Why only 8 races in the game?
Because they're getting their own MAJOR art treatments and that's a lot of artwork. However, each race is "tweakable," so you can have a bunch of players (heck, ALL of 'em!) playing, say, the Saurions, and each can have a distinctly different "breed" of that race.
Think of variations of the Human race in the Star Trek universe (Vulcan, Romulan, Klingon -- all "humanesque"), and that's what we're aiming for. Each variation can be quite distinct from the others, but they'll all share some "basic traits."
[Art Director Rantz Hosely adds] There actually is a very good reason for having 8 unique races (currently) in the game. We are dealing with some very complex issues regarding gameplay and Art. Like I mentioned above, each of these races is being fully fleshed out. In every way.
Ships? Yep. Ground installments and units? Yep. Characters? Yep. All races looking like human actors in rubber masks and bad prosthetics? No, no, no.
This level of detail takes time, and we felt that it was better to get the strongest races from MOO3, update and flesh them out and get the product out sooner, rather than later.
Will we, or will we NOT, be able to completely scrap the entire *concept* of
the 8 races you are presenting, and design our OWN races from the ground up,
merely reusing the art for the race of our choice?
You'll be able to vary a lot of aspects, but not absolutely everything. The "mutation" permutations should be enough to satisfy everyone but the "I must have this ONE feature or I won't buy this game" player. (You know the type.)
Look at it this way, if there was a laser weapon in the game, you'd expect it to work somewhat like a laser weapon, right? A shield should function in a way that approximates what most of us perceive a shield to be. You don't designate a Leader as "Honorable" and expect him to act "Chaotic," right? You expect certain things to behave within certain parameters.
So it is with races. When you see one, you will have a frame of reference about it. As currently designed, it won't be a completely blank slate/scratch built entity that could represent ANYTHING, but an evolution (or mutation) from a certain beginning point. This one is likely to prefer a certain type of habitat, that one tends to be better at diplomacy, that sort of thing.
While it is admirable with what you are doing, with the art direction
and the race "traits" and such, the MOO series has a great strength
through the ability to be very customizable (spelling?), and I would
be disappointed if the race options gained in MOO2 were not improved
upon, or worse, scaled down.
I understand your concern, believe me. MOO3 will not be a "generic" galactic empire building game, however. That ground is well covered in games the feature all kinds of interesting (but often inconsistent and occasionally nonsensical) stuff.
MOO3 has a story to tell, and the races in the game are important actors on the stage. There is more than just the usual random campaign game in the box. Again, I can't explain all there is to this game in a single Usenet post, but know that there is a real epic tale in MOO3, to be told in a "historical" campaign game as well as scenarios. Unlike other games of this genre, we really do have a story to tell (and a star to steer by). There is a plot to our story, and the Races feature prominently in it.
Shift your thinking from "generic" to "richly crafted specific" and that's the difference in the tack we're taking with MOO3's races, characters, storylines, and plot. While much of the game is highly malleable, it's not just a box of generic parts that we hope will work out when it's published. (That you've seen already.)
[Art Director Rantz Hosely adds] That said, as Alan so aptly put it, this is MOO3, not MOO2 with new art. As a consumer I always feel completely cheated when I buy a sequel, expecting it to be ratcheted up a notch, only to have it be the same game, with newer art. (This coming from an art director, mind you!)
The 'custom race' issue is primarily one of art considerations. To put it in plain terms, you can customize one of the given races so that, in comparison, there is little to no difference between the MOO3 'mutated race' and the MOO2 'custom races.' The main difference is one of the art associated with your 'custom' race. We recognized that MOO fans want their MOO. Part of which mean customizing a race for the player to use. (Trust me, it's something that around 80% of the office does when playing MOO2, and there are selfish reasons for making sure there is a parallel in MOO3.)
"Most elements in controlling your empire will be delegated to the advisors, which the developers promise to be useful, unlike their equal in other games."
I don't believe I said "useful." That's the wrong adjective. "Accurate" might be a better term. If your civilization is rife with corruption, your education levels stink, and your running a bunch of individualistic hedonists as your race... well, don't expect "useful" decisions. You'll get "Accurate" ones, based who your leaders are, their talent, connections, and motivations, and the kind of society that you've raised them in.... (Imagine the difference between leading a civilization of French and a civilization Japanese and you'll get some idea what can happen.)
The beauty is, you should be able to examine every decision and see what was the compelling reason it was made. For example, the "decision" might be "No Decision: Personal Corruption." That means that Leader is a bad egg and you caught him goofing off. If it says "Build Orbital Defense Satellites: Imperial Edict," then you know you're getting through to this guy, whereas "Terraforming: Racial Trait (Secondary)" means he is just doing what comes naturally for that race (and you should expect to see a lot of that).
Suffice it to say that everyone will have their own cross to bear with Leaders. They won't all be stellar (forgive the pun), but they will be an accurate reflection of the kinds of people your civilization attracts to do its work. And, generally, you can count on them to slouch progressively forward (in their own inimitable style).
Which 8 races will the game feature?
Let's see... the reptilian Sakkra, (evolved from a common Trilalrian line, but that's background story), and the Deep-Sea/Aquatic Trilarians (an aggressive, eel-like race which needs high pressure aquatic depths for their habitat). Humans of course, Klackons (in which the caste system of a hive society is genetically wired), Silicoids (who no longer resemble a shambling mound, but are rather conscious, crystalline beings), and Meklars (who are no longer cyborg, but are entirely conscious self-aware and independent cybernetic beings). The two "originals" in the mix include the Ethereans (gas giant dwellers who prefer to float around in dense atmospheres and have developed biological solutions to what are engineering problems to other races) and, finally, something known only as "Alien 1." All I know for sure about them is that they dig cold planets and they'll be really alien.
Couldn't you think of some way to make races so that they actually LIKED
radiated planets and died in Terran norms?
We already did, and it will be in there.
Now I hear that there are "races" and "species." Could you please clarify?
Species for MOO3:
The Sakkra, for example, are a race of the Saurian Species. The Trilarians are a race of the Ichthytosian species. The Klackons are a race of the Insectoid species. Silicoids are a race of the Geodic species. Meklars are a race of the Cybernetik species. Psilons and Humans are races of the Humanoid species.