Saturday, 31 January 2015

Elite Dangerous New Beginnings - The little ship that could

Starting again

Following the terminal disaster of reset-button proportions that lost me my Type-7, I've had time to reflect on the mechanics of Elite, spent more time thinking about small ships, and the surprising amount of gameplay options.

Waking up at LHS 3447 in a sidewinder with a fistfull of credits is a sobering experience for a freighter pilot drunk on gold, and I traded straight up to a Zorgon Peterson Hauler to run rares and regain my lost wealth. The details of this, and The Game Plan, can be found in previous articles.

This little ZP Hauler has been a great runner, and the build cost me around 300K initially. It's a bare metal refit, with a Class-A FSD so its really optimised for maximum range. I've tried both the 2A and 3A fuel scoop now, and while the reduced scooping time of the 3A is amazing it costs you 4T of space so its value for money is questionable. I think I'd recommend the 2A option for anybody trying this build, and if you frequently have the excess space then consider the larger scoop.

Enter the Adder

But Zorgon Peterson has more to offer in the shape of the haulers bigger brother, the Adder.  The Zorgon Peterson Adder is an upgrade from the Hauler in every direction. It carries more weight so has a slightly reduced range, but the hull is stronger and you can fit 22T with a 2A scoop and still make 18Ly jumps.
At face value this isn't much of an upgrade from the ZP-H, that can manage 18T at 18.5Ly with the same 2A scoop fitted but the Adder opens up a lot of options.

Dropping to 18T - equal to the ZP-H - the Adder can fit shields and while it'll cost you some of your jump range the Adder has two small and one medium hardpoint, compared to the single hardpoint of the Hauler.  Essentially the Adder is a straight upgrade to the ZP-Hauler, maintaining the same range and capacity but equipping shields and hardpoint options.

In my Ship Focus articles on the Hauler and Adder, I didn't really focus on a side by side comparison. Reviewing each ship in isolation has a lot of value, but now I'm counting the credits I'm finding that I'm putting a lot more thought into the practical utility of each and every upgrade.


This week I flew convoy with a Combat Cobra. Its jump range was slightly lower than a maxed out ZP-Hauler and it was the only ship with guns and shields so the Cobra Pilot had to play Navigator, XO and CAG while the Little Ship that Could tagged alongside like a sidecar.

In a convoy, the Adder is a far superior ship to the Hauler and having guns and shields makes it combat ready and able to contribute rather than feeling like its tagging on for the ride.  On its own the shields will protect it from minor knocks and give me the seconds I need to boost and jump from any serious threat.

However, convoys are made by big hulls, and the Lakon Type-6 Transporter is a strong contender. In my Lakon-6 Focus, one of the build options I presented was the Long Jumper.  With an A4 FSD, the Type-6 has a long jump range and even carrying a dozen tonnes of rares you can get a 29Ly Jumps out of it. However a budget Type-6 costs a similar amount to a pimped Adder, and makes guaranteed big returns hauling Gold and Local cargo in its huge 112T racks, breaking the Million Credits per hours barrier and having room to spare.

But this is a tribute - and possibly a goodbye - to the ZP Hauler. The little ship that could has raised me from the ashes of disaster to the roses of success and given me some flexible purchasing and upgrade options for my next ship.
For now, I'm closing the chapter on my ZP-Hauler, and putting it into dock instead of selling it so that - should I ever need a little runabout - I have the ZP that saved me waiting at home.

Thankyou Zorgon Peterson, and farewell to my trusty Hauler.  I'm looking forward to putting its big brother through its paces. Enter the Adder.

Fly Casual everybody.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Elite Dangerous New Beginnings - Have a Plan.

The Story so far...
In my previous article I lost my ship and everything I own was wiped out because I didn't have insurance money.

Here I'll be following my own advice - I've bought a ZP-Hauler and I'm ready to start running rares to build up a stake. I've done the route a couple of times so I can upgrade my ship and now I'm ready to go.
The route will earn 500-600K per hour, and I need to repeat it until I can afford something with a higher income to try and get myself back on the wagon.  And by wagon I mean I think I'm setting my sights on a Combat Asp that I'll spec up closer to the time, but is around twelve to fifteen million credits.

Starting Out in a ZP
My first milestone is a ZP-Hauler outfitted for long range, and I've got that ready to go. I'll be running rares from Leesti to Chi Eridani.

Upgrading to a Type-6
Following the ZP-Hauler my next goal is going to be the Lakon Spaceways Type-6 Transport.  For 1.8M Cr I can buy a 112T ship that should earn more than the ZP. I'll need an extra million for cargo, and some more for insurance of course, so I need three and a bit in the bank. Lets call it 3.3M.

This means that I need to earn an extra 2.3 Million from where I am, and at my current income that'll be probably four hours of running rares.
Once I have the Type-6 I'm anticipating shipping 112T at 8000 Cr/T/Hour on a local route...

The next milestone will be an Asp, stripped down for 128T of freight at a similar 8000 Cr/T/hour of freighting. The Asp will cost 7.8 Million Credits, and I'll have a 2.3M Type-6 to sell so I need to earn 5.5M Cr in the Type-6 before I'm ready to trade up.
This type of money will take a while, but it'll be around 0.9M an hour so around six hours of solid freight runs will be enough to get me into the cockpit of that Asp.

The Asp will earn just over 1M an hour, and I'll need another seven million before I can upgrade it into a combat machine - so clock up another seven hours.
From here I could keep taking a million an hour, and I guess that's enough to fund the blog - I can easily buy a few different Eagles, Vipers and Cobras and write some ship focus articles.

Supersizing to the Type-7
Then next step after the Asp is a Lakon Spaceways Type-7 Transport. At a million an hour there are another ten hours waiting for me before I can afford this ship, and while I've every intention of getting there as quickly as possible there are plenty of other distractions so this is a bit of a long term goal, and it'll go slower if I run in to any trouble.

Lets total this up - around four hours to get from the humble ZP-Hauler to the Type-6, following that its a further six hours to the Asp that's ten in total. Ten hours to an Asp can be done easily enough.
Adding seven hours gets me into a great combat ship, totalling seventeen and ten more after than until I have a Type-7 transporter ... Twenty seven hours of grinding ahead of me for this one.

So my advice to you is have a plan while you fly casual.

Elite Dangerous - New Beginnings

I don't have much to add to the title tonight.  If you've read the Rules of Acquisition, Ship Focus and Pilot Academy posts then you'll realise that there are many tricks you can pull to maximise your income.
So far all of the articles so far have been written in retrospective. They have been about the past, about my experiences with Elite: Dangerous.  I've got Ship Focus articles on the Eagle, Viper and Cobra to write up, and some more Pilot Academy articles on dogfighting and a combat builds and upgrades discussion.

But tonight, I'm going to remind you all to pay your insurance. Or more specifically always - ALWAYS - have enough ready cash to cover it.  In a monumental docking accident, I've just lost my ship and everything. Punching out of the cockpit just before it blew.

I awoke - as one might - at LHS-3447 with three quarters of a million credits and a shop-floor sidewinder.  A few percent of my previous wealth, and not in the position to buy and outfit ships for the blog. I am in the "unique" position of being able to read the blog as seeing if the advice I've been giving makes sense from the perspective of a pilot with no credits and no ship.

So please join me for the next portion of the Captains Blog, where I'll be recounting experiences and thoughts as I cross the stars in memory of the Lakon that I used to know.

New Beginnings.
Our Journey starts at LHS-3447 with a fist full of credits.
I jumped to Eravate, Cleve Hub, to buy a Zorgon Peterson Hauler and outfit it for some long distance travel.  I've written a few articles about the ZP-Hauler and its a great value for money earner - perfect for my new strapped-for-cash adventure.
From there I jumped to...
  • Rish @ 22.7ly
  • LTT 6883 @ 13.7ly
  • LHS 3205 @ 14.8ly
  • Vellamo @ 19.7ly
  • Widows Light @ 21.9ly
  • Pi Hydrae @ 21.5ly
  • Leesti @ 23.2ly
In six jumps I was home-sweet-home at Leesti, after traveling a mere 137.5ly - pretty close to a straight line for the trip and I docked at George Lucas before long. I spent a little while re-outfitting here - and I'd recommend anybody do the same - and went for a 14T build with a full size fuel scoop.
The Jump from Leesti-Fong Wang-Chambo-Chi Eridani - and back - earned me about 300K, which paid for a few more upgrades and a second trip of the same got me to the 1M Mark and a ship I was just about happy with.

