I made this post as a spinoff of psychoak's in an attempt to make something a bit less incendiary and radical (though his ideas are great, I don't think Stardock is going to bite this late in the process).
I think many posters on this board can agree city building needs to be improved - right now it just isn't very interesting and city specialization is difficult. Here are my proposed changes:
1. Require cities to have roads/sea routes to each other to share resources:
This is the most immersion breaking thing about city building. I should not be allowed to make a city out in the middle of nowhere by an extremely lucrative food resource to feed 3 production cities on the other side of the continent. It is absurd and this fix is a simple one that is pretty important if we want to make city specialization possible. Right now it's not so bad because all cities are the same anyway, but if we want specialized cities this problem will be increasingly annoying.
What we need is to have the player's civilization divided into "pockets," with each pocket having its own pool of resources. This is not that complicated at all and the screen for it on the kingdom report would be incredibly simple. Just list what cities are in what pocket of the empire and what resources are available to that pocket. At the absolute worst this screen would look as bad as a screen simply showing every city's statistics, but for any competent player an empire of 10 cities might only have 2-3 pockets. The HUD of the city could also show its corresponding pocket's available resources for extra simplicity. And when a city is selected those resource counts would just be displayed on the top of the screen like they are now.
2. Remove the hard cap on gardens completely:
I should be allowed to make as many gardens or mini-farms as I want - but this should be at the great expense of my city's industry. Change gardens to be even more inefficient if necessary so that if I want to take a city to tier 4 or 5 without a food resource I will not be able to build almost anything else in the city. Why restrict the player's freedom here? Food will still be super valuable, because it's what will let you turn your cities into mega factories of knowledge and war as opposed to a large community of inefficient farmers.
3. Make the cap for the number of any other non-"wonder" improvements a function of the city's level:
Players who want cities that can crank out military units at a fast pace should be allowed to make them, provided that they aren't wasting all their tiles on crappy gardens just to feed their empire. If I want a city with 5 workshops, for instance, I should be able to make one. However, to prevent just complete spam and absurdity, force the player to grow his city to make those extra improvements. So maybe 1-2 workshops per city level? So a level 5 city might be allowed a maximum of 10 workshops and 5 studies, for instance.
Remember, the number of tiles available to a city each level is vital to the fun-factor in city building. This is something that should be played with extensively.
I don't think this is an absurd amount to ask for and these changes are likely trivial implementations. But they would make empire building magnitudes more interesting, IMO.
Please add your own proposed changes to this thread!