Saturday, 28 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Green Stinger Viper

Hey Space Cadets! What is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters!

In this article we'll be looking back at some viper builds and trying to improve upon them.  In previous articles I've presented the quad-beam wingman viper, designed to aggro and harass targets, and the Red Venom Viper with big A2 Frag Cannons that was a great space superiority starfighter but its limited ammo meant it lacked staying power in a conflict zone.

The Red Venom
The Red Venom Viper was a good contender for an escort fighter role. The hard hitting A2 Frag Cannons really tore into hulls once the shields were down and their peak-power-to-damage makes them a top pick for a power-limited Viper loadout. They are backed up by a pair of E1 Gimbal beam lasers in the small hardpoints - in combination with the Vipers tight turns you should be able to keep any ship in your sights while you empty the banks and then unleash the fraggers.
The Red Venom is taking a little gamble as an escort vessel - usually it sees 0-1 starfights between chance to dock and reload, but in the case of a second - or third - interdiction you have to start a fight with no ammunition.

The Wingman
The Wingman Viper build relies on quad beam lasers to light up the skies, and is a warzone build designed for sustained sorties by avoiding the ammo limited weapons. It it great in a swarm when you can tag team against a large ship, or you can perform a sustained lance with the beams in conjunction with an opportunist hard hitter like a Missile Gunboat Asp to score quick kills.
Quad beams are also a great way to aggro and draw attention as a convoy escort vehicle, with your freighters packing seeker missiles to compensate for the lack of punch in the wingman build.  A Sixer with dual B1 Seeker missiles can add a lot of muscle as soon as the quad beams have worked away the enemies shields.

Of course, the Solid Gold Viper isn't a serious combat vessel - its a premium ship for a prestige audience and it's a choice to dress-to-impress instead of getting stuck in.  I'm not going to talk about the loadout as a serious ship - I guess you could fly a wing of these with competent pilots and fare well enough though.

Adding staying power to the Quad Beam Wingman viper is pretty tough.  It suffers from Thermal Overload on the weapons, causing them to cut out and the overall temperature raises into the 100-130 range often enough in a dogfight.  Having flown it in anger for a while I can only recommend adding heatsinks to help out. The large power draw of those beams puts it in the 12.22 MW range and it really can't afford the power for the bigger shields and thrusters that it wants.

The Red Venom is a better starting build. At only 11.41 MW, it already has Class-A thrusters and can afford to put the extra power into Shields or shield banks.  Running out of ammo on your primary damage dealers is quite a hassle so the first thing we are going to do is swap out those big A2 Fraggers for D2 Beams on a Gimbal mount.

This leaves the small hardpoints up for grabs, as beams on there are going to draw too much power.

Cannons or Missiles?
The lure of Frag Cannons is very strong for their amazing power-to-damage ratio and high damage-per-second value and it's possible that Fraggers on the small hardpoints is acceptable, since the Size-2 beams on the medium hardpoints will see most of the action, but the Frag Cannons chew through their ammunition quickly and as we are trying to add more staying power I'm going to discard them.

This leaves us with the two real choices for low-power high yield weapons pictured here.  The B1 Dumbfire missiles take the crown for highest impact damage, and can be a crippling one-two punch with the larger gibmal beams.
And lastly I'm going to highlight the E1 Cannons on a Gimbal mount.  They don't pack as much power as the B1 Dumbfires by a long stretch, but the 16 shot missile rack isn't up to our criteria for a long fight. In the end the 100-round Cannons win out as the biggest-damage high-ammo small hardpoint weapons.

To finish the build, I'm going to spend the extra 0.4MW on either a pair of Point Defence turrets, or on upgrading the main shield generator from 3B to 3A. Actually the difference between the 3B and 3A shields isn't that great, so I'm going to try out the point defence turrets this time around. It's possible that I'll revisit this if I think I'm taking too much heat.

And that completes our build.  The Red Venom Viper has been reconfigured to use D2 Beams as its primary and E1 Cannons the hammer on hulls once the shields are down.  The old Red Vipers A2 Fraggers were real can-openers when you bought them to bear, and the replacement cannons aren't going to be as deadly but the faster shield takedown combined with increased ammo makes this a much better ship in larger fights.

Green Stinger Viper
So following my experiences with the Red Venom and Wingman builds, its time to introduce the Green Stinger Viper.  Its not got the poison of the Red Venom, but still has quite a sting from those dual cannons.
The Green Stinger
Thanks for reading, I hope my flight time helps you in your outfits and builds. If you've got experience flying the Viper, or there is another ship outfit you'd like to see then let me know.

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang, and this has been the outfitters.
As always, Fly Casual.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Elite Dangerous profiteering - Life after the Type-7

Hey Space Cadets! What is going on?
I’m Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to Life after the Type-7.  

In the New Beginnings article we talked about the road from a little ZP-Hauler all the way up to a T7 Transport. And then I covered a bit more detail about what the entry level T7 looks like in my Road to the Type-7 article and recommended the minimum credit balance it'll take to get you into that cockpit in any sensible manner. Today we'll be picking up where that left off and talking about life after the Type-7

I’m assuming here that being a Type-7 owner isn’t your goal - its a means to an end. If your target was to be a space trucker then look no further than the Type-7. The middle child from Lakon Spaceways its not as nimble as our beloved Sixer and not as weighty as the Fat9 but its got a lot to offer any credit-concious pilot as you transition from medium to large ships.

Opening Gambit
Lets talk about the T7 a little - first off the bat you are going to want to get a few upgrades, you are going to max the cargo around the 200 or 216T point and fitting shields, or shields and an extra bank, its kinda up to you.

I’m not going to outfit a T7 for you here, but be aware that you’ll have a couple of upgrades at 5.1M or 1.7M each, and another pair at 1.6M or 0.5M each too.  While your entry-level T7 is going to take around 25M Credits, your workhorse is going to weigh-in on the high side of 30M once you are starting to get really happy with it.

But here I want to talk about upgrade options! From the spacious cockpit of a T7 there are three ships you’ll be looking at next. The Imperial Clipper, the Federal Dropship or the mighty Python.

Imperial Clipper
The first ship after the T7 is the Imperial Clipper. It has about the same capacity, but Two large and Two medium hardpoints so you can join the fight should the worst happen.  One of the first things you notice moving up from an Asp to a T7 is the lack of hardpoints and turning circle, and these are addressed in the Clipper.
To put it in outfitters terms, the “Clipper is to the T7, what the Asp was to the Sixer.”  

