Infinite technology progression
I do not know how technologies, research and the like are going to be handled in the game. For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that something akin to the 'module' system as is described in the thread "Balancing Ship Design and Faction Diversity" in Suggestions is at play. (I am realizing as I go on that my whole thread here probably belongs in Suggestions and not in General.)viewtopic.php?f=5&t=465
The process that generates modules should be open ended. For virtually any module system that gets generated, consider making the upper and lower limits to stats defined by the module able to significantly exceed the standard random probability by a large margin. Essentially, if the random roll is in the top 90%, re-roll and add the result to the previous roll. If that roll is itself also in the top 90%, continue the process by adding then re-rolling again, ad infinitum. The same can be done in reverse where smallness is advantageous.
Of course each technology's stats and ranges can and should be manually tweaked by Josh. The idea is not to have one overarching rule in place that will manipulate everything in a solitary fashion, where in fact in some places it might break the game and in others be able to be even more generous. Such decisions are better made by Josh than by some single rule.
The point is that it allows for a player by exploring a great many civilizations to over time accumulate technologies that exceed the norm. Here is the kicker. With a system that is open ended, the player can never know that the next civilization won't have that crucial thing they want with a double high roll on the critical stat, or whatever. There will literally be no end to their potential exploration and progression. It will of course get progressively harder.
Yes, this will in theory make game balance able to be broken by the player, as they will ultimately over the long term be accumulating technologies that allow them to exceed the modules possessed by most other civilizations. But such growth is necessary for the player for what I hope are obvious reasons. Note too that it does not mean that the player will never again find challenge. Sheer numbers can challenge (or aught to anyway) even an awesomely high tech ship. And finally, this process of technology assimilation can be used by expanding civilizations as well, finding or capturing technologies from their neighbors that supplant inferior technologies of their own.
The meaning of life is whatever meaning you give it.