Yes, I'm the main developer/designer. Let me try to answer all your questions.
StarLife is more like an empire building game rather than a war oriented game.
So it looks a lot more like "King of Dragon Pass" than "MoO" for example. That's the main idea.
That means that you won't have every feature of the game moving towards war and war won't solve all your problems. Still you may play a species that is aggressive.
In StarLife exploration is something that will happen until mid game instead of just the early game. Just like Eador where you must spend turns exploring your territories, you will spend turns exploring your planets. Unexplored planets can't be colonized and unexplored parts of a planet won't count as vacant so your population can grow there. So you can only have maximum population on a given planet when that planet is fully explored.
Exploring a planet will have a good chance of causing events that may be short or long (which will bring other events related to it in the near future).
Another difference is that you won't have buildings like other games, you have services. Which can last a few turns or indefinitely.
Like for example a service which increases the effectiveness of your hospitals in a Star (affects all planets), it will cost resources but will give you another resource. It could last for 5 turns for example.
Another example could be a training facility for your military, costs resources and gives experience for stationed units and could last as long as you want.
Those services are random and new ones appear every turn, you will need them to stabilise your empire economy and those services could also have different sources like your military, your civil population, your government, one of your factions, another government (species), one faction of another species.
They could make request for you to make ships for them or to supply a resource they need and you could also make some of those requests for other species that would appear for them as services.
The idea is to have the player constantly balancing his empire instead of just skipping turns for whatever reason.
How war happens is also different, instead of moving all your units to attack, defend a star you will position your military fleet on a given star and it will have a radius in which it will defend in case of being attacked. So you don't need to constantly move your fleets but you need to position them efficiently.
We have attack and defense plans, if someone attacks you they make an attack plan, they gather the fleets they want and choose a target and a plan, for example fleet A and B attack Sol to humiliate them (or to capture a ship, to bombard their colony, to destroy everything they find, to blockade their supplies). It will then cost a few turns to arrive and then cost a few more turns to get back to their position (if they get back, in the case of a blockade they could stay there). The time that the attack plan has to arrive is the time you have to find out their plan.
You can use scout ships in good positions to discover incoming attacks (scout ships are different from military, they don't attack) or you military ships could discover them as well but on a limited radius. You could discover them trough espionage, or someone else could discover it trough espionage and tell you over diplomacy. Large fleets are easier to be spotted than smaller fleets and there will be technologies to increase your chance to discover them as well as for them to hide their presence.
With this you will be able to keep war interesting even if you have a large number of fleets. In this case your military fleets just assume defensive positions and attack only using attack plans. You will have military, scout, explorer and transport ships which are completely different, you won't be able to have a military explorer ship for example.
Explorer ships are used to explore planets as I said earlier, scouts are used to spot incoming attacks, transports ships are used to keep your stars connected to each other.
Star that aren't connected suffer heavy penalties so it will be difficult to maintain distant colonies.
Starlife is also made so you can't grow too much, doing so will probably end up splitting your empire, so it will be a lot more important to have allies rather than to be a huge empire alone.
Research is also done in a different way, it is split in what you can research, what your civil populations researches on that same subject, what another species researches on that same subject and what you find out by using that technology after you research it.
That means that you can get a technology by your own research (that you control) or by civil research (that you don't control) or by stealing/trading technologies. And each one of them increases the effectiveness of that subject so by having the three of them your technology will be much better. And by using it in some way you will also increase its effectiveness. For example a laser technology could ask for N lasers to be made on your ships to give you a bonus.
StarLife is not a military game, it plays an important role but the game is not about making war, it's about defending what is yours and keep others from getting too strong. It isn't a multiplayer game so we can focus on what's important and lastly it isn't about winning a game, it's about surviving.
We want to do StarLife because we want to try new concepts and we are looking outside 4X games and even outside games to come up with our ideas.
We believe everyone else is so focused on MoO or other classic games that in doing so they are replicating not only the good parts but also the bad parts as well.
By kicking multiplayer out we think we have already made a huge move towards what should be a great 4X experience since multiplayer games begs for balanced species so two human players can compete on equal grounds, StarLife isn't about a balanced experience, it's about different ways to play one game, if you choose one species you know that the game will be easier, so your challenge would be playing with another species which you know is weaker. Because of this we can a lot of modifiers for a species rather than just a few % generic modifiers that we see so much on recent games.
Why can't we have a species that lives on space rather than on planets? Why can't we have a species that doesn't give birth (anymore) and that needs to constantly capture other species to survive? Why can't we have a species with no concept of what is war?
StarLife is our way of showing the world that games can be done in a different way, even complex 4X games.
Hope that helps you understand StarLife better, sorry about my english as I'm not a native english speaker.
If you have more questions feel free to ask. I can get into more details about any subject.
EDIT: There are some other subjects that I haven't talked about like how ships start big since you will need a huge engine to be able to travel at the light speed and how they will get smaller by the end of the game.
How factions will play out so your actions will end making one of your factions dominant over the others and how you can have diplomacy with other species factions rather than their government.
How diplomacy will work and how we will try to use a system were you promise something like keep peace with another race and you can have an intention of going to war with them in the near future and that if you comply with your plan you will get bonuses and if you don't you will have penalties. That other players will be able to discover your intentions with espionage.
And so on.. =D