It's really no wonder that the core story repeats. Look in the series directory at how much content has been written for the core story, and compare this to the amount that has been written for the quests. The good thing about writing quests is that I have an objective standard for how many components are needed: If I start a new adventure and any of the cities or NPCs fail to generate quests, I need to add more. For the core story, there is no such metric.
I've been thinking, though- it's not so important for an individual NPC to have a completely different core story each time; what is important is for different NPCs have very different core stories.
I may need to add some more descriptors to the story generator. Right now there are a lot of state descriptors but really only two plot descriptors- the plot state and the player's task. As I learned in GH1, the plot generator works best when there's interplay between several different descriptors. That's not happening in GH2, since the plot state always takes precedence over the PC's task. I've been toying with the idea of adding an episode descriptor in addition to the plot descriptor. This episode descriptor would describe the nature of the current episode independently of the plot state; at the end of each episode the episode state will typically be reset to a default value. Examples of episode states could be things like "find more information", "take a vacation from adventure", "stop enemy from doing something", and so on. A task could thereafter draw its component from either the list for the plot state or the list for the episode state. I'll have to run some simulations of this to see how it works out.
I agree, there are way too many shops and many of them sell exactly the same items as the one next to them. How would you make the shops more distinctive?
One way would be to add more shop persona fragments. Right now there's a decent variety of armor and weapon stores, but only one or two different doctors, mechanics, and mecha shops. I think the best course, though, would be reducing the overall number of shops- the only type of shop that really benefits from having multiple copies in the same city is the weapon shop (plus maybe the mecha shop, as long as some of the shops belong to different factions).
Another good idea would be to include more non-random shopkeepers- there are already a few of these. Some of them could be placed in specific locations (such as Aveyhar, who is always found at the Privateer's Club) while others could be randomly placed (such as Dana, who appears somewhere in the L5 Alliance or Free Commerce States).
This brings up another issue I didn't mention above: The unique scene content mechanism appears to be spending the unique content too quickly. I don't have a good mechanism to spread the unique content out, other than favoring non-unique content over unique content when generating a map.
I reckon it's pretty cool how you can fly around a spinner, do a mission and come back in..But most of the time I can't get back in and manually flying to another spinner is suicidal.
The unenterable spinner problem should be fixed in the next release; speaking of which, I should make the next release soon, before I break anything else.
The world map needs to be completely redone. I've said it before, and now I'm saying it again. I think I'll add a navigator/autopilot function, similar to that used in Fallout and other games. I think I'll also have hidden locations on the world map which don't show up on the navigator until either someone tells you about them or you discover them manually.