Simplifying it would probably be the most important thing. Make it playable with a gamepad and scrap all the flight sim stuff that made WC more and more complex with each iteration.
Also, what exactly do you mean by ship-to-ship stuff, Loaf? You mean boarding actions? A little like Space: Above & Beyond style? (where the pilots were also combat trained marines) I guess the movie did that a little huh? Interesting... would certainly sell the concept to the FPS crowd... after seeing the space combat in Halo: Reach you wonder if reversing the concept (space combat with a little fps gunplay thrown in, rather than the reverse) might be a winning combination.
Regards the Damage Repair, I best enjoyed the system employed in the I-War games where you had a panel (in WC - say a VDU) where you allocated damage repair capability against your various systems in order of preference (drive, lds drive, intersystem drive, weapons, missle launcher, shields, engine core etc etc). The idea was you made decisions on what you wanted up and running first, drive to maneuver, weapons to finish off that last opponent, shields back up so repairs could be a net positive, core so you didn't blow up....
Damaged components had varying degrees of damage (green-light, yellow-medium, red-heavy, grey gone or somesuch). You could re-allocate on the fly e.g. get a system to yellow so it was functional then get another system functional. I typically got lds drive up for interplanetary travel (you couldn't be hit by normal weapons), which let me continue running repairs....
The Secret Ops fiction has two interesting articles on the development of the Dust Cannon and the Cloudburst guns which suggests that gun designs are very much tied in with the internals of a given fighter till at least the 2680s. Of course, there are also interchangeable weapons of Privateer, but then that could be due to differences in military and civilian fighter design philosophies. Yes, there are model variants of military-standard fighters with different weapon load-outs (there's the laser-only reconnaissance Excalibur in Prophecy, for example), but I think they are not very common.You'd think that, that far in the future, weaponry would be interchangeable or 'modular', although on 'lesser' ships, you may not carry as much, due to power requirements and physical hard-points.
Yes, to the massive fleet battles, asteroid fields and mine fields. Most definitely multi-player, but would that mean going down the MMORPG route? Then, you'd be up against the likes of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which looks visually stunning and of course has that 'franchise' and then there is EVE online.
I've upgraded PC hardware, in the past, to run WC4 and Privateer 2, but I'd be a little miffed to find that my current machine specs were not high enough (although a CPU upgrade is in the pipe-line) and also needed Win 7. I would hope they'd bear this in mind, but, it was often the case that the Wing Commander games would, as Maniac would say, "push the envelope a bit".
Well, it's interesting, I expressed a very similar concern back in August when we met with Richard Garriott -- Chris Roberts wants $45 million to make the new game, who was going to take that risk in a day and age when so many of his peers have moved on to social gaming? And his reply was that if there was anyone in the world who could do it, it was Roberts. That he'd known a lot of visionaries in his years in the industry and that none of them compared to Chris Roberts' ability to come in with a fully formed idea for a game in his head and to then work tirelessly to make sure that's the finished product. The whole exchange left me feeling very good about the project.