How about a tech level limit on not only planets, but parts which can be used in a ship… ie, if the engines are a tech level of 7, but the controller computer is a tech level 4, then either the engines won’t work, or they work at reduced efficiency / capacity? also, it would be nice to actually see the tech level of the parts / modules / faults so the best plan for a planet landing can be made…
In addition, I also agree with ship types of some kind, like a ship predisposed as a luxury / hotel liner, a cargo hauler, or “reefer” (refrigerated) delivery ship. Each kind could have a certain number of tons devoted to a specific type of cargo, and so many free tons available for configuration. The player might then have the option of paying a modest sum of money to increase the tonnage capability (and add more modules). Heck, what about certain planets offering custom-built ship hulls, or general-use ship skeletons the player could fill out as desired from the beginning without buying a used, pre-configured ship?
What about multiple objectives needed to complete a map? Instead of just “make money” or “get cargo delivered”, you could stipulate something like “Deliver 80 tons of [cargo or modules type 1] & 40 tons of [cargo or modules type 2] to [destination], and have [number] of credits on-hand by [time limit].” 8)
I like the other ideas of space platforms - maybe they could be configured much like ships, with storage units (for non-perishable / hazardous cargo), fuel supplies (bought from planetary refineries and shipped to the platforms to refuel ships - both company and independent), repair shops, hotel housing (and possibly resort / casino modules), or maybe even greenhouses?
A couple of suggestions about the maps: How about actual simulated planet systems, complete with movement of the planets? This would present a higher challenge to get from one planet to the next, even in a system modeled after our own solar system. The other suggestion on the maps is the ability to have larger maps, with the ability to travel between different star systems, and ships priced accordingly on tiered prices for interplanetary, intergalactic, and both.
Also, a good editor would be really nice, with the ability to import and/or create new ship and item pictures (possibly in bitmap, jpg, or gif formats?), create new general all-game items and also challenge-specific items, along with custom star systems which could all be uploaded to a central sharing point online so anyone can download them… Or maybe even online capabilities for co-op or competitive play?
These are just some of my thoughts.