This game delivers on large scale tactical space combat with better balance and depth than anything else I've played, and the build diversity and meta is compelling to explore. It was easy to recommend this game to about a half dozen friends and incorporate it into our regular gaming over our weeks.
However, while the grind is better than Star Conflict or other similar games, I still don't think it's humane game design, and is ultimately costing you a player base more than preserving one through its presumed intention of drip-feeding content to keep players invested for a longer time (setting aside the gross incentive to pay to reduce the grind). The diversity of module combinations, ship variations, and continuous attention to balance tweaks are what preserve interest in the game and keep it interesting and worth sticking around for (which ultimately builds value for those cosmetics and hero ships you want to use to monetize and support this project), but the grind wall to access that depth and the real meat of the game is immense and surely turning off many players before they ever see the full appeal of this game.
I recently tried the game out and immediately recommended it to about half a dozen friends. We have eagerly been playing for weeks on and off (we all have day jobs and several of us have kids), and while I've grinded out 11 hours of match time (who knows how much time with queueing and hanger-time) to unlock every T3 ship, several are still slogging through T2 trying to unlock even 1 T3 ship (though they'll need 2 to even try Veteran!). Once clearing that time-consuming hurdle, the few of us that have made it into Veteran were immediately confronted about another jump in grind, where no longer can we even get a new module to experiment with within 2-4 games, and unlocking an addiitonal new ship to experiment with could take weeks!
2 of us were so demoralized by the grind to unlock new ships and abilities that they don't even want to finish T2 to get to T3, but the 4 of us that made it to T3 ships are demoralized by the ever-escalating grind we met in T3 (1 of which still doesn't have his 2nd T3 ship, so he can't even play veteran with us yet!). We are willing to give it an earnest effort to get some modules and see if small adds in versatiltiy restore some of the fun on the way to the potential we can see, but are demoralized and considering quitting, despite our enjoyment to this point.
The threat of stagnation just sucks the fun and potential out of continuing to explore new ships, modules, and combinations. If it's just repeating the same battle over and over again, getting bullied by fully teched T4 ships in our vanilla T3s, we might as well go back to playing Heroes of the Storm; it's repetitive too, but more diverse and fun than being stuck in vanilla T3s or only playing in recruit. :-/
This game has wonderful depth and layers of ship design strategy and tactics, but you're hiding all that beauty and appeal behind an ugly grind. It's like chess. Chess is a great game, with an alarming amount of depth for its complexity, and that makes it easy to learn, hard to master, and immersive for a lifetime to many. The T1 grind is basically teaching Checkers before trying to teach Chess, I get that. However, the T2 grind is basically locking non-pawns behind many hours of play (so much that 2 of our players who can only play with us 1-2 nights a week have little hope of getting into T3 to play with us anytime soon), and the T3 grind feels like unlocking each back row piece after days and days of regular play. By the time we can just play chess and start to appreciate its design, so many of us are too demoralized, disinterested, or already gone to see it through and invest enough value to want to pay into the game.
You're free to play to secure a large player pool, please don't shoot that in the foot by also grind-gating the core of the game to monetize it. I want to love this game, I have from the 1st proving grounds battle, but it just makes it harder to keep loving it the more I play and the more needy the grinding gets.
I'm more than willing to discuss further or in more depth (I'm sure others from my group would as well) here in the forum or any other capacity. We want so badly to love this game and see it succeed, and are disheartened to find the inhumane grind eroding our interest in and passion for an otherwise wonderful game with a lot of potential and we want to do what we can (if anything) to affect that trajectory.