The Zorgon Peterson hauler may not look like much, but shes got it where it counts and being able to repeat the stopwatched rare run and get the most out of this little ship sure made me feel like I was back on the road to riches.
Its funny to be in the ZP-Hauler out of necessity instead of for research for the blog, and this pokey little shoebox of a ship is going to be my cockpit for a while yet.  I am - briefly - thankful that I was once so detailed in my reports, logs and notes that even without a ship I still have a sense of direction.

Join me in the next article on this journey to riches, and until then fly casual and remember to reserve enough to pay for your insurance.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Controlling combat in a Nose to Tail formation

Nose to Tail

When an enemy ship has you out gunned, getting some distance away and forcing the pursuit will allow your wingman to fall in behind the quarry so that the three of you are in a nose-to-tail column formation.

With your wingman dealing big damage from the quarry's engine-side blind-spot, the fight will start to swing in your favour. The nose-to-tail is the smallest bait-and-switch you can pull. As soon as the Quarry switches targets the nose is free to pull back to a safe distance and get power to shields and weapons lance in towards the quarry for your counter attack. At this point, the roles of the nose and tail ships have switched and you can reset the formation and continue.

With medium range you can hold a nose-to-tail formation forever and tag-team even larger vessels. The danger is that your quarry is in a much faster ship who you can't boost out of range of, at which point the nose-to-fail formation will be impossible.
However since the nose ship can afford to distribute power to engines the quarry will usually be unable to maintain pursuit and will switch once it starts taking damage from the tail.

Slow Pace

The Nose to tail controlled pursuit goes in the favour of the two faster fighters, who can control the fight and decide who takes damage and when.  As long as they are able to take the quarry's shields down and start damaging hull and systems, they don't have to do much damage before falling back into formation.  

Most important here is that your fighters don't take damage by keeping a long distance from the quarry. You can afford to chip away at the quarry and recharge at a safe range.  Don't rush the fight and let it gun guns on you. The controlled pursuit is all about staying safe.

Closing thoughts

The nose-to-tail controlled pursuit is the easiest tag team manoeuvre to pull off and you will be able to get it down pat with minimum practice.  Its a safe formation that allows you to lance the quarry over and over again.

Be mindful of your shields and stay safe.  As the tail, close the range a little before opening fire but be ready to shoot early if your partner is taking too much heat.

As always, fly casual.

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch

Being a combat pilot is a fun way to see the galaxy, and there is so much more than just flying in a circle if you want to cut some hulls.

While having a premium loadout and top turrets really helps to do damage, a separate Rules of Acquisition article on the economy of being a bounty hunter will have to wait.  In this article we'll look at bait and switch tactics, where two or more small lightly armed fighters are trying to take down a large ship.

Ship roles

One ship will start as the designated bait. The bait should get the attention of the quarry and hold a mid-range.  Its fine to exchange fire but don't take too much damage.

The bait ship should call when it needs support, and the Captain of the Air Group (CAG) should assign a wingman to tail the quarry and draw its attention from the wounded bait ship. Eventually the quarry will switch and the next wingman should prepare to tag in.

The more ships you have in swarm, the quicker a new wingman can switch in so the less time a bait ship has to take heat for.  Typically this means each manoeuvre will be more intense and the bait can engage at a more deadly range and take down the quarry faster.

Closing thoughts

In any Bait and Switch it's important to be mindful of the CAG and be ready for your attack run. The strength of the group is your ability to control the quarry and divide its attention between your ships, and if one Bait is left hanging at point blank against the quarry you could start taking serious damage.

Hold your position and get your shots in, but get out of range before it gets too hot.  The bait should hold as long as it can, but don't be a hero. The CAG should call somebody else in as soon as you need it.

Overall the bait and switch is a very powerful way to stay out of danger and still deal damage. By taking turns in the fight you control the damage you take at the expense of lowering your DPS but its a great way to open a fight and wear down the shields of a strong opponent.

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Swarm Tactics

Swarm Tactics

Being a combat pilot is a fun way to see the galaxy, and there is so much more than just flying in a circle if you want to cut some hulls.

While having a premium loadout and top turrets really helps to do damage, a separate Rules of Acquisition article on the economy of being a bounty hunter will have to wait.  In this article we'll look at some classic swarm tactics, where two or more small lightly armed fighters are trying to take down a large ship.

The advantage of the swarm is strength in numbers. You can hold at a swarm range ~3KM and be safe enough so that you can recharge shields between engagements. The improved shields and firepower of your swarm will allow you to overcome even the largest of ships.

The chain of command

The Captain of the Air Group (CAG) should have authority over the timing of your attacks. If you scramble you may end up fighting one-on-ones with a superior foe, so listen to the CAG and follow the plan.

The Swarm

Your default position should be circling the quarry at around three or four Km. The designated bait ship should be a little closer and giving reports on the status and movements of the quarry.

Report in to the CAG when you are ready to make your attack run.  Once everybody is ready the CAG can call weapons free and everybody should engage.

The advantage of the swarm is that you can pull in or out of the fight so can stop taking hits before your shields deplete. The swarm allows you to control the rhythm and cadence of the fight and drive the quarry to attacking a designated bait ship while everybody else recharges.

While in a swarm there are plenty of attack options. You can Bait and Switch, or coordinate for a shock and awe attack.  If you have ships with a variety or loadouts - some specialised for shield takedown and others for tearing through hulls then the swarm allows you to focus on a role. A missile gunboat can hold at four Km and make its attack run once the quarry is unshielded.

Elite Dangerous Ship Focus - Lakon Spaceways Type-7 Transport

The Lakon Type 7 Transport
Congratulations on your purchase! Lakon Spaceways premium Type-7 transport is a stunning piece of precision engineering designed to meet your high-capacity needs.

Opening the bids at 17.5 Million, the shop-floor Lakon-7 fits 96 Tonnes with its 9.06LY Range.

While this may sound like a lot of money compared to the Asp you can buy for that price, and literally ten times the cost of the equivalent Lakon Spaceways Type-6 Transporter:
Capacity: 96T 
Range: 9.06Ly 
Price: ~1.7M
However the strength of the Lakon-7 is its huge capacity, so you want to leverage that advantage as much as you can.

An even 18 Million doubles its capacity to 192T, reducing the range to 7.8Ly, but you can reclaim that range with an FSD upgrade easily enough for a quarter of a million - pocket change when you are talking about ships of this magnitude and 9.35Ly is enough to make local runs.

Flight Feel

The Lakon-7 isn't a fun ride and doesn't have the pull of a small ship when you have Class E thrusters. Its huge mass and high momentum is going to challenge even the Class-B and A models so if you are looking for a sporty ship, you'll need to look elsewhere than the Lakon-7

The Lakon-7 is heavy on the controls and turns slowly so don't expect to pull any maneuver fancier than "listing lazily to the left". Take off and landing requires a little practice if you are used to a lightweight hull - first impression of the Lakon-7 is like a new pair of shoes, uncomfortable at first and maybe takes a while to get used to.

Safety Features

Its small four hardpoints don't make for much firepower. At 2Tonnes, 1E Gimbal Beam lasers are pocket change at 75,000Cr each. and you can add turrets instead if you want.

You can also fit Shields and Shield banks in if you sacrifice some space and weight, so you can defend yourself for short periods of time.

However if you are concerned about piracy, then a convoy or fighter escort is definitely a recommended upgrade rather than take on the trouble yourself. This is not a space superiority starfighter.

The sweet spot
19.7 Million will have this 192T monster making 13.7Ly jumps with a Class 5B drive, At this point you are really starting to crank up the price, but the ship really delivers.

If you are upgrading from a smaller transport the Lakon-7 will feel expensive. The sweet spot with the Lakon-7 is to find the compromise between capacity and range that maximises you Cr/H takings.

As with any optimisation, instrument your results first. Pick your route and run it against the stopwatch so you know how much it makes and long it takes. You can run the ship at partial capacity to get a longer range if it means fewer jumps.

Optimising the Lakon-7 is the same process as the Lakon-6, and there are details on the general rules here.

If you are sacrificing 8T of Cargo space to run four Beam lasers and maintain your jump range, then it'll likely be costing you around 64,000 Credits an hour in lost earnings. This isn't a huge figure when you are talking about the money making potential of the Lakon-7, buts its a few percent loss you have to take on board.