An empty Clipper costs 31M with a 5A Frame Shift drive, so not too much higher than the budgets we are talking about in a T7 although there are more upgrades than that you will want.

Once you have a T7 with 12M in the bank, then the Clipper starts to feel realistic, however you need to find one for sale and need an imperial rank of “Baron” or higher, which is going to take hours of Imperial missions to achieve.
I’d only recommend going for the Clipper if you are a dedicated Imperial Pilot, and working up the ranks is something you are already interested in. Its this Imperial affiliation that puts me off, and despite it being a very nice looking ship, the Clipper isn’t for everybody..

Federal Dropship
The Federal Dropship sits at the next price point, at 40-50M Cr.  It has four Medium Hardpoints and one Large, but doesn’t have the capacity of the Clipper.

Its a good buy if you want something with good capacity that hits hard in a fight, but its not the earner that the T7 or Clipper are.  With as standard load of 116 or 132T based on Shield Bank choice the Federal Dropship maxes out at only 164T with no shields - but I’m never going to recommend running a dropship with anything less that double-A shields.

Like the clipper, you’ll need a federal rank to buy one, and its street price of 37M credits might seem low but its packed with Size-5 and Size-6 components, which cost up to 16M credits each. You can fly one for 50MCr, but it won’t be fully outfitted until you’ve spent around the 80M mark.

On the plus side, its huge 6A Power Plant and power anything and even a 5A has enough juice for four Plasma Accelerators. To this end, the Federal Dropship reads like a super-Asp.  Its an all rounder that doesn’t excel, but if you can stand the heat - and it’ll get hot - then Quad 2C Plasma Accelerators is a lot of diplomacy.

The Python
With two medium and Three Large hardpoints, The Python is a heavy hitter and maintains the 200+ T Capacity that you are used to in your Type-7.  Its range-limited compared to the Type-7, which isn’t something you hear every day, and you won’t get a lot out of it fully laden even with a Class-A FSD but the gains in safety features really compensate for the shorter jump range and while your profit runs might be slower the wastage due to piracy will diminish.
Its also much easier to find wingmen in a Python.  As a T7 pilot, you ask Asps or Viper jocks to accompany you on an trade route and they might not want to play nursemaid.  But as an Asp Pilot, I would have queued up to fly on a mighty pythons wing.  When Two asps and a Python get interdicted, the pirates will soon change colours and turn tails.

The Python is available without the need for Federal or Imperial ranks and is going to cost a little more because of it, however for non-aligned pilots the iconic Python is the next big thing since the T7.

A Shop-Floor Python costs 55M Credits, which is a pretty penny by itself and represents some 25M more than the aspiring T7 pilot will have.  After a Class-D refit and maxing the Cargo at 228T you are in the 60.5M range, with a truncated nine light year jump.  The Class-A FSD takes you to 65M and 16.42 Light Years with its big 228T capacity which is the starting point for the ship.

Power Management
With its big 7D Power Plant the mighty python is ready to equip anything, however we’re going to be swapping that out to a Class-A of a smaller size for the better heat efficiency. I don’t know which yet, but the 5A costs a cool 5M Credits and the 6A is going to set us back 16M. You don’t want to contemplate the 7A right now.
I’m going to switch to the 5B plant. Its not quite as heat efficient as the 5A, but will run a lot cooler than the 7D and costs about the same.
Safety features
For the initial purchase, I’m keeping the 6D shields that I fitted in the Class-D refit. They are massive compared to the shields we’ve seen in smaller ships and although it won’t survive a sustained assault or coordinated attack its a lot more protection than any freighter has seen. This will help keep the cost down and give me a minimum purchase value for the Python.

Those big 3C Beams cost 2M credits each, so I’m putting them out of budget for an initial python purchase.  Since the stock python earns the same as a T7 but has shields and guns, even cheaper 2D Beams will be a vast improvement and I can get five of those for 2.5M credits. Its a lot of money, but its enough firepower to see off the riff raff and doesn’t make a dent in the power capacity of the 7D plant.

So our entry-level Python is a 16.4Ly jumper with a 228T capacity. It weighs in at 67M Credits, but is bristling with five 2D Gimbal Beams which only represents a fraction of its fully armed firepower.
The insurance is going to come in at about 3.5M, and I’d recommend having enough to pay for it twice on a ship like this and a further 2M to cover cargo costs.

So… The Entry level Python requires 76M of assets, subtracting the 30M you already own as a T7 pilot, is still a massive 46M Credits of earning in a T7 before you can upgrade to this space monster.
At 2MCr/H thats 23 Hours of trading… A long days work by any measurement. The road to the Python is a long one, and at 1MCr/Hour to get into the T7 to start with it looks like Lakons Type-7 transport is the half-way mark in being a the proud owner of a Python.

However the Python will earn a fraction faster than a T7, and will be able to upgrade those internal compartments and hardpoints one by one, earning as it goes along, and if you have a spare 76M lying around you'd be a fool not to pick up a python at your local dealership. Its worth stressing that 76M is the minimum spend to buy a python - you'll easily add thirty or fourty million credits to that and still have room for more upgrades.

I’ll have a full T7 Outfitters article for you soon.

Until then, fly casual.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Red Venom Viper

Hey Space Cadets! What is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang of the Alliance, and welcome to the Outfitters!

In this article I'll be putting some venom in my viper some hardpoint choices. In previous articles I've outfitted a thematic Solid Gold Viper that relied on prestiges and looking good and recently a Wingman Viper that was based on Quad-Beam lasers to keep a ships shields down while a bounty hunter sweeps in for the coup-de-gras

This viper has got a lot of venom in its bite.  I've based if off of the wingman viper build, which was a combat ship balanced for its power consumption. The entire thing can be had for a couple of million credits, so this ship won't break the bank and you can afford to lose a couple while you get used to the heat.

Off the bat, I found the wingman viper was fine for tag team combat but I was concerned that the ship was loosing manuverability with its Class-B Thrusters, so I've chosen to upgrade those to Class-A and get the most out of this ship.  I also added military composite alloys, because the price isn't too steep and I wanted that extra snug feeling of safety.

Otherwise its a reasonable Viper build, and well within budget on all fronts.  I took this ship for a spin at a RES and started racking up the kills to get a handle on its performance.

Safety Features
Like the Wingman Viper, the Red Venom has Class-B shields and a Class-C Shield Bank fitted. These weren't really up to standard in a fight, and while I've been spoiled by the Double-A shield standard in an Asp I did expect the Viper to be a bit more hardy.
I found that while I was outside the fire arc, I was fine but each time I squared off head to head with an Anaconda it cost me a shield bank, or more. With the extra 0.6MW of power going to waste, I think better shields are really wanted here.

