I've just reached Level 30 with a Fed char on Tribble, and I'd like to give some broad feedback on the experience as a whole.
First of all, I was really looking forward to a streamlined mission journal, economy and the new event system. So I was certainly not afraid of change, and very positive toward F2P. So you know, where I come from.
That being said, I have two big concerns right now:
The complete experience of leveling a char is very unbalanced
The new economy does not make sense (at least for players)
I'd like to elaborate: Locking missions down, so you need to complete the previous ones, is a good thing. However, making the difficulty of these missions scale, but not the rewards - combined with inflationary amounts of Skill Points - unrails the complete progression. I'm not sure, if the increased skill point rewards are meant to be a temporary thing, helping us to level testing characters, but it badly needs to go away.
Here is what happened to me: I've basically played story missions only, chasing after barely useful rewards. However, my Skill Points raced away, and the missions became increasingly difficult, since I had a Tier 2 Ship with Mk II gear, going against Level 25 D'Deridex Warbirds. It does not make sense. A player needs to have an option to level up and acquire new gear without the game becoming harder in the process. When the environment becomes too harsh, the player needs to have a way to turn back, gear up, and come back with more firepower. That is why most RPGs bind the difficulty of enemies to regions, instances and a difficulty setting, instead to the player's progression. Right now, the only content left to "level up safely" is patrol missions.
According to the Dev Blog entrys, we are supposed to achieve the following while leveling up from one rank to the next:
Play Exploration/PvP/PvE/Events for Dilithium (since otherwise we wont get a new starship when we rank up)
Play increasingly hard episodes, that scale only in difficulty, but not in rewards
Spend energy credits rather on comfort sinks, than on the exchange
Get along with an average of 8000 Dilithium a day
It does not work. That is too much to do, with too little resources in too little time. Which brings me to the economy side of things.
Previously, you could do exploration/PvP every 30min, and each run was roughly equivalent to one ground item or a half space item. Now, the daily refinery limit is not even close to any of these numbers. If I wanted a new Captain level Ground weapon, I needed to spend more than two contingents of dilithium on that single weapon, which previously, would have taken me to spend an hour in an Exploration Cluster or PvP. I know, the economy is not set in stone, yet, but seriously, it is "off" by such a large margin, that I ask myself, if it is made this way intentionally.
Another bugger, that comes back around to player progression: The current economy setup increases the "pay to win" component of the C-Store in a disturbing new way, I had not thought of before. The decision, to not even grant the basic starships at each tier automatically, makes the pay-to-win-variants even more problematic than before. We are not talking about a console slot and a BOff ability anymore. No, now you are getting the ship for free (and you are probably allowed to keep a large amount of Dilithium), while everyone else has to grind for it, even before the end-game.
This part is the one that makes me somewhat angry. Because before, we were told, that grinding on lower levels was supposed to allow you access to the more powerful C-Store-Variants. But I don't see any of them available for Dilithium (yet?), and combined with the current progression path, there is simply no time to gain the Dilithium necessary to even get the weaker basic ships when ranking up. I really hope, the current economy setup is really only a big bug, because the numbers are just wrong by roughly the factor 10 in my opinion.
So, in a nutshell:
Either add scaling rewards to all episodes
Or leave the difficulty bound to the mission
Allow players to chase for equipment without gaining Skillpoints so fast than that equipment becomes immediately worthless
Allow players to get uncommon/rare gear through exploration/PvP at similar rates as before
Make sure, Dilithium grinding on lower levels is completely optional, and serves only to be able to access C-Store-variants instead of regular ship on rank-up
If there is a refinement cap, make that level reasonable with the character level.
Edit: I don't want to sound all negative. The DOff system and the Event calender are still huge wins.
I'm in agreement about a lot of this, especially rewards in general for the story missions. I was also a T2 Nova going up against D'Deridex with T2 -T4 gear. I found myself constantly repeating "Everything Old Is New" to get phaser arrays that were top level. By the time I got to the story missions, the rewards were so far out of date as to be laughable.
I like the fast pace of leveling now, as I like to make and level lots of alts as opposed to playing one or two all the time, but I ended up skipping the T3 ship altogether. Granted, when I started a KDF character yesterday, I did easily gain enough dilithium for a new ship after only 2 events, as well as decent gear drops in Exploration missions (but not story missions).
If they tweak the prices and remove the 8,000/day refinement quota (or just get rid of refining altogether and keep it a one-step process), then I think the dilithium issue will be okay. If the refinement process is going to stay, I think you're suggestion of scaling it with level is good.