In my free time I've been working hard at rewriting my game using Microsoft's XNA framework. Things have been going pleasantly smooth, and I think XNA is a good succesor to managed direct x. The best thing is that Microsoft has written a bunch of brilliant tutorials on all kinds of useful subjects. (unfortunatley I can't access them here).
Where xna really shines through is in how much easier it is to do the stuff that I've never been good at, like displaying complex text (sprites are super easy in xna). Model loading has also been vastly simplified, and only requires a few short commands( content.load("model") ).
I have the same problems that I've always had, notably I still haven't figured out how to accurately rotate a model so that it is facing another model. matrix.createlookat doesn't seem to work, and neither does a fancy quaternion thing that some nice guy whipped up for me. This is really only a mild concern at the moment however, and I'll deal with it when I have a less limited internet connection.
other than that the game is coming along fairly well.