The small hardpoints have my default option of E1 Beam lasers on Gibmal mounts. I've done so much damage with these in the past they are a good starting point - but more on this later.

For medium hardpoints I carefully considered the Big Four options.
The C2 Plasma Accelerator and B2 Rail gun have the same listed damage and damage penetration, but at 1.43 and 1.63 Megawatts respectively they are out of my power budget.
The B2 Missiles do tremendous damage, but I'm not sold on using missiles as my primary weapons - this isn't a missile gunboat build its a space superiority starfighter.

That leaves the wildcard option, the A2 Frag Cannon. Huge damage per second on the frag cannon for very low power consumption makes it an ideal choice for a power-limited Viper build.  You just have to stay cool in the battle and take those shots when they come.

Flight Feel
I'm not sure I really felt the difference between the Class-B and Class-A thrusters straight away, and circling an Anaconda at point blank is a difficult time to reflect upon the efficiency of your ship however we managed to corkscrew around each other for some time with me emptying my little gimbal lasers into the shields a couple of times before being able to line up the big guns.

While the E1 Beams do empty quickly and suffer from overheating, The A2 Frag Cannons are the star of the show for the damage/power ratio and once those shields were down I was able to tear up the hull pretty quickly. Aiming fixed projectile weapons takes more patience than I'm used to and I only landed half my shots, which really exaggerates both the low ammo supply and the thickness of an Anacondas hull.  I let loose some stray shots, and landed some direct hits on shields that hindsight tells me I should have waited on.

The Second Anaconda ran me out of ammo, and I had to continue the fight with small Beams only - its possible but I wouldn't recommend it. Local security services took some of the heat out of that which meant I felt safer even without such a bite. After that every ship was small enough for beams, including a rather aggressive cobra.

Final Verdict
Those big old A2 Fraggers really put some venom in a viper. With low power consumption and huge damage when you get a good attack vector I'm suddenly more scared about squaring against a viper than I was before.
I can see why Viper Jocks always swear by fixed weapons - those big guns hit very hard and a little pilot skill and patience really pays off.

I can see myself re-outfitting with Size-2 Beams and smaller fraggers, and see how that feels. When your primary damage dealer runs out of ammo, you shouldn't stay for too long in a fight. The larger beams will take down shields faster, be better at targeting modules, and maybe buy me enough time to land those frag cannon shots without wasting half my ammo to the void.

As always, Fly Casual.

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Wingman Viper

Hey Space Cadets!
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In previous outfitter articles, I've talked about freighters and rare-runners because that's where my experience led me. My recently themed Solid Gold Viper was a fun ship - great to roleplay as a wealthy do-nothing but not so practical as a combat vessel.  In this article I'll be back in the Viper cockpit trying to smoke some fools in a more efficient killer.

First Impressions
The first thing you'll spot is that the Viper is - and remains - power limited.  While the currency of a freighter is its capacity, the currency of a fighter is clearly MegaWatts and even with the big old A3 Power plant in its reactor bay you can't afford all the toys you want.

In this build I went a little over on the power side, but only enough to shut down my FSD - which I didn't need while dogfighting so this build was able to stay in a fight for long periods of time.

General Outfitting
Unlike my regular builds, the Viper has a lot of intentional downgrades to lower the power consumption.  Although I still had a fraction more overspend I could have used, this was about the peak power that I wanted and I found every compromise difficult. Balancing power in a viper is no simple task.

As power is the biggest problem, I went for the Class-A power plant and distributor.  The power couplings do draw some power themselves but I think its 0.6MW compared to 0.55MW for the Class-B and for that price I want to squeeze everything I can out of the ship so Class-A was the only option.

Everything else is prioritised in the order I think I use it. Class-B for the Thrusters and Shields, Class-C for the Frame Shift Drive just to give me the minimum range I wanted and then Class-Es for the lowest power draw.

Safety Features
Reserving power for the Class-B Shields and Class-C Shield Bank has been a priority, and along with the other components should be enough to keep me safe.  The next step is to fill those hardpoints.

As I'm sure you know by now, I'm a huge fan of those Gimbals so the viper pictured has a pair of 2D Gimbal Beam lasers on the medium hardpoints and a matched pair of 1E Beam lasers on the small hardpoints, also on gimbals.
This finishes me off at 12.22MW, so slightly up on power but not above my overspend.  The quad-beam setup overheats quickly but they are my starting loadout because...

...So why Quads?
Quad beam lasers are pretty sharp at taking down shields, and by linking pairs to primary and secondary fire you can control the heat manually.  I chose quad beams on this build because I wanted to fly wingman to a bounty hunter.  I don't need to score the kill, just aggro the quarry, and quad beams will really light up the skies while I take down the shields and chip away at the internal modules.

The quad beams loadout eats power, so when I switch out to cannons I'll have a little extra juice available, and I'll talk about weapon loadouts in the next article.

As you can see, there are a lot of sacrifices made, and I'm not done with the ship yet.  I want to try a build with only one or no lasers. I think the Viper has got enough punch to make it happen with just cannons, or multis - I just need to put in more flight time to get the hang of that flying.

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Mining in an Asp

Hey Space Cadets!
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In this article we'll be taking a Lakon Spaceways Asp out to a resource extraction site and starting up a mining operation.  I've chosen the Asp because its a big enough ship to equip with mining gear as well as a good range of safety features - there are some inherent dangers in hanging out for long periods of time at Resource Extraction Sites and I want a ship that's ready for trouble.

I'm looking forward to raking in the gold, so I've fitted an A3 refinery and an A3 Shield Generator, giving me over 100T of space for all that valuable cargo. My mining Asp also has a pair of medium gimbal Beam Lasers, and a pair of 1B seeker missiles to see off any trouble if things get hot. I'm not planning on picking fights, so as long as I keep a low profile those weapons can stay stowed.

The mining lasers don't really look that threatening, unless you are a giant space potato.

Thrusters, FSD, etc.. seemed hardly relevant so you don't have to overspend on these, but since I had a couple of million spare I did upgrade mine. I'm not going to say you have to though and you could start a mining operation on a budget easily enough.

With the outfit completed by the expert engineers at HeHeng and Leestsi, I started a one-hour stopwatch and flew to one of Leestis Resource Extraction Sites to try and approximate the profit returns from mining, and possibly improve and optimise my ship for maximum profitability.

