I have to say, one of my least favorite 'features' is the Fleet options in the Shipyard. By this, I mean the selection of ship slots that are unlocked as you level up.
Let me start with what i do like. As you progress in level, you unlock new Fleet Slots with (generally) increasing power. It looks like in the future some configurations will add different types of bonus as well. This is all good....
However, what is absolutely terrible, is how each option has fixed slots for a # of ship hull sizes. You start with 1 option of 3 BattleCruiser Slots. As you start with 3 BattleCruisers, this seems appropriate. However, it also sets the baseline for every other Fleet Slot going forward.
The slots initally progress by adding a Frigate each level. This is not obviously a problem, and seems like a progression. The first problem becomes apparent at Level 4, where you have 6 ship slots in your fleet, but only 5 (unpaid) in your dock. This seems like a minor push to get users to spend, which is ok. However, once you hit 5 and 6, you start to see the problem. If you actually built ships to take advantage of the increase by level, you are going to have to destroy them to free up dock slots for bigger ships. I fact, when you hit Level 8 you would have to destroy those bigger ships as well. This process continues throughout the leveling process.
To take advantage of these levelups you are going to need to buy many dockyard slots. That is generally a bad experience.... but not the worst part of all of this. At several points in the progression you get to build bigger ships, only to have to downsize others, or spam out many small ships. The lack of user ability to choose what ships to actually use is both frustrating, as well as seemingly unnecessary . At this time I am level 17, and have only used 4 of the fleet slots, as the rest were just a waste of time/effort.
In the tactical portion of the game, players build fleets based on point values (not fixed amounts of specific hulls). It is clear that flexible fleets are both possible, and a good idea. I understand that these are preconfigured ships, with set point valued (thus easier to balance, and score). However, there should be some possibility of something between the two systems. I suggest that as players advance in level, that they are given more Fleet Slots to use (doesn't need to be every level). I suggest that instead of fixed hull slots, that you either use something like a WP cap or a add a hull value, and cap those. At level 15 I should be able to choose (something like) a 5 BattleCruisers Fleet, or (Something like) 1 Dreadnaught and 3 BattleCruisers. Let us pick the ships in our fleet under the cap in a flexible manner. This will make the player want to get extra Dockyard slots so that they can get the ships that they WANT, not the ships that they are forced to take. It will also encourage people to keep individual ships, and level them up.
With the current system, it really feels like you are forcing players to play how YOU want them too, and that you are penalizing players that are not willing to pay for this dubious honor. At some point a player who has not paid will come up against a player who has 8/9 ships in their fleet, and will just quit the game, declaring it Pay to Win. The sad part is that this doesn't look like an aggressive sales tactic. It just looks like poor planning.