I think that Twilight Imperium is a magnificent game. It is one of a kind and it should stay that way.
Living in Finland you cannot play board games and not in some way come across the other game that has been associated with TI3, Eclipse. Success of the Eclipse has boosted the interest of the local publisher to invest in new games and produce add-ons for the franchise. And that is awesome for our board game community. Compared to basic board games even eclipse competes in niche market, its complex, it takes time and it’s expensive. Also the theme is not for everyone. Still it is a success story Finns are proud to tell. Why am I talking about Eclipse, well let me clarify.
I see a big difference between Eclipse and TI3. And I hope that folks at FFG see it too. Even though there are some elements that are borrowed from TI3, Eclipse is no TI3, nor should it be. Of course sales and favorable reviews on BGG could drive any company’s interest. After all FFG is here not only to make us happy but also to make games that sell. But BGG score doesn't tell everything. Even if it’s hard for me to get a group of 4-6 guys in one room and commit for 8 hours doesn't mean I want things to be different.
There are talk about if there will be TI4 that is closer to Eclipse than the current version. If FFG chose that route I think that that would be a big big disappointment for me and for many other TI fans. TI isn't and shouldn't be short or simpler or streamlined, a lot of the qualities it is not make the game that it is. It’s and experience. Of course you can always make the experience better, as we seen with evolution of TI, but don’t change it for the wrong reasons.
If FFG want to make a competing product they should maybe make TI game that is set in the same universe, but uses different mechanics, like REX. An addition to current TI flagship line.
What I would really like to see from FFG would be an add-on to the current TI3. That burrows the interesting elements of Eclipse, and remakes them in to a new add-on for the TI3. Most notably the ship upgrades and technologies that are associated with them. I am no expert on how plausible or doable such a thing would be. But addition of ship sheets with upgradable parts, part technology, and maybe some different dice for different weapon types would really make the TI the ultimate experience. I don’t care if it makes game longer or more complex, it’s not the point anyway. Also resource mechanic in eclipse is interesting. I don’t know if it would add anything to the current TI3, but the designers should look in to it. They already made great from borrowing good elements from past games, Eclipse shouldn't be excluded.
Also I would like to note that production values in Eclipse are not even close to FFG level. But that mostly speaks for the amount of skill that is put into FFG games. Eclipse ships are embarrassing compared to TI, even if there is a ship pack coming (it costs ~35$/€, and for me they still look like crap). Also art is not even close. FFG made good on TI3 and also I love game of thrones 2ed. And for me these details make the atmosphere, and it’s quite important. I rather move some cool plastic in space battles, even if the mechanic of the game play is ten times better in a game that makes you move wooden cubes that represent some crop and you objective is to be a farmer.
(Sidenote: I quite enjoy eurotrash games with my girlfriend or “simpler” friends, but I LOVE the hard core nerd games that I can play with my friends and take over the galaxy).