Keep in mind this game was pre-internet, everybody was using a 300 baud modem over a regular phone line. Some were using 1200 bauds modem, paying a lot more per hour, but for this psecific game it didn't make much of a difference. There was no lag to speak off but line noise could spell your doom.
Typing speed being a factor was an often repeated misconception. The game time was not a continous stream but rather broken down into 30 seconds round. The information needed to make a combat decision was up on your screen in a few seconds, so all you had to do was type in a command before the 30 seconds was up. This was played on plain ascii terminals, so most good players had the most awkward commands assigned to function keys.
The process of developping a planet was not random, the number of workers required in industry, infrastructure and military to achieve a shipyard of a certin hull size was fairly well known. What was random from game to game was the planet's basic characteristics, which would affect how many workers you needed in mining to support a given industry size and how many workers you needed in agriculture to support the whole population. But the most random part came from the strategic layout of your team's planets and the other teams planets. A good planet in the middle of ennemy territory was difficult to supply with defenses coming from your other planets, so it had to be able to build its own defenses.
Anyway, the main attraction of the game for me was the economic model. It forced you to make choices about each of your planets and it was counter-productive to alter those choices later in the game. I found that much more interesting than the current trend of every planets building all the facilities and being able to produce every thing.