I'm not sure how others feel about this but when it comes to pirates, their current routine doesn't seem quite right to me. As it works now, upcoming pirate raids are announced well ahead of the raid. Players are given the opportunity to "buy them off" to attack one of the other factions (Human or AI). I guess this is about the fairest way to do this, outside of the raids being random. Of course this method kind of takes any "surprise" out of it (ever hear of a bank robber calling the bank with the time he’ll be there?).
Currently, in the early game, after the above occurs and the marauders show up in your gravity well, they immediately attack any ships or structures that are there (presumably until the planet is destroyed, I've never let it get that far), until they are completely wiped out. ???? I've never heard of Jihad pirates before. They should be more like creatures of opportunity and cunning not ultimate sacrifice, right?
Here's what I'd like to see. The pirates arrive, a few ships attempt to fight off/distract any warships (this does happen to some extent now), the remaining (lighter, faster ships) make a bee line to the metal asteroid(s), crystal(s) asteroid(s), or planet surface and load up with resources, or in the case of a planet, credits, as quickly as they are produced. Now these ships aren't freighters, so they can't haul tons off and still remain fighting ships, but enough to make the risk worth it. Once their holds are full they attempt to make a get away with their screening ships covering their escape, and then following them. Does that sound more realistic of what a pirate might do? Pirates like repeat customers, why destroy the revenue sources? Read on.
Later in the game, when starports/refineries are built, the pirates focus on them (as they do now) with one major exception. Instead of trying to destroy a freighter (what happens now), how about this, the pirates steal their cargo (sort of like the above with the pillaging), maybe even hijack the freighter and attempt to take back to their pirate world for “resale”. Heavier ships would again screen, and if no freighters existed, a raid on the planet or asteroids would be attempted, instead.
This pillaging could be the pirates source of income (in addition to their pay-offs and other deals) for building new ships and pirate technologies (mainly weapons and better spacecraft), directly influencing the strength these raiders will have in your game. As an incentive to the players to defeat the pirates raiding them, would be any raiders that survive a raid would be added to the amount of ships in the next raid. This would be cumulative. Additionally if the pirates were soundly repelled and destroyed a few times, it might be a longer time until they attempted a future raid.
Additionally, if I "bribe" the pirates to attack my enemy, I should give them free passage through my gravity wells. Why would I want to diminish the force of the raid I just helped fund? As the game exists now, my ships try to intercept transiting pirates. A mini truce should exist for that raid. If there are 3 players, the neutral player should have the option to intercept or not as they pass through his/her gravity wells.
Pirates can be daring, but they are usually not foolhardy with their lives in the balance. I believe they should be trying to get away with as much bounty and as little damage as possible. They could be a little more brazen if in numbers and a little more cautious if not. As they are now they just seem an arbitrary nuisance. You can almost change the graphic to a “bug” and call them space cooties, if credits weren’t involved.
I also like the fact that this would add a little more (RPG) flavor to the action. The player has a hand in making his/her areas "safe" for commerce. Right now, it all feels a little stiff and robotic. In a large, epic game pirates should be all players major concern in the very beginning IMO. Sorry if any of my ideas on this have been brought up previously, or if an element is handled now in a similar but abstract way (maybe destroyed freighters add to the pirates credits/resources). Just trying to advance the game play. End of rant.