(I just purchased the game, directly from your website, instead of using Steam. Proceeding in that fashion had 2 advantages : my game program would be free from Steam's installation constraints, and your smaller "indie" company would get more revenues. I'm very happy with the ease of processing my credit-card info (no need to use Paypal or Moneybookers accounts, for example), and with the ease of re-obtaining the game's installation file if I need to reinstall.)
I first tried to set-up a random/huge game against 7 comps, but I did not know how many unoccupied "planets" to indicate. I first believed that the random-generation process would create a lot of planets by itself, to automatically fill-up a "huge" map. Consequently, having inserted no number, my very first random "huge" map only had 8 planets (the 8 home-worlds), grouped in a central ring! I then understood that I had to input the number of unoccupied planets. I tried 150 and then 300, but without counting all of them, I had the visual impression that the 300-star map did not contain much more systems than the 150-planet map. I wondered if the "small", "large" & "huge" sizes each had limits of planets they could accommodate.
QUESTIONS > What are the maximums of unoccupied planets we can indicate for the different map sizes? What is the absolute number of planets that the program code allows?
(I suppose that the "huge" size can accommodate the absolute maximum your design & coding allow. I prefer to play on huge maps, so I wish to learn how to play by having a lot of room to expand*, and by being able to watch what many enemy comps do on the "average" level of difficulty.
* PS > Well, what you mean by "huge" does not seem to match the definition of "huge" found in other space-strategy games! I created a random/huge map with 300 unoccupied planets (but I doubt it had 308 systems). The big problem was that my starting position was located at only 1-turn distance from an enemy home-world, and at a 2-turn distance from another enemy! So I got attacked very early. Of course, you can tell me to reduce the number of enemies, but on a so-called "huge" map, I expected that the distances would be greater. May I suggest that you revise your random-map generation algorithm to code-in a minimum distance between the starting positions, depending on the size of the map? A "huge" map should not have enemies so close to each other!
I was attacked after the end of my turn 5, but since I had upgraded my factories and had not attacked anybody (no losses then), the aggressor (an "average" A.I.) lost. But I'm very uncomfortable, as a beginner, to have 2 enemies so close to me. I will eventually restart, with the same parameters (random/huge with 300 unoccupied & 7 average-level comps), until I get a decent starting position. (I have removed the "fog of war" because I wish to learn by perceiving how the comps behave on the normal A.I. setting.) Before restarting, I counter-attacked at my turn 6, evaluating that the enemy had lost most of his ships in his failed attempt. I conquered his home-world! But it did not give me any feeling of satisfaction, since I realized that the comp had lost because it had executed a risky attack in the context of a game's beginning, when it had few ships. Having an A.I. player set-up so close to another player, on a "huge" map, must open the door to such premature defeats -- if the A.I. tends to make reckless attacks.
I don't like to win by "exploiting" game-program flaws. In this case, the 2 obvious flaws are : starting positions located much too close on a "huge" map, and also, a tendency of the "average" comps to indulge into risky and reckless attacks.
The latter flaw was verified during the subsequent turns, when I observed that the 6 remaining comps were losing too many ships against neutral planets, conquering nothing! (Perhaps that situation was aggravated because I had set the "natives" on the "many" option, granting them a lot of ships to start with.) It is odd that the A.I., on the "average" setting, does not calculate a more prudent and patient strategic plan : instead of wasting its early ships against too-well-defended neutral planets, it should do as I did -- not attack the natives early on, upgrade factories, and amass an overwhelming armada before daring to assault neutral planets.
When I exited the (unfinished) game, I noticed, on the summary screen, that all 7 comps had built 0 factory. That partly explains why they remained so weak. On the hand, they did not upgrade their factories, so they never had sufficient ship-production output. On the other hand, they stubbornly wasted against too strong targets their fresh, small ship productions. I find it strange that you call that difficulty level "average".