I very much doubt that any new stuff will appear in a patch, patches are for bugs and tweaks. A tweak might be something you could modify yourself. I spent a couple of days on a pirate mod to familiarise myself with what was possible in the game.
As an example of a simple tweak, these are the original values that determine the strength of a pirate raid:
strengthPerOwnedPlanet .10 strengthPerCargoShip .0025 strengthPerBounty .00003
I wanted to up the sensitivity to trade and bounty at the expense of mere planet ownership, as otherwise I felt that there was a tendency to further punish poor starting positions:
strengthPerOwnedPlanet .05 strengthPerCargoShip .006 strengthPerBounty .0001
I was going to make another mod for the relations, but as with the pirates I got the feeling that something more than a tweak was required to make the system halfway serviceable. The problem with the second expansion is that instead of replacing the poor features of the original, it compounds them with extra, awful, elements that weren't there before. Instead of a revision of the pirate bid system it is added to with a pirate mission system.. instead of a revision of the relations system you simply have a tech tree and pacts placed on top of it. Also, key features like cargo ships and the game's evaluation of the proximity of empires don't appear to work properly. To have a proper implementation of pirates the game would have to make trade income dependent on cargo ships rather than on trade ports. And any diplomatic system needs to rely on the basic observation that empire x is between empires y and z, therefore y and z are likely to be more friendly to each other than to empire x.
The pirate bid system is laughable really. The buzzer sounds and its "Heigh-ho, heigh-ho its off to piracy we go, we'll honour our contracts and die in your cause, heigh-ho heigh-ho heigh-ho heigh-ho." Its also difficult to avoid the early raids being too strong, or more importantly, one empire having the tremendous advantage of being able to afford to lose the bidding whereas another, for whatever reason, is very exposed. There was a lot of talk about how it was necessary to make the pirates stronger because good players could beat them- like with any AI force- but they were kept out of multiplayer games because in games between evenly matched players they would have a random effect which tipped the balance. Making them stronger with the same mechanic just made them worse. Also, the notion of honourable pirates who attack starbases with super-tech is utter rubbish.
Yet if we could go a little further than just a simple tweak the pirates could be much improved. Lets get rid of the pirate work klaxon. That feels good already. Trade income depends on ships again not ports. The pirates hang out in space, attacking trade ships. They won't attack warships at all unless they have good odds and there is bounty involved, making them a useful help for cutting reinforcements off. They will retreat quickly if they start taking losses. Bounty earned from enemy ship destruction and trade ship destruction builds them new ships. When their home is above a maximum number of ships, ships are sent out to a new location. Instead of the current mechanic, the pirates prefer pirate-type locations so they go to asteroid belts or unoccupied planets. They're not just simple tweaks, however the game mechanics do exist to support this type of pirate behaviour- the 'juicy target' designation could be reworked for 'unoccupied target' for instance. Add in some sneaky special abilities like cloak, a simple change I made already in my mod, and you're there. Then the pirate terror missions can be taken out of the early game and left to their special screens.
I haven't considered improvements to the relations system as much, but it seems to me that the pacts system took over the relations system to the extent that the relations between the factions became a secondary consideration to whether the AI could be made to sign pacts. I would want to do away with the pacts screen entirely, it has very little information on it and you could simplify by making it so that if you have the appropriate level of relations the AI uill sign all the pacts the tech of both empires will support. The current system has 0-20 relations level, with 10-20 taken up by pacts. With 0-12 and 10+ taken up by pacts you can get rid of a crap screen and start making the AI relations system far more sensitive. Also, as it is you have one empire with many labs able to take advantage of a smaller empire with hardly any research just on relations, which seems poor. Instead, make the pacts available dependent on both empires having the right tech, if one empire has L5 pact tech and another L6 pact tech you are restricted to L5 pacts.
Another screen that needs work is the relations screen, which looks like a beta (and seems not to be part of replays, as I found when testing the relations system). What it presents is a lot of rubbish numbers which should be part of the hidden game mechanics. What it should present is far simpler information- which of your enemies have ceasefires, alliances, and so on, which is far more elegant game design. The mission system really needs the work that was required to justify the second expansion at all, to ensure that the AI gives the player missions to its advantage rather than the players. If you are already at war with a faction the mission offers from other factions that target that faction should cease. Also the demands for credits and resources should be extortionate.
The relationship victory condition is so poor that I would be inclined to scrap it entirely, sort out the artifact side of the game and replace it with a victory condition which required that you occupy all artifact planets, which would allow you to shorten the game, and is also simple to understand and interesting in game terms. All you need then is a minimum number of artifacts to be spawned in every game. As it is, even if the existing relations made the remotest sense, the relationship victory condition just leads to situations in a multiplayer game where one player will win and there is nothing another player could do to stop it. It would be frustrating to see a player retain points from the goodwill of dead factions- if anyone used the victory condition, that is.
Lastly, the relations variables need a thorough rework. The Advent hate the TEC- unless the TEC build two civic labs? The structure of the modifiers is there, but the effect of the numbers needs to be better conceptualised. Another example is the fleet stength modifier, you really need it so that the AI gang up on the leader rather than the weakest. If its to prevent empires with huge economy and hardly any defence, what you should do is to penalise the leading economy rather than the weakest fleet. Ideally there would be penalties for both the strongest fleet and the strongest economy.
A lot of words, but I hope that they are related to improvements that are possible and achievable, rather than having very little to do with the existing game.