Basic Game Play:
You start inside the space station ZX81. Here you can trade, upgrade and pick up missions. The first mission will be to buy an upgrade for your crappy, old ship, but choose wisely, because the ship can only take 3 upgrades, before you have to get an altogether better ship class. After this, you can get a mission to take down 10 pirates.
When ready, hit Undock. This will take you to sector 11 of the map. The sectors are named after their coordinates on the larger map. Thus sector 11 equals x: 1 and y: 1. With a little practice, you can use this to navigate the galaxy.
In space, there are debris fields where you can pick up cargo. Some of these will contain pirate ambushes, so be ready for a fight! Then there are fuel cells you can pick up. These let you keep flying around the map without having to dock at the station, though they are fragile and may explode on pick up. Some maps also contain mines.
From time to time, an NPC ship will appear on the map with you. These are generally friendly encounters, except for the dreaded pirate fleets. Attacking one of those is a tougher challenge than the debris field ambushes. Other encounters will offer to trade goods or lore, give your ship a tune-up or a weapons upgrade.
When fighting pirates, you will want to fire short bursts, or your gun might overheat. Your HUD at the bottom of the screen displays your weapon’s current heat and maximum. The pirates will aim their shots at your location, so stay on the move. When fighting in debris fields, the occasional container will float by. Intercept it to pick up the cargo.
If you run out of fuel, fellow salvagers will give you a tow back to one of the two stations in the game. The difference between the two, apart from the fact that they are in different parts of the galaxy, is that you can only turn in missions (and pick up new ones) at the ZX81 station. The other station, called VIC-20, offers a race track instead. Go there to bet on one of four vehicles to win, and see if you can double your money.
The map also contains planets. Each of these holds a challenge for you to try. These are also part of the main quest line. To explore a planet, just fly over to it.
When you first start out, your ship is not very good. So, be careful out there. Keep an eye on your fuel and shields, and don’t be afraid to dump your cargo during pirate fights, to escape. Save often! As you upgrade your ship, you will have an easier time in most cases, though the pirates will step up their game too as your reputation grows.
Good luck, and happy salvaging.
Here’s a video of an early version of the game in action…