Yes the game has improved a lot since the initial release. There is a lot more to do now than just fly about shooting things (there's even a whole diplomacy side to the game).
Cryptic also never delete characters, so your character will still be there when you log back in.
And he means never; Cryptic's been making MMOs since before World of Warcraft came out, and in all that time, they haven't deleted a single character in any game due to inactivity. They don't believe in that.