We've recently added a new feature called challenges that I think is going to be really interesting for players. Essentially challenges are special sectors that are tougher than normal, have a specific setup (not random), and do many things that can't normally happen.
How it works is every 6 levels there is another challenge sector, and one extra at level 100, for a total of 17 challenges. This is visually represented as 4 sectors per quadrant and 1 final challenge for the galaxy on the challenges screen. When you beat one, the next one unlocks and you can play any unlocked challenge sector whenever you want. Each challenge has a title and a short description to give you a little glimpse of what you will be facing in that challenge.
The big difference between a challenge sector and a normal sector is that the initial conditions are hand crafted instead of being random. They have a set level, sector size, races present, quests, wars, alliances, and even sector modifiers. This seems a little strange for a game that has so much randomness in it, however they create a cool, shared experience. It always starts out the same, but the random events and the players' actions will quickly make an impact. Then everyone can compare how their challenges went. It will be interesting to see how varied the end results will be and what the players decided to do.
Ok, so how about some actual examples? The first challenge starts off with all ten main races present when usually the max is six. It is really crowded and pretty chaotic. In one of my runs, I changed my allegiances at least three times. The fourth challenge starts with most of the sector colonized, only two races are left, and there is a huge war already. You can't possibly make them both happy, so which one do you choose? The twelfth challenge starts with one race in a huge lead, but they are at war with a four much smaller races who are allies with one another. Can the giant win or will all of the bees sting it to death? Even more importantly, who will the Drox Operatives help?
Oh, did I mention that the reward chest you get when winning a challenge for the first time is much better than a normal sector? Well it is. :)