Don't give up on Asymmetrical 4X!
Brad and Stardock,
I'm Marlowe221 (Micah, out here in the non-internet world). I've been a 4X player since the mid 90s and I'm a writer/editor/grammar monkey over at Explorminate.
I know that SK and SK:R have been commercially disappointing for the company. As a gamer and a customer, there were things about the game that I really liked but I also found myself pretty disappointed with the game(s) in the end. I could go into the reasons for that if anyone is interested but it's not the reason I am making this post.
I joined the founder's program for Sorcerer King because I was very excited about the game, and there is one big reason for that. I was very excited about the concept of an asymmetrical 4X game.
Why, I hear you ask, helpfully? Because, 98% percent of the time the AI in 4X games is pretty awful. The AI can never be as good at the game as a human player and 4X games are often complex enough that even teaching an AI to be competent is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Even Brad himself, widely regarded as a wizard of 4X AI though he is, faces these limits. He is the best, but crafting a human level AI in a 4X game is simply unreasonable for players to expect.
But an asymmetrical 4X game changes all of that. Once the AI is following its own set of rules, is pursuing its own goals, and playing its own game, we don't have to worry about whether or not it measures up to a human player's capabilities. At that point, the purpose of the AI is to create a credible obstacle for the player to overcome through strategic decision making. Rather than the human player and the AI racing toward the same finish line, the player must adjust his/her strategy to account for the very different goals of the AI.
What I want to encourage Brad and the rest of the team to do is this - don't give up on the concept of asymmetrical 4X games! SK and SK:R may not have worked out like you hoped they would. But personally, I do not believe the reason for that is because the basic concept of the game is bad. On the contrary, it's one of the most innovative ideas that the genre has seen in at least a decade. Asymmetrical games solve a lot of the problems with AI competence that have plagued the genre since Master of Orion 2.
Even if SK or Elemental do not survive as IPs on which future games are based, they have introduced a lot of great ideas and mechanics to the 4X world and I sincerely hope some of those make the leap to future games from Stardock. To me, the concept of asymmetrical play is one of the best of those ideas. Please do not allow the lackluster sales of SK and SK:R to deter you from pursuing the concept in the future.