Hi! Midnight is pretty much on point, but let me just confirm here anyway.
1. Are there any plans to scale the game with higher resolution displays? While not impossible to play at 1440p, the menus and UI are quite small. If not done by the dev, will he at least open the door for modders to improve the UI?
Definitely not - not because I don't theoretically want to, but because it's quite involved. There's a reason that HD remakes of games are just that - remakes. Basically, anything that's at all easy-ish would not be superior to just playing at a lower resolution in the first place.
2. Early game and the balancing of different profit paths. It seems like early game is just way too hard, while late game is a lot easier but not mindless. I can never seem to successfully engage in cargo hauling. Even when trying to use the Intel price events, the profits earned are always so minor if at all. Combat missions seem to always be a lot more successful but the first 15 levels or so are just painful to navigate through. Will trading be made a bit easier and obvious?
Well... yes and no. Yes, a lot of the early game will be easier - new opponents to fight, and a focus on exploration and salvage. No, trade is not going to be all that great. I'm not sure what shape it'll take eventually, but it just hasn't gotten much dev attention during this upcoming update's development.
Just to give you an idea, I think the starting options for this one will be "bounty hunter" and "scavenger", to more clearly indicate/prepare the player for the paths that have gotten the most work so far.
The late game will also be more difficult - or, at least, there'll be some late-game challenges that should be a lot more difficult than what's in the game right now. I wouldn't say it's all the way there in terms of creating a proper difficulty progression from start to finish, but it's going to be in a much
better place than it is right now.
(Trade, hypothetically, might end up being done as something that's indirect - i.e. let's say you set up some outposts and the trading is done for you. Or it might not. Need to figure out a few more high-level mechanics around that before sorting that out, so don't want to spend a lot of effort band-aiding something else in for trade.)
3. Any plans for a more in-depth mission system? To cite another game, Endless Sky has a relatively competent mission generation system that allows players to take set cargo/passenger/escort missions. This really helps direct players like myself who need a bit more of a helping hand. Having both the open economy that currently exists and a more focused generated mission system like in Endless Sky would give players both support and freedom.
I wouldn't say the mission *system* itself is a placeholder, but yeah, there'll be more missions eventually - again, holding off on getting deeper into that until basically everything else is set. In the current build, there's one more exploration-themed mission type.
As you note, the reason for it existing is to help direct players - give you a reason to go somewhere out on the fringes of the Sector, and then you'll find/run into things along the way, but just need that little something to get you started. So, being sparing with missions, adding just enough to get things going, but not so much that re-working them later would be a big time-drain.
Also: welcome to the forum!