I know all of this may be out of your concerns or goals with this, and that is all fine. But if you could hear out my suggestions on how I see AoW2 can be improved, I'd be at least thankful for that. This may all seem out of the blue too, but I believe I've never given any official standing on the mod and perhaps now may be the time to do so (lest I never say anything about it ever).
To start, I do like what you are doing and the changes seem like a nice step in balancing this awful mess of a mod. I agree with your modifications, although not having touched AoW in a long time. Despite this, and my appreciation for your efforts as well, I must say these things.
To be honest, it seems this mod suffered the same fate as Voltlock's previous mods. For example, RGA1 was simplistic, fun, and served its purpose. AoW1, while buggy and having a few exploits here or there, was great for its simplicity and how easy it was to jump right into. In line with this, RGA2 came out and, hideous sprite rips aside, was TONS of fun in its older betas, before all the perks, "classes", ranks, achievements, flair, and all that was added in. In fact, the TeamDM games with RGA2 back then were a blast. Maybe not the most balanced thing on the planet, but it was enjoyable no less. AoW2 was in the same boat. Though I didn't quite like AoW2 so much in its early versions (generally bad map design, horrible bugs, more hacks than the first version of WDI, lopsided balance, and just an overall change in mod direction), it at least had potential to improve. But as the versions progressed more and more and eventually the author abandoned it entirely, it stayed in its stale form with just a new coat of polish applied by new people.
With that aside, here are my core complaints. Mind you, I understand if these are out of your control and/or you don't wish to do anything about them. But as this thread is looking for community feedback, I feel I should give my general opinion anyway.
Popular or not, AoW2 has many problems, even with all the Omega updates and many other attempts at pushing the mod around. My first and probably biggest gripe will always and forever be the UI and presentation; there is sooooooo much stuff packed into this mod and so much information being thrown at you. With all the feature additions, things get out of hand and overwhelming, especially for inexperienced or new players. I mean, just take an immediate example: the screenshot in the OP. Just in that shot ALONE, I see 10 different clusters of information, presented by HudMessages, in text form which requires reading or at least glancing through. That's a lot of information to digest no matter how you slice it. There is little consistency, little structure to any of it. If I'm a new player hopping into the game for the first time to try it out (because it's so popular and the server is jam packed quite frequently, it seems like an attractive choice right?), I would be utterly overwhelmed by all that appearing on screen.
Now, I understand that all this shouldn't be spelled out for you from A to Z about your mod. This isn't some full on game and players can look up about it on the forums or whatever and try to learn things. In relation to my own things (to make it fair), even WDI has some learning curve to it and isn't 100% jump-in and play and know what you're doing. But there are some things WDI does to make the experience easier to grasp when starting out: for one, information is presented consistently, easily, and cleanly. At most (not counting the innocent tracking 'x' symbols that appear for the murderer), you have maybe 2 or 3 HudMessages on screen at most.
So my suggestion to help AoW in the UI and presentation aspect is to change it entirely. Try some if not all of the following:
- Have your team's building health display on the left, and the enemy team's on the right. Change colors accordingly per team. This makes it so anyone playing just has to look to the left to know the status of their buildings, or to the right to know the status of their opponents
- Fade out the building status messages when not in use. I suggest a threshold, maybe like 25% health, where the message will fade out. Below that and only then the message will stay on screen (since it's a bit more urgent that it's getting low). This gives the benefit of less clutter, while also giving you a subtle alert to when your base/building is taking damage by the sudden appearance of the building and its health on your Hud
- Change some things to icons/graphics instead of just using Text all the time. I understand that this may take some work, but in the end it can be worth it. This is particularly important for the class selection (for example, instead of giving some pros/cons like you have in your screenshot, you can use a radar chart to demonstrate their stats in each area). This gives faster, easier to absorb information that is made immediately clear to the player. Obviously, to avoid clutter, this information should only be presented as graphics when necessary
- Rank, Experience, and Credits could all easily become SBARINFO information, which would give the benefit of using things like Bar meters to indicate progress (for XP), or a gold/money image for credits. Although ACS can still of course be used. But one benefit of SBARINFO is a reduction in HudMessage use == less potential bandwidth consumption. In either case, get rid of the text.
- Keep messages and groupings tight. By this example, say you want to announce that a building is under attack, and at the same time that x player got something from a powerup crate. You could display both of these centered and near the bottom of the screen. Not in the exact same position obviously, but close enough so that the player only need look down to see these events, and they are all viewable in the same general area
I know that's quite a list. These are just my suggestions to get a start on helping AoW2 actually improve. I'll refrain from commenting on gameplay for the time being because I've been out of the loop on the mod for some time and can't quite recall how it plays too well, along with the changes you've made that may improve it somewhat to begin with. I'll post again sometime perhaps after I give it a go, although with what I've mentioned about the UI, I currently have no plans to even try considering the sheer overload of text that I'm assaulted with every time I load the mod up and join a server.