I know how many tonnes of cargo I can trade in an hour, as well as what my profits were like when I ran rares across the galaxy. A one-hour mining trip will let me ballpark profit margins, and I'll be able to try different outfits and locations and see what I get.

Starting a stopwatch from launch, I set up and soon dropped out of supercruise in the mineral rich asteroid field and deployed my twin mining lasers.  Within seconds I was in range of a giant space potato and started releasing its delicious minerals.  Success! A rich chunk of leopodite came off and I was quick to scoop it up.  Before long I had a second, and the third one gave me unanite. Its not the gold and beryllium of my mining dreams, but its free money for the scooping.

However three chunks of rock got me less than a tonne, and the clock was ticking. To beat the profits I could make from hauling freight, I'd need to be earning a tonne of gold-equivalent ore per minute so I had to step up my game.
I reconfigured my fire groups so that both mining lasers would fire at once and engaged thrusters so I could cover the largest surface area as quickly as possible.

And that's where the trouble began, not only was I behind schedule but I became the center of attention of a skirmish between an Anaconda and security-service Eagle.  A few lashings on my shields and I decided I had to break from mining and return fire. The mining Asp has a few more upgrades than the minimum cost Freight Asp that I built but is nowhere near as capable in a fight as the Gold Plated Viper I've been flying recently.

Dogfighting in an asteroid field is super exciting, and you can use rocks to hide from your target and give your weapons a second to cool off before engaging at point blank range but even then my pair of beams was going to take a long time to cut through an Anacondas hull so I openend both barrels and after my hull took some serious scratches I lit up the sky with missiles and took the 100K bounty.

The cycle of mining and dogfighting continued for the full hour, and I only managed to refine a few tonnes of cargo before my time was up and I decided to head home.

I consider this a very poor attempt at mining, as I'm sure you'll agree. Mining became a thing to do while I was waiting for the next ship to attack me.  For this reason, I'm glad I had those Class-A shields and other upgrades to keep my ship perky while I was navigating an asteroid field.

I'm looking forward to trying it again, and hope to show off better results and some more concrete numbers next time.

Until then, fly casual.

Elite Dangerous - Breaking the Fourth Wall

So in this post I'm going to be breaking the fourth wall and talking about the game from the outside a little. I usually like staying in the realms of the game - The great service I've had for Zorgon Peterson or the great love I have for my trusty Sixer, or Alliance-vs-Imperial politics.

But today I'm going to talk about the game from the outside because sometimes the connection with the real world matters.  I'm a "normal" guy.  I'm a gamer and I enjoy flying space planes.  Elite is a chance to capture the imagination that got me into games in a big way thirty years ago, and its great to see new and old players collide in this modern re-imagining of a game-changing classic.

We want to reach out and influence other players games, and feel part of a shared galaxy where your  actions will ring out across the cosmos.  Which brings me to the heart of the matter.

Elite as a Multiplayer game has to - at its core - contain interactions between players and eventually you are going to want to transfer credits between players. And this is where the fourth wall starts to crack.
It makes perfect sense in game to eject and scoop cargo but this is the only mechanism to transfer wealth - possibly to avoid the black market in Credits to US$ that would quite easily arise.  Credit transfer starts a ballache of transaction servers, authentication, scammers and griefers  - and I don't wish that pain on the development team or the players.

But it [Credit transfer] is so integral to a game bound up in its in-game economy.  Don't you want to employ a fighter escort or be a gun-for-hire? Has a notorious pirate has killed you... ? I want to donate x-hundred credits of my cash to the bounty. Heck, I want to put a bounty on his head so large he won't be able to get near a civilised system again.

There are a lot of gameplay options afforded by the ability to transfer credits, but the cost in creating a US$-Credits exchange rate is too damn high.  Imagine, after all the hours you put into building your ships, new players can have a day-one Anaconda for $2.50... Its not a good feeling and something the development team have done well to avoid.

That's not to say I'm against micro-payments and transactions. I spent a couple of real world monies on spray-jobs for my ships because I want to support the devs and there is no better way to say "add more paints" than to buy the ones that are available. Bottom line, if we don't buy the paint jobs we've given concrete feedback we don't want them and the chance of seeing more any time soon diminishes.
However these cosmetics have no bearing on my ability to turn a profit or to fly my Ship. They look cool, and I want to look cool.
Do I think there should be approved paints available for in game Credits? ... Maybe. Yeah.  At least having some variation, even if it was just a fixed "Federal, Imperial, Alliance" colour scheme based on where you bought the ship would be a nice touch.

But I don't want to get distracted by nice touches.  As long as its a multiplayer experience, it'll remain limited by the in-game currency. And as I'm sure any convoy viper-jock will tell you, collecting your gun-for-hire payment in Gold is a boring-ass side quest to scoop, scoop, scoop that leaves a bad taste after the actual gameplay has finished.

Do I see an answer to the economics conundrum? Well, not really. It continues to be a fourth-wall breaking artificial restriction that ~ while it probably improves gameplay ~ also detracts from it by limiting so many cool possibilities.

Anyway, that's the end of my ramblings on currency and economics. Without the ability to transfer credits, the cool fleet gameplay that would put the Multi into Player is kept beyond our grasp, as the cost to protect us from scammers, griefers, and two-dollar Anacondas.

Fly Casual Everybody. The rest of my posts will be about the actual game, honest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Solid Gold Viper

Greetings space Cadets!
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In this build, we'll be discussing the Solid Gold Viper.  Because sometimes, you just want the best of the best. And then you put gold on it.

The solid gold viper is a thematic ship and my outfitting has tried to represent this. Obviously every component is Class-A, and I've not downsized anything to a smaller model. Lastly, the icing on the cake is the Mirrored Surface Composite hull, which I thought went very well with the Solid Gold Theme.

This Viper can be yours for around Four Million Credits, and represents peak spend on a Viper. It's 12.85Ly Range isn't going to carry you much further than the combat zone, but once there the Gold Viper is the pride of the fleet.

A Premium feel
The flight feel is top-notch, and from the second you leave your landing bay this ship just oozes quality and style.  Its zero-to-max acceleration is much higher than any of the bulk cruisers I've been flying recently and even higher than my Combat Asp.  The lightwieght hull means that even A3 thrusters are able to throw this ship around space.

With every component at Class-A, the ship performs well. Its the luxury space superiority star fighter for a new generation

Safety Features
In addition to its premium Double-A shields, I chose to equip this cold gold killer with a pair of 2D Cannons on gimbal mounts.  These hull crushing bad boys don't cost too many credits and its their low power consumption that has chosen them as my main damage dealer, compared to the big rail guns and plasma accelerators that you will really struggle to fit on a Viper with a little A3 Reactor.

