I figured there were a good number of things in there that would be straightforward and obvious, or that simply hadn't been prioritized and hotfixed yet.
Question on the control groups (Curiosity): Is it that way - ordering the menu and debug menu as first and second - because you need it for jumping into builds, triggering a command or testing a function, then jumping back out to modify, rebuild, and then retry it?
But I'll definitely try my hand at modding the .xml file. Again, I personally appreciate the concept you're trying to go for with the menu tree functionality. It makes sense to me. And I agree that information management and organizational overload was definitely an issue in AIWC.
But, I would posit that if the goal is to make information more accessible, the users that would benefit the most from that are those for whom the system used in AIWC was too much of a turn-off (The "SO MANY BUTTONS!" crowd that plague all games). The AIWC veterans will already be used to that complexity.
Therefore, meeting them halfway by putting the most common things near their most intuitive fingers, might help ease them in so they aren't immediately forced to re-learn basic things when they start the game. First you hook them in by deceptively convincing them that "Oh, this is a strategy game, I can probably win this"
Then they get hit by a CPA and realize that they need to completely rethink their approach and drill down on the meta-game, generally by reading the various tooltips and tutorials (More on that later) But by now, they've had enough fun that they can internally justify spending time on it. Which is kind of devious, but I'm all for encouraging adaptive development (Read: Messing with the Audience), and I'm a big fan of "Easy to Learn, Hard to Master" style games.
On the actual mechanics of it, I agree that ctrl is the go to modifier for everything, and that it's also the intuitive assignment key, which would cause problems. Perhaps Shift+[n] for control groups? I'd also be curious as to whether or not using Tab to flip through control groups would catch on, that is, if you aren't going to use it like you did in AIWC (I personally didn't mind turfing all the deep-dive stuff into the extended menus - the "Save/Load Preset" took care of most of that for me)
If you want a fun idea to file away for much much later on the tutorial front, I had a thought for another game recently in which the game uses some basic cues to track what players are struggling with, and prompts them adaptively on how to fix it, as we are all used to front-end tutorials (Oh hai! Welcome to the game! Click on this guy then right click on the map....), but rarely do we get any intuitive input on how we failed. At high skill levels, this is part of the fun and the challenge. At lower skill levels, when we're still learning the basics, this is frustrating. I remember in AIWC, there were large cross-sections of the AIP mechanic that threw me for a good bit, and didn't incentivize me to drill down and learn why I was failing on that basic core gameplay mechanic. I was trying to conquer the galaxy on level 7, then got over that, won on 7 and 8, and now of course, I'm trying to conquer the galaxy on 10, just to see how far I get (4h23m at 23/80)
I think this sort of system would work for AIW2 because you all clearly have strong backgrounds and a body of experience in triggers, events, and logical structures, and it never hurts to ease people in to complex systems. But that would be well after beta and you've finalized the core mechanics, of course. Key there is to build a map that enables you to link your tracked changes to tutorial items - as your instructional materials get more expansive, it becomes more exhausting to filter through them and make corrections and updates.
But again, overall, this is actually pretty functional for an early alpha. The fact that I only got a single error message, at this early a stage, is itself an accomplishment. Re-reading what I wrote, some of my points may have come off as bossy. This is just a style I use to boil things down so people don't have to wade through extra language to figure out what point I'm making. I am genuinely impressed, and look forward to seeing what y'all come up with!
Just as long as you re-use some of the AI Taunts from Bionic Dues. Those were so hilarious.