One of the replies here suggested I come up some of my own ideas to solve these balance issues. I’m sure the devs get an earful already, but here goes:
Gathering into large clans is probably the single biggest unbalancing factor. Players share blueprints, buildings, defense, and offensive capabilities. Cooperation is only natural, and given that it is normally very hard to get players to cooperate in a meaningful way, it shouldn’t be directly discouraged.
The blueprint system does nothing to slow down the swift onset of the endgame. First, not wiping blueprints on a server wipe means the server basically starts in end game mode right from the beginning. People with the blueprint for a automatic weapons get them within a couple of hours after the wipe. All those nice melee weapons and bows don’t stand much chance against an automatic weapon, or even a semi-auto pistol.
If the devs are hoping to have an early game that uses the primitive weapons (which I think is actually more fun) then at the very least it should come with a blueprint wipe on every server wipe. This will only delay the endgame by a few hours because larger clans will put their heads together and share what they discover, but it is a start.
Blueprints could also take time to study. A study period, combined with a wipe and a tech tree could slow down the arrival of the end game. Or automatic weapons and a few other important things could require parts that are common, but only introduced into the game several days from the wipe.
The big tech items could also come with problems and penalties. These fancy weapons should jam from time time. A machete never jams. Or how about all the high quality metal on the island is radioactive? Being near armored walls and doors can cause very slow radiation damage, and so could holding or wearing things made of HQ metal.
Another problem is the indestructibility of really big bases. By the nature of the game, creation is MUCH easier than destruction. A few days of running a mining operation yields enough stone to make a spectacular, rambling palace and compound with dozens of small, outlying buildings. You can’t destroy it, and you can’t even realistically take these things over. Their defense isn’t in their clever design, it is in sheer quantity. What part of the base does a raider spend his meager explosive budget on? The only thing I’ve ever seen bring these monsters down is neglect and decay.
How about bringing back decay for both walls and foundations, and the more structurally unsound a wall is, the more decay it suffers? This would at least provide some incentive to make things smaller and better.
My point is that the beginning game is probably the most fun period of the game, and it ends way too quickly. There are lots of possible solutions to smoothing out and prolonging the transition from beginning to endgame, and increasing the costs of things only makes the rich get richer.