Backing up the Cannon are a pair of 1E Beam lasers, also on gimbals.  If you keep your target front and centre, the gimbals don't drift much and I generally like their performance.  They can struggle when you are up-close, and I've had overheating problems with them but overall I still find them a good pick.

Action Report
After taking the Solid Gold Viper for a spin, I decided that the power draw on the weapons is just too much. I'd expected the FSD and Life Support to cut out when the hardpoints are deployed - This gives you a countdown of twenty-five minutes to cook your fools and holster those guns. But I think I miscounted the power and I also lost my Shield Bank, which meant I had to retract the hardpoints to boost my shields. Its no big deal, but takes a second or two and overall isn't enough of a combat edge.

Bringing the gibmal cannons to bare didn't have a strong satisfying feel, either, and it was difficult to line up my shots so I re-equipped with 2E Turreted Cannons and downgraded one of the beams to a burst laser.  The lower power draw was a lot safer for the ship, and I got into the spirit of Alliance gun-slinger in no time. One word of warning though, those Turret Cannons cost an extra four million each, and Tripple the cost of your ship.

The ship turns on a dime and I found it remarkably easy to keep my quarry in the cross-hairs, and to give those big turrets a clear line of fire. In fact I turned so sharp the whole screen faded to red and I nearly blacked out from the G Force. The I can see why fighter pilots are comfortable with fixed-forward beams, they give you a lot of control over your damage output in such an agile ship, and the overspend on the Turret cannons probably wasn't worth it.

The Solid Gold Viper is lacking in power though and the best on the list for low-power-high-damage is the 1B dumb fire missiles, partnered with cannons on the Medium hard-points. This load-out does give you an insanely strong lance, but I'd recommend this as a coup de gras attack after your wingman with lasers has gone to work on the enemy shields.

And Finally
Flying the Solid Gold Viper into combat zones and resource extraction sites looking for trouble has been tremendous fun, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the cockpit and really seeing what I can do with some iteration. Next time I build a Viper, I'll probably drop the sensors, life support and maybe even the shield bank down to a lower category to divert more power to weapons so that I can really hit hard - however such tweaks are against the theme of a Class-A only Gold Viper.

Have you flown a Viper? Consider yourself an Ace starfighter or a Rookie learning the ropes - tell me what you like, and don't like about the ship!
If you've got an outfit you want to see featured, a Pilot Academy article another point for discussion then let me know.

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and until next time, Fly Casual.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Freight Asp

Hi Space Cadets!
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In this article I'll be reviewing the Asp, stripped down for carrying freight on local runs.  This ship isn't elegant, its not loaded and its not packing.  But its got the highest cargo capacity you can manage and its going to earn the highest return you can in the shipping lanes.

The focus of the build - without doubt - is maximising the cargo space. The full 128T cargo capacity has been utilised and even shields are sacrificed to trade every tonne it can.

The Internal compartments read:
E6: Cargo Rack (64T)
E5: Cargo Rack (32T)
E3: Cargo Rack (8T)
E3: Cargo Rack (8T)
E3: Cargo Rack (8T)
E2: Cargo Rack (4T)
E2: Cargo Rack (4T)

This 128T Capacity is the best you can get. The lack of size four compartments means that adding a shield is going to cut 32T into you capacity and leave you at the 96T mark - and you could fit this in a Sixer for under two million credits, like this:
The sixer will fit 96T with a shield generator for a fraction of the cost of the Asp.

To make the Asp freighter work for you, you have to load the full 128T otherwise you might as well be using a Sixer for the credits-per-hour you'll manage. There are other reasons to run a 96T Asp - it might earn the same as a Sixer but you get enough hardpoints to see off trouble. However, in this build I'm running every tonne I can to maximise earnings.

Bouncing an unshielded Asp around a station, or the occasional ding against a smaller ship while launching will cost you thousands of credits for even what feels like a tiny scratch. For this reason, you'll be flying very carefully indeed.

To minimise my launch and dock times I've fitted Class-A power couplings to my freight Asp, which gives me the highest boost rate you can get. Boosting will get you out of the mass-locked area around the station will get you jumping system as fast as possible, and the rapid boosts will get you out of trouble should you get interdicted.

Secondly, I've switched to an A2 power plant. The Class-A power plant has the best heat management and still supplies enough for the ultra-efficient ship.  Without big beams, or having to supply power to shields, the A2 reactor gives everything I need.  I could get the same power from a 3D or 4E plant, but the A2 is lighter by a fraction and a lot more heat-efficient that the others.

Every other internal component has been fitted with a slimline Class-D upgrade to keep the mass down and conserve every credit on fuel.  I'll be earning nearly 20M credits in this ship before I can trade it in for a big T7, and lightening the load means I'll be able to keep my long range and/or think about fitting more hardpoints.

The Freighter Asp comes in at just under eight million credits. I can make a trading run in twelve to fifteen minutes and I'm expecting about 300K per trip so the freighter Asp should be fetching 1.2M to 1.5M per hour.

The only upgrade I really want right now is the extra thrusters, which will increase the top speed and make the launch and dock manoeuvres a little less of a pain.  With its high tonnage and cheap thrusters, the freighter Asp does not handle well. This earner is making over four hundred credits a second, and the reduced flight time the bigger thrusters would get would get me closer to the 25M target needed for a T7. Bigger thrusters would also make me feel a little safer in the spaceways too.

Another option is fitting military alloys, again to keep that precious cargo safe whether you are running unshielded or staying around to fight. Hull repairs are expensive enough, and having to pay top-dollar to repair military alloys is going to sting the wallet - maybe not as much as paying insurance though.

Overall I like the freighter Asp, although every trip in it is a wing-and-a-prayer adventure that throws the safety regulations to the void. Its not the right way to fly an Asp - seriously, take optional extra safety features and use it as a Sixer with epic guns and shields.   I've flown quite a few runs in a freighter Asp, but it's not super comfortable and I'm going to reconfigure it with shields, guns and thrusters so that I feel a bit more control over my destiny.

Have you had experience in an Asp? Got some hints and tips or a Ship or Pilot Skills article you'd like to see? Get in touch.
Comments and feed back welcome, please like, favorite, share and subscribe.

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and this was the outfitters.
As always, Fly Casual.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Cosmetics - The Pirate Pack

Introducing the Pirate Faction paint schemes!

