Colony management, while I like the bonus tile/adjacency system in theory it doesn't really work well in practice. I tend to build the same things on every planet and most of the specialty buildings fall by the wayside with few exceptions that I build on large worlds. Why even bother with colony management beyond using the production wheel for optimization. The placement of tiles on most worlds aren't very good for optimization anyway so in practice it just doesn't work well and doesn't end up giving the player a meaningful choice.
Terraforming: That planets are improved for life one tile at a time makes no sense and just bugs the crap out of me. Just put terraforming as a single tech that allows you to build a building that slowly improves the planet to be earthlike and adds usable terrain in increments. Or just scrap the whole tile system and allow terraformers to make the planet more habitable allowing higher populations.
I really enjoy colony management at first. It's especially fun on the first couple worlds, and then it just becomes a tedious chore. I have never felt that there were ENOUGH tiles on the planets. I would much rather have MORE tiles on FEWER planets, than have to build the same crap over and over as you said. It's always the same basic buildings. I would agree that there is a lot of artificial choice. The farm, hospital, and market are really quite necessary, unless the planet is so tiny as to be useless. Personally, I hate lvl 5 and below planets, if I see one, the only reason I will colonize it is because I don't want someone else to. I would rather perform a "core detonation" and create an asteroid field if I could.
I kinda feel like any planet you are actually going to colonize should have at least 6 tiles, and even then, certain changes could make a big difference. I like your idea of regarding teraforming. I wouldn't mind if this was either VERY expensive, or VERY slow. It should be available early in the game however, since even though the Aceans had something similar in GalCiv2 (an improvement that took one tile, but created 5 new usable tiles), the technology was too advanced (too late in the game) to be of any real strategic importance. Perhaps something like a terraforming station that costs 25 maintenance, and takes 100 turns to improve 10% planet quality (and/or improves only the adjacent tiles?). This way you could build a couple to help speed up terraforming efforts on a planet you really want to improve and include research technologies (+10% "performance", -10 "cost", etc).
Continuing on the subject of tile improvements, I would like to see something like the GDI Power Plant in the C&C Tiberian sun series. What I mean is a tile improvement with it's own improvements. The GDI Power Plant had expansion for an additional 3 turbines to increase power. See image: http://i.imgur.com/fi5l7r8.jpg
These improvements could be expensive to keep things a little more balanced if need be, but would be VERY useful on smaller planets, and would also make economic specialization more viable and rewarding, since you could improve your homeworld and make it stronger, without having to invade other systems to keep up in power. You could BUY your way with expensive improvements instead of using cheap slave labor through galactic conquest.
I think that improvements for production and research facilities could be very useful, they could even be part of a different research branch, that would only be selected by someone who was perusing a fewer planet strategy, and had the money to invest in the more expensive upgrades. They could also be among the first to be destroyed using planetary invasion tactics, so that war-mongering AIs don't end up too powerful after taking a single planet. Other tile improvements could have modules as well. Farms (greenhouse & hydroponic modules?), Entertainment centers (football stadium, movie center, gladiator arena, etc), Embacy (impressive marble floors, expensive artwork, trophy case with mounted heads) as to improve the amount of usefulness on smaller planets, or to really stack up on bonuses (these modules would also carry a heavy premium).
This would allow for more "toys" on each planet as you say, which would be nice, as well as offer new strategies which would make for a more interesting game. Something else I would be interested in is a large "map" of all my available build spaces across all worlds. That way I could plan my build que across all planets at once, since I often know WHAT I want, but really don't care where it's made (after a certain point). I would like to see another option than just going to each planetary menu.
Combat: I know combat isn't in the game yet but that I can't control my ships in combat will always bother me. That combat is effectively rock, paper, scissors further bothers me. At least give me something that gives me a tactical choice in the resolution of combat. Like shields and armor are effective against all weapon types but with point defense tech I can just my guns and lasers against missiles too but missiles fire from further out and guns are laid out in devastating broadsides and lasers are more effective point defense weapons. Something more than, my opponent is using missile/PD ships so I'll build laser/PD ships. This is another game breaker for me.