The Strip down
A few cheap upgrades will lose that excess ballast - a complete systems refit to 4D Power Plant, 4D Thrusters, 4D Life Support and 3D Power Couplings will drop you about 27T - over 200K/Hour if you are pushed on space.
I always recommend starting with a Class-D refit to maximise range and the Lakon-7 is no exception. It'll give you the most options when choosing routes or other upgrades and is a snap at only 400K Credits extra.

The low heat efficiency of the Class-D Power plant might put you off, and if you do have a few spare MW then go for whichever lower size A or B fits your needs. An A2 Power Plant might have enough juice for you and is incredibly light and efficient.

Maxing out
The peak cargo load is 232T, which will drop your jump range back down, but thats a lot of tonnage. If you have a short-range route that you are happy with then this is a clear winner.

Be cautious as the Lakon-7 won’t have any shields at that capacity - You’ll have a million Credits insurance payout and likely another two million credits of cargo in your hold so are putting three million credits on the line in an unshielded, slow mover with no guns. Food for thought.

However with the wind at your back you can make 2M Credits per hour as a 232T freighter. Its quite possible you can afford to pay a fighter escort and still make more money than attempting the same trip in an Asp, which is the next cheaper ship that has its own firepower.

Parking Problems In addition, there are plenty of smaller stations that won’t have landing capacity for a Lakon-7. While they’ll have mid-sized bays that fit a Lakon-6 or an Asp, the Lakon-7 is the first of the big ships and needs a large landing pad which will start to limit your trade options.

Because of the limited docking spaces available to the L7 you may end up with limiting routes and reducing your Cr/T paycheck, but the L7 offers twice the carrying capacity of the medium freighters so you can afford a slight Cr/T dip in exchange for a higher overall Cr/Hour return.

I'd recommend plotting your route and buying the largest cargo racks that still make your jumps. Its fine to drop a few tonnes if it means you can turn around quicker. I found that a double jump at a lower tonnage made me slightly more per hour than a full capacity load that needed a triple jump to cover the same route, but your results may vary.


The Lakon-7, like the Six before it, is a bulk freighter whose strength is in its money making potential. You need to spend top dollar to get any range on it and shields cost extra.
The four small hardpoints aren't up to much, but may see off some smaller trouble, otherwise for the extra 5M you'll get premium Thrusters and Power Couplings to boost away from danger.

With only 10-20T loaded, the Lakon-7 will get well over 23Ly per jump due to its large engines so at a pinch you can use it for long distance low tonnage runs but it burns a lot of fuel and you are likely to spend a while scooping so will make faster time in a smaller ship.

Despite its huge price tag compared to the small vessels, the Lakon-7 really opens the door to large capacity transport and convoys and ultimately its going to make more Credits per hour than a smaller ship. Its closest competitor on the low side is the Asp and the Lakon-6, which both carry only half as much as the big Type-7.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Fuel Scoops

Fuel Scoops

You can't run a ship without fuel and free sounds like a pretty good price, but how much does free fuel cost?.  In this article I'll be adding up the numbers.

In my Ship Focus articles I try to recommend a particular scoop, or will say which scoop I choose for each build. The rule of thumb is that I'll be trying to balance cost and the other factors. Some builds won't call for a scoop at all while others expect nothing less than the premium Class-A model.

Power Consumption

Your fuel scoop is going to take some power to run.  This shouldn't be a problem - just remember to set it in Priority group 3.  This means you might not be able to scoop during combat but guess what, you couldn't anyway.
Overall the power consumption for scoops is very low and shouldn't blow your power budget. If you are struggling then you can pick a smaller scoop or a larger power plant and we'll deal with power management in another article.

Credit Cost.

Having a scoop is going to set you back a few credits. The larger scoops differ by being faster, so if you are time-critical then spend the extra money. If you have time to spare then go for a Class-D or Class-E model and soak up the rays for as long as you need to.

Fuel Scoop Cost Size 1 Size 2 Size 3 Size 4 Size 5
Class E 309 1068 3386 10734 34026
Class A 82,270284,844902,9542,862,3649,073,694

Almost any pilot can afford the credit cost for a small scoop. The bigger models add capital expenditure and capital risk - you lose more if your ship gets destroyed.  Don't ever buy upgrades you can't afford to lose.

Time Cost

Time is of the essence so a premium scoop is always preferable, but even a budget model is likely to save you more time than having to make a stop to fill up at a station. This makes scooping ideal for fighters, or for long distance travel where stopping isn't a viable option.
Scooping rates here are measured in KG/s and you can work out how long it takes to fill a whole tank.
Fuel Scoop Rate Size 1 Size 2 Size 3 Size 4 Size 5
Class A 42 75 176 342 577

However... If you can make your trip in a single tank then stopping and tanning is going to cost your time.  If you are earning 150 Credits per second on your trade route, then stopping to scoop for thirty seconds is going to cost you 4500 Credits worth of time... It's likely to be cheaper to just dock and buy the fuel.

Capacity Cost

Some builds need every tonne they can spare. If you are carrying freight over short distances then you will be paying both the time cost for scooping AND the lost earnings from your reduced cargo capacity.  For me, these number don't add up and I don't outfit my freighters with scoops.

Range Increase

But scooping does increase your effective range. Even if you only scoop for a few seconds at each system while you align the next jump, you can make long 150Ly trips with ease.  This is especially useful for the low-tonnage and high-profit rare runs where you want to get from point A to point B without messing around.
My Rare Run builds always have fuel scoops. They are not tonnage limited, and I plan routes with a few strategic scooping stops.  You don't want to scoop after every jump as you will be running on fumes to maximise your range. The extra couple of Ly from a lighter fuel tank can reduce the number of jumps you need and get you home sooner.


Ninety-nine times out of ten I add a scoop based on the role of the ship. Rare runners get the largest Class-A scoop I can fit and still have enough cargo space.

Fighters get a budget scoop.  Maybe Class-C or D - just enough to fill up and get home. There is little benefit in shelling out and it's all insurance loss if I do.

Freighters max their cargo and go for the money, so I don't fit a scoop and wouldn't want to stop even if I had one.

As always, fly casual.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Shields

So this might be a no-brainier question for a lot of pilots but I'm going to run the basics here to start with and the question I'm posing is "So what are shields for anyway?"

The stock answer is that shields are there to protect your ship but that's partially a myth that I'm going to contest here.

When I'm carrying freight, I tend to strip the shields to maximise tonnage.  Running rares will make a lot more money in a fast ship so I usually strip those ships down to bare metal too but shields are a really useful thing to have aren't they?

The strength of shields is determined by two factors - the class of shields and the mass they are protecting.
Like the other upgrades, shields are rated in five categories from A-E inclusive which I typically refer to as:
Class-E : Shop-Floor
Class-D : Slimline
Class-C : Budget
Class-B : Performance
Class-A : Premium

The Shop-Floor shields will be on your ship when you buy it, they will protect you from the occasional knock and bump. They aren't up to much and won't protect you in a fight, and I'd always prefer the Class-D model just to save weight.

Secondly the effectiveness of shields is determined by your mass. If you ship is equal or below the shields stated "Optimal Mass" then you will be well protected.  As your mass increases above the optimum limit the protection from the shields drops, and they are limited by the Maximum Mass value.  There are ships that can run with shields in different size categories, but if you actually care about maximum protection then you'll run big shields to cover your ship.

And if you actually need shields, the you are going to settle for nothing less than the Class-A model, and probably have a Class-A shield Bank too.  This is the Double-A standard and you shouldn't settle for anything less.

Class-B and C shields are the illusion of safety. Class-C shields are only going to do any good if your carrying so many more guns than the other guy that you can tear through his Double-As before your own second-rate shields are depleted.

I've got a Combat Cobra with Double-A shields and Military alloys too. Its also got a Plasma Accelerator, and so far it does fairly well against ships that think Budget Class-C shields are going to protect them from anything.

So, to go back to the question - what are shields for?  Well, if your shields are for fighting then choose the Premium Double-A standard.  Otherwise you are clutching a comfort blanket and hoping you don't run into me when my coffee mug is empty.

If you are carrying freight, then maybe - just maybe - you have Class-D shields because you are coming in so hot the repairs are too expensive otherwise, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that if you are that sloppy on your landings you'd make more money slowing down two seconds and taking the extra profits from carrying more cargo instead of equipping shields.