Cmdr TwingTwang here and welcome to the paint shop!

This new scheme for Elite Dangerous provides a pirate themed spray job for a variety of ships. Unlike other schemes, this isn't manufacturer approved paint so isn't limited to one make of vessel.
Indeed we see entries for Lakon, Faulcon DeLacy, and Zorgon Peterson represented and the paint is available for these seven ships.

  • Asp
  • Cobra III
  • Eagle
  • Federal Dropship
  • Python
  • Sidewinder
  • Viper

Overall the scheme is a striking black/red combo, and most of the ship detail is still picked out well and shows off the detail of the models. The white skull really tops off the Jolly Roger pirate motif without being too heavy handed. It'd be great to see more decals, gang signs and fleet insignia on ships.

The dark colours looks great in promo shots but the details are a little lost against the blackness of space, however I like the way the dark edges obscure the outline of the ship and think it's a really great design.
The sinister blood red scarring of the pirate ships is enough so that I'm not flying these colours just yet, and I'm wondering if any - or all - AI controlled pirates have been given this scheme. I wouldn't want to be mistaken for a pirate, and that's reason enough for me to avoid this otherwise gorgeous look.

My criticism is going to be that the Left-to-Right mirrored Cobra feels out of place, and I'd prefer it to have the same orientation as the others but this is really a minor niggle - you don't expect pirates to stick to a style guide.

The skull on the Eagle also looks a little distorted, and I think with such a nice flat wing space it'd be great to see that straightened up.

Lastly, the UV mapping on the Python appears to be completely whack, with the design rotated and out of place.  I'm assuming a defect has been logged for this, but I don't own a python at the moment and can't check it out in-game to see if its just the rendering on the promo model that's wrong.

This pilots seal of approval goes to the Asp, whose crisp lines and flat surfaces really help make the image look good in a promo shot. Honorable mention goes to the sidewinder, and the way that the detailed areas aren't lost and the ship - despite being a triangle wedge - still manages to retain its shape with this great design.

Overall I'm really loving this pirate scheme, and am hoping for more themes that cross ship types so that our fleet can look a bit more coordinated and a little less rag-tag. It'd be nice if it could be bought in a bundle, as well as one-by-one, although there aren't many Federal Dropship pilots looking for a new paint-job for their sidewinder so I can quite accept that a pack just wouldn't be appropriate.

Have an article, ship review or trade route you'd like me to discuss? Let me know!
Fly casual everybody!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Elite Dangerous New Beginnings - Road to the Type Seven

In previous articles, I mentioned that I recently lost my brand new Type-7 in a shipping disaster and didn't have the insurance money to cover it.  This is a mistake of epic proportions that I hope you don't make yourself so today I'm going to look at the entry level T7, the minimum you need to get it off the forecourt and get some return on your investment.

My mistake was trading up to the T7 too early, when I could barely afford it. I was caught by the magic of big discounts during a ship sale and realised that trading up early would save me a couple of hours in the shipping lanes. In this article, while I won't be able to perform a full ship outfitting, I'll be setting my sights on exactly the minimum bank balance I'm going to need before taking the plunge this time.

Deciding on specifications
My cargo run requires a 14.6 Ly Jump, so I'm using that as my bottom-line for the build. If you have a shorter distance to cover, then you can get into the T7 for a lower price point.  This isn't an optimum build, its the cheapest I can get into the stars with. The 14.6 Ly Range is going to stretch my budget thin because it takes a minimum Class-5B Frame Shift Drive adding 1.7M to my initial ship.

Spending an extra 1.7M adding a Class-5B Frame Shift Drive gets a 96T shop-floor T7 up to 15.7 Light Years and is the start of my build.  The ship is going to cost 19,110K Credits, needing 955K for insurance and another 864K or so for a hold full of cargo.

This tells us that the total minimum spend for a T7 is going to be about twenty one million credits, however this 96T capacity is easily available in a Sixer for a tenth of the price. To really get the benefit from the larger ship I'm going to have to squeeze as much cargo space as possible without breaking the bank.

Raise the Bar
The minimum cargo space I need to beat is the 128T I could fit in a maxed out Asp. While I might not always run an Asp with no shields, there is no point spending all those credits on a T7 and earning less than I was before.
As long as I can raise the bar above 128T and retain the 14.6 Ly Jump range I need, the new type seven will earn more per hour than my Asp (as long as the takeoff and landings aren't too slow). Once its a better earner, it'll be faster to upgrade the T7 by flying it than by earning in the Asp before the tradeup.

Run the numbers
As I can't afford a T7 today, I'm going to be dry-fitting the ship using the tool at the E:D Shipyard,
This is a good way to do the research on a new outfit without committing to the purchase, although I will say the experience has been neither as tactile or satisfying as outfitting ships in game.  In game, I've always felt a lot of control and each purchase has been a considered decision.
E:D Shipyard has taken some of the guesswork out, and sped up the rate I can try different configs - specifically with this T7 where I can quickly see the jump range.
My reservations for the site are that I find it very abstract and it is a disconnect from sitting in an outfitters yard. This makes the value and meaning of each purchase difficult to understand and I think I'm relying on hours of manual outfitting to make sense of it.

Secondly, I'm aware that my local few outfitters in-game don't have everything in stock, so even if I could build my dream-machine on paper, I might have a roundabout trip trying to make it happen. Buying in-game has mostly been "buy what's available" aside from a few very specific cases where I knew what I wanted and was willing to fly to get it. This is especially true of the size 5 upgrades which I'll need for this ship and seemed less available than the smaller units.

And Lastly, you don't get a feel for the ship in flight. Using a "C" instead of "D" power coupling means something when I'm sitting in a cockpit, but on a website its just statistics.  I can guess, and I can spec a ship based on numbers but I can't launch, get a feel for the Thrusters and Boost and dock to try a different setup.

That said, its good to be able to know the cost, weight, and power of each unit so I can plan a build in more detail. I know from this what I'm going to try to build, and how much money I need before I even start the process.  I'm going to use this in future loadout decisions, but its not a substitute for building and flying a ship.

The Paper Plane
So on paper, I know I need 128T or more with a 14.6 Ly range, and with the magic of the internet I now know a shop-floor T7 with a 5B Frame Shift Drive can manage this with these internal components:
6E: Cargo Rack (64T)
5E: Cargo Rack (32T)
5E: Cargo Rack (32T)
4E: Cargo Rack (16T)
4E: Shield Generator
- all other compartments empty -
This gives me a 14.7 Ly Range, with a 144T ship and is expected to cost 19,437K Credits. Leaving 970K for insurance and 1,296K for Cargo I'm going to need a minimum total of 21,703K Credits if I want to make money faster than I could in a 128T Asp.

