Okay, some more experiences thus far:
Firstly, I should point out a bit of a gameplay thing here. Combat, on the ground... pretty clunky. Now, it's absolutely possible this is an effect of the fact that I'm using a bloody controller for this. I mean, really. First person gameplay, controller. So it's hard to entirely judge this. But my experience with it so far, nonetheless, is "clunky".
Space combat on the other hand... here I was, thinking that this wasn't going to happen anytime soon... I'd wondered if maybe it was a bit too rare... when suddenly the ship went berserk with warnings, and BAM, pirates. In comparison to ground combat this is MUCH faster and more exciting. It's not going to be on-par with something like Elite... definitely not. But is it fun? I daresay it is. Fast and chaotic definitely sums this up. I came REALLY close to dying there; enemy pilots are very good at zooming around all over the place and not making easy targets of themselves, and are also good at shooting me, apparently. It is possible to recharge your shields mid-combat, but this isn't easy to do; you have to open your inventory for the ship and pump resources into the shields (typically Zinc, so far). This takes time, so you have to be careful about when you do it. I was able to survive the battle and defeat the pirates mostly because the ship I'd bought was a combat vessel, complete with four weapon upgrades already installed. But no shield upgrades, so I'm now on a quest to get the elements I need to complete this. Either way though, I'm REALLY glad I bought a new ship BEFORE leaving the first system. As many players have said, the starting ship is craptastic. It's expensive as all hell to buy a new ship, but it's worth it.
And following that bit of info, it's obvious that I did in fact figure out HOW and where to buy a new ship. There's no big dealers or anything where you go and select from a pile of ships... that's not how it works. How it works is you find other pilots that have landed somewhere. They can be found in space stations, or in various types of places on planets (these are pretty obvious once you see them). You can interact with the pilots, and buy/sell them things (each having their own inventories and things they want, affecting the prices on stuff), but you also have the option to buy their ship. They ALL offer this. You can have a look at their ship's setup and installed tech VS whatever you already have, so it's easy to make a comparison. Ships are expensive as all hell, and money isn't the easiest thing to get in this game (this is a good thing, by my view; when resources are too plentiful, particularly money, in a game like this, it's a problem). I saved up money for this due to a gold rush. I mean an actual gold rush, in that I found huge lumps of gold on a particular planet; bloody lucky find. Dug up TONS of it, sold it for massive amounts of money. This still took awhile, but it was worth it to get the ship.
The ONE thing I really, really, REALLY don't like about buying new ships: You outright LOSE your entire inventory in your current ship when you do this. It's just gone. So if you have valuable stuff... and you will.... you need to transfer as much of it to your suit's inventory as you can before making the trade. Or sell it, of course. Fortunately, most places where alien ships can land will also have a trading machine somewhere nearby, I've yet to find a spot where this isn't the case (they aren't JUST found on space stations). That's really the only complaint I have so far, when it comes to the economy and buying/selling stuff. The rest of it is pretty well done.
Upgrading your suit is a totally different matter. You have to find these "drop pods"... not an easy task... and those contain a suit "upgrade" that you can buy for a high price. By "upgrade" I mean "new inventory slot". When it comes to other types of upgrades, it's all about crafting and installing tech. Tech does take up inventory slots, but these are things you really want. There's tech for your suit, your ship, and your multi-tool (used for mining, shooting things, and launching bizarre grenades that aren't just for fighting). There's tons of different types of techs, and you cannot buy these; you have to find their recipes. After a time, you learn what sorts of places will have these, but finding them is never a fast process. It does make the acquisition of new techs pretty satisfying when you get them. Then all you have to do is craft them and install. I like this particular game mechanic quite a bit.
So yeah, I've managed to leave the first system... I'll not spoil the events that you need to go through to do this... and have done a heck of a lot more ground and space exploration than I had at the start. I also learned the value of asteroid mining. And the value of not crashing into asteroids. It is easy to crash into asteroids. I recommend not doing this.
I also had one moment where I'm using the accelerator system to zoom forward at high speed, travelling in space above a planet (what I was trying to do was reach an extremely distant spot on a planet without it taking FORTY MINUTES, which is how long it would have taken if I flew through atmosphere), when out of nowhere, this huge pile of cargo ships just warps RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Like, nearly on top of me. Absolutely scared the crap out of me. Rather glad that nobody I know was around to hear my high pitched squeak of surprise. I mean, seriously, I just about jumped out of my chair. Needless to say this interrupted my space zooming. I cant even imagine what the chances of this event occurring must be. You'll see cargo ships and freighters warp into place every now and then, but for them to do THAT... yeah. Didn't expect it, nope.
I also had one moment on the ground where I landed my ship on my own head. Just... don't ask. I have no explanation that makes something resembling sense.
I also learned all the uses of the scanner, one of it's key abilities being the registration of new things. You can scan animals, plants, and rocks. These discoveries are registered into your data thingie (separate screen), and you can upload them to get some credits; this is a good way to earn them. Eventually I managed to register 100% of stuff on a particular planet, and learned that you get a really enormous amount of money for doing this. Needless to say, this is not easy to do. I was lucky in that it was a planet that contained no hostile animals. The horrible biting tentacle plants (no, seriously) were an issue though.
I like the scanning system overall... not just the registration bit, I mean the "wide scan" that flows over the landscape and reveals stuff. Without this, resource hunting would be all sorts of tedious. It's a good mechanic.
Lastly, I discovered how to buy new multi-tools. This is the most obscure bit of buying that you'll do; I expect a lot of players take quite awhile before they figure out just how to do this.
So there, that's some more experience with the game. Definitely enjoying it, particularly once I got it to stop crashing. The crashes really do seem network related, I haven't had even one since turning that off. I'm not going to put it back on until the servers have had a chance to stop being super stressed out.