Maybe I'm playing Devil's advocate here, but is the turtle style of play not still a strategy some players may want to try?
I've been thinking about this a little bit. I think what I'm trying to avoid being a proponent for this situation:
In a normal RTS, once you break the turtle you're pretty much done. In Sins, the player can make each and every planet a death star if the defenses are too strong - which means to win you might need to break 5,10,15 turtles.
And this would be a problem. The big difference between SoaSE and most "classic" RTS's like Starcraft, Warcraft, C&C, etc. is that you generally have one main base with a large resource pool and possibly a few outposts. In SoaSE, every planet in itself is a viable target, and each planet can be time and resource consuming to take down. In those classic RTS's, there were counters to defenses too--generally, long range units like artillery. I'll get to that a little later here.
SoaSE can already be a very, very long game, and adding an element that makes it possible to have every planet have the equivalent of a strong fleet around its gravity well would make things both tedious and somewhat unfair. Furthermore, by simply "making defenses stronger", that would lead to a rather "rock-paper-scissors-TIGER CLAW" approach to the balance of this game... with defenses being Tiger Claw. There wouldn't be a good balance, and no, I don't think Javelis/Illuminators/Assailants would be a good counter because then it's just one more reason a player builds them en-mass--and another reason why people build more strike craft... and another reason people build (or used to build) flak... and so on and so forth. Currently, simply "beefing up" the defenses wouldn't work, it would screw with too many game mechanics as they are.
...you could complain that most of the techs in Sins are completely useless because you never research them in the one hour long MP game. Planet population upgrades? Who needs them when you never have more than 2 or 3 of the same planet type because they're not cost effective. Weapon upgrades? Same thing, if you don't have a large enough fleet (1v1, small map). Resource extration techs? Yep, same thing..
I see you here--however, what about a 2 hour long game? Then a lot of those techs might become viable. Lord knows that my TEC economy rush strategy NEEDS those resource extraction techniques, and for late-game, I start beefing up those weapon and hull buffs too. In a short game yes, you don't need many techs at all... but they can be useful later in game. That's the point of having those techs there--they are useful in some situations, but not in others, and in general they can be considered "useful" in the grand scheme of things
, or equally useful and not useful. In general, the devs did a good job of allowing the player to be incredibly flexible in terms of how they wish to use their resources--should I upgrade my ships here, or should I just build more ships? Should I research more resource extraction upgrades, or just try to lock down this next planet? It allows some leeway for situations where it would just be stupid to research tremendously (like in small maps) and leeway for flavor. I think we can all agree, however, that defenses that shoot back
generally have little value in SoaSE matches besides single player, and that simply because the computer isn't smart enough to fly around the defenses. I am simply a proponent of adding that dimension to SoaSE as a relevant addition; every military in the world still has SAM batteries, AAA batteries, bunkers, etc, if we want to get into real-world comparisons. I honestly think that we should probably keep those comparisons to a minimum, and only to use them for real-world value of why they are viable here in SoaSE as a matter of gameplay enjoyment.
Take this for consideration:
Enemy 2000 FP maxed out fleet vs your 2000 FP maxed out fleet + full 35 point defenses.
Now buff your defenses even more.
I think we're missing a point here too. So here we're saying, "Player A 1000-supply fleet vs. Player B with a 1000 supply fleet + all tactical slots used up around all your planets". Now, player ability being equal, to me this would indicate that the player with that many defenses around a planet had a hell of a lot more resources. Regardless, I'll move on to what I think you are trying to say.
Now the example you used: "Player A 2000-supply fleet vs. Player B with a 2000 supply fleet + all tactical slots used up around all your planets". Let's again assume equal player ability. Does this mean that someone has to wait to max out fleets before pumping money into defenses starts to somehow add to the gameplay? And why wasn't Player A rushing Player B when he figured out he was building defenses? More importantly, why was Player A not building defenses of his own? The example you used seems to be null. If you have players of equal ability and equal resource income, one with 1000 fleet supply and another with 1000 fleet supply + defenses, of COURSE player B will have a stronger advantage in the game. But that's no different than saying the same thing but taking away Player B's defenses and instead transforming those resources into an extra 500 fleet supply for Player B.
Now let me give this one more try to drive the point home: Player A has 1,500 fleet supply and Player B has 1,000 fleet supply plus fully loaded tactical slots across all planets (I have no idea what the resource conversion is between resources used to build defense and resources used to build more fleet, but assume that in this example it'll be 500 fleet supply). Who do you think has a stronger advantage? I'd say it's Player A, since we know that defensive turrets can be out-maneuvered, and repair bays have their place as well, but so do the repair/damage sharing vessels that fleets have.
Currently, I'd say that money spent on fleet is much
better spent in terms of maneuverability/damage/repair/etc than defenses. That indicates a balance issue to me. I don't think they need to be of equal value, because again, that opens up a dangerous turtle aspect to make this game extremely slow. However, I am a firm believer that some balancing can be done to avoid this, yet still make things fun.
Here's how I think it can be done:
1.) My example earlier of making turrets customizable, but with balance still prominently in mind. Allow a "foundation" turret to be built, with parts that you can further purchase in the action menu, such as adding on either a anti-frigate weapon or an anti-strike-craft weapon. Include the opportunity for long-range systems, but at the expense of damage, or at the expense of a 360 firing arc. I still like the idea of having defenses with a 45 arc pointing at a phase junction with a lot of power, but the enemy fleet can still fly by.
2.) Make a turret just as effective in an early-game as in late-game. I thought that an area-of-effect attack, like a shrapnel shell, would solve this issue to an extent, since fleets get much bigger in late game. I think this would be an easy fix, and again, this could be a build option. Either have an AOE attack with low damage, or a single-ship attack with higher damage.
3.) Make sure the "rock-paper-scissors" aspect of SoaSE that I think we all love is maintained. So, like I was saying earlier, what would be a good counter for the turret I am talking about? I say that everything should be... just like it is currently. I think this can be done by adding a minimum engagement range to all turrets. So if you have turrets chilling back from a fleet battle, then yes, the enemy fleet will get softened up (and just
softened up) from those defenses. However, if the enemy fleet chooses to prioritize, then they can move beyond the minimum engagement range and take care of the turrets. It all makes it about prioritizing, not having to build additional ships. It's an extremely flexible system, doesn't necessarily change balance of things now, and still makes turrets both fun and slightly more viable.
4.) Make sure balance is maintained. I don't think that buying a turret should have equal overall galactic combat capacity to a ship of equal resource value. I think it should be slightly less, but just as effective, if not more, if used properly. With that said, I think defenses should be expensive--I'm talking about in the range of a few light frigates or a heavy cruiser, but not as much as a capital ship. They should be priced in such a way that they shouldn't be built early, they can't be mass-produced without heavily sacrificing fleet production, but they can still be smartly used in a wide array of situations. It even occurred to me to have defensive platforms take away a certain amount/percentage of total resource income like fleet supply does if someone was REALLY concerned about people going too crazy with turtling. Hell, make a "defensive supply" like fleet supply. I don't know, but I know that it can be done.