Voice of a ghost here. Been gone awhile. Dreadnought still pulls on my heartstrings from time to time.
I've always felt they should have taken the Overwatch approach. All the way up to even charging for the base game. Like $30 or so. That said I can see how maybe a game like this needed the most exposure. IE free.
That doesn't change my mind that tiers were a terrible mistake. It actually takes away from the uniqueness in a way. As now the ships feel a tad watered down? Is a Svarog all that special when there are 4 clones? I use to feel that they were when it was a single ship I outfitted. I made it MY Svarog. The reason I bring this up is not to beat a dead horse but it ties into my Overwatch comparison.
Loot boxes. That's the grind. It works for OW. Think about it. Their heroes never change outside of balancing. They didn't need 4 variants of Mei. She has her role and players choose her when they need or want to be her. They make her their own by choosing her skin. Such a simple setup and it worked so well.
Dreadnaught has even more advantages to this system. With weapons customization and modules. The loot boxes would hold, skins, decals, captain gear and such with different rarities. Even put in duplicates like OW. So over time you slowly earn the GP to buy the specific thing you want if your luck proves absolutely horrible. The super legendary wins being hero cosmetics.
That's right in my system Hero ships would be nothing more than cosmetic. No specific bonuses or weird ship that's locked to certain loadouts.
Going back to why I think this system works... is it makes each 15 ships very special (easier to balance as well and less community splits). It also makes the addition down the road of even a single ship incredibly special. It'll shake up the whole meta. The tier system dilutes that a bit. Not to mention the grumbles of a higher tier advantages over lower ones.
Back to loot boxes. Of course you allow buying them in bundles. For those that don't want to wait for the grind. Even if they buy 20 boxes and get a bad roll the duplicates at least slowly gain them progress to outright buy the thing they want eventually. So it doesn't feel like a total rip off.
I know I was originally totally onboard with buying cosmetics or working really hard for them in the original alpha settings. It's what made me buy the $40 founders. I wanted those ships! Especially since I was able to mix and match parts. Now with the new system... well as I said at the beginning. I don't even play anymore.
I still watch this game. I hope they find something that works for everyone.