And lastly, its quite possible you have Budget or Performance shields to aid your escape when you run into trouble. And that's kind of an acceptable answer. It's the third use case that I don't really believe in, but I vaguely accept as an excuse. It keeps those fighters off your hull while you boost and jump away. But come on - The Class-A shields are better for that anyway so realistically, shields are Premium or nothing. Its Double-A or bare metal all the way.

It *is* worth mentioning that the Bs or Cs in your size class are only 10-20% worse than the As and the gap between shields isn't that much. The gap between nothing and E is a huge one, and the slimline D shields are lightweight and cheap so appropriate as a token gesture. But remember, the combat-equipped ship attacking you will have Class-As and if you want to fight back you should bring the same.]

Agree, disagree or have experiences that to add? Do you find shields get in the way or would you never fly without them? If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.

As always, fly safe.

Elite Dangerous Rules of Acquisition - Running Rares in a Zorgon Peterson Hauler

The Zorgon Peterson Hauler is the lightest and cheapest ship in its class and the first real cargo carrying vessel in Elite Dangerous. Its tinfoil hull brings the weight down and pushes the range up so that - once outfitted - it makes a great space hopper. In Ship Focus - ZP Hauler I talk a little about the ship and discuss three builds, and we'll be using one of those today.

In this article we'll be demonstrating its earning potential on a rare run across the galaxy, picking a route that really shows of the ZP Haulers terrific range.

The loadout for my ship is a ZP Hauler, stripped down to bare metal with a slimline Class-D upgrade on everything except the frame shift drive which gets a premium Class-A model.  Lastly a 1A Fuel scoop is added and the cargo space has been increased to 20T. The full refit was performed at George Lucas station at Leesti, which is also the jumping off point for my run.
For 316,000 Credits we have a 20T Capacity and a nearly unbeatable 17.7-32.4 Light Year range.

I've gone for top specs on the ZP build as its racing to beat my Sidewinder build that choose a 200Ly route that made about 360,000 per hour. You can read a detailed write up here. 200Ly Rare Run in a Sidewinder
For the ZP, I'll be picking a route that really gets the most out of its range. I'm going a short 127Ly from Leesti-Chi Eridani which this sporty racer can manage in only eight jumps. You can load up to 16T of Cargo on this run and still make the jump range. By running on fumes you can carry 17T, but to be honest I'd recommend dropping the maximum cargo rack down to 16T to ensure the quickest route trip.

From Leesti the route jumps work out like this

  1. Turdetani, 16.8Ly
  2. Amalangkan, 19.6Ly
  3. Fong Wang, 18.2Ly
  4. LFT 963, 16.8Ly
  5. Crucis Sector FWW B1-5, 13.7Ly
  6. Chambo, 14.4Ly
  7. Col 285 Sector NE-R A34-3, 16.7Ly
  8. Chi Eridani, 17.7Ly
The 127Ly range was covered in only 133.9Lys of jumps, so I was heading pretty much in a straight line toward the goal every jump. You can't get trips much more efficient than that.
[Edit: Increasing your jump range to 22.3Ly will cut two jumps out of this route. With a 12T load and a half tank of gas you should manage this range.  Just only scoop up to half-full at most and you'll be fine]
I've flown a variety of routes between Leesti and Chi Eridani, usually using Fong Wang and Chambo as midpoints to renavigate. So far Col 285 Sector NE-R A34-3 is the only unscoopable star I've found on the route and since its only one stop from Chi Eridani its easy to ensure you have enough fuel to get past it.

As you can see there are a lot of big jumps and there with only two under 15Ly. The route is reversible as long as you stick below 16T and you should be able to make the outbound journey in well under fifteen minutes, including docking and all the commodity transactions.

At Chi Eridani, I got commodity prices in this range:
Azure Milk @ 18073
Diso Ma Corn @ 14317
Lavian Brandy @ 17884
Leesti Evil Juice @ 14327

(They are all about 13,900 credits profit, except the Brandy which was around 14,400.)

The highest profit per tonne was the Lavian Brandy by about 500Cr/T, but given its limited availability filling up on Juice and Corn is going to be quicker and get you on your way.
I've not factored an extra trip to Diso in my stopwatch run - but there were enough minutes at the end of the the half hour to do it so I'm going to base my figures off of 16T outbound.

Chi Eridani Marine Paste was bought at 784 credits, and I bought all 8 Tonnes. Once home at Leesti it sold at 14685 so again thats 13,900 (ish) credits per tonne.

On these numbers, it looks like the ZP Hauler can trade 24T twice and hour at 13,900 Credits profit per tonne. [Edit: This is a PEAK value, and assumes you can make it to Diso and back each trip, and that stocks are good for your rares]

Thats an unbelievable 667,200 Credits per hour, blowing the sidewinder run out of the water. Despite the slightly lower rate per tonne, the shorter trip and amazing range of the ZP means you can make two runs an hour. If you fly hard and jump quickly, running on fumes and scooping the minimum you may manage two and a bit trips per hour, but I'm pretty confident in making it twice and being happy the the result.
I was blogging as I went a long so wasted several seconds at each system, and didn't have the optimum scooping strategy. I think I could have saved a couple of minutes if I was really determined - and on a run that makes you over 160 Credits per second, saving a couple of minutes is well worth the effort.

This is one run I'll try a few more times and get a good stopwatch time, so I can really nail the credits per hour it brings in. I think it deserves a second write-up once I've got racing times down.
[Edit: With a 22.3Ly range, A Six-Jump launch-to-dock can be done in just Eleven Minutes. You have to add commodity sale time etc... on top of that. but the travel time alone is very quick.]

For my money, picking a short route and blasting through it at top speed is going to be a good earner and 667K Credits per hour is an amazing total, and on par with the 700K/Hour you will get from a Lakon-6 freighter at a fraction of the investment cost and capital risk.

With any ship build or trade route, consider the alternatives and play around for maximum profitability. This isn't the only ship that can make the 19.7 or 22.3 LY range. Other ships have good range - an Asp with a Class-B or higher FSD will do it although that's an expensive option.
Also the surprisingly nippy Lakon-6 can be stripped down and outfitted for range, but that will cost you around ten times as much as the ZP Hauler.

If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.

As always, fly casual.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Ship Focus - Zorgon Peterson Hauler

Zorgon Peterson Hauler

The Zorgon Peterson Hauler is a good small ship with some surprising talents. Its shop-floor specs aren't much to write home about but it can be upgraded for a couple of different roles we'll discuss here. The amazing light weight means its reasonably nippy and can be fitted with size-2 upgrades rather than size-3, so the whole thing can be had for a rock bottom price.

Shop Floor Hauler

The shop floor hauler has Class-E components across the board. It has that small-ship feel even with its default Class-E thrusters. It doesn't have a great top speed but can get from 0-100 quickly and has a short stopping distance, making it easy to park.
Capacity: 8T
Range: 8Ly
Price: 52,720 Credits
I won't lie - its not an exciting ship when it flies of the forecourt, but there is so much potential for use that the ZP Hauler deserves a second and third look.

Slimline Hauler

Giving the stock hauler an all over Class-D refit raises its specs to a more attractive level and keeps the cost still well within the "small ship" range. In this build I've doubled the cargo capacity up to 16T which makes it a strong contender as a cheap trader.  I've kept the lasers, shields and retained the Basic Discovery scanner to maintain its all round capabilities.
Capacity: 16T
Range: 9.6Ly
Price: 85,500 Credits
I found the Slimline hauler a little akward to fly. It doesn't have the pull of a performance ship and although it doesn't manoeuvre like a combat vessel it is very nippy.  Like the stock Hauler a slimline refit has good pickup and short stopping distances for starport traffic. Overall its a good enough starting point and represents value for money, but its flying characteristics and low jump range turned me off doing more than simple cargo runs.

Budget Hauler

This budget hauler has been equipped - as much as it can - for carrying freight. I've stripped it to bare metal following an all over Class-D refit by removing the lasers, shields and discovery scanner. The cargo has been maximised and a Budget Class-C Frame Shift Drive increases its range.
Capacity: 22T
Range: 11.2 - 21.6 Ly
Price: 92,400 Credits
The budget hauler is a single-purpose ship for carrying goods on local runs.  You could add a Wake scanner to help it stay with a convoy, which would help protect its fragile unshielded hull, but you may struggle to find convoys that care to protect a Hauler. A combat cobra might carry more tonnage and bring guns and shields to the expedition. A hauler might consider adding missiles to those hardpoints, so it can help out in a fight but again, the fighter escort of a convoy can't go shepherding a stray interdicted Hauler.
Other upgrade options include the Thrusters and Power Coupling so you can increase your boosting for faster launches or to get out of trouble, which honestly make more sense and improve the flight feel of the ship.
I found that the budget refit was a no-brainer upgrade from the slimline loadout of a newly purchased hauler and it felt a lot more personal.  Maxing out the cargo felt like I was pushing the ship a little harder and levering more out of my investment.

