First and foremost I should probably apologize about starting a thread like this in the first place--after all, these forums are certainly massive enough to provide just about every bit of information a player could possibly need. That's not stopping me from creating another useless and unnecessary "need help" topic, however.
I've just entered the game, and even after reading much of what is provided on the SW Combine main site, I'm still completely lost. I've only managed to exit the visitor's center before becoming unbelievably confused by the sheer amount of options available--I know how to move around, but I don't know how to gain XP or any credits at all, and I certainly don't know how to get off of a planet. I'd also like to know what all of these "tutorial NPC's" running around are, and how they can help me.
Any advice you all have for a fresh beginner like me would be greatly appreciated. I'm really looking forward to the role-playing options available here; I just need to get on my feet first.
There actually aren't a whole lot of features fully implemented yet, so you may find that there isn't as much to do as you had expected (no combat or production yet, for example).
You'll hear this from everyone: Join a faction. That's the most important thing to do, as most of the action takes place within factions at the moment. Your faction will also be responsible for assigning you a ship and transporting you to it so you can get offplanet. Without transport, you're stuck on the planet.
XP can be gained by traveling (ground and space - more for space travel), RPing in White Scenarios, 1-5 XP for brawling (must find a brawler NPC), and misc. features such as prospecting and mining for mining factions.
Credits are gained by receiving salary from factions, and that's really about it - yet another reason to join a faction. (:
Tutorial NPCs are helpful NPCs you can talk to, and each of them will tell you something about the game. Best way to find out is simply to approach one and talk. They're mini-tutorials. (:
If you're interested in actual roleplaying (as I gather, based on your last sentence), visit the White Scenario board - http://p078.ezboard.com/bswcombinewhitescenarios . In the Scenario Requests forum you can sign up for new scenarios in which you gain XP for participating, or can request your own scenario, for which you gain CPs for GMing. All relevant information is posted in the sticky threads in that forum.