First - Frontier Developments has decided not to wipe the servers before the launch from Gamma to public release on December 16th. This is awesome, however some people say it gives other players an unfair advantage, and others say they've ruined their rep with factions.
NPCs start out with better ships and equipment wipe or not, and some Kickstarter backers got better ships as a perk anyway, so it doesn't make a difference. And if your rep is ruined, you can wipe your own save in the game. Or you can become a pirate and take your "borrowed" goods to the nearest anarchy system and sell them on the black market. I think you can also earn rep back somewhat, but that system doesn't seem to work yet.
I haven't played much during Gamma because I wasn't sure if the upcoming wipe was going to happen or not, but I picked up the game again a few days ago to play around and see what I'd like to do when the game launches. Now that the wipe isn't going to happen, I do what I want to do and be now. I've been playing as a sort of bounty hunter, having gotten sick of trading (and I don't think I'm going to ever go back to it, either, unless some extremely profitable trade route happens) and I've outfitted my Eagle with two Pulse Lasers on the bottom hardpoints and a Multicannon on top. I've also upgraded my powerplant to a class B I think, and I've also equipped a Frameshift Drive Interdictor and a shield cell bank for an emergency shield recharge.
With this stuff I've been flying around the Cosi system interdicting various Wanted NPCs and I've been largely successful, however I prefer to stay away from Federal Dropships, Anacondas, and Imperial Clippers, the latter of which are my arch nemesis due to their odd skill of flying backwards while shooting at you and still staying out of reach of your guns. I haven't fought dropships or Annies, but I have taken down an Asp and everything else except a Python. I have yet to encounter a wanted Python.
So far I've been really enjoying my life as a bounty hunter, it's really fun to chase ships down, pull them out of supercruise, and annihilating them. The battles are pretty intense, and the larger ships can be a challenge and things get crazy quick.
I'm thinking of removing my Eagle's pulse lasers and installing more multicannons, because I faced off with an Eagle with that setup earlier and my shields went down quick. However, multicannons don't have infinite ammo, so that might not be a good option. Maybe one really good laser of some sort and two multicannons is the way to go.
An Oculus Rift would also really help with this game, because then it would be a bit easier to keep track of my target by looking around in my cockpit, which I can't easily do right now with the joystick in one hand and tapping buttons on my keyboard with the other.
I'm also really not liking how NPCs disappear and seem to slowly repopulate in the system when I interdict one and then emerge into supercruise again sometimes not even 2 minutes later. Hopefully that will be fixed soon.