Rare Hauler

Lastly the ZP Hauler makes an interesting proposition for running rares. Its lightwight hull gives it a huge range advantage when partially filled and I've reduced its hold to 16T so that it can still make those extra long range jumps.
Following the bare metal refit of the budget hauler above, this galaxy hopping rare runner has a Class-A FSD upgrade and its size 1 internal compartment fitted with a 1C fuel scoop.
Capacity: 16T
Range: 19.4 - 32.4 Ly
Price: 239,000 Credits.

The space hopper build with its maximum range of 32.4 Ly makes the ZP Hauler so attractive for this role, and I'd expect to get around 24Ly per jump with it half loaded with cargo.  Being able to carry 16T means you should never be capacity limited on these long trips.
For a cheaper buy, you could fit a Class-B FSD. It knocks the range down to 14.7 but you should still get 18.8 while carrying cargo and a full 23.6Ly jump when empty.  Running on fumes will get you another couple of light years range too, depending on how heavy the hold is.

A recommended alternative is the 2A fuel scoop to really cut your travel time and maximise the hourly credit income. You can still do this with 16 or 18T of space, and it's literally twice the scooping rate of the 1A.
If scooping really bores you - and time is money - you can refit your internal compartments to a reduced 14T of cargo space and a 3A fuel scoop. This beast will require only a few seconds of scooping each jump to keep your tank topped up.  A word of warning though, running on fumes will increase your jump range but a couple of light years and may reduce the number of jumps in your route. The premium 3A model may end up over-scooping and weigh you down, although you may be able to mitigate that buy buying a half size (2T) Fuel tank, or just a little practice on your scooping.

The 2A-FSD and 3A-Fuel Scoop is a killer combo that keeps this space hopper moving on long distance runs with ease.

In this article I really show of the earning potential of this build on a short 127Ly route.
Running Rares in a Zorgon Peterson Hauler


The active lifecycle of the Hauler didn't feel very long - it soon paid for its own upgrades and was able to beat the half-million per hour mark easily, however once that money came in I was itching to get into a larger ship even if it meant sacrificing the amazing jump range.
Despite this, the Zorgon Peterson Hauler is a ship I feel comfortable returning to time and again when I want to cross the galaxy quickly. The ZP Hauler simply cannot be beaten on price for its range, and the Size-2 Upgrades are cheaply available at outfitters across the galaxy.

Elite Dangerous Rules of Acquisition - Rare Run Route in a sidewinder

In a previous rare runs article I talked about a few different ship configurations that a new pilot can use for minimum expenditure to reach maximum profits.  This week I've put two of those builds to the test to demonstrate the difference between the ships, and the profit margins they provide.

Since the Sidewinder is the starting ship, and therefore the cheapest base, I've used it as my example for a starting pilot to race rare cargo across the galaxy.
There are a number of routes to choose, and while Leesti-Heike has some advantages I've recently had the Leesti-Esusuke journey reccomended to decided to fly that in a Sidewinder

So, I bought a sidewinder and gave it a slimline refit to drop the weight as low as possible and get the best jump range. I upgraded the cargo space to 8T and fitted that much needed fuel scoop. The entire refit costs maybe three or four few thousand credits.
The Performance Class-B Frame Shift Drive costs about 51,000 Credits more than the shop-floor Class-E model, and that is the majority of my capital outlay. A cheap fuel scoop can be had for a thousand credits, but you should buy the largest scoop you can afford after your refit if you want to save time.

In my space planes refits article I talked a little about the advantages of different classes of upgrades, and in the Ship Focus - Adder article I recommended the Adder as a galaxy jumper that would be ideal for long range rares. With its extended ranged and twice the cargo space of the Sidewinder, its a great choice for profitability but its purchase and upgrade costs are a little higher.

This is the ship that takes the crown for new pilots.  The Zergon Peterson Hauler with a similar configuration costs a little more but gives you more cargo space and a higher jump range, but rare runs are all about pure cut-to-the-bone profit margins, and the sidewinder build is by far the cheapest option for your first space hopping trip across the galaxy,

If you choose the Leesti-Esusuke route, I managed the journey in 17 Jumps which took about thirty-one minutes door to door.  [Pilots note: I did this with a Class-1A fuel scoop, which is going to be quicker than the Class-1E or Class-1D that a new pilot might afford, but the route is the same]

So I bought the two rares - Juice and Milk at Leesti and set off. A 17-jump route took 31 minutes, with 8T of cargo. The Azure Milk made 17,459 Credits profit per tonne while the Leesi Evil Juice made 15,967 Credits profit per tonne.
The profit for the outbound journey was about 4168 Credits per minute, or 70 Credits per second, which we will call a quarter of a million credits an hour for a more understandable figure.

Outbound journey

For the curious, the route looked like this:

  1. Placet, 14.6 Ly
  2. Sandagaray, 15.6Ly
  3. LTT 5855, 15.5Ly
  4. 8Alpha-1 Libra, 10.9Ly
  5. BD10 4011
  6. Mamito, 12.1Ly
  7. LP 561-68, 9.63Ly
  8. LHS 399, 13.7Ly
  9. LP 329-18, 13.8Ly
  10. 14 Hercules, 13.7Ly
  11. Paul Fredrichs Star, 14.6Ly
  12. LP 102 320, 13.7Ly
  13. 36 Draconis, 9.31Ly
  14. STKM 11676, 9.97Ly
  15. Marasing, 15.1Ly
  16. BD+64 1452, 12.6Ly
  17. Esuseku, 10.7Ly

While the route is reversible, and you can make the same journey on the way back I decided to upgrade to the Class-A Frame Shift Drive to measure how much time the longer jump will save you.

Esusuke was chosen as a destination as you can buy the rare Esusuke Caviar there, and bring it back home for a similar profit so the return journey had the same importance as the outbound.

With its extended jump range of 19 Light Years, you are likely to use less fuel per jump and have a reduced fuel scooping time, and the return journey took me only 14 Jumps. So on the way back I managed a door-to-door time of 22 minutes.

Return Journey

Again for reference the jumps were:

  1. Cephei Sector IR-W C1-21, 12.4Ly
  2. Marsinatani, 13.6Ly
  3. MS Draconis, 15.8Ly
  4. ADS 10329, 13.4Ly
  5. CR Draco, 12.5Ly
  6. LHS 3075, 17.5Ly
  7. Eta Coronae Borieolis, 14.7Ly
  8. Lakota, 16.2Ly
  9. Utu, 15.9Ly
  10. LP 907-37, 18.4Ly (White star, I didn't scoop fuel here)
  11. Ackcanpi, 14.2Ly
  12. Dadal, 17.0Ly
  13. CD 35 9019, 16.1Ly
  14. Leesti, 15.9Ly

The return journey saw me sell my full 8T of Esusuke Caviar at 19,299 Credits each - A profit of 16779 and a total of 134,232 credits.  Divided by my reduced travel time this is a much more impressive 6101 Credits per minute and 101 Credits per second.
This is a 360K/Hour route - but its worth more than the outward journey because of the faster travel time, not the increased profitability.

Were either of these the most efficient routes? Possibly not. With a little experimentation on the star charts you may be able to do it in one jump less and shave a minute off the travel time.  Also, if you are blogging the route it slows you down - hopefully you'll have slightly shorter flight times than I did.  Both routes are obviously reversible, so next time out I suppose I'd start with the shorter route and see if I can straighten it up and reduce the number of jumps.


If you are doing this for the quick credit score, then upgrade that FSD and Fuel scoop as soon as you can afford it.  Remember that for the last two or three jumps, you won't need to scoop fuel as you can arrive at your destination with an empty tank.

There was only one star on that route I couldn't scoop at - the white giant at LP 907-37. Everywhere else was fine so you shouldn't find yourself stranded. If you are jumping blind and don't know where the next fuel stop is, then always jump with a full tank to be safe.

A larger ship - the Zargon Peterson Hauler, would have a higher cargo capacity and make a little more money in a little less time, and as mentioned the impressive 22Ly range on the Adder will speed this trip up too.  If there are enough requests, then I'll repeat this run in other ships, to show off the difference, or I might demonstrate other journeys too.

