Yeah, sure. What I want from a game is that it doesn’t waste my time with loads of busywork. I don’t want to go through each city (or colony) and order the construction of a temple (or atmosphere processor). I don’t want to move 40 individual units across a map divided into tiny tiles to wage a war across 100 turns. It doesn’t mean that those kinds of games are necessarily “bad” in my opinion (Alpha Centauri is pretty great, I think – and like MOO1, it has randomized tech trees!), but still.
MOO1 is streamlined: you play the role of a space emperor and all you do is allocate planetary budgets, engage in research, construct ships and amass large fleets (MOO1 stacks are glorious), and engage in some trade, espionage, and diplomacy, without any aspect really requiring more time than is strictly necessary. Essentially, what I want from a game is something that is honed to perfection, focused on doing what needs to be done, while still being thematic and engrossing.
Age of Wonders 3, for example, I thought was a bit of a step down compared to Age of Wonders 1, what with the build queues in cities. A build queue is like automatic exploration – the moment that a designer adds a feature like that is the moment where their design goes off the rails (note: build queues are valuable in real-time games). When you have to add AI governors, build queues, and various (other) forms of automation, it means that you anticipate that part of the game is going to be a chore for players. I’d say, why not remove that nonsense from the game entirely? But I appear to be in the minority where this is concerned, since 4X game designers only seem to be interested in making the game more complicated simply for fear of players not having anything to do, and players appear to be lapping up this kind of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style of design.
To be honest, I wish there were more games that were really tightly focused on giving players a particular experience. You can play a full game of MOO1 in a couple of hours, and it gives you essentially the same kind of experience as a 20-hour game of GalCiv or Civ6. Last time I experienced something similar among 4X-like games was with Star Trek: Conquest (2007), and that was essentially an arcade game rather than a proper 4X. I’d like 4X developers to go smaller instead of bigger (edit: perhaps better – more focused). But there doesn’t seem to be much interest as far as that is concerned. The new MOO comes close, but you’re still constructing individual buildings, etc.