The Beginner's Guide to Commerce [WIP guide]

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Shrike
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Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:02 pm

Hello! I'm still working on this as a side-project, but I thought I'd post my WIP and see how people like it. I'm about a third of the way through....most of it is pre-1.5 so there's a few tweaks to be made to what I've got. I'll try updating this slowy over time until it's finished. Basically, every so often people ask me how to make money. And it's a long story. So I'm writing it down here. It's not supposed to be a perfect guide, but hopefully it'll help a bit. Fair warning: THIS IS A DRAFT. I'll be cleaning it up a lot over time, assuming there's enough interest in it.


Contents:

Part 1: An introduction to trade

1. Why trade properly?

2. Choosing your ship.

3. Setups

4. Cargo Holds

5. Rins and Credits

Part 2: Trade Routes and Cash Cows

6. The food chain
6A. Short-haul Fruit Trade: An experimental trade technique

7. The Black Market & Smuggling

-------COMING SOON (TM)-------------

8. Ripping off the Militia

9. Ferian Farming

10. Other farming

11. Bad Goods and Things to Avoid

Part 3: Making Rins (or: "I have 1.3 million credits, but I can't afford a fuel rod")

12. Ringers

13. Teratons

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Why trade properly?

It's entirely possible to finish the game without trading (although it's quite hard). And optimised trade routes are not a common feature in playthroughs. So why should you take the time to get filthy rich between killing things? The answer is quite simple: It's easy, and it makes everything else easier. No more grinding for cash to buy that fancy gun you see in a shop, because you've already got a mountain left over from earlier in the game! Credits don't win the game, and they're not even counted in the score (yet), but they make the business of murdering every red blip on the scanner so much easier, because you can be perfectly prepared, and able to take more time setting up your ship.

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Choosing your ship

The two stock ships you'll most likely be using for trading are the Sapphire Yacht and the EI500 freighter. The other ships are gunships, and while you can trade in them using the methods in this guide, they're not as effective. No ship is completely "right" or "wrong", but for different playstyles you'll have a different ship that suits you best. Here's a breakdown of the ones in Vanilla:

Wolfen Gunship: A fine ship by Pacific Defense Systems. However: It's a gunship. You have a limited cargo hold (30 tonnes), even with an expansion (up to 100). This ship is fast and agile, but filling it with cargo will overload the hull and bog it down. The best ship for early game combat, but not as good at later-game stuff. Hard to handle (especially with non-gaming keyboards), generally more a ship for fighting than trading. But you can use this guide to make cash along the way. You have a limited number of non-weapon slots on this ship, making it harder to mess around with setups.

Sapphire Yacht: The only ship in the game by Zubrin, and the only playership from the original version of the game. In experienced hands this is the most versatile of the stock playerships, able to do literally anything. This is due to having similar performance to the Wolfen, and having both a large number of device slots and no limitations on how you use them. You also start out with more cash than the other ships. However, the yacht design has some drawbacks which make it potentially challenging for newer players. You start with the worst setup of the three starting ships, and you can only fit armor up to 6 ton segments. Despite this, I think it's the best ship and I'd definitely recommend it. 50 tonnes starting hold, expandable up to 150.

EI500 Freighter: Earth Industries attempts to kill off its customers with boredom, but makes a solid ship all the same. The Freighter is the slowest and least agile ship by default, but is arguably the easiest ship for new players to fly. You start with an omnidirectional weapon (very handy), armor patches (can be used or sold for credits), and a random ROM (you can startscum for a targeting ROM if you want to, saving you a lot of hassle later). You also start with a 200t cargo hold, which can only be augmented, not expanded (IE: You get the extra traits (and mass) from fitting a hold, but no extra space). You also have the highest armor-limit of any ship, with 20 ton segments an option. While not the best ship because you can't run away until you get a serious drive upgrade later in the game, this is definitely the easiest ship to trade in, and it's well worth flying all the same. You only have two weapons slots, which should be fine if you're careful with your choices. Installing enhancement devices will assist with surviving.

And here's the Corporate Command ships:

Freyr Gunship: A gunship with a swivel slot for Rasiermesser weapons. Slower than the wolfen, but carries heavier armor limits. Not a trader, but it can carry about as much as the Constellation if you upgrade the cargo hold, at the expense of agility.

Manticore Heavy-gunship: A gunship that's as slow and boring as the freighter, but also has a penalty to shields. By default, you start with an armor repair device in the shield slot. You can replace it with a shield....but you'll get a penalty to HP. You have six armor segments. This means you can handle damage very effectively and theoretically survive much more. On the other hand, you need to find and care for 6 segments rather than 4. This ship has the same cargo space as the sapphire: 50 to start with, expanding up to 150 tonnes(technically 200, but no cargo hold in the game will get you there). This is the closest this expansion has to an actual tradeship, and it's quite reasonable. The offset main gun is extremely hard to aim though: use dual or omni configured weapons to aid accuracy if you have problems. Keep in mind that this vessel is extremely slow and has a hitpoint penalty: Expect to die if you are too optimistic in this ship.

