Using permutations, a wide variety of unique visuals can be created with minimal effort.
This technology is already being used by modders developing the "Black Mesa" re-imagining of Half Life 1.
Using only 3 base heads and multiple different facial features, hairstyles, and facial accessories (glasses, pencil behind ear, scars, hats, etc); an exhaustively wide range of different characters can be created in real time with minimal skinning required. The developer just makes a handful of different skins to be used as variables and permutations does the rest of the work.
While Sins of a Solar Empire is already a visual treat, a handful of repetitive visuals prevent the game from becoming a fully immersive sci-fi experience.
Most notably, the planet skins. Two kinds of Desert, about three kinds of Terran, two for Volcanic and Ice, and I think about three for asteroid. Seen em all and am no longer amazed by any of them.
Now, there was never anything wrong with the planet skins themselves, it was instead their static nature. They never change, even if they're in two separate star systems.
I know that there is only so much that a dev can do, so I'm not asking for 100% unique planet skins, all procedurally generated Minecraft-style.
Instead, I'm asking for little things that vary from planet to planet. Like brilliant auroras shimmering across the poles of a desert planet, the subtle glow of a thunderstorm underneath a Gas Giant's savage, small primitive satellites slowly making their way around a Terran planet, or the streaking of a metorite for the briefest of instances as it passes through an icy atmosphere.
I want to see this from time to time:
Not all at once, of course, but in small doses that make each planet feel alive in the same way that adding city lights or planetary rings do. I loved being mesmerized by what was going on at the planet's surface and wish to be mesmerized once again.
There is some possibility for these same permutations to be applied to ships and structures, although rather than adding aurora, you'd be adding radar dishes and the like. You know, something to make each one feel like it's own vessel. Having different serial numbers (from the variable pool that I'm talking about, of course) would be an example of this. It would also grants the oppertunity to visually distinguish the Loyalist and Rebel ships from each other (of course, this would only count for new ships, as the old ones would be pretty much legacy equipment). An example would be various warpaints or different symbols to taunt their enemy and embolden allies. Basically a visual representation of a "rebel yell" or "Dixie" song.
Even if this concept cannot be realized at the moment, I encourage for it to be considered in future additions to the Sins franchise.
I mean, it lets you get three different faces from one base.
One hell of time saver, imho.
And just look at what Minecraft did with the same concept as their primary feature. Money, money galore.
Random permutations are the future, man. Gotta start thinking about how you'll take advantage of it soon.