I've recently had the pleasure of purchasing both Starship Tycoon and Democracy 2, and must say I love them both dearly.
With Starship Tycoon in particular, though, I enjoy it tremendously...for about two hours of gameplay. On a good map. Then I have to start a new game. For a game like Democracy 2 where individual missions are designed to be short and intense, it's not so much of a...I hesitate to use this word, but, a disappointment. Starship Tycoon, though, is a great game and I'd love to play an individual map for much longer than I can currently stomach...but I quickly get bored with the options. Once I get my first ship the way I want it and buy a second ship, that's it. I run more cargo and passengers for a while, but I eventually end up chucking the save out the window and starting a new game. What I really want to see for the game (or it's replacement, as the case may be) is a series of improvements to increase the length of playability for individual random-map games.
For starters, I desperately crave actual competition from rival freight and passenger companies. Not just random ships with amusing names, but entire companies that own several ships with amusing names which have to track expenses and profits and need to upgrade their ships, buy new ships, buy droids, hire crew members, and everything else just like I do. What I would love more than anything right now is a screen that tracks my company along with half a dozen or more others. It would require an increase in computing power, but having actual companies to compete against (and being able to track their progress as well as my own) would be a great improvement for me.
Along with this I'd love a sort of customer loyalty modifier where some passengers would only hitch a ride on ships from a certain company and the same with businesses and their cargo shipments. Being able to land on a planet and actually bid for long-term contracts against other companies would be a great addition as well. Individual planetary corporations would hold exclusive shipping rights under our nose and the right to ship that cargo would go to the lowest bidder (with possible modifiers based on past performance, reliability, and possibly some "lawfulness" rating). Loss of cargo (hazardous cargo exploding due to poor containment, perishable cargo going bad, illegal cargo getting seized) that you're carrying for one of these contracts would reflect poorly and could eventually cause you to lose your contract early (and also reduce the chances of you getting that or other contracts again in the future). These contracts would last for however long it took for the set amount of cargo to be delivered or for a set time limit (for example, 65 tons of grain delivered to XXX or 90 days) and then would be lost until they come up for renegotiation. I see a contract like this popping up on any given planet about once per in-game month or so. The contracts would be up for bid for a set amount of time (for example, 10 in-game days) during which any ship (and it's parent company) that visits the planet can place a bid (or lower a previous bid) until the time runs out and the contract is awarded.
Another change I'd like to see is two-fold. First, an increase in the total random cargo to be delivered (I'm sure this can be modded into the current game somehow, but I wouldn't know where to begin). Second, a significantly increased rate of cargo replacement. Once I do pick up any cargo that might be available, it takes so long for a planet to generate new cargo as to make it a worthless stop for the duration of most of my games. I always end up running one ship with 5 passenger cabins and about 11 total cargo bays and a second ship with 8 passenger cabins and no cargo bays, and can still barely fill my first ship's cargo bays to half capacity (even delivering cargo to two or three different locations at a time) because I run into planets with 60 passengers wanting to go somewhere (with most of those passengers going to only two or three different locations) but only 20 or so tons of cargo, with no more than one or two tons going to any one location. This makes shipping passengers extremely lucrative while running cargo is a sure way to bankruptcy. I'd really like to run a more dedicated cargo ship, but there are usually only two or three planets in the entire sector with enough cargo to support a cargo ship, and even then only for about a month. Increasing both the amount of cargo available at any one time and the frequency at which it regenerates would make for a more interesting and robust game.
Also, I'd love to see an increase in the rate at which ship components for sale at A and B starports regenerate. I only run two ships in my games because I can only outfit two ships. There are only so many Turbodrives, Fuel Tanks, Cargo Bays, Hazardous Cargopods, Repair Subsystems, and 1st class passenger cabins in the galaxy, and when they run out it's the end of me increasing my fleet. New modules do seem to regenerate, but even more slowly than cargo (which makes sense, of course). I'd really love to see some more dedicated planets, maybe two or three per random map sector, that actually actively manufacture new ship components at a steady and relatively fast rate. This can be extended to planets that build new ship hulls at a steady rate, as well. The rate of regeneration can still be fairly low per module type, but something gets created every week or so at these specific planets. This, along with a universal increase in the regeneration rate, would then balance against other actual shipping companies also needing to upgrade their ships with those same components. New types of ship components are also encouraged, of course.