Constellation Freighter: Want to fly a CSC, but can only afford autosentinels? This is the ship for you! NAMI builds this as a trader that is optimised to use autons. You can recover and customise autons with your auton bay, and this is genuinely overpowered in some parts of the game if you trade a lot and use that money to outfit your little fleet. However it also has serious problems: You cannot fit any cargo bay to this ship. Thus, you cannot smuggle or mine ores effectively. The auton bay (and autons in general) are also hard to use effectively, become less useful in the later game, and regularly get you blacklisted at friendly stations because of stray shots. This is a fun ship, and very capable....but be very careful with how you use it. One "advantage" this ship gains (if one can call it that) is that the recall ability allows the effective use of the most hated auton in the game: the 330M 'Mule'. This can function as effectively an external cargo hold. Keep in mind though that the Mule will never be able to equip defensive weapons, and suffers from appalling bad AI that renders it a nuisance at best, and a hazard at worst. Mules should not be used unless they are actively needed. The rest of the time they can be stored on board the Constellation (alas, the mass inside a mule is tracked, so they cannot be used as Bags of Holding), ready to be used when a large haul of loot or trade goods needs to be transported across a relatively safe area.

If you're playing Eternity Port (which doesn't feature in this guide much as of yet), there are three choices of player ship:

Raijin Class Gunship: A light, agile gunship. Not very good at trading, with a small cargo hold. While the starting omni weapon allows a new player to deal damage, it has among the worst DPS outputs of any gun in the game (it's beaten by the Centauri Recoilless, of all things), and will drain the reactor appallingly quickly due to having an overly high power consumption. It's also external, so hits to the armor can knock out the gun entierly. Upgrade it as soon as you can. This ship is fun, and very effective once you remove the starting gun, but it's no trader.

Spartan Heavy Gunship: If in doubt, fly this thing. Reasonably quick, reasonably agile, absurdly high armor limits, and the best starting setup. This thing is actually overpowered, but that's hardly bad for the person flying it, is it?

Hercules Transport: The mighty Magic Schoolbus. It's rubbish to start out with, but it's fun once you get it rolling. Lower armor limits than the Spartan, same cargo space before upgrading and the same maximum cargo space because of how small the ingame hold upgrades are. Starts with very few credits, no special devices, and the same awful gun as the sapphire. When upgraded, it has no special attributes except for its 6 armor segments (which is both a blessing and a curse).....and its extremely versatile device slot layout. It's basically the Saphire of Eternity Port. In addition the shape of this ship (and the offset gun mounting) can be exploited to glitch the aiming and FF-detection systems and farm some enemies with impunity.

All three ships in Eternity Port start out with underpowered reactors for their starting setup: Equip a reactor upgrade or solar panel as soon as possible.

Both the Domina & Oracus (Part I) and Eternity Port adventures are also compatible with the Osaka Transport extension. This adds the (what else?):

Osaka Transport. Lower capacity than an EI500, but slightly more agile and having the option for 3 weapons. A very good medium tradeship, and also functions as a heavy gunboat once you have the cash to upgrade the drive. Starts with an unusual (and very effective) armor-piercing cannon.
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Ship Setups

Because most tactics in the game are viable to some degree, and because ultimately trading is a means to an end (until we get a better scoring system and support for noncombat playstyles COUGH), I'm not going to handle this as a "This is what to get". More as a "this is what each piece of gear is useful for". Ultimately, it's up to you what you do with them. But I'll cover some of my own tricks.

Drive Upgrades: There are 4 drive upgrades in the game, with varying degrees of usefulness.

Tritium Propulsion Upgrade: The 1st tier drive upgrade. A must-have on slow ships like the EI500, Constellation, Manticore or Hercules. Can be used to effect on the sapphire as well if you intend to carry a lot of mass around (eg. Trading). Your top speed will not improve, but your acceleration will. This is ineffective for some playstyles, but allows the ship to change direction considerably quicker, aiding in close-quarters combat. Generally useless on faster vessels such as the Raijin, Freyr or Wolfen, although acceleration may also be improved.

Titan fusion drive: The second drive upgrade, and the first actual drive you get hold of. Fitted to a slow ship this drive will dramatically improve performance. On a sapphire or similar vessel, it will boost top speed and acceleration and give superb combat performance. On a Wolfen or Raijin, acceleration will be improved but top speed will not. This is of debatable use given the limited device slots for non-weapon equipment on these vessels, but may be useful on a heavily loaded ship.

Pteracnium Megadrive: It makes things go very very fast. Sometimes too fast. Any ship will experience performance boosts with this thing, but it draws a lot of power and can make it tricky to perform fine maneuvering.

Inertialess Drive: This completely useless alien artifact removes inertia from your ship while activated: You will only move while thrusting forward, and will stop as soon as you stop thrusting. You also accelerate to top speed immediately. This is usually a waste of fuel and makes combat very hard. Avoid at all costs.

Weapon enhancement devices: These are what make the Sapphire shine in combat, but they're particularly important on the Constellation and EI500. Because you can't mount lots of guns, enhancing what you have is very useful indeed.

Weapons: Go for weapons that don't use ammunition: it costs money and uses space that is better used for trade goods. For traders, it's also good to choose weapons that you can stack enhancers and devices on to improve.