This is difficult to address since as you say, combat hasn't been implemented yet, and I don't know what to expect. There is so much POTENTIAL with this game to have excellent combat, since it has the ship creator, however, I feel combat will be a POOR EXAMPLE of what it could have been. I would like to see something similar to the concept behind Master of Tactics.
MOT Example: http://www.strategycore.co.uk/forums/topic/10694-making-strategy-games-more-strategic/
where you can select which ships to attack with, which weapons to fire, which ship(s) to target, and what strategies to use (such as flanking behind an enemy for greater damage). This would be AWESOME in conjunction with the ship creator, since you could add point defense to the rear of a ship to counter missile attacks while attempting to flee, forward facing shields to protect against head-on laser attacks, and armor to the sides to protect against quick flying fighters with mass drivers.
Regardless of what tactical system is put into play, I feel it would be a SHAME to waste all the effort put into the wonderful ship creator they have built by not making the two interconnected (instead of just X amount of lasers, and Y amount of shields). The actual ship design should play a key role.
A few other tactical ideas I have been thinking about recently....
I would like to see some lvl of tactics on the grid screen before battles as well. I'm not familiar with the GC cannon, but I think that the ability to cloak ships would be awesome. Cloaked ships could be detected (by thermal imaging), with advanced sensors on ships and spacestations (I like the idea of having to avoid space-stations). You wouldn't be able to fire, and you would have to shut down your reactor and run on (expensive and heavy) batteries using low-heat engines for movement. Lets say one engine movement per battery for example. Due to the amount of thermal heat by 500million+ people, large amounts of troops in a transport or colony module would be out of the question, but small strike teams would be fine.
Another idea for those crappy lvl 5 and under planets would be as military outposts. I would find them much more useful if I could put a beam/flak/missle cannon on these planets that could fire anywhere within say 4 spaces, and destroy most any SINGLE ship in one hit that wasn't protected (by shields, armor, point defense). They could also have a training station on them, where you could bring troops to train, which would increase their soldering ability (by say +10%). Other military ideas... ship repair facility. You could bring ships to the planet to be repaired.
The smaller planets (yes I hate them!) could also be used for other strategies as well. Lets say you could add a cargo station that trade ships could travel to, to pick up goods, which would cut down on the time it takes to make deliveries (closer to trading planets). You could set up mineral and heat extractors that slowly destroy the planet but generate revenue. Build experimental research labs that perform dangerous tests that might destroy the planet, or unlock a new technology 50% faster.
Research: While I appreciate a large tech tree the way it is implemented at this stage is just boring. If I could queue up research jumping from tree to tree it would be tolerable but most things are just an incremental bonuses and I never get excited about getting a new tech. There are a few things that completely kill it for me, that I have to research each and every treaty when I researched a universal translator after I encountered other races drives me nuts. All of the races in GalCiv have a very similar view of the universe this just makes no sense. I could see it if different races implemented treaties differently but its all the same.
I believe that the research tree is "boring" because of the lack of strategy. It would almost do just as well to have 6 buttons (Economics, war, trade, influence, Diplomacy, Research) and get rid of all the techno-bable all together. Each research "block" would improve that category by 5%. No new improvements or "technologies." The funny thing is, the game would pretty much be exactly the same, which just goes to show how bad the tech tree really is.
It desperately needs branching in as many of these categories as possible. Economics should branch into (trade, tourism, entertainment), Diplomacy should branch out (negotiations, barter). The outpost I mentioned earlier could be part of Galactic Conquest, and weapons could focus on speed, range, ammo size, and damage. Research and influence might remain with a single tree but have other interesting characteristics. Maybe send "performers" to other worlds for influence in their domain, send out research ships to investigate wormholes and nebula's, etc.
I would just like to see more specialization in general, and more rewards for those specializations.
I'm pretty much done already, the game frustrates me more than I enjoy it and it seems most players in the beta like the game as it is or prefer the direction its heading. I don't expect this rant to change much if anything in the game design as most players seem to like where the game is going but at this point I may just wait for Stardock to reboot the franchise before buying another GalCiv game.
I don't expect a whole lot more than what we have seen, and I certainly don't expect any of my requests, but there is still a LOT of time left. Not to mention several expansions. It's WAY too early to give up on the game. It's only half way done. Only time will tell what improvements GalCiv3 will actually offer, hopefully a lot more than what we have seen so far!