As for a "radical or not so radical ideas on how to improve it for this day and age", how about:
At player discretion (it is their game after all), let some AIs persist between sessions of a more standard game (MOO, Sins of a Solar Empire, or my personal favorite Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain). This would let people develop continuing rivalries and alliances (like they do with real people), and would also let an AI "learn" players' preferred strategies (e.g. do they prefer macro strategy, or micro tactics? diplomacy or militancy?). I imagine someone playing through their 12th game and finding out halfway through that the opposing alliance is led by that player they back-stabbed in their 2nd game.