Shields: You'll probably want one. What you get is up to you. Although if you're good enough (and your armor is up to it) then running without a shield for a while can be useful if you want to be as efficient as possible with cash-grinding in the early game.

Random Crap: Carry fuel and armor patches, but reduce the amount of crud you're hauling: the space is better used for stuff that can be sold. Hoard weapon upgrades, especially ones that will be useful later. However, if you can do so, it's often best to leave stuff in a crate somewhere safe. The wreck of the last brutally murdered salvager nomad in the system makes a good place, from experience.

Microsaurs: Are luxury trade goods, but a true Pilgrim always carries one in their hold for good luck. Wolfy and I have extensive headcanon on why these things exist, which is always good for a laugh in IRC.

Solar Panels and Armor

I'm considering these seperately to the other equipment, because they have their own advantages and disadvantages. In vanilla, there are two items that can draw "fuel" for your reactor (actually, recharging the ships systems directly so the reactor doesn't have to ignite, but whatever) from starlight. The device version, the Solar Panel Array is a fairly weak system, but invaluable for smaller reactors. Up to the Nova-50, this device can achieve good savings in fuel, and even remove the need for fuel entirely if you're careful. Turn off shields and sit somewhere safe (eg. under a moon) in heavy sunlight and turn on the autopilot until you're recharged. However, from the Nova-100 and up this device is not up to the job. A more effective system is the integral armor version: Solar Armor. Each segment will refuel your ship, and a full set is quite useful. However, it's a fairly low-level armor and pays for this extra fuel economy by having inferior stats to other armor types of its level. I see a lot of people using this until very late in the game. This is a waste of time. If you intend to use solar armor, use it to build up your funds in the early game, then switch to a better armor once you are able to afford the fuel and equipment. At around about St. Katherine's Star you should be thinking about discarding solar equipment and running on fuel rods instead.

That being said, solar equipment can be of exceptional value in the early game. This is especially true to newer players or those who don't like having to carry large volumes of fuel. It can also make longer trade routes more viable (eg. Long haul routes to hotels, rather than corporate enclaves).
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Cargo Holds

There are three cargo holds in vanilla, and an extra one in Corporate Command.

Cargo Hold Expansion: Lightweight, expands your hold. Very useful, but not as useful as the other two. Surprisingly rare.

Miners Cargo Hold: Buy these from asteroid mines. They're very heavy, but will also expand your hold. They also allow you to collect ore from space. Mining has been severely nerfed in Version 1.5 as a side effect of a rework of the random ore system. This has made mining generally not worth bothering with. In the event that mining is fixed to be viable, this hold will be useful in the early game, to build up some starting credits. Carrying the hold into the later game may also be a good idea: You get higher-level ores there, and it's good for getting your Rin and credit count up. Just not in V1.5, until mining is fixed.

Smuggler's Cargo Hold: Find them in a wreck, or buy them at a Black Market Station once you've got your ID. Expands your hold, and blocks Customs from scanning your ship. Oddly, they don't mind you doing this. Vital for smuggling, and carrying around military gear before getting a militia/fleet ID.

Usually I will start a game, use a miner's hold for early trading and a little mining (if I need to), then swap to a smuggler's hold as quickly as possible and keep it for the rest of the game. It's by far the most useful of the three holds for my own style (which uses smuggling to make a lot of cash very quickly). Early game mining is not profitable in V1.5, but the miners hold is relatively easy to get hold of, so it's still a reasonable starting hold until you can acquire a smuggler's hold. It also allows emergency mining if you become truly desperate. If a standard cargo hold turns up first, it's probably better to use that instead.

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Rins and Credits

As you start out, you'll be building up Commonwealth Credits. They're used at nearly all stations in the game. Later on though, you'll encounter three groups that don't accept them; Taikon Ventures (a corporate entity), the Ringers (neohumans), and Teratons (neohumans who do bad things FOR SCIENCE). These groups use a second currency: the Rin.

Generally speaking, it's inefficient to exchange Credits for Rins. There's no direct exchange in the Domina & Oracus campaign (Eternity Port has one), and buying ores just to sell them again isn't very good at getting a good total. I'll cover rins later on in Part 3.

In Eternity Port, you'll also encounter stations using the Yuan and Euro. They're far more annoying, and there's no magic tactics to use to make them nicer. There is currency exchange however if you get far enough into the game. Try to avoid spending large amounts of one of the niche currencies unless you have to.


Part 2: Trade Routes and cash cows

This section is designed to illustrate some of the many ways to make CW Credits in the game through trading. There are other ways to make money, but these will do so without combat.

The Food Chain

There's a few ways to make money here, and mostly you'll be doing this for the early to middle game, although from time to time this will crop up later as well. As a general pointer: Buy up a stations stock first, then sell stuff to them to drain the money back out again. It's more profitable that way.

Here's the stations involved, what they buy, and what they sell:

Source Stations

You want to be buying FROM these:

Fuel Station: A corporate station that sells fuel, hydrogen and oxygen gas, and water ice. They also have a small chance of a system map ROM being on offer. If you have an Ice Farm within range, purchase all the Helium-3 Fuel Rods (not assemblies) that you can. If a factory is buying hydrogen or oxygen (or ice), grab it. These stations do not purchase anything.

