Upon logging into the game, you start at the global menu, where you can find other online players or join active galaxies. Each galaxy runs with its own rule set and time period. Select option 1 "Enter a galaxy" to get a list of all active galaxies.
Each galaxy has a "soft start" and "flight start" time. Between soft start and flight start, you can begin team management before the war starts. Once flight start has arrived, players may enter the galaxy and begin searching for planets.
Once you have selected a galaxy that is open for flight, you can choose menu option #2 "Take command of your ship". If you have not previously entered the galaxy, you will be asked to select a starting location. By default, you can choose between 4 imperial bases. Each imperial base resides in a different quadrant of the galaxy. These are the bases all players can spawn to as well as return to to resupply their empire-supplied free ships. As you acquire planets, they will also be added to your spawn lists.
Upon taking flight, you will be in starspace. Each star in the galaxy has it's own starspace. All planets are located in starspace, each star having something different to offer. You will start in orbit of an imperial planet and see other planets within the star system.
To begin movement, you can double-left-click any area in the circle surrounding your ship, and you will head in the direction you have clicked. You can double-left-click on a planet to move to that planet, but this is not desired upon first entering an imperial base, you will want to leave the imperial system and start exploring for planets you can establish your own bases at.
To move to hyperspace and start searching for new stars and planets, you must move a safe distance away from the Sun. In starspace, distances are measured in Astronomical Units or AUs. For most galaxies, you need to be 12 AU away from the sun to safely transverse to hyperspace. If you are in a hurry or a tight situation, you may try to transverse to hyperspace earlier, but risk damaging your ship. If you do attempt to jump early, your navigation computer will tell you your chance of exit without damage.
To begin the transversal to hyperspace you can click the "Hyper" button or issue a "WAR" command to warp to hyperspace.
Like starspace, you can navigate hyperspace by double-left-clicking the direction you would like to go. You can navigate to a star by double-left-clicking on the star. If you travel to the edge of the galaxy, you will not drift forever, galactic forces will bounce your ship back towards the playable galaxy area. Your galaxy map will show you how close you are to any galactic boundary. To stop your ship, you may left-click on the left side of the velocity bar or issue a "WAR"
Once you have made it to hyperspace, you can begin searching for suitable bases to colonize and manage to fit your needs. You have an entire galaxy to begin searching, and where you go is up to you, there is no right or wrong place to go. To search for planets, you can either move your ship from star to star or you can send a probe there instead. A probe is quicker, but will only feed you information. If you find a planet you would like to colonize, you must fly your ship there to establish a new colony. To send a probe to a star, simply left-click on the star, and the computer menu at the left will give you an option to send a probe there. Stars numbered in white have not been visited by you, stars numbered in light green have, so it is easy to find areas you have not yet been. If you send your probe to an area outside of your screen's view, you can open the galactic or province map to help guide your scouting.
After you have left-clicked on a star you would like to investigate, you can click the "Send Probe To ####" menu option (#3). You will see your probe deploy to the star you have selected and eventually disappear into star space. When the probe reaches the star, you will see a message in your information console at the lower right stating it has entered the desired system. Once the probe has indicated it has reached its destination you can scan the system (Computer menu option #7).
The first thing you will want to look at is the basic library information for the system, which will list the basic habitability and metal ratings of the planets within. Planets with a habitability and metal rating greater than 70% are generally considered good planets, but the higher the better, but also more rare.
Once you have found a planet you would like to colonize, you need to see if it is available or already colonized by another player. You can hit System Surveys (Option #5) on the computer menu to the left, and it will bring up a list of planets, and you can survey the desired planet. If the planet has no colony established or is abandoned, you may travel to the planet and establish a base there. If it is owned by another ship, it will remain in your Planet Library for you to use the data in the future should you need to.
This process should be continued until you find enough bases to satisfy your needs. Each galaxy allows a maximum number of planets each player can own, the default is currently 6 planets per player.
Entering space, you are provided a command bar for greatest utilization. From the command bar, you can type "A/Message I want to send" to broadcast to your tuned channel A. By default, your A channel is tuned to the public channel 1 generally heard by all ships. If you are expecting to chat significantly on a single channel, you can either left-click on the command button to cycle through channels and input modes, or you can right-click on the command button to choose a specific channel.
By default, you are allowed 3 channels, which can be tuned in the range of 1-999 or set to 0 (detuned). To hail another player to a channel, you can send them a private message, such as "SEND ID,Please tune to channel 123" where ID is the target player's ship number or handle.
You can issue commands while your input bar is on a specific channel in one of two ways. You can press CTRL+ENTER and whatever you have typed will be treated as a command instead of text sent to the channel. Alternatively, you can start your command with a / character to indicate it is to be treated as a command, such as "/DRY REP".
Default views are set so you are always able to see any player within typical attacking distance, however you may wish to change the visible scale. You can do this by scrolling with your mouse wheel while hovering over the space display or by using the +/- buttons in the lower right section of the display panel. To pan around your ship, you can use the directional arrows in the lower right section of the display panel, or right-click and drag within the view panel. Double-right-clicking will re-center your view on your own ship.