Population issues are interesting but what about people with my playstyle? I _ALWAYS_ choose the computer dependant society trait. I dislike the idea of having to micromanage lifesupport so I just avoid the issue and dont let stupid meat bags run my precious ships.
Even people who dont choose that trait would still start to use more Computer controlled ships if it was significantly faster than training crew from the peasant masses.
That is perfectly fine, and AI will be a very attractive option if an empire has population issues.
It is my understanding that computer controlled ships have weaknesses. Like being extremely vulnerable to boarding parties. And don't Mind Sappers do something nasty to ships without crew?
If you stack enough internal defenses to keep boarding parties at bay, that is space not being used for other things, like weapons.
And if AI controlled ship counts still required military logistics buildings taking up planet slots, that is is another form of upkeep to keep things in check. But even without that, as long as everything has a weakness, I think it could balance out just fine.
edit: my bad, Mind Sappers don't do anything if there is no crew.
double edit: And when I'm talking about population and military buildings used to bottleneck fleet limits, I should be more clear in saying that the limit should still be pretty big. This is Star Ruler, massive fleets should be standard operating procedure. Population and military buildings mostly serve to give players choices in using planet slots, which reduces the rate of research, which provides a mid-game and economic benefits as a whole. In no way should the limit ever be like "oh shit, I can only field 20 battleships, and if they die I have to wait an hour to train more crew", that would not be Star Ruler. However, it would be nice if suiciding 1000 battleships actually did cost something, or if to field a fleet of 10000 ships you needed some worlds dedicated to military logistics instead of just all research all the time.
TTTTRIPLE EDIT: AI ships would probably stack a lot of shields (to prevent boarding parties) and a lot of internal defenses (to prevent boarding parties). If they go shield heavy, there are lots of anti-shield weapons in the game, and it would be awesome to dust them off and put them to good use.
Computer cores also suck down a LOT of power, making them prime targets for reverse inducers as well.
Everything should have a weakness. As long as there are, it should be spiffy.