Asteroid Mines: Found in asteroid belts. Will give easy missions that are good for building up a little cash early on. Also sell mining gear for a very reasonable price. Sells ores. Usually these are crap, but sometimes you'll find decent value ores, all of which are good for trading to a Corporate Enclave. From V1.5 upwards, asteroid mines have more diverse offerings. They'll buy food and some medical supplies, but they don't give the highest price, so avoid selling to them if you can.

Agricultural Colony: Found more or less everywhere, but they're quite rare. Uses the extremely common "C-class" station as a platform. Has a difficult but extremely lucrative mission attached to some stations where you defense against three waves of Charon Pirates for 5000cr. If they have a meeting hall, then entering it will trigger the mission. Don't do so unless you can handle it. They sell low-mid grade agricultural goods which can be sold to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. Staple foods can be sold to an Ice Farm for considerable profits. These stations pay high prices for the materials needed to supply the colony: Helium-3 rods, barrels of hydrocarbons or organic acid, hyperfiber, biofactor paste and basic medical supplies. These goods should be sold here if an ice farm is not available, or has already been drained of cash.

Medical Colony: A C-class station found more or less everywhere. There's sometimes one hiding around Starton Eridani, and another that can turn up at BattleArena Maximus. Sells low to high grade medical equipment that can be sold to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave and either sold or donated to a Commonwealth Star Carrier (medical). Two specific items: Medical supplies and biofactor paste, can be sold more widely, with Ice Farms and [Agricultural Colonies[/u] paying the most and second most for these goods respectively. It can be very expensive to empty one of these stations, but the payoff when you sell things is very high indeed if you do it right.

St. Katherine's Arcology: A large ring station in orbit around the planet Incandescent in the capital system of the Commonwealth: St. Katherine's Star. Sells very high grade perishable foodstuffs from the planet below. These are found under the "Incandescent Imports" section. They will go rotten over time, but sell for a high price at a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. This price increases the further you get from St. Katherine's, so if you want to do high-risk, high gain routes, you can use a Gem of Despair or Trans-space Jumpdrive to do the run before your cargo rots. There's also a lower risk tactic, described later in this guide. Note that coffee does not rot: feel free to carry it as far as you like without fear of losing the cargo.

Commonwealth Metropolis: Sells random stuff down the bottom of the trading screen. Can be sold to other stations for a small profit.

Commonwealth Station: A C-class station, same trading type as the Metropolis.


Secondary Stations

You want to be both buying AND selling to these.

Ice Farm: These are often way out in the middle of nowhere and hard to find. However, they're a gem when you find them. They will buy Helium-3 fuel rods (NOT assemblies) for 50cr each (the best price in the game), as well as having high markups on staple foods, biofactor paste and medical supplies (the item, NOT the category). They sell high-priced luxury food goods that you can sell to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. Buy the food first, then sell as many fuel rods as possible to drain them of credits completely. Do not sell all your fuel rods if you are using a reactor that cannot be fueled with other fuel items.

Corporate Factory: These suspicious facilities are rather rare, but will always turn up around the St. Katherine's Arcology. They make random food and luxury goods (this includes items you should not buy), and buy random stuff. This can be low level stuff like titanium, or valuable and rare stuff like cerium electrodes. When trading with a cluster of them, fill your hold with ALL of one good from ALL that stations, sell that, then swap to the next commodity. That way you don't get stuck with things you can't sell. Oddly, these factories will make items that supposedly only come from certain geographic places, hence why I regard them with suspicion. Any place that buys ores for common industrial catalysts and massive barrels of hydrocarbons and organic acids and turns out "fine wine" probably deserves a health inspection. Regardless, these factories will continue to produce goods if you sell things to them, but generally it's not worthwhile unless you're going to be in the system for a long time anyway.

Sink Stations

These soak up all your trade goods, and give you cash. You only want to be selling stuff to these.

Hotel: A very distinctive building, always found in Rigel and St. Katherine's Star. They will buy most medicine, and all food and luxury goods. Notably, they pay the single highest price in the game for luxury goods, so when give the choice between selling them at one of these or a Corporate Enclave, sell them here unless doing so will cost you a lot of fuel. You cannot buy anything here. Having an illegal item in your hold and entering the restaurant gives you the chance to sell that item to some shifty characters. If you do so there's a 19/20 chance of getting a black market ID and some credits, and a 1/20 chance of a fine from a sting operation. This opportunity only happens once, and is more or less vital to getting into Smuggling.

Corporate Enclave: Buys most food and luxuries, also buys ores. Gives a decent price on everything. Sell everything that you can't give to a Hotel for better money. If you enter the Maintenance Shop with illegal goods in your hold you can also sell them there (not a very good deal though).

