If Cliffski reads this, I would like to say that I don't see the point in letting users post their Battle-beating fleets as a Challenge as that is just spamming. As I said in the Suggestions forum I also think that there should be chat/message options within each battle rather than straight into an inbox which is spammed heavily when users try to beat your challenge. That way, there could be an open discussion around a specific battle. Also, two messages per attempted challenge is superfluous (and a bit confusing).
OK, over to my suggested workflow for making Challenges...
1. Before even selecting a race, decide what you want to achieve with your challenge right away. With that I mean, what is your fleet supposed to do???
2. After having decided what you want the fleet to do, it is time to select the right hull (and thus, race) for the task. A popular challenge type is the 1 vs 1 cruiser duel, so let's use that as an example. You now have a few choices to make: the more hardpoints you have, the more damage can be dealt, but shields and armor are also important. The largest cruiser in the original game is Empire's Praetorian, so it is a logical choice. Empire it is, then.
3. You now get to set up the restrictions, and this is where half the job is done. Many beginners to the Challenge mode make their first mistakes here. The most important principle is to make sure that you are not giving yourself a huge disadvantage. This can be ensured by setting up the exact same amount of cash and pilots that your fleet needs. In the given example, cash is irrelevant because you will only allow 1 pilot - but you can safely set it to 5k for instance (and minimum size + engines required). If you allow more than one pilot but enter only one yourself, this means the players taking on your challenge will have to restrict themselves in order to get a fair fight and this is both incredibly annoying and very unnecessary.
Another example may be in order here; let's say you make a 100k, 1000 pilots, 4096 size challenge with no other restrictions - your foremost task is then to ensure that a fleet of 1000 fighters do not auto-beat your challenge because that is a logical choice given the power of 1000 fighters. Even 100k worth of heavily armored cruisers with pretty good anti-fighter capacity may come up short vs a 1000 of Rebel's 2.65 speed Icarus (and consider the fact that all that anti-fighter capacity means less capacity for other things). It is here in the setup that you define the nature of the battle.
4. Fleet design. The 1 vs 1 cruiser duel example is quite special so I won't go into detail, but it is no secret that Cruiser Lasers have the best dps (damage per second) in the game and having an EMP Cannon is very useful, and the Praetorian hull allows everything you want so I'd include a EMP Shield as well.
5. Testing. Try your own challenge to see if it works as intended. If it isn't, delete it and do it again (to avoid spam). Make sure to use another "taunt" than the default one, to give an indication to others what type of challenge you have posted. "1 vs 1 Cruiser Duel" should be good enough, unless you want to be creative...
And a few additional points:
- * Fighter-only challenges are boring and very tedious to play
* I'd avoid placing extensive supply limitations, because it often means that people need to build a new fleet just for that challenge, which can sometimes be frustrating as well as boring
* It is generally a good point to build fleets that can deal with more than one type of fleet in some way; a 100k cruiser fleet of Federation Panthers with 8 Multi-Warhead Missiles each will of course be very powerful but they will have no chance against fighters, quick rush frigates, Tribe cruiser rush or a Swarm Smart Bomb + Scrambler fleet which is reasonably quick. The opponent will therefore likely lose the first attempt and then autowin the rest of the time. However, if you add some support frigates (for instance 20-30 Fox hulls, each with 2x anti-fighter missile, 1 ion cannon and 1 beam laser, shield and 3xarmor), you lose some long-range power but gain useful protection against fighters and rush. People will suddenly have to actually think!
* Banning shields or reducing their effectiveness make the challenge into a beam laser fight, the same as Frigate-only challenges are.
* Reducing weapons ranges will make the nature of the challenge unpredictable, since a number of weapons are allowed but cannot fire. Worse than supply limits!
* I think it is sometimes fun to make challenges using inferior weapons such as Quantum Blasters, but if you do this make sure that you say so in the "taunt" - obviously a full-power fleet will destroy any fleet packing those so it is a good idea to indicate that you are aware of this ;)