Couple of responses:
1. In general about the neon signs, yeah -- they are not supposed to be the star of the show. WIP and all that.
2. That said, having the icons out there in the middle of your view is going to be important for most people because otherwise how can you tell at a glance what something distant is, and fighters all look the same regardless of mark, etc. These are basically far zoom icons.
3. The ability to turn them off is of course fine, but it shouldn't be so distracting they need to be turned off for basic enjoyment. Again, WIP.
4. The size of the small ships is somewhat exacerbated at the moment by the fact that they aren't flying around while in their squads, etc. I'm not opposed to being able to zoom in further if we need to, and the visuals certainly hold up there... but having a relative scale between large and small things is important, I think, to really giving a sense of majesty. That may not work out in the end, and it doesn't require redoing any art if that's the case; just scaling 3D models is nondestructive.
5. Icon sizes for important vs minor units is a good point.
6. Overall lots of good food for thought here. I have a feeling we're going to go through a few iterations of this before it really feels right, so don't get your hackles up too soon. "Earlier than early" builds are letting you guys help shape this with your feedback, which is already happening. So for now it's mainly a matter of leaving this particular topic alone until the next WIP, and then we'll see what we think of that. And iterate as needed, and so on. I think for now this one has run into the mud enough that we know what the next version should have, at least in relation to this one.
7. By the by, the sidebar thing from AI War 1 is intended to return. It's meant to be playable without that (at a basic level), but it's certainly one of the key tools to anything approaching advanced play. No worries there.
8. Regarding the lensing effects, I have a variety of pieces of code for that in 2D and 3D, myself. Cinth has been thinking of something along the same lines, too: https://blog.arcengames.com/cinth-plays-around-with-wormhole-graphics/
The problem with most lensing effects or other similar effects to that is that visibility gets very very poor. Nonetheless, I like the idea of a torus either way, and working with possibly a mix of lensing and particles, or something. That's on my list for in a while, as I hate the current graphics, but it's not at the top of my list (you can actually see where it falls on my list: https://trello.com/b/tz2k8Q15/chris-ai-war-2-todo