Corporate Trade Post: The most fantastically useful shop in existence, but don't buy trade goods here.....only stuff that you need personally for your run. They'll buy any undamaged equipment and any trade good for a rather poor price.....use these stations once you have filled other stations in the same system. Traditionally an important part of Ferian Farming, although the return isn't as efficient as with other stations. You can order goods here for an extra fee on top of the value of the item(s) ordered. There's a limit to how much of each good can be ordered, and you can only make one order per trade post (choose wisely). The item will be carried to the post in an EI100 from the nearest stargate. If shot down, you don't get a refund, but might be able to find the item if the freighter has left a wreck. Mostly, you'll be using these stations to gain equipment, rather than actually trading. But they're good if you've run out of other places.


Short-Haul Fruit Trading: An experimental exploit of fruit mechanics

As stated before, the St. Katherine's Arcology sells fresh fruit from the surface of the planet. This fruit rots over time, so it's very difficult to do the long-range trips which are most lucrative. However, a semi-exploit is potentially possible which allows you to trade large quantities of this over time. It relies on the following assumptions:

1. Fruit is regenerated over time at the Arcology, in small batches.
2. Fruit ripens and rots quite quickly, and this is implemented via a script that removes the fresh fruit and replaces it with a different item (the ripe or rotten version of the same fruit).
3. The aging process continues regardless of whether the fruit is in a station or a ship.
4. Stations will only purchase a finite quantity of each good before the price drops.

...starting to see the idea?

Hotels will pay a reasonable price for fruit, even in St. Katherines. However, they will not purchase very much at a time. However, if you keep on buying batches, it should be possible to sell it after the previous batch has rotted inside the station. While very slow, it should allow the complete draining of a stations credits if you really need the cash and don't have spare trade goods that will do it quicker.

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The Black Market & Smuggling

There is an awfully large amount of money to be made if you're willing to ignore the suffering of others. Drugs are big business, but it's not an easy one to get into.

Starting out: Find some illegal goods, and dock with a hotel. Go to the restaurant, and try to sell them. If you're unlucky, you'll be fined (or arrested) and will lose the chance to smuggle unless you randomly loot an ID. Otherwise, you will get the Black Market ID. DO NOT LOSE IT: IT IS HARD TO REPLACE. Alternatively, you can try to intercept convoys of a T33 transport escorted by Zulus. Red or green doesn't matter much: both have small chances of illegal items, which can include an identity ROM.

Getting hardware: You can't just rock up with a cargo of drugs and expect not to have things seized. You need a smuggler's cargo hold. Find a black market station, and install one. Now you can carry illegal goods or unauthorised military-grade hardware without getting the attention of Commonwealth Customs. Note that without the smuggler's hold illegal goods will always be detected, and will always be seized. However, you won't be penalised beyond the lost cash (which can be significant).

Work out what you've got to work with: Because black markets are fairly rare, and the places to sell illegal goods are rare, you need to make sure you know what you've got before you go buying all the Booster you can get your hands on. In the early game (pre-charon) where smuggling is most valuable (potentially), you will always have at least one source (the black market in Rigel) and one sink (Starton Eridani). The stations you want to look for are:

Sources (friendly: Buy from these)
Tempus Lab: Most valuable source station. Produces narcotics and sells them for the lowest price in the game
Black Market Station: Buys and sells illegal goods, and military weapons (See: "Ripping off the Militia"). Reasonable enough station for trading, but the prices for buy/sell aren't as good as for the other stations.
Sources (Hostile: Shoot and loot):

Anarchist Stations: Sometimes have pirated Star Wars 3DVs (They must get really bored of it after a while given there's no other movies in this setting.)
Outlaw bases and settlements: Sometimes have naroctics in the station, and in any docked T31 transports. The transports will make for the nearest gate when attacked: do not let them escape.
Himal Stations: A faction so bland, even George doesn't know what's up with them. But they're awfully fond of hallucinogenic seaweed.
Death Drug Cartel: They make medical goods (good prices if you chuck them into regular Food Chain trading), and also illegal Cancer Dust. Note: These guys are tough if your ship isn't set up very well. Their guards use ceramic armor, so particle and laser weapons are not generally the best choice.

Sinks (places to sell):

Corporate Enclave: This isn't a very profitable place to sell illegals, but it'll do at a pinch. Instead of the usual part, you need to go to the maintenance area, enter the machine shop, and offer to trade with the people there. The prices aren't very good, but you don't need a black market ID or a smuggler's hold to trade here, so it can be good for making a little cash early in the game before getting set up.

Black Market Station: Not a good place to sell, but selling stuff here and buying it back is the most efficient way to gain Black Market XP and gain access to their missions. Don't ask me what the missions are: I've never done them. If a station is completely empty of drugs, it can be worth dumping stuff here if you can't sell it anywhere else. You need a black market ID in order to get into this station.

Commonwealth Metropolis/ St. Katherine's Arcology: Large commonwealth stations are the place to go to sell illegal goods....but they have customs that will seize anything illegal (or military-restricted, if you lack a military ID) unless you are equipped with a smuggler's cargo hold. In order to sell, you need to go to the Victorian Nightclub, and accept the offer to trade. Sell in bulk if you can: they have a lot of credits but will not buy infinite quantities of goods. They will accept any illegal item except for the smuggler's cargo hold, fusion trigger, or the actinide waste cannon. I haven't tried selling human cadavers here either, but I'd imagine they'd be reluctant to buy those as well. Selling illegal goods here can be hard, but it is exceptionally profitable.

