Well, okay. I've beaten SEIV and MOO2 on the highest difficulties many times, so I am familiar with what you said.
Still, surely one cannot do what you said with just 3 planets, can one? That is, one starts with one, and one colony ship, and one miner that can be converted into a colony ship. So, at Suicidal, how many colonies does one go for? Can you do All Factories? If so, one needs several planets and/or Manufacturing Centers to get a decent Research rate. Yet, to get more planets than 3, one must build colonizers. To get more than basic Factories, one must research them.
To use the standard sliders approach, the absence of planet-specific sliders seems to make it even tougher. Maybe if one started with a 700% research tile, or something, one could do it.
Anyway, if you're beating in on Suicidal, how many planets do you Rush for? What Factory tech do you settle for if you use All Factories and Focus? What Research tech do you use if just sliders?
A lot of questions here.
The best answer is, it depends. As I said there are many different ways to play. In actuality I can do it with one planet and All Labs, or 3 planets and All Labs, or perhaps a dozen planets with an old fashioned mixed labs/factory approach, or go for all out colonization getting to about 50 planets but then simply cutting my rush short to do a burst of research before the AI's finish their colony rush.
I have seldom used All Factory but clearly with All Factory you're going to need a *lot* more planets than with All Labs. I tend to use either All Labs or a mixed approach, but even my All Labs is usually a mixed approach but with most attention paid to research, I'll still plod down a factory on a juicy 300% bonus tile. With a mix of both labs and factories I generally find myself switching back and forth between all research and all production.
All of these methods and combintions thereof can work but at first they all might not work for you. There really is no single path through this game nor is there a simple formula that anyone can just give you. People can suggest the outline of an approach and hopefully give a few details about how to get around a few major sticking points but there are just so many details and so many "what-ifs" that no one can simply *give* you *the* method.
Like I said you don't have to be able to generate more research points than a Suicidal AI to simply focus on one narrow range of reseach and be able to out research the Suicidal AI in that one area. Using only one planet you may very well want to use ctrl-n until you get a precusor library on your home planet. That might even be necessary if you limit yourself to 3 planets. But a lot of these options are six of one and a half dozen of another. Colonizing a decent base of 12 planets or so before shifting over to "research" mode can be as effective or possibly even more effective than sticking with one planet with a precursor library on it and exclusively doing research. A lot of things come into play. Like how do you support huge amounts of research from only one or a limited number of planets? There certainly are ways you could do this. Typically tech whoring or selling the same techs to multiple AI's is one way. Spamming survey ships for cash anomalies is another. Usually a combination of both works best.
The problem is that each answer tends to engender even more questions which require yet more answers. Trial and error is the best teacher because no matter how much someone tells you or explains, what gets said is the tip of the iceberg and what is left unsaid is the 90% that you have to figure out for yourself.
The question is how much is enough? The answer is how much do you got? If all you're trying to do is to win sooner or later then you can probably accomplish that 100 different ways. If you're trying to win *and* get the maximum possible score then that probably eliminates some of the more brute force methods, but even then what's the best path is the subject of debate.
The first and most basic way is to simply do your best to compete and keep up with the AI colonization rate. You should probably be able to do that at least until you reach the point of needing the extreme colonization techs. At that point you can no longer compete so you may as well stop colonizing and buildup what you have to research as best that you can and simply focus on what it is that you need. If the AI's come and kill you before you can research and build the SCC then you need to pull up a little earlier.
I always keep a save game from every quarter of the game. In cases where there is a lot going on at any one time then I might keep a save game from every month. I start out with a method I'm going to try out and I see how far I get and if things are going well then I push forward, if things aren't doing so well I go back to a breakpoint where I was satisfied with how the game was progressing and start again only this time trying something different or perhaps doing the same thing but just a little more efficiently. This results in a lot of backing up a retrying and backing up even further and retrying some more but in the end you will know what works for you and then it will be your turn to try and explain that to someone new.
Personally I have never had any luck selling influence but to each their own.