A profit rate of 360K/Hour is very good for the small investment required but doesn't really compare to the money to by had in moving freight which I've talked about a lot before, including Rules of Acquisition - Freight and my roundup of the entry level freighter Ship Focus - Lakon-6 shows a freighter build you can try.  Rare run trading is a great way to get into the big leagues and make early game profits, but doesn't hit peak income later on.

With any ship build or trade route, consider the alternatives and play around for maximum profitability.
If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.

As always, fly safe.

Elite Dangerous Rules of Acquisition - Carrying Freight

Carrying Freight

In a number of other articles I've talked about maximising profit from freighters, and I'm differentiating freighters from traders by saying that a freighter is uncompromisingly trying to move as many tonnes of cargo per hour at the highest profit per tonne, while a trader allows ship space for shields and guns and is looking for specific good deals and bulletin board missions that deviate from the freighters buy-jump-sell monotony.

The Rule of Acquisition

The rule of acquisition here is to maximise your profit per hour. Your only goal is to accumulate wealth. Maybe you want to spend the money touring the galaxy, maybe you want to build a huge combat ship.  Maybe you want to buy a bigger freighter! Whatever your goals, running freight is a stepping stone to riches.

Economics of scale

While smaller ships can make trade runs, they are often more profitable running rares than carrying freight. As the economics of scale kick in, freighters become the bigger earners.
For the ease of the mathematics we're going to base these figures off an average of 1000Cr profit per tonne for both the outbound and return journey.  Your figures may vary, and there are plenty of routes in this calibre if you are trading Advanced Catalysers, Progistinator Cells, Beryllium, and Gold.
This means each Tonne makes 2000Cr profit for the round trip, and we're going to ball-park four round trips an hour. I've stopwatched several double-jump return trips that come in under fifteen minutes so four trips per hour is a reasonable metric and lets us establish that the freighting ball park profits are 8000 Credits, per Tonne, per Hour.

To determine the "tipping point" between traders and freighters we'll compare this to a rare-runner using the numbers I got from my ZP-Hauler flying from Leesti-Chi Eridani.
Despite the ship being capable of more the practicalities or rare running puts you in the rate of about 40T/Hour because of the limited and changing availability of stock, and you'll manage 13,900Cr/T on this sort of route. A discussion on this route can be found here.

This means that a rare-runner can expect to make around 500,000 Cr/Hour and thats the value (or higher) we need to make carrying freight.  Dividing in our freighter value of 8000Cr/T gives us 62.5T minimum capacity before freighting becomes profitable.  Once we are carrying more than 62T of freight we are likely to be earning more than a rare run trader.

These numbers may vary, but they demonstrate that the tipping point between racing rares across the galaxy and carrying freight are going to sit somewhere above 60T of Cargo, and once you hit about 80T then the economics of scale are cleanly on your side.


Given our lessons about the economics of scale, we've learned that the Cobra-3 at sixty tonnes fares well as a freighter, but stripped down it can also serve as a long distance rare runner.  In fact its the versatile ship on the dividing line between being a freighter or a rare trader.
Everything larger than a Cobra makes more money carrying freight, while anything smaller won't have the high tonnage and is better served in another role.

Lakon Spaceways Type-Six Transporter.
The first of the freighters, the Type-6 Transporter from Lakon Spaceways is the cheapest vessel that easily beats the 60-80T tipping point.
Maxing out at 112T the Type-6 transporter does exactly what it says on the tin and can be bought and upgraded for around two to three million credits, depending on your needs. A roundup of the Lakon-6 can be found here:
Lakon Spaceways Type-6 Transporter

Pick a Route

The next step is to find a route with a fast turnaround to make your profits.  Binary star systems are usually a bad idea as they often have long travel times to the station, and anywhere where the arrival point is a 10,000 LS away from your docking port is going to add extra travel time, while a short 250LS trip can be made very quickly.

Every jump along your route slow you down so a freighter that has to make five jumps to cover its distance is going to lose out on profits. You don't lose much, but you should be optimising for the route with the fewest jumps possible.

Its OK to start a route that takes several jumps, and then upgrade your FSD to shorten the journey, especially if its a profitable run.  You are looking for high-profit items like Gold or Beryllium in one direction, and anything that sells well in the other.  I'm not going to start second guessing local economies here.

Maximise your Tonnage

The next step of freight ships is to maximise your tonnage. Buy full cargo racks and have enough money to fill them with the most profitable cargo you can find.

Using the numbers above, each Tonne is worth 8000Cr/Hour and for best results you want to be filling your entire hold every trip.  However there are a few considerations and limitations that might reduce your tonnage.

If your route requires a long jump, then shaving off a few tonnes to make the range may yield a higher return per hour.  The entry freighter, the Lakon-6, needs to spend half a million for a Class-B frame shift drive - this should be well within budget and get you about 15.6Ly per jump with a full 112T load.
The Lakon-7 isn't so fast, and a Class-B will only find 13.8Ly at it maximum 232T capacity and you may find yourself paying the extra five million credits for the Class-A

As above, instrument your route.  If taking a couple of tonnes off will drop you from a tripple-jump to a double-jump on your route then stopwatch the route in both configurations, work out your hourly rate and go with what works.


The choice to equip shields is a personal one.  Shields are going to cost you 16T, 32T, or more depending on your ship.  At 8000Cr/T/H the choice to fit a shield generator instead of carrying 16T of cargo is going to cost you 128,000 Credits per hour.
And this is how costs are measured in a freighter. Its not the purchase cost like a small ship, its not the power consumption like a fighter, its the cost in lost-earnings-per-hour.

Discovery Scanner? Sounds like free money ... Think again! Its going to live in a size-2 compartment so cost you four tonnes of space or 32,000 Credits an hour.  There is no way you are going to scan that much, so lose it and carry cargo.

Fuel Scoop - same story. A size-2 compartment scoop costs you 32,000 Credits an hour in lost tonnage AND you have to spend time scooping, slowing down your run and reducing your margins.
In a 2MCr/H Lakon-7 you are making 550 Credits per second if you are flying on route. Each detour costs you 550 Credits PER SECOND.  You think you cover your costs by scooping fuel for thirty seconds... Thats sixteen thousands credits of lost earnings. Its literally cheaper to pay for fuel than to scoop it for free.

If you can afford them... you might as well add weapons. The cost of beam lasers compared to the ship hull is pocket-change. You are likely to be able to afford the extra power draw and you want to never have to deploy your hardpoints anyway.   For a few extra credits you can upgrade from gimble to turret lasers, which makes up for your freighters low turning rate.
Its questionable if weapons are really going to help if you don't have shields too, and it might be that top notch Thrusters and Power Couplings to boost out of trouble are going to be better for you than loading your ship down and sacrificing tonnage.

Adding weapons will increase your tonnage too and consequently may decrease your range. If you are range limited you might want to strip them off so that you can get your distance jumps.

Minimise your travel time

Once you have a good route and are packing in as much as you can the you need to look at further minimising your travel time. If you have already dropped to the fewest jumps possible, the piloting practice is next up.  You need to get good at dropping in and out of supercruise, and you need to reach your destination without overshooting.  Time is money and practice makes perfect here - I've found this makes the biggest difference, after getting a short route.
The rest of the fast flying tricks will save you seconds - and at hundreds of credits a second are well worth doing - but you should take the low-effort big-savings of good piloting skills.

A freighters only concern is that profit bottom line - credits per hour are the goal. There are a number of tricks in my Fast Flying post for shaving time off your travels, and while some of them can be a little dangerous that literally is the name of the game and I've had a lot of fun doing it.

For the technically minded, I've noted a few possible ship builds in my Lakon-6 roundup which recommends some essential freighter upgrades too.  For a freighter pilot, money is not as much of a limiting factor as other careers and I found upgrades were very easy to get hold of because of my higher income. As such your ship build isn't as critical and you will constantly be tempted to outfit something new.

Freighter lifestyle

There isn't much to say about being a freighter pilot. Aside from the fast flying tricks you are just repeating a cycle of Launch-Jump-Dock, but getting slick at these is all part of your trade now.

Before long you'll notice that carrying high-volume of goods may start to shift the market price and make your profits decline. When this happens, switch to an alternate cargo, or have a secondary route planned you can use. This will happen sooner in the bigger ships, and you have to be more aware of the galaxy around you.

