Progressing by gaining experience is the RPG basics
In TG there are 3 main ways to progress and gain Xps.
You can gain Xps through:
getting more kills
gaining more wealth by trading ,harvesting and finishing missions
gaining Reputation Points : missions grant scores that tells the game the kind of character you are: Rogue, Law keeper ,Happy trigger, Explorer, Mercenary, Scavenger, Pirate...
Those XPS will then be used to open new missions to you and reflect your gaming style.
Lets say for instance that you chased a lot of pirates recently, but didnt followed missions to much because you like to play it your way. just having fun in a nice spot you`ve just found. It will to a certain point attract the attention of certain companies that will need independent agents like Bounty Hunters to take down for good all piracy activity in this particular sector...that may suits your exact needs!
Following support missions could lead you to a military campaign, harassing harvesters could lead you to piracy life, all the same way.
In TG you can just play the way you like, there is a role for any king of gamer.
And that's just one of the aspects of gameplay TG will have to offer to you!
Reputation Points will be used to unlock objectives accordingly to your way of playing.But in the same time, Reputation Points will be used by the game to categorise your standings and npcs, depending of their standings will behave accordingly.
Basicaly, shooting down the same number of pirates in one solar system or another could turn you into a hero or a problem to be taken care of.
You'll have to pay attention to the historic/races/allegiances/policy of the sectors you'll visit if you want to survive.
Of course there will be some ways to wipe the slate clean, you don't want to end up like poor captain Solo, running away from all the bounty hunters from half a galaxy? Or maybe if you have a fast ship...