I think pirates are both overpowered and not following their traditional role of piracy enough.
Previously, pirates bacame irrelevant on the late game, and an atempt was made to make them important mid-to-late game, and not just a xp filler.
I will try to organize my ideas scattered on several posts here, I hope I can remember them all.
Pirates should be a harassing force. They should harm the effectiveness of all civilian operations. Skills pirates should have:
Override - targets any one civilian structure: Pirates gain temporary control of target civilian structure. Effect lasts until the pirate ship leaves the gravwell or is destroyed. While the pirates have control of the structure, the benefits of the structure becomes a penalty, thus:
A trade port counts as -1 trade port, generating negative income. with 2 trade ports in a gravwell, if 1 is controlled by the pirates, it is the same as having 0 trade ports in said gravwell. If the player had 3 trade ports, having 1 under control of the pirates would be the same of having only 1 trade port.
A military or civilian lab would count as -1 tech level. If a player has 4 military labs and one is overrun by the pirates, that is the same as having only 2 military labs. This would halt research and the ability to create higher level ships.
Pirate controlled refineries would give penalties instead of bonuses for the metal and crystal resources.
Media hubs would also negatively impact culture.
Controlling a frigate or capital ship factory means the pirates can build ships of the race from which the factory belongs to (!!!).
Ion cannons - targets ships and tactical structures: can temporarily disable operation of ships and structures. This way pirates can bypass strong defenses and get to the civilian structures, or disable them so that they can actually pound them into oblivion.
Flak burst - Pirates dont have fighters, they should have a way to pound strong waves of strike crafts when outnumbered, beyond the flak frigates.
Salvage resources - pirates should consume debris from destroyed ships and structures and scavenge resources from them.
Pirate raid - Pirate raids should not have a fixed timetable. The 5 min could be a rough estimate, but the level of success of the previous raid should influence the time until next raid. The more successful the previous raid, the shorter the time until the next raid.
Pirates should have a 'cheat level intelligence', always knowing the planets gravwell contents. This way, they can weight the planetary factors:
- least defended
- most civilian structures
- least number of jumps through hostile gravwells to reach target
- strenght of intermediate hostile gravwells
To decide the best target to raid for maximum profit.
Pirate raids should have a hidden 'minimum bid' which starts small and grows over time, together with pirate strength. It makes no sense for a late-game raid be decided by a 500 credit bid. If the minimum bid is not met, the pirates pick (at least) one target randomly.
Calculating the minimum bid - The pirates will plan to send at least X ships. Each ship has a bid value, according to ship type. Summing the value of the number and type of ships the pirates intend
Pirate tech should have a cap much like the players to avoid the 4000 hull frigates. Once that level is reached, pirates will get stronger by sending more ships and multiple raids, and reducing the time between raids.
If two players engage a bid war, it is possible that two targets (or more) have a big bounty on them. The pirates will likely send two raids ( or more) at once if the bounties are big enough, so that they can profit more.
Private bounty - For a player to hire the pirates against a specific target, the number of targets should automatically calculate the 'minimum bid' value. If the player does not meet that minimum, he cannot launch the private bounty. Adding more money will make the attack force stronger, calculated by the cost per pirate ship like above.
Beefing up the bounty - The player should be ble to donate ships to beef up the pirate attack power. The number of fleet points of all ships would be summed, and for every 25 points of ships given to the pirates, the player will be untargettable for 1 raid. So, if a player donates 1 cap, he will be immune to the next 2 pirate raids.
Pirates controlling shipyards
There are ships that the pirates would prefer to build if they ever have a chance of controlling, according to their role. They would be able to build whichever ships the player which had the shipyard hjacked can build. They would try to build whatever counter they need against the target, according to context.
Hoshikos - best mobile repair skil.
Advent carriers - more squadrons per ship, also lays mines.
Vasari mine layer - can leave a wake of mines when running away, or thrown around in the fray.
LRFs - any faction, for more firepower.
Anti-structure cruisers - especially to finish off tactical defenses and SB.
Starbase constructors - they would send those back to the pirate base. once it is defended though, they would attempt to deploy offensively.
The egg - the best combination of offensive and defensive skills. The level 6 is the best skill for pirate pillaging.
Radiance - for that ship controlling skill.
Marza - MB. Nuff said.
It does not mean they will only build those, only that it will be a preference.
I think the pirate base should have 2 slots for starbases and a great amount of tactical slots, just to make them a very tough nut to crack.
If a faction wipes and colonizes the pirate base, it would be constantly stormed by pirates attempting to get it back, so it would be a high maintenance prize.