Running from trouble is a good skill to have, and fitting bigger thrusters when you can afford them is a must. Tally your flight hours and log any wastage from piracy and then take it into account for calculating future profit margins. If your route is too hot, then you may need to pick a less profitable - but safer - flight path.

You can hire a fighter escort if you want to see off trouble, I'll talk about these options and about flying convoys in another article. Having a wingman in a Viper, Cobra or other Combat equipped vessel will really help to safeguard your cargo but cut deeply into your profit bottom line.  It is quite possible to carry close to a hundred tonnes in an Asp with shields - with its two medium and four small hardpoints it will put up a lot more of a fight than a stock Lakon. 

If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.

As always, fly casual.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Ship Focus - Lakon-6

The Lakon-6

The Lakon-6 is the first high-tonnage freighter a new pilot will be able to afford. At a fraction over a million credits the shop-floor specs aren't much to look at. But in many ways its the start of the steep climb to expensive ships.
For 1045K Credits you'll get a 50T ship with a 10Ly range. You'll probably recognise that you can beat these specs in a Cobra in the 600-700K range and we accept that the shop-floor Lakon needs a bit of work.

For a freighter pilot, the transition from a 600K Cobra to a 1M Lakon is an easy and comfortable one and earning enough for the upgrade is an hour or two of running cargo. However, the next two ships above the Lakon-6 are the Asp at 7M and the Lakon-7 at 20M Credits which will take a lot more time to earn in the popular shipping lanes.  In this article we'll look at a few options for a budding Lakon owner who wants to get the most from his ship.

With all of these builds, I'm assuming a starting point is a slimline refit which costs around 100K extra, leaving you with a 1160K Price Tag on your 50T Ship with a more respectable 12.9 Ly range.

The Freighter

The first build we'll look at is the Freighter build. A Freighter captain is trying to move as many tonnes as possible in the shortest time for the highest profits.  Its all about Credits per Hour. As this is a Ship Focus, I'll assume you've already found a Cargo Route you want to run and I'm not going to talk about the basics of buy-low and sell-high. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll base our numbers off of an 800Cr/T profit.

So the first step is to expand the cargo hold to its maximum 112T Capacity. In a freighter build every tonne counts and a maximum 112T capacity means we can expect 89600 Credits in the bank each time we empty our hold.
With these numbers you should be earning 180 Credits a second before long, which is why I don't stop to scoop fuel. Thirty seconds of scooping is going to cost me five thousand credits of time - its cheaper to fly straight into dock and buy fuel than to waste time scooping it up.
Keep upgrading your FSD until you can make the route you want in one jump. If you have to make a double jump, then thats fine. I'm going to present this freighter build with a Budget Class-C FSD as a compromise in the price point. Otherwise its a Full Class-D refit with an upgraded FSD and maximum cargo space.
Capacity: 112T
Range: 12.5-19.6 Ly
Price: 1,478,000 Credits

You can optimise this ship further for every trick in the book to speed up the run - Fast Launches, Hot landings, Running on Fumes and Half Tanking. This means stripping down to bare metal, then using that weight allowance on a few performance components.
See these Pilot Academy Articles for more tricks to reduce your trip time and increase those profits.
Pilot Academy - Fast Flying Tricks
Pilot Academy - Coming in Hot
Pilot Academy - Running on Fumes

I found that upgraded power couplings and thrusters were a welcome addition to this build, that is otherwise focused on being a baremetal profit machine.

The Trader/Smuggler

The next build we will look at is the Trader/Smuggler. Unlike the Freighter, the Trader/Smuggler build doesn't need to maximise capacity. You want to keep your capacity high and trade as quickly as possible, but you will be spending time reading the bulletin boards at each station and taking each mission that offers more return that just shifting tonnes.

These missions will attract more (NPC) attention, so the base Trader/Smuggler build has Two gimble beam lasers to see off trouble. Otherwise its a shop-floor Lakon with a full slimline Class-D refit, including shields, and I've replaced the discovery scanner for a 2D Fuel scoop. Lastly the budget Class-C FSD has been added, to keep a reasonable range.
Capacity: 100T
Range: 12.9 - 19.5Ly
Price: 1,632,000 Credits.

All these things considered, I'm going to recommend a full Budget refit for the Lakon if you are taking on the Trader/Smuggler lifestyle. This build is a stock Lakon, with Gimble Beam Lasers instead of pulse lasers and a budget Class-C refit across the board.  The Discovery scanner has been replaced with a 2C Fuel scoop, which will take a minute or so to replace the fuel you use each trip. I wouldn't recommend catching a tan every jump, but the free fuel it takes will pay for itself if you are not capacity limited. Otherwise, switch it out for another 4T of booty.
The Budget Lakon-6
Capacity: 100T
Range: 12.3 - 18.1 Ly
Price: 1.866,000 Credits.

Upgrade options for the Trader/Smuggler build are easy.  Even the 3C shield Generator isn't really going to keep you out of trouble. A performance 4B shield generator, with an 8T cargo rack, is going to add about 520K to the price tag, drop a fraction off of the range and reduce your hold to only 92T

Reinforced Alloys are to be considered too, if your exploits are attracting attention and you really need the protection.

Alternately, you can upgrade your thrusters and power couplings to blast away from trouble. These upgrades will cost 178K, 536K, or 1.6M for the Class-C, B or Premium Class-A version, and each step will gain you a small advantage on the competition.

The Long Jumper

If you are thinking long distance travel, then look no further than this build.  Its a standard Class-D refit of the shop-floor Lakon-6, with a Class-A FSD and 2A fuel scoop added.  I've left the stock cargo at 50T to show off these impressive specs.
The Long Jumper:
Capacity: 50T
Range: 23.4 - 29.3Ly
Price: 2,995,000 Credits.

At 23 Light years with a 2A fuel scoop, the Long Jump can carry its payload anywhere in the galaxy. You'll still get an impressing 19.5Ly jump range with a 100T version of this ship and you should add Frame Shift Wake Scanners and an interdictor if you are planning on flying in a convoy. And remember, a discovery scanner is free money if you aren't going to be flying with a full hold.

Closing words

The Lakon-6 has a huge capacity for its cheap price, holding as much as an Asp at a fraction of the price.  While its loadout options aren't nearly as flexible, the low entry point and high profit yield makes the Lakon-6 a very attractive and profitable proposition for any pilot with less than twenty or thirty Million credits.

I've had a lot of fun pushing the limit on my Lakon-6 and have wrecked a few learning where those limits are. There are moments of shame where your ship and 1M Credits of cargo get destroyed, but you just have to learn from your piloting mistakes.
Its not the most elegant flyer but is a solid money earner if you fly well and look after it and I'm hoping these builds and roles demonstrate a few different ways to fly your big ole tinfoil bathtub.

If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.
As always, fly safe.

Elite Dangerous Pilot Academy - Fast Flying Tricks

Pilot Academy - Fast Flying Tricks

In this article, we'll be ignoring the common safety protocol and look at ways to speed up our travel time with fast launches and landings.  In Coming in Hot We discussed how making fast landings can save seconds off of your trip time - and for freighter pilots time is money.

Here we will make a few more tricks that save a little more time.  The context is a freighter pilot - you might in in anything from a 16T Hauler to an Anaconda with 468T of cargo, the freighters profit bottom line is about trading as many tonnes per hour as possible. That big ole Anaconda is going to be making 800 Credits a second if its working, so you don't have to save too much time to see the profit margin increase.


Lets start with the obvious - your Launch. Plot your jump AFTER requesting your launch and BEFORE the docking clamps are released. This is dead time otherwise, and its better to do it now than waste flight time on the procedure. 

When launching, choose your safe speed and go for it.  A freighter with no ships handles like a bathtub and has a tinfoil hull that will be torn in half in a collision, but faster speeds make you more money. Be polite, avoid collisions, but get out of the station promptly. Each station is different, and each pad has a different "best" way to get to the exit. Learn and practice these, so that you can get out safely.

Boost and Burn

As soon as possible, hit the burners and get your distance from the station. Your thrusters will determine your speed, your power coupling will determine how quickly you can make the two-or-three boosts so you are no longer mass-locked and can make a frame shift jump.
In my freighter builds, I omit this information and present the cheapest base to start a freighter with, using slimline Class-D components for both.  However, upgrades here will put distance between you and the station and again shave seconds off of every launch. As a freighter pilot, I put a lot of extra cash into my thrusters and power couplings. These will help you get out of trouble when you need to flee too.

