As with most MMORPG's, you start out the game by creating a character. Characters, or rather agents, have a certain skillset. In Perpetuum, this is mostly determined by extensions. When starting the game, you will get set up with starter extensions, determined by a few preliminary choices. After that you can choose to attain all other extensions, in no way limiting what you can do in the game once you've set up your agent.
In addition to a selection of starter extensions, you'll start out with 20,000 Extension Points (EP). You can use EP to increment your current extensions, or buy new ones. EP is accumulated automatically, with a rate of 1 EP/minute, for the duration of your subscription (including your trial period). Once you subscribe on a trial account, you'll receive an additional 20,000 EP.
Please note that EP is shared among three potential agents (the maximum on one account). Additionally, deleting a character will cost 2880 EP (two days worth), subtracted from your current EP pool (which could potentially result in a negative balance).
It's quite possible to be competitive with older players right off the bat, but it would be essential to specialize. In general, be conservative with spending your EP and aim to try things in the game and have fun doing it. Once you've got a general idea of where to go, refer with more experienced players before you spend the bulk of your EP.
If the robot you have equipped is destroyed, it will be lost permanently. There's a chance the modules you had equipped survive, at least partially. After such a loss, your agent's 'spark' (your presence on Nia) will be moved to a terminal, and you will be granted a replacement Arkhe. This is something to be avoided; a good rule to adhere to here: 'do not take a robot out the terminal you can't afford to loose'.
Perpetuum offers 4 tutorials to help new agents get acquainted with the basics of the game. After that, you can start with 10 training assignments. These assignments are highly recommended, they will grant you free ammo, equipment and bots.
Perpetuum is based around several zone's, or islands. These islands belong to either of the three alien factions; Pelistal (green), Thelodica (red/yellow) or Nuimqol (blue). Apart from a faction, an island also has a type; Alpha, Beta or Gamma. Alpha is considered a safe zone, free from agent vs. agent attacks (PvP). Beta and Gamma does allow agent vs. agent attacks, so it's best to venture there with equipment easily replaced.