You need quests. You need to direct people what to do when they first play the game. I just tried your game, and found myself having to consult the manual a lot just to find out what I can do or cannot do. And I have done a lot more reading than what most people would be willing to do.
As a level 1 thug, I can only pickpocket or punch, which only netted me ~$20/action. When can I move on and do something else? What commands should I enter to get to those? I tried buying some drugs, and it tells me to get a container, and after consulting the manual (again), I can't find containers anywhere else in the shop.
Tell players exactly what to do:
"You are on your own and need some cash. Type .crime pp or .crime punch" > .crime pp "You stole $100 from wandering tourists! Awesome, let's buy some containers so we can get drugs later. Type .shop buy container" > .shop buy container "You spent $10 on a container. Nice! Your buddy Joe asked you for some cash. Type .crime punch Joe to tell him to go away, or .debt add Joe to loan him some cash" > .debt add Joe "You loan $20 to Joe. He said "I appreciate it" and left. You now have $50. Go rob more tourists" > .crime pp "You stole $150 from wandering tourists! Now let's try to trade some drugs"
You get the idea. After players get a hang of the game with some commands, then you can let them go in the open world.