In Frame Shift, you want to have the lightest ship to reduce your fuel costs. This will probably mean fitting a Half-Tank and running on fumes.  If you can make your trip on less than a half tank of fuel, use a smaller fuel tank to save more weight and cost less money.  Alternately you can run a larger tank on fumes instead, if you are good at managing your consumption. The saving here aren't huge, but they stack up - especially so if these tricks increase your jump range and give you a more profitable route.

When picking routes, remember that large tonnage transactions will start to effect the market price. Have backup trades and/or backup routes you can alternate between to keep the markets fresh and the profits at a maximum.

For a fast landing, practice your Frame-Shift disengage. I'm going to assume at this point that you are making good trips and aren't overshooting and adding to your travel time through pilot error. As you prepare to disengage you want to be going as fast as possible when you hit that 1MM distance. Point your ship, boost at the docking port first and then ask for docking permission when you don't lose any time doing it.

Do your homework

Learn where the landing bays are in the station. See that Green light on the docking port and the Flashing Red one?  Always enter on the green side, with the same orientation. You'll soon learn where all of the numbered landing bays are with respect to this position and won't waste a second trying to find your pad. 

Coming in Hot -vs- Reverse Parking.
Coming in hot and breaking at the last second will save you time, but for the high skilled pilots in empty starports you can get better braking speed if you disable flight assist and reverse park. Reverse Parking is the most extreme way to come in hot - you are landing hard, fast, and blind and this is going to take a lot of practice.  Its not the manoeuvre of a freighter pilot, its an adrenaline junkie combat jock landing his bus.
Reverse parking *IS* quicker at covering the distance than coming in forwards, but your ship does end up facing backward so you have to roll around quickly at the end. I'd recommend this only for quiet space platforms where you approach from odd angles, not so much for busy coriolis stations.


A combination of those tricks, along with an upgraded FSD, allowed me to make four trips per hour instead of three and there are routes you can push up to five or six too. I rejoiced the first time I'd docked, sold, bought and launched ahead of the stopwatch. Instrument your trade route and know how much money each second costs you, then decide how you can maximise your profits.

If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.
As always, fly safe.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Elite Dangerous Rules of Acquisition - Rare Runs

Running Rares

The now infamous Rare-Run trading in Elite Dangerous is a get-rich-quick scheme for poor pilots that allows cheap cargo often purchased at <500Cr/T to be transported long distances and sold at a 15,000Cr/T profit. Numbers may vary, in this article we'll be looking at ship outfits rather than plotting a particular route or instrumenting profit margins.

Off that bat I'm going to say that you can fly across the galaxy in a stock sidewinder so long as you strap a fuel scoop to it. You will earn money faster if you can invest in that 8T of cargo space and a bigger Frame Shift Drive, and this article is about trying to help you maximise your profits. You don't need to drop 100K of upgrades to make this work, but it sure helps.

Pick your Route

When picking routes, take the Cr/T and the time it takes into account. A short run you can do frequently might make more than a long distance haul once you divide in the time.
In these articles I demonstrate two routes with different ships.
Rare Runs in a Sidewinder
127Ly Rare Run in a ZP Hauler

A massive 200Ly span in a Sidewinder and a shorter 127Ly trek in a ZP Hauler and the shorter route made a similar return in a lot less time, totalling almost double the hourly profits. I'd recommend you try a short route first time out - its easier, quicker and you'll be able to do it even if you can't afford a top-spec ship.

You may make more money on a 500Ly route, but it could end up taking you two or three times as long. Remember to take travel time into account and remember that two good payouts might earn more than one great one in the same amount of time.

Rare cargo can only be bought in small quantities, because they are rare. Hence the name. So while the profits per tonne are very high the overall yield isn't so hot. However the low-price per tonne and cheap ship requirements make them ideal for starting pilots.
Larger capacity ships gain no benefit if the cargo you can carry already has a maximum limit so I'll only be considering the small hulls and won't be thinking above more than 20T of cargo.  It is quite possible to cross the galaxy in a Cobra3, and you can build a reasonably long range Cobra that can carry 52T if only you had a way to pack it with Lavaian Brandy to score that stellar paydirt.

Pick your Ship

In my Ship Focus - Adder article I talked about a couple of ultra lightweight adder builds capable of carrying up to 16T over very long distances and used example ships in the 150, 265 and 600K price ranges. You have to love the Adder for its balance of range, capacity and hardpoints, but here we'll be dialing that price point down and looking at some cheaper hulls to get the entry point into rare trading as low as possible. Some of these ships will look like tinfoil scuba gear and a swag bag, and they might flight like them too, but these are some of the lowest tonnage, longest range, ships in the galaxy.

All of the ships discussed here will be setup for a long trip and scooping fuel as they go. Scooping fuel is a little dangerous, as you can end up stranded with no way home if the destination star is unscoopable. This is especially a problem if you are running on fumes to maximise your jump range, so plan a known safe route with fuel stops wherever possible.

The Sidewinder

With its small cargo capacity, the sidewinder isn't a gem but is our opening contender. A slimline refit including Fuel Scoop is added to a shop-floor Sidewinder. Shields and Guns are also stripped - you don't get much more bare metal than this.
With a high performance Class-B Frame Shift Drive our sporty sidewinder looks like this.
Capacity: 8T
Range: 15.7 - 19.4Ly
Cost: 90,000 Credits.

With a Premium Class-A Frame shift drive you'll be making those long distance jumps and quick trips across the galaxy, but the 8T hold might be limiting.
Capacity: 8T
Range: 19.0 - 23.6Ly
Cost: 197,000 Credits.

As you can see, the Sidewinder is a snap at under 100K Credits for a ship capable of making some long distance trips.
In this article Rare Runs in a Sidewinder I put these two sidewinders to the test to measure their profitability.

The Eagle

Also consider a fighter, not a trader, the eagle is a small ship that will struggle on trading runs. As I'll cover in my Eagle ship focus, I'm not much of a fan of it as a combat or escort craft and its high price really puts me off recommending this an an early-game rare run ship.
Again this hull is stipped down with a slimline refit to maximise range, and undersized Power Distributer and Thrusters can be used to lighten the load.
The Performance Class-B Frame Shift drive gives you this:
Capacity 12T
Range: 16.4 - 19.4Ly
Cost: 216,000 Credits.

The Eagle is an expensive ship with its bulky Size 3 components, For a snap over two-hundred thousand, and a fifty percent larger hold than the sidewinder, the Eagle is worth considering. The Class-A FSD pushes the price tag well over half a million credits - too costly to be considered a "cheap buy"

The Hauler

While its not an elegant ship, if its all about the benjamins then this might be the ship for you. The Budget edition Hauler can be yours for 82,200 Credits, coming out as our cheapest real ship by dropping the tonnage down one notch and fitting that Class-C Frame Shift Drive.
Capacity: 12T
Range: 14.4 - 21.6 LY
Cost: 82,200 Credits.

The Performance hauler - if such a thing exists - can still be yours for around the 100,000 Credits range.
Capacity: 12T
Range: 17.8 - 26.3
Cost: 117,000 Credits.

And for a real treat the Premium Hauler lets you trek the stars in some long range jumps. I've added a Class-1A Fuel scoop in here too, so that you can fly forever and increased that hold space to 16T to reach maximum earning potential.
Capacity: 16T
Range: 19.4 - 32.4Ly
Cost: 313,000 Credits.

The Hauler has the competition beat hands down on price, range and capacity. Running a ship as light as this on fumes is going to add three of four light years onto that range - you'll be able to make 35Ly in a single jump with no cargo and fortune favours the bold.
Here is an example of the machine in action 127Ly Rare Run in a ZP Hauler

For pilots making their first long-range trips, these are the only contending ships. On paper the cheapest is the Budget Hauler at only 82K but the Performance Sidewinder takes the crown for new pilots because they already have the ship and only have to pay for the refit and frame shift upgrade.

The editors pick is the Hauler, stripped down to baremetal and with a Class-B drive. Its a little over a hundred K but still an affordable price for a poor-mans-build and will make a million credits in an afternoon of racing rares across the galaxy. If you can afford a Class-A in that hauler, then it'll really serve you well.

If you want details on freighters, try Rules of Acquisition - Carrying Freight for a discussion maximising profit per hour by moving as many tonnes as possible over short distances.

If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition leave a comment below. Please like, favorite, share, and subscribe.

As always, fly safe.