Of course, thats on paper and I've no way of stop watching the run to see how it compares to a 19M Asp configuration.  I will say off the bat its going to feel slow, naked and defenseless.

Up the Ante
This shop floor ~22M outfit has got to be my goal before I buy a T7, and represents the crossover in the graph where the ship probably earns more per hour than the Asp so taking the most efficient path its when I should upgrade.

But the hold isn't even nearly full and while I'm expecting it to earn around 1.5M/h I know the ship is capable of much more.  Without the big spend on a Class-A FSD, I want to see how much I can squeeze out of the T7.

Since I am on the verge of my range limit, I have to start stripping down if I want to carry more cargo. Starting with A Class-D refit will reduce the tonnage of my components and allow more rackspace for cargo.  Its an investment cost but will increase the income, and the numbers look like this:

Power Plant
An additional 40K will upgrade the reactor from a Class-E to Class-D (19K to 59K price difference) and save six tonnes of space, essentially paying for itself in the first hour at 54000 Credits/Hour for six extra tonnes of cargo.

To upgrade these bad boys from 5E to 5D is going to cost 126 thousand (63K to 189K value each) and gain me an extra twelve tonnes of potential rackspace and still make my jump. This is only going to bag me 108K/hour extra - its not as good an investment as the power plant but 100K/Hour for free is worth having if I can afford it.

Life Support
The upgrade in life support is fairly cheap.  The 4E-4D prices are eleven and twenty-eight thousand credits and there is a huge six tonne difference between the two. This means for a 17K investment I can earn an extra 54K/Hour.  This is a very cheap price and the life support upgrade will pay for itself in the first half-hour of local trading.

Power Couplings and Sensors.
The 3E-3D power coupling upgrade costs six thousand credits and saves me three tonnes of space, earning around 27K/Hour. Again, this will pay for itself in less than half an hour
The Sensors are the same size class and offer the same upgrade benefits.  I should buy these straight away and fit the extra rack space for cargo.

The Shield upgrade is the same deal as the power plant. It'll cost me 40K and shed 6T of mass so I can carry the extra cargo.

Putting it all together these upgrades cost about (40+126+17+17+6+6+40) = 252K = A quarter of a Million Credits and add a total of thirty-six tonnes of available rackspace before I go over the limit of the Class-5B FSD.
Adding 36T of cargo space is easy - a single 32T and a 4T rack - and is going to cost a quarter of a million to upgrade one of my 32T racks to a 64T plus a few thousand for a 4T rack too.

Final Tweaks
Since my outbound (or return) journey is only going to use about 45% of my fuel tank each I could drop to a 16T tank and carry 16T extra Cargo. This is a great value for money proposition and will help me get off of the starting blocks more quickly.

I've also got two pulse lasers at 4T each, so could lose those for an extra 8T of rackspace. Controversially I'm going to strip them off. It seems crazy to have a 25M ship totally undefended, but who am I kidding? 1F laser pointers aren't even going to scare a sidewinder...

My final build has retained its 14.7Ly range and I've managed to break the 200T cargo limit, essentially doubling the money making potential of the shop-floor T7 or even the trusty Sixer or Asp.
At 204T the 5B Frame Shift drive should break the 2M Credits an hour barrier and will soon pay for the Class-A FSD that will allow me to spare the luxury extra weight of guns, shield upgrades and better systems all round.

Its probable I could drop the range and make a three-jump instead of a two-jump trade route, maximising the capacity of the T7 for a few minutes more travel time, and I'll run the numbers for this in a different article, but for now I'm sold on the double-jump that gets me safely into dock with the minimum of flight time. The double jump also allows me to use a half-sized fuel tank that means I'm only 12T behind the 216 (max-with-shields) configuration of the T7.

If you have any thoughts, expectations or experiences with the T7, then let me know.  I think the build I've come up with on paper represents the best value for money entry level vessel of this size, and all of the optional extras are easiest afforded by flying a T7 than anything smaller.

If you have an Outfitters, Pilot Academy, Rules of Acquisition or other article you'd like to see then let me know.
And as always, fly casual.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - The Cobra

Greetings Space Cadets!
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.
In this article, we'll be talking about the Faulcon DeLacy Cobra MKIII. Probably one of the most iconic ships in the Galaxy, the Cobra wins the Pilots Choice award for most versatile and flexible ships out there.  Anything smaller than a mighty Python has to take note when a Cobra jumps in, and even the big ships need to keep one eye on the Radar at all times.

I found the Cobra a fun ship to fly, and the nostalgia alone made it my first milestone ship. Despite how much I liked my ZP-Hauler that got me back in the game and the huge amount of fun I've had in a Sixer, I'm always going to be proud to own a Cobra. Its a good all rounder, has two small and two medium hardpoints and carries sixty tonnes if you max out the cargo racks.

A Combat Cobra is quite a fearsome opponent, and my own Orange Rattler has seen some action recently.  The Cobra is a great vessel packed with options that I'll try and talk through here. The cobra plays in a fight and you can draw heat from your wingmen while they recharge, cooldown, and get a good attack vector on the target.

A midpoint between the Adder and the Sixer, the Cobra has a reduced range over the long jumpers making it a tiny fraction slower at running rares but it can make 20Ly jumps so you won't notice the difference on many routes. While it might not pack as many shields as a Lakon Blockade Runner, your rare jumper Cobra is packed with safety features and armed to the teeth, making it an excellent choice for almost any occasion.

Other ships in this series:
Lakon-6 Blockade Runner
Outfitting an Adder
Solid Gold Viper

Asp Freighter

Today I'll just be talking about Trading and Rare-Running Long-Jumper Cobras, and talk a little about some combat configs I've tried.  I'm not going hardcore into combat builds - that'll take a whole article in itself, and mining is a separate topic too.

Shop Floor Cobra.
The basic cobra costs 380K and at that price point there is some stiff competition from Zorgon Peterson.
The ZP-Hauler, for under 380K spend gets you 16T of cargo racks, with an unbeatable 19.4 - 32.4 Ly Jump range.  More details on this build can be found on my Hauler Ship Focus Page.
Meanwhile if you fly a 380K Cobra straight off the forecourt you will find its 9.7-10.4 Ly Jump Range severely limiting and its stock 18T of cargo space is nothing to write home about.

