I hope not too much time has gone to improving graphics. DW could use some improvements to the efficiency of the graphics engine - but trying to make the game prettier is, in my opinion, a waste of time in a strategy game.
I feel this is for a dw 2. A dw 2 could also be a nice tool to suck more money from oldtimers, and also allow a point of time for new players to obtain the game at a recent version and a reasonable price. It could be hard to pull off, though.
I think the game look perfectly OK (and I don't struggle with small text either, having good glasses, and "large" monitor).
2. bling weapons
Please don't add weapons and expand the combat without making an equal improvement to the AI behind it. All the additions to the invasion mechanics or addition of boarding will mean nothing if the AI is not also improved.
In general, don't add stuff that don't work well. The new weapons don't interest me much until I see them, as I am not sure their impact will be significant. I fail to see the huge leap forward by the previous addition of rail guns and phasers. More choices will if nothing is done make the AI worse, as there is even more for the AI to breadth-research before getting to useful stuff...
3. technology tree
Please make sure that the AI tech decision isn't "everything" as it currently is. Inefficient use of tech research by AI further degrades the already weak AI.
Research and design streamlining is an obvious point for AI improvement. Have the AI have an idea about what it wants, and work towards that idea, ignoring unnecessary stuff.
4. multiple stages of a planetary assault
Please make sure that this also applies to pacification. Currently, it's "invade, load troops, invade next" - there's no need or benefit to pacify a planet - so you can easily steamroll an empire down to nothing in the matter of a few minutes. This does not seem to add to the game play.
Pacifying sounds like a great idea, if implemented well. If the troop stuff is improved so that transports don't carry away troops where not wanted, adding some troops/roles to pacify would become a good option.
5. new planetary facilities
Running costs. Please. Every planet with full shield, ion cannon and everything else is a bit boring. Adding a dozen more facilities I can build with my nigh limitless funds is a big yawn.
For me, this is a seriously uninteresting part of the game, more annoying than fun (since there is not much fun in them at all). I tend to run infrastructure on suggest, and it is major PITA when basic stuff like shields and fortifications are researched. Either a chore to build at a lot of colonies, or en endless stream of single build suggestions, one at a time.
More control or at least hiring of them to perform specific missions would be greatly appreciated. I don't want the pirates to simply suicide on mining stations - I want them to blow up a SPECIFIC mining station. And if they need ships, I want to be able to give them ships - not cash which they'll spend building a dozen useless escorts.
The current pirates (non legendary) are a nice early game challenge, a late game chore, and a cheesy way to tweak reputation. I am happy to see this area get some love, and I hope the changes are good. Your idea sounds nifty.
Blockade mechanics need a serious look over. Attacking ships that are blockading your planet should have little or no reputation hit. Also, the current implementation of diplomatic demands to remove military forces from my (player) system seems to go to NULL. There's no indication what's being done with diplomacy, but please FIX the existing problems before adding new ones!
Yes, blockades are stupid indeed.
9. difficulty settings
Grand news. More the better. Expose everything - even if it's in an ini file. Allowing players to tweak the game to suit their desires will only lengthen the life of the game. And for such a tiny dev cost as well!
And give export/import strings with settings for us to share on the forum. Random generated evil opponent setup would be great (like having some distant insects start with way of darkness, a zentiba source, and a few extra planets).