A regenerating pool of droids and crew members would also be nice. Having a new droid added to some random planet every week or month or so and having new crew members show up every so often (with perhaps surges of new crew members triggered on individual planets or sector-wide by random events). Maybe this happens now, but in fifteen or so random map games I haven't seen it yet.
Something not related to the longevity of individual games (not exactly something that would make me happy, per se, but...) would be an additional cost to droids. Honestly, they are so much more cost effective than crew members that it's just crazy. Crew need to get paid all the time, they constantly whine about not being paid enough, they leave if you don't increase their pay every once in a while, they get sick (which is a great, but infuriating, feature) and ruin the effectiveness of the entire company...droids just sit there and function perfectly for a very low initial cost, all things considered. Now, I don't necessarily recommend making droids any more expensive to buy, but it might be nice (and also infuriating) to have them go on the blink every once in a great while. Less often than crew members get sick, but once in a blue moon a droid will break down and have to be repaired in a starport (with costs rivaling minor ship repairs). Maybe (and this might already be in the game, but I can't tell) passengers are more pleased with organic stewards than their robotic counterparts, so that a droid (always level 10) can still care for the same number of people as a level 10 steward crew member, but the droid only makes the passengers as happy as, say, a level 7 or 8 steward crew member. The whole wanting to "talk to a real person" deal. And, you know, just because it would be a geeky delight, I've always wanted to see one of my steward droids go on a rampage and kill all my passengers, or a cargo droid "accidentally" vent Hazardous Cargopod 3 into the vacuum of space, or my pilot droid "miss" the landing pad, or my engineer droid sabotage the engines or...you get the picture. I would hate having it happen to me, but it would be a fun addition to the game and would add a bit of extra (though random and extremely rare) cost and risk to the ownership of the droids.
Also, pirates. No combat, because that's a different type of game alltogether, but I'd love to have pirates or something similar to actually contend with. Getting boarded by the authorities is a pain in the pattootie, but since I never carry illegal cargo, who cares? However, having actual pirate ships show up on the map on occasion which can board your ship mid-flight (they have fast ships, and if they "overtake" you on a delivery run they get to board your ship) and take your cargo would be a neat feature. Right now there are lawless planets who supposedly have pirates, but the only thing that ever happens is every once in a while you get a damaged landing gear or a vandalized air lock (which is way too expensive to repair, by the way). Space-ninja rivals optional.
Hey, you know those tiny little useless ships? Maybe your company could, over time, get a couple of those of it's own. They add a steady, but small, income that you don't have to personally regulate. They just run some random course repetitively and add 250 CR to your income per tiny ship, per day, or something like that. There'd be a maximum number of these that your company could have...say, four...and you couldn't "buy" them, they would just randomly generate over time (perhaps as your company hit four different, widely-separated amounts in your treasury). Nothing particularly important, useful, or even fun, but those tiny ships have always teased me with their speed and efficiency and un-clickable-ness...I just want to own one too, really.
I really like the Mission, Event, and "Loose" Cargo ideas of EricDerKonig as well. Actually, I like a lot of the stuff these other guys have mentioned. Especially the transferring droids between your ships without having to buy, sell, and then re-buy them. To simulate the joys of modern air travel, perhaps you could even shuttle passengers and cargo between two of your own ships docked at the same starport...one ship could pick up cargo and passengers on its route and transfer it to another one of your ships on another route that will actually go to the destination. I like the starbase idea as well...but not as your company owning it, so much as there being "refueling" stops along certain paths between distant planets. The starbases could even import (but probably not export) a bit of cargo and have their own passenger trade. I don't like the idea of buying entire planets, myself. Too infeasible. Buying buildings on a planet, though...setting up company HQ, training grounds, maybe a repair facility that'll do ship repairs for you cheaper (but not free, as your company still needs to pay it's technicians and buy the parts) than other starports will do it, other business-related stuff...that would be awesome. Maybe some planets offer land for sale, and as your company makes money you can by a bit of land or an empty building and develop it. These buildings would cost you a daily/weekly/monthly fee to maintain, but they'd add some benefit to your company. Different ship types, larger maps, and modding capability (even though that feature would be lost on me) are all good, too.
I'm always opposed to multiplayer, myself, as I find it to be a complete waste of code and disk space (if I wanted to play with other people, why would I be sitting in my room? That's what the outside is for! I have all the "interaction" I can stand at work, as it is.), but I know a lot of other people seem to love that sort of thing. I suppose if you had the time to waste...
At any rate, here's to hoping you get back to working on the game again soon! I'd love to give you some more of my money, should a sequel ever arise...