Lets start at the beginning:
Faction Selection. You are given three choices:
Vanguard: Heavy Armor, Reduced Speed
Deprived: Ship self Repair Outside Combat, Low Structure
Eclipse: More Shields, Lower Module Capacity
Now, it is a personal pet peeve of mine, when I am forced to decide something like this, before being able to understand what this means. The good news is that you can have multiple characters per server, so if you want to try all three you can. However, to save you a bunch of play time, let me give a brief explanation.
All ships come with some inherent stats. The racial choice affects the starting numbers BEFORE any equipment is added. As these are all related to combat, you have to understand how combat works.
In combat, how fast a ship moves is related to how heavy it is. The more it weighs, the slower it is. By default Vanguard ships are slower, but any ship can use some of its module capacity to add heavy equipment (like armor) and will be slowed as well.
In general (disclaimer that there are many exceptions), when a ship is hit by enemy fire, defences are applied in this order: Shields, Armor, Structure, Boom (Ship destroyed). Shields regenerate some during battle, and are fully restored between battles. Armor and Structure do not regenerate, but can be repaired. The Eclipse have higher inherent shields, and the Deprived have lower inherent Structure and self heal outside combat.
There is one big exception for damage that affect starting players. If a ship runs into another ship (even one of your own) or an asteriod it will start taking damage in Armor, and then Struture. This can be quite devistating, quite quickly. This happens much more often than I would like, and now that I am fighting L2 Pirates, I find that they will often suicide ram, inflicting much more damage than if they had to go through my shields.
Lastly, there is module capacity. Eclipse has less space for weapons, armor, shields, equipment etc. There are modules that add shields and armor, but I havent seen any that add structure.
Now that you have some idea of what you are choosing, make a choice, and try it out. Once you finish the tutorial, it will dump you out into the game with 3 partially equipped BattleCruisers. You will now have to decide what to do. Here are some tips to help you choose.
- If a (or all) ship is destroyed it drops the looted items in inventory. Go to any MotherShip, then the Dockyards, and it will be repairing. After a short wait it will be repaired, and you can Deploy again.
- When deploying, you can choose any MotherShip from your faction. This allows you to jump around and explore easily.
- You get experience for exploring a zone. Travel around the edge, and once ~80%(?) of the zone has been seen, you will get exp. This works for any zone you have not been in, regardless of whether anyone else has been there.
- You get exp for every pirate/enemy ship you kill. Your ships also get exp for this. You can increase your level anywhere, but only increase your ships level at the dockyard.
- Many locations have quests. You only have 10 quests slots, and most of the quests you see are not easily completed. It is a good idea to always look at the quests, but only to only choose the quests that are easily completable (i.e. kill x, when you are already planning on killing x). You can drop a quest by selecting to see the + on the left, then clicking abandon quest at the bottom of the quest text.
- Asteroid fields with a silver glow have ore that you can mine. You can left click to see how much. Minerals are primarily for crafting (not revenue). You will need lots of ore eventually, but initially it is not urgent.
- Screechers are the generic NPC that you will be fighting initially. They are a good source of loot and experience. Avoid the larger bases, as they are primarily for higher level characters/groups. Enemy factions can be attacked, but are more difficult/less rewarding.
- Territory expansion/control is all done via Houses (Guilds). If you are not in one, you do not see many of the options related to this.
- You can buy a selection of basic equipement in the Dockyard while editing ship. All other equipment is from loot, crafting, quests, (rare) planet shops or (very rare) black markets. Expect to finish equipping your ship mostly from random loot drops.
You have 5 ship slots. The way that the fleet/level system works is very strange. If you were to try to match this every level, you would have to sell off ships, and build new ones. This is extremely wastefull, and generally a bad idea. I am hoping that they change this whole system. At this time you should be very strategic about what you build. I would suggest that you do not build anything lower than a BattleShip (1 tier higher than your existing ships). This means that you will not see any fleet changes until L5, and at L6 you can add a second BattleShip. There is an option to purchase more ship slots with real money, and if they dont change the system, it will be something for experienced players... but when you are juss starting, dont waste time/resources until you know what you are doing. I recommend that they first Battleship you get is the one with the most cargo capacity, as this will make a huge improvement in accumulatting equipment/IGC.
Equipment comes in 3 general qualities: Defective, Normal (No Prefix) and Improved. Once you have filled all of your slots, you want to upgrade the quality of each piece. This can be done by finding the equip via loot, doing missions for the items, crafting the items, or upgrading. There are also different variations of each piece (indicated by a colored symbol on bottom left), and different tiers/pieces that are availble in higher locations.
You may teleport from any MotherShip, or from any planet with a beacon. You may teleport to any mothership, or to any explored planet with a beacon. This makes for easy, fast travel once you have explored a region.
Each ship has 30 levels. The skill tree has more than 30 points. You should try to determine how you want these points spent before you commit too many. I suggest you look at the last skill, pick which of the 3 options you are going to choose, then work backwards.
To get components you need a scavenger module. You can get this from the black market. Don't try to do any quests requiring these until you have one.
I am sure there are many more tips that other players can add as well..