I keep having ideas for simple things that could improve usability, but struggle to remember them all now that I'm writing this post! Argh, I'll make notes next time I play.
-I think there could generally be more feedback for a few things. When a construction ship sits there ontop of a mine station it is building, stuck at 2 components unbuilt, I'd like the game to tell me that a. that that is happening, and b. exactly why. Or when I tell a ship to refit, but it doesn't do anything because (I'm assumming) I don't have enough money, it should tell me.
This also runs into the more detailed economic break-down others have requested. That way it would be a little bit easier to tell why the economy crashes when it does.
-Like others, I find refueling a pain for stationed fleets at permanent posts. Perhaps the patrol command should include an option for automatic refueling or the like. Smaller ships should be able to dock without fuel costs at star bases.
This doesn't mean that I think fuel shouldn't be an issue for the player to consider. Ensuring your fleets have efficient supply lines is one of the major gameplay elements!
Wishful new features:
-Smaller ships. Fighter ships. This is perhaps more expansion material, but fighter ships would make combat a lot more interesting and nice to look at (if you could get them to simulate little dog fights). Carrier ships to suppliment this. It wouldn't be neccessary to individually control them, they could simply launch when in attack range and automatically do their business. It would make the scale of things a lot more impressive too! I think escort & most private ships should be smaller than they are now as well. The fighter ships would be able to be designed the same way other ships are designed.
-Hi-jacking/salvaging etc. After removing a ships shielding and disabling them, it should be possible to take over the ship and deconstruct it for resources. (or have this happen automatically by more opportunist private citizens) Or for capturing political prisoners. >:D This also means being able to board other ships in general... so armed forces could taken into account when trying to force a ship to surrender.
We already have scripted derelict ships and space ports, this would be a way for this to happen organically in the game (ie. if ships weren't always blown up to nothingness)
Far-fetched, non-specific, de-railing. I'm sorry!:
4. Private citizens to do some limited escort/defence of their own private ships/bases. Essentially asking for a level of automation where the only management I want to do with my military ships is empire(state)-empire(state) matters. Furthermore, in addition to this, state sanctioned bounties. I.E. place bounties on pirates for private citizens to collect and a flip-side, unofficial support/bounties for private citizens in harassing and pirating enemy empire trade ships.
I love this idea and it has got me all excited imagining ways the world could be made more teeming and alive. I love the fact that the private citizens do their business by themselves. Here are some futher ideas for fleshing out the going-ons inside your nation, and are all probably too far-fetched to be anything other than a wet dream. They also only effect the player in a convoluted way, so they're not 'important' either:
-I totally agree on the private citizens being able to organize their own defence. But it should also depend on/reflect your government type. If you are running things by military law, it should be reflected in the ships your private citizens are rescricted to. (security would be a strictly military affair)
It should also reflect the demand for protection (if the surrounding space is dangerous or not), and what they can afford. If you're running a less tyrannical affair, and civilians have more open access to weapons there should be...
-Crime. Perhaps this could be linked to corruption, but your own empire should be able to have its own underworld too. If they get cocky enough private ships should be able to form their own pirate bases under your nose. It would simply be another aspect to think about alongside the current resource juggling. If you /are/ running a military dictatorship, then rebellions would probably be the concern replacing this. As I understand it rebellions can already happen, but only result in refusing to pay taxes. (correct me if I'm wrong!) It would be nice if they could claim space ports (and quickly try to amass a fleet to oppose you/to make their own base elsewhere) or hi-jack ships ala my feature wish above. Criminals and rebels could start their operations covertly under the guise of private citizens, and not be revealed to you unless you take measures to do so. (intelligence?)
-It would be nice to be able click on a private ship and find out information about it, and how they feel about the way you are running things/if business is tough. (sort of like... say... themepark) Things could be made more personal if details were added, like what private company they belong to/or if they are freelance, what goods they deal in, things like this. This wouldn't neccessarily mean simulating an entire market and all its individual enterprises, although that would be totally awesome, but it could generalise and generate on demand to reflect your resources/race/what-not. (and still hopefully be useful information).