I've been around ATS for quite a while now. Around five years, and I'm not sure it's going to end sometime soon. Of course, I've taken my breaks now and then, but when you only focus on the IC aspects of the game, it is quite fun to play.
I'm a player on ATS, and a former administrator, so I've seen both sides on the game. You want fun? Focus on IC, do not get involved with OOC disputes. It sounds bad, but every MU* has their OOC disputes, so that is nothing new.
At the moment I am playing in the Cardassian Union. The regulars are a fun bunch, friendly to each other and such. Unfortunately it looks like the CU is the empire with relatively the smallest (active) playerbase, and I am kind of hoping that can be rectified in the near future as the Cardassian Union is actually a fun and interesting place.
If you are a normal and typical MUSH player, there is a good chance that you'll be able to find a nice spot on ATS. Of course, knowledge of Startrek would be handy. To do some research about the empire you're going to join, and the race you're going to play, would be nice as well. If an empire does not suit you, you can always ask for a detach to your empire admin (where your character gets kicked out of the empire and nuked), and try another empire with a new character.
If you've never played a MUSH before, the people on ATS are generally willing to help you out, providing you do your research by utilizing the HELP command and such. Be sure to read room descriptions and check the help, then you'll get accepted in no-time.
Various things can be done, which greatly depends on empire. Civilians can try to pursue personal wealth or knowledge. Mostly one would be in a military of the empire of your choice, as that is the position that offers the most activity on ATS. And even in the military, you can do different things. Starfleet might be a small exception, as they have departments and such. Other empires, however, do not have the luxury of a bloated playerbase, so a military person can actually do many things at once.
Let's see...if the econ system is upgraded (it's in the middle of an upgrade), we can resume trading. We can refuel bases and outposts. We can patrol borders. We can cause trouble (make sure your superiors are agreeing with that stance!). We can do space combat. We can meet weird people. We can...Roleplay!
Keep in mind, ATS does not -exactly- offer 'personal ships', as everything is ultimately in the hands of your empire. The only thing that might be completely 'yours' might be latinum (minus the taxes). ATS is not geared to getting the most objects in your possession (Ferengi might disagree here), but is highly politically oriented. The whole empire benefits most by working together so that it stands above other empires, whether it be by war, politics, or other things.
For those experienced with MUSHes, feel free to decide on your favorite race and empire. For those still relatively new, the United Federation of Planets might be your best choice. But... if you feel you are experienced enough, do not hesitate to try another empire as that offers so much more variety. You do not know ATS fully if you only have tried the UFP.
And I hope some of you reading this will consider the Cardassian Union. :)
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