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To be continued.
Last edited by Shrike on Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:57 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:28 pm

Good work! It my be nice to have this promoted to an official tutorial once finished.

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Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:34 pm

errors in red, commentary and ellipses in blue.
Shrike wrote: ...

The two stock ships you'll most likely be using for trading are the Sapphire Yacht and the EI500 freighter. In Corporate Command you also have the option of the Constellation Freighter. The other ships are gunships, and while you can trade in them using the methods in this guide, they're not as effective. The Connie is the worst freighter in CC. A Freyr with a hold carries as much and can smuggle or mine. A Manty with a hold carries more. Both start with as much capacity as a Sapphire and the Manty maxes at the same value. No ship is completely "right" or "wrong", but for different playstyles you'll have a different ship that suits you best. Here's a breakdown of the ones in Vanilla:

...

And here's the Corporate Command ships:

Freyr Gunship: Basically a lighter, more delicate version of the Wolfen. Any rasiermesser weapon installed will gain a slight swivel, making it handy if you set it up carefully. Not really suited to trading though. 50 tonnes default hold, expandable up to 100 tonnes.
This is absolutely wrong. The Freyr is the heavier, slower, and tougher ship with less speed, lower acceleration, a greater dry mass, and a 12 ton armor limit instead of 10. It also has the same base cargo as the Sapphire, which is adequate for most non-ore commodities if you cache your consumables.

Manticore Heavy-gunship: A gunship that's as slow and boring as the freighter, but also has a penalty to shields. By default, you start with an armor repair device in the shield slot. You can replace it with a shield....but you'll get a penalty to HP. You have six armor segments. This means you can handle damage very effectively and theoretically survive much more. On the other hand, you need to find and care for 6 segments rather than 4. This ship has the same cargo space as the sapphire: 50 to start with, expanding up to 150 tonnes(technically 200, but no cargo hold in the game will get you there).
This trades as well as the Sapphire and has more need of it because of the additional armor segments.

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Ship Setups

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Drive Upgrades: The tritium propulsion system, Titan fusion drive and Pteracnium megadrive are all extremely useful upgrades for slower ships. I always install these when I'm running the Sapphire or Freighter, and they're pretty much essential for the Constellation and Manticore as well. Not so useful on the lighter gunships though. These will increase your top speed, and reduce the dampening effects of heavy loads (Note: The tritium propulsion upgrade will not increase the top speed of a sapphire. However, it will improve performance with a heavy load). In the lategame this is very useful, as your armor and equipment alone will be very heavy.The Manticore and Constellation should be grouped with the freighter since they have the same speed and the Sapphire separated out since it's fast enough to not benefit from the first drive upgrade. I think the Osaka and Spartan may also be at this speed. I think only the Wolfen and Raijin do not benefit from the second drive upgrade.

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Weapons: Go for weapons that don't use ammunition: it costs money and uses space that is better used for trade goods. For traders, it's also good to choose weapons that you can stack enhancers and devices on to improve.
On the other hand being able to afford ammunition is one of the major potential benefits of trading.

Shields: You'll probably want one. What you get is up to you. Although if you're good enough (and your armor is up to it) then running without a shield for a while can be useful if you want to be as efficient as possible with cash-grinding in the early game. Somewhere you should cover turning shields off to conserve fuel.

Random Crap: Carry fuel and armor patches, but reduce the amount of crud you're hauling: the space is better used for stuff that can be sold. Hoard weapon upgrades, especially ones that will be useful later. However, if you can do so, it's often best to leave stuff in a crate somewhere safe. The wreck of the last brutally murdered salvager nomad in the system makes a good place, from experience.

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Cargo Holds

There are three cargo holds in vanilla, and an extra one in Corporate Command.

Cargo Hold Expansion: Lightweight, expands your hold. Very useful, but not as useful as the other two.

Miners Cargo Hold: Buy these from asteroid mines. They're very heavy, but will also expand your hold. They also allow you to collect ore from space. Since mining is a boring but profitable activity, I generally do it early in the game to get starting funds if I can't get them any other way, and I'd suggest others do the same. Carrying the hold into the later game may also be a good idea: You get higher-level ores there, and it's good for getting your Rin and credit count up. From what I've heard, mining is no longer profitable in 1.5, at least not at low level.

...

Usually I will start a game, use a miner's hold for early trading and a little mining (if I need to), then swap to a smuggler's hold as quickly as possible and keep it for the rest of the game. It's by far the most useful of the three holds for my own style (which uses smuggling to make a lot of cash very quickly).
Early mining is probably no longer advisable.

-----------------------------------

Rins and Credits

As you start out, you'll be building up Commonwealth Credits. They're used at nearly all stations in the game. Later on though, you'll encounter three groups that don't accept them; Taikon Ventures (a corporate entity), the Ringers (neohumans), and Teratons (neohumans who do bad things FOR SCIENCE). These groups use a second currency: the Rin.

Generally speaking, it's inefficient to exchange Credits for Rins. There's no direct exchange except in Eternity Port, and buying ores just to sell them again isn't very good at getting a good total. Buying weapons from militia armories and selling to Teratons would give a good return, though the available stock is limited. I'll cover rins later on in Part 3.

