I agree 100% with your thoughts with the current setup. There is too much going on, but nothing great. Make the actions simple and rewarding.
Diablo was that type of game. It was fun and the magic system worked. For me its not about growing my city. its more about the battles and the magic.
Lets fix the current problems with the game. Then move on to make it better. Theres alot to improve on and Derek will make that happen.
I`m excited about 1.1 and look to the future with Derek at the controls.
Freebird out of the birdcage for the moment.
I understand yours and others opposition to the tweaking of this mechanic at the moment, but with 1.1 less than a week away, I wouldn't be too worried about this mechanic going in any time soon.
Rather, I think the purpose here is for Stardock to open up the floor to the players, as a means of re-evaluating their current system and improving upon it, as well as finding work for specialists to do in the event that there's not enough. Did no one consider, with the current building-set we have available to us, especially for Empires, that the very idea of Specialists is mostly moot? It's quite possible that in order to get them all used, you'll need several highly specialized cities. If we were to do a head-count of buildings currently in the game that could require specialists, and compare that to the number of citizens we're likely to have off of X Number of cities, I think we'd find that specialists would always be in abundance. Particularly if 1 Citizen = 1 Specialist. A level five city, by itself, would support over 2000 Specialists. That's 2000 tiles of Non-House improvements. I dunno about you guys, but I don't think there's been a time where I've actually had that many non-house improvements, even on Large Map games with 10 other Realms and having conquered two or three of them. We're going to need cities that basically spam a certain improvement or two to get them all used, I.E., spamming Library's/Archivist's in a city next to a Lost Library.
And the thing about 1.1 is just that, they are making an attempt at fixing the current problems with the game, and will continue to do so, but in doing so, they may end up creating more problems, which will need to be fixed consequently. Particularly with moving to a new system like this, it's imperative that we get it fleshed out so that there aren't problems. The first step is concepts, which is what we're discussing here.
On that note, I do agree that the idea of refining materials, given the current Global-Pool system, will probably end up being more trouble than it's worth. Abstracting the refining however, given that most everything about resource management is already abstracted, would work in theory, and probably in practice too. I just don't like the missed opportunity to do something genuinely fun and interesting.
On abstracting it, it would go a long way towards making some of the more ridiculous unit costs make sense. If I'm recalling correctly, it takes something like 6 Metal to 'create' a Great Scimitar. It's a powerful, '4th Tier' weapon, again if memory serves, at least in the Empire Conquest Tree. It has 14 Attack.
What if instead though, with the idea of abstracting refinement, it would end up costing 4 Metal, one for each tier before it, and the tier including it. A simple 'Iron Great Scimitar' would then have an attack value of, arbitrarily speaking, 8 Attack. Then, with the 'Iron Smelter' improvement, we gained the ability to upgrade our Iron weaponry to Steel. So our 'Steel Great Scimitar' would cost 50% extra Metal for a total of 6 Metal, and gain a similar increase in Attack, bumping it up to 12 Attack. Further after that could be a 'Ventri Great Scimitar,' costing 9 Metal, and giving 18 Attack. (I'm proposing that the costs be additive, but it could work as a multiplier instead.)
The numbers are all arbitrary of course. It would need to be balanced properly, but you get the point. It -could- go further than that, and that would still make the Global Resource Pool work, without adding a bunch of hard-to-manage resources to said pool, as well as allowing progression. I know this idea was pretty much pitched already, but I thought I'd flesh it out with an example as well.
The problem here is, with the current Abstract system, you never need more than one of a given 'Refinement Building' in your Realm at any time, unless you want a backup in case a city gets taken.
I do agree with the idea of being able to trade excess resources away independent of other Realms, but at a penalty in relation to such trading.