Startraders is a highly complex and involved game to play, and the manual is rather in depth, so this is intended as a quick introduction to get people familiar with how the fundamentals of the game work as quickly as possible. It isn't intended to replace the game manual, and it's still recommended you skim through that, or indeed just dip into it to find out information when your more familiar with the game, however obviously when just trying out a new game reading a weighty tome like the game manual isn't particularly what you want, so this is intended to give you enough information to get you up and flying as soon as possible without going into in depth stratogy.
To start off, choose a ship, a starting faction, and a profession with the sliders. Also note the difficulties (and be careful sinse Star traders can get very tough). All difficulties above normal have perminant death, however equally you won't see all the enemy ships on lower difficulties.
Once you have your ship, you'll have a little story sequence that takes you through your first mission to your factions' capital, devoltus prime if you choose the first faction of Devoltus syndicate.
Now, how the game works is you need to survive and make money. Each profession starts you off with skills that pertain to different activities.
Navigating your ship is a little different from most space games, you don't just have all the planets on screen to pick one of, rather you set a way point and your ship flies there (use the start button on the main screen once you've set one, ). You can set waypoints either from the planet navigator (use the zoom out screen), which shows the planets around you in order of distance (closest at the top), or when you get a contract you will have a waypoint set. In addition if you use the "status" button in the ship screen you will find listings of contracts, rumours and cargo that you can set way points with.
At the top of the screen, there is the date listed and if you've set a waypoint, the number of au (astronomical units), away it is. make sure you have enough water fuel in your hold before you start, plus some luxury rations to keep your crew happy sinse if your crew's morale drops too low they'll mutany. How much water fuel it takes to get anywhere depends upon the ratio of solar sales to hull of your ship, and your captain's piloting skill, but when you start off you have a firstofficer who helps with hints and advice and will tell you if your running low on supplies.
The "Bridge" button is used to open the sector menu which is basically the stuff you can do at any sector of deep space or planet, patrol, blockade, surveillance, go to urban zone or land on wild zone.
Patrolling, blockading or using survailance are all used for missions or performing actions against enemy factions, while Urban gets you to the various shops and other places. Wilds is where you go exploring.
(you will also see the urban and wilds buttons on the main screen if your not zoomed out and docked at a planet).
In the urban zone, you can go to the spice hall and hier crew, as well as get spice or entertainment for your crew to keep their morale up. If you've been wounded in combat or mutanies you can visit a doctor, though note that it's more cost effective to get small heals at several doctors than heal everything at one. In the Spice hall you can also get rumours which might tell you something useful about wars going on across the galaxy, locations of special officers to hier, shortages of certain goods etc, (though bare in mind each time you hit the "buy hint" or "next" button it costs you 100 credits. You can also take some miner contracts for the faction like message or cargo contracts.
In the stardock you can fix your ship's stats, sales, guns, engines and hull, and buy some upgrades (what upgrades are available on any planet will depend upon the faction who owns it and some other things). You can also enter the military base where you will see military ships for sale and repare the guns, torps and armor for your ship, however you have to have enough military rank for a faction to get into the base.
In the palace you can talk to the prince and get more major contracts like assassinations or bounty missions, blockade or surveillance contracts, as well as buy a trade permit, military rank or death warrent.
Trade permits are needed to trade in weapons, electronics, artifacts and records, and death warrents get you to be a bounty hunter and give you protection when carrying out assassination missions.
You can also buy military rank upgrades for a faction, which give you access to the faction's military base and also lower the prices on buying armourments for your ship.
The palace also holds the "hall of records" which is where you can go to see the in game awards, and earn one if you fulfil the conditions. These are not game center awards, and may be earned multiple times for each game, also note that earning some of the tougher awards on higher difficulties unlocks some extra starting ships and equipment.
In the exchange you can buy and sell the various types of goods, though you can't buy or sell records, weapons, electronics or artifacts without a trading permit with a given faction.
The way any exchange of goods works in the game takes a little getting used to in terms of Voice over, but is quite logical when you get the hang of things. the price and quanteties are listed in columns (I find having vertical navigation on my rotor control is quite a useful thing here as it is in several games), there is a main slider and an exchange button.
The slider represents the total quantity of goods available, with a hundred percent being the maximum in your ship and zero percent being the maximum out. So, if for example you have 2 units of water fuel and there are 8 units available to buy, putting the slider at 100 will have all 10 units in your ship, at %50 will have three units bought and put into your hold, and at %10 will sell one of your two units to the docks (you can find the respective prices and what your paying in the columns).
This works the same for selling, for looting ships, or for gathering up stuff you find exploring, (though obviously when looting or exploring your not paying anything).
Sometimes flicking the slider works, however the most efficient method I've found is double tap and slide right or left, note that you sometimes need to slide quite a long way across the screen to get it to register.
Be careful when carrying cargo, sinse some types of cargo have extra affects.
Weapons make your crew stronger in boarding actions in battle, but increase number of encounters. Electronics also risk more encounters but help your success at surveillance missions.
Artifacts increase amounts of accidents.
You also obviously need water fuel to go anywhere and at least a couple of packs of luxury goods to keep your crew happy.
When you go to a planet that has a wild zone, you can explore, gather goods or leave a cache of items.
Exploring has a chance of finding records, artifacts, electronics or weapons, while gathering finds you metal, spice, plants, crystals or chemicals. Note though that exploring with all your crew is a bad idea, indeed having one crew per rank of explorer skill might be advisable. Also bare in mind that unless you've got an explorer rumour, you don't know how dangerous the planet is, so be cautious and if it looks too dangerous with you losing many crew quit while your ahead.
The only other things you need to be aware of are your skills, and the factions.
In the status screne you can see your reputation with the six factions. you start at zero with most accept your starting faction. Obviously doing missions against one faction, or even Not stopping when ordered will lose you reputation, also note that in the status screen is a list of faction wars and yourreputation will change according to these wars and what you do, for example trading with a faction another faction has a trade embargo with is a bad idea if you don't want to wind up in the first faction's bad books, however if two factions have a trade alliance it'll bennifit you with both of them.
If your rank gets too low with a given faction, they'll start sending assassins after you and you'll find yourself fighting off lots of tough ships.
independents don't particularly matter, however if you blow up lots of independent ships it'll annoy your crew sinse most of them are independents themselves, pirates and aliens however are fare gane (though aliens are nasty customers).
Combat is fairly self explanetory. At long range torpedos are more effective, at short range it's guns. At long range pilot skill and solar sales are the things that affect maneuvers, at short range it's tactics, engines and guns, and the warrior skill for boarding actions. Blowing up the enemy's engines isgood if you want them not to run away (it'll also affect their gun accuracy), and targeting decks is good for killing their crew if you want to board, though bare in mind blowing the ship up gets you no loot, ramming helps if you have more armor than the enemy.
Lastly, in the ship status screen are your captins' skills and attributes as well as your level with explanations of what they effect in the game, sinse as in any rpg both your attributes and your skill scores have many different effects on the activities you perform.
Take note of these, sinse everything in the game continues to get tougher so you must continue spending xp and raising your stats to keep up and progress. In particular remember the stealth skill sinse star traders is a game where avoiding encounters is a good idea.
There is of course a huge amount more in the game, trading, rumours, officers and the alien to name a few things, but this should be enough to get started with.