In Eternity Port, you'll also encounter stations using the Yuan and Euro. They're far more annoying, and there's no magic tactics to use to make them nicer. EP does have currency exchange stations.

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Part 2: Trade Routes and cash cows

This section is designed to illustrate some of the many ways to make CW Credits in the game through trading. There are other ways to make money, but these will do so without combat.

The Food Chain

There's a few ways to make money here, and mostly you'll be doing this for the early to middle game, although from time to time this will crop up later as well. As a general pointer: Buy up a stations stock first, then sell stuff to them to drain the money back out again. It's more profitable that way.

Here's the stations involved, what they buy, and what they sell:

Source Stations

You want to be buying FROM these:

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Agricultural Colony: Found more or less everywhere, but they're quite rare. Uses the extremely common "C-class" station as a platform. Has a difficult but extremely lucrative mission attached to some stations where you defense against three waves of Charon Pirates for 5000cr. If they have a meeting hall, then entering it will trigger the mission. Don't do so unless you can handle it. They sell low-mid grade agricultural goods which can be sold to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. Ice farms buy staple foods at a huge markup. They'll buy a bunch of stuff, but it's not worth it. Yes it is. They have the second highest markup on fuel rods, hydrocarbons, organic acid, medical supplies, hyperfiber, and biofactor paste. Ice farms are better, but also rare. If you engage in heavy hoarding and long range trading you'll probably max out all instances both types of station.

Medical Colony: A C-class station found more or less everywhere. There's sometimes one hiding around Starton Eridani, and another that can turn up at BattleArena Maximus. Sells low to high grade medical equipment that can be sold to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave and either sold or donated to a Commonwealth Star Carrier (medical). Medical Supplies and Biofactor Paste sell to ice farms at the highest markup. It can be very expensive to empty one of these, but the payoff when you sell things is very high indeed if you do it right.

St. Katherine's Arcology: A large ring station in orbit around the planet Incandescent in the capital system of the Commonwealth: St. Katherine's Star. Sells very high grade perishable foodstuffs from the planet below. These are found under the "Incandescent Imports" section. They will go rotten over time, but sell for a high price at a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. This price increases the further you get from St. Katherine's, so if you want to do high-risk, high gain routes, you can use a Gem of Despair or Trans-space Jumpdrive to do the run before your cargo rots. There's also a lower risk tactic, described later in this guide.

Commonwealth Metropolis: Sells random stuff down the bottom of the trading screen. Can be sold to other stations for a small profit.

Commonwealth Station: A C-class station, same trading type as the Metropolis.


Secondary Stations

You want to be both buying AND selling to these.

Ice Farm: These are often way out in the middle of nowhere and hard to find. However, they're a gem when you find them. They will buy Helium-3 fuel rods (NOT assemblies) for 50cr each (the best price in the game), as well as some other stuff that doesn't matter. This is false. Ice Farms have the highest markup in the game on everything they buy. Medical Supplies, Biofactor Paste, and Grade A and B Grains and White Rice are available from primary trade stations. Fuel has other uses. They sell high-priced luxury food goods that you can sell to a Hotel or Corporate Enclave. Buy the food first, then sell as many fuel rods as possible to drain them of credits completely.

...

Sink Stations

These soak up all your trade goods, and give you cash. You only want to be selling stuff to these.

Hotel: A very distinctive building, always found in Rigel and St. Katherine's Star. They will buy most medicine, and all food and luxury goods. Notably, they pay the single highest price in the game for luxury goods but not by much so don't spend too much fuel getting them here if there's an Enclave closer, so when give the choice between selling them at one of these or a Corporate Enclave, sell them here. You cannot buy anything here. Having an illegal item in your hold and entering the restaurant gives you the chance to sell that item to some shifty characters. If you do so there's a 19/20 chance of getting a black market ID and some credits, and a 1/20 chance of a fine from a sting operation. This opportunity only happens once, and is more or less vital to getting into Smuggling.

Corporate Enclave: Buys most food and luxuries, also buys ores. Gives a decent price on everything. Sell everything that you can't give to a Hotel or ice farm or ag station for better money. If you enter the Maintenance Shop with illegal goods in your hold you can also sell them there (not a very good deal though).

Corporate Trade Post: The most fantastically useful shop in existence, but don't buy trade goods here.....only stuff that you need personally for your run. They'll buy any undamaged equipment and any trade good for a decent enough price. An important part of Ferian Farming. You can order goods here for an extra fee on top of the value of the item(s) ordered. There's a limit to how much of each good can be ordered, and you can only make one order per trade post (choose wisely). The item will be carried to the post in an EI100 from the nearest stargate. If shot down, you don't get a refund, but might be able to find the item if the freighter has left a wreck. This isn't really a trade station. They don't sell anything with an adjustment less than 110 or buy at an adjustment greater than 85. This is a worse price than you get from commonwealth metros or class C stations even if not by much.

