The downstream part of the gameplay loop, or the combat and loot gathering parts, can have a huge potentials if explored well. My perception is that the majority of our community is quite satisfied with the current battle system which offers us unique experiences coming from unique ships each player creates, but the battle system itself is no different from the systems of those old space games of decades ago.
It is obvious the upstream part of loop has many benchmark games, such as factorio, minecraft, some great idle games, if for coop, Satisfactorio, and the game you mentioned etc. Do you have any bench mark games for downsteam part of the game?
The combat part of Cosmoteer can be categorised into the action (ARPG). The current giants in this area are the Diablo and Path of Exile. Path of Exile is a good example here because they started as a small group of people and at their early stage of development they already had the fundamental aspect and appeal of the current Path of Exile.
For example, the combat we experience in Cosmoteer Campain Bounty Hunter can be regarded as those boss fights players encounter in each area in Path of Exile and the very first boss in Path of Exile can give us a lot of insights. In addition to the current comoteer weapons and defences with a 2 dimensional slight Rock-Paper-Scissors relationship, we notice there is a possibility of adding 3rd dimensional defenses and weapons. Not only that, the skill tree in Path of Exile can be applied in a differnt manner as a technology tree with notable nodes within which those "Difficullty" items under the Crew Moral and Experience could also fit into . And the most importantly, their loot dropping system and character customisation is huge and very profund which leads to average end game players easily having thouthunds of hours in game. Even though, Comoteer is bound to the SF reality and they their own, I believe implementing those key aspects of the giants into Cosmoteer is not at all a problem if so desire. And I tell you, in those games players still are forced to play the template characters, in Cosmoteer we have truely unique character, the self built ships, which means Cosmoteer has the potential to add a completely new dimension into the game. No other games can do that.
Anyway, Cosmoteer has a huge potential in all the areas in the game loop. The possibility is infinite.