Ruy Lopez we were talking upwards of the first 20 moves. But I was able to find unusual openings that were playable, if not the "best", that meant I quickly found undiscovered territory, and often made my opponents quite uncomfortable. But I digress.
My question for people debating this issue of scanners is, how does choosing one side or other affect this last consideration, first among the many others I have discussed? I think the most common response will be: TL;DR. No problem, perhaps you have solved a real-life problem in an efficient manner. Kudos!