...
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Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:39 pm

Good alterations, except that as I've stated the Sapphire does benefit from a first drive upgrade..... just not in terms of top speed. Most of that was in the rewrite-list anyway, so I'll incorporate that stuff into the next version.
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Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:46 pm

Shrike wrote:Good alterations, except that as I've stated the Sapphire does benefit from a first drive upgrade..... just not in terms of top speed. Most of that was in the rewrite-list anyway, so I'll incorporate that stuff into the next version.
Not the way the others do. You may gain acceleration, but the Sapphire with no upgrade is still going to outperform a freighter or Manticore with the first upgrade. You may personally upgrade it, but if it's not playable without an upgrade the freighters and Manticore aren't playable until well into the game when the second drive upgrade becomes available. Optional choices like upgrading a Sapphire's drive should not be grouped with near-mandatory choices like upgrading a freighter or Manticore's drive.
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Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:52 pm

Atarlost wrote:I think only the Wolfen and Raijin do not benefit from the second drive upgrade.
Wolfen does not gain a top speed increase from an unmodified Titan 440, but gains the extra thrust (acceleration). However, enhancing the Titan 440 increases its top speed to .28c, and an enhanced Titan 440 will speed up the Wolfen.
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Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:01 am

PM wrote:
Atarlost wrote:I think only the Wolfen and Raijin do not benefit from the second drive upgrade.
Wolfen does not gain a top speed increase from an unmodified Titan 440, but gains the extra thrust (acceleration). However, enhancing the Titan 440 increases its top speed to .28c, and an enhanced Titan 440 will speed up the Wolfen.
I don't consider upgrades for dividing ships into speed classes, nor do I consider acceleration alone a meaningful benefit. All vanilla ships have adequate stock acceleration to reach their stock top speed fast enough to make no real difference and the Wolfen and Raijin have so much that speed control is more difficult than it needs to be.
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Tue Jan 06, 2015 1:08 am

Updated with revisions and corrections. And while I find the drive discussion interesting, this really isn't the place for them (although I have revised the drive section and expanded it a bit).
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Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:34 am

Very nice writeup. I have two comments after playing one vanilla game with the Sapphire right now:

-Early mining is still great for getting a nice profit in the first few systems to afford some decent gear. You cant expect to be showered in ithalium, but finding a good vein of cerallox or palladium after some mining around is fun and nets many thousands of much-needed risk-free start capital.

-There is a marked difference in handling a fully loaded Sapphire (with smuggler/mining hold) with/without the tritium drive. By that I mean it turns and accelerates decent with, and like a disoriented bluewhale without. (By adding St.Kats engineering school project or a prayer it gets better). I would'nt fly the Sapphire without it (especially when trading!), top speed isn't everything.

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Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:15 pm

Shrike wrote:Inertialess Drive: This completely useless alien artifact removes inertia from your ship while activated: You will only move while thrusting forward, and will stop as soon as you stop thrusting. You also accelerate to top speed immediately. This is usually a waste of fuel and makes combat very hard. Avoid at all costs.
While I agree with this for agile ships like the Wolfen, I find inertialess drive useful for sluggish ships like the EI500, especially when I need to fight. Turn it off and drift when I need fuel efficiency, and turn it on when I need mobility.
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Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:43 am

PM wrote:
Shrike wrote:Inertialess Drive: This completely useless alien artifact removes inertia from your ship while activated: You will only move while thrusting forward, and will stop as soon as you stop thrusting. You also accelerate to top speed immediately. This is usually a waste of fuel and makes combat very hard. Avoid at all costs.
While I agree with this for agile ships like the Wolfen, I find inertialess drive useful for sluggish ships like the EI500, especially when I need to fight. Turn it off and drift when I need fuel efficiency, and turn it on when I need mobility.
Eh.....maybe. Still, for a beginning player, the Pteracnium megadrive will always be better for that situation.

Edit: I've also updated the guide to finish (for now) the Illegals section. NExt up is 'Ripping off the Militia'
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Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:12 pm

Shrike wrote:Eh.....maybe. Still, for a beginning player, the Pteracnium megadrive will always be better for that situation.
Not necessarily, if the player overshoots some destination, player will need to slowly turn around with his loaded EI500 while the momentum from megadrive carries him far. Also, megadrive has the highest powerUse. For EI500, all of the drives have their uses. Titan for speed on a budget, Inertialess to eliminate momentum (important for clumsy ships, sometimes), and Megadrive for extreme speed if player can afford the power.
Shrike wrote:Black Market Station: Not a good place to sell, but selling stuff here and buying it back is the most efficient way to gain Black Market XP and gain access to their missions. Don't ask me what the missions are: I've never done them. If a station is completely empty of drugs, it can be worth dumping stuff here if you can't sell it anywhere else. You need a black market ID in order to get into this station.
There is only one mission, at Smuggler rank: Smuggle sealed container to St. K's. This mission is will be offered as many times as until player gets promoted to Enforcer, then no more missions.

The Black Market station in Rigel will never give missions.
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Sun Jan 18, 2015 3:23 pm

One exploit I usually use every time:
Step 1. Get to a black market station
Step 2. Buy as much stuff as you can
Step 3. Sell the stuff back
Step 3.5. Get some XP for that
Step 3.6. You'll lose some money, but get some XP in return
Step 4. Go to 2 until you've got enough rank.

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