Hands-down, the Hauler has the Cobra beat at this end of the price scale so I'd recommend you save up for a while and don't buy a Cobra on the first day you can afford it.  You'll need to spend a little before you start to see the benefits.

One Million Credits
At the one million Credits price point, you have left the Hauler behind and are competing with its bigger brother, the Adder, also from Zorgon Peterson.  For One Million Credits the adder is starting to look pretty good.
My One Million Credit Adder manages an 18T Capacity and an 18.3-23.3 Light Year Range. It has shields, weapons and scoops and is a competent and armed rare runner. However you end up with a lot of Class-C and Class-D components on it.

My love for the Sixer is well known. The smallest of the Lakons, the Type-6 comes in very cheaply at a tad over a million credits and can be outfitted for up to 112T if you care to which makes it a prime earner at this price point.  The ship you get isn't fast, but moves a lot of tonnage.

Outfitting a Cobra that beats the Adder or the Sixer at this price point is a challenge, because you are looking at some expensive upgrades.

Because we aren't going to be gunslinging high-power lasers at this price point, we know this is a low-power ship, we can drop to the 3C Reactor which gives the 10MW we need and more heat efficient than the 4D at the same price.
This reactor can't quite deliver, and your Frame Shift Drive will cut out when you deploy hardpoints - but you can't jump with them out anyway so this is no real disadvantage. Just remember to set module priority groups and you will be fine.

Otherwise a 1M Cobra is a Class-D refit on every component.  I've replaced the Discovery Scanner with a 2C Fuel Scoop, and upgraded the cargo too. I recommend a slimline Class-D refit in almost every build for the mass efficiency. 

The internal compartments are now the basis for every larger cobra we are going to consider.
4D: Shield Generator
4E: Cargo Rack (16T)
4E: Cargo Rack (16T)
2E: Cargo Rack (4T)
2E: Cargo Rack (4T)
2C: Fuel Scoop.

Safety First.
With just the internal components at the minimum level I've already spent around 620K and have plenty to spend on safety features. I already have a 4D Shield Generator, which isn't much but it'll keep us out of trouble.
Because of the weaker 3C Power Plant, I'm going to choose projectile weapons on my medium hardpoints because they take less energy than beam lasers and a matched pair of 2E Fixed Multi-Cannons will do the job nicely.
Two 1E Gimbal Beam lasers on the small hardpoints will be in my primary firing group and used to do as much damage to shields as I can before spinning up the big Multi-Cannons.

This completes a One Million Cobra, getting us a 40T ship that jump 14.0 - 16.4 Light Years and costs 964K Credits. Wastage and Piracy aside, the Sixer earns more per hour than the Cobra but does not match it for style, sophistication or Nostalgia. Overall trying to build a Cobra on this budget is difficult and it's not going to be the ship of your dreams.

It doesn't handle as well as a Cobra might and a One Million Cobra doesn't really show it off in its best light. After a few pirate run-ins I found that the guns are a little too big for the shields.  Those big Fixed Forward Multi cannons do a lot of damage, but in a head-on lance you'll be taking your licks too so they rely on your piloting skills to get a good attack vector and stay out of the line of fire. If you are not an accomplished combat jock, I might recommend smaller main weapons and adding a Shield Bank.

Lastly, you could run lighter on weapons and put more into your Frame Shift Drive - especially if you are in a convoy the longer jump and safety in numbers might benefit you more.

Two Million Credits
With a larger budget of two Million to spend, the Adder and the Viper are the two closest alternatives to a Cobra.  You can build a Two-Million Credit Sixer too, and its a good earner, but I've talked about that enough in other articles.

The Adder has a great jump range at this price point. Its Class-B and Class-A across the board and gets you a 16T ship with about 16-20Ly range.  The Viper is a similar story, two million credits gets you Class A and B across the board because the Size-3 Upgrades are very cheap, and a fair choice of weapons too.

Two Million Credits in a Cobra sees a hodge-podge of class B,C and D components and too many options to say one is "the best build". Compared to the equivalent Adder or Viper that has premium components, the Cobra feels a little like its being left behind.  
However, I found that with the 40T armed Cobra that I build for 1M I had two real options and for two million credits you should nudge up the specs on the components you want the most.

The biggest gain at 2M is the extra spend you've got on a Frame Shift Drive.  I'm a real range junkie and will happily blow my budget on getting those long range jumps.  At 2M Cr, if you are doing rare runs then a Fuel Scoop and an large FSD is going to soak up all of your budget.

Its also worth revising your hardpoints - I found the Cannons more satisfying than the multicannons and at this price point its well worth thinking about.

Three Million Credits
At three million Credits the Budget Cobra is a nice ship to fly. I'm going to recommend the Class-A FSD so that you can jump with the best of them. This is a significant investment but gets you into the 20Ly range of a space hopper.
The slimline options keep a three million credit cobra running, and a 4D Power, 3D Life support and 3D Sensors are the starting point. These are reasonable upgrades, nothing that breaks the bank and helps keep the tonnage down and gives you that incredible jump range.
The Thrusters are upgraded to 4C, and a 3B Power Distributor keeps plenty of power available for engines and shields meaning you can move and boost if you feel the need the speed and its enough to keep weapons and shields topped up too. 4C Thrusters do feel a lot better than the weaker models, and I suspect an accomplished combat pilot would feel the difference.

So my internal components look something like this:
Power Plant: 4D

Life Support: 3D
Sensors: 3D
Thrusters: 4C
Power Couplings: 3B

The Internal compartments are pretty much the same as before, with 4C Shields and a 2C Scoop, leaving a 40T capacity made of 16+16+4+4 racks.

The Hardpoints have got 2D Cannons and those trusty 1E Gimbal Beam lasers make another appearance.  The Cannons cost 168K each so you can afford the pair of them without cutting into the budget, and at this point I'm fitting 1E Beams so frequently they might as well be fitted as standard. The 2D Cannons have a bit more kick in them than the 2E Multi Cannons of my earlier builds and they really pack a punch. My advice with cannons is to take a breath, and time your shot. They hit very hard and you can usually afford that extra second to aim up a direct hit.

I've added a Heat Sink launcher and Point Defence too, which start to give the ship its luxury feel.

The build has a range of 19.6-22.6 and comes in at 2,970K.  It felt a little artificial building a cobra exactly to a budget and I had to play around with a number of compromises to get it to fit the figures I wanted however I'm very happy with the ship.

The Class-A FSD is the biggest spend and the only premium upgrade. You can exchange it out for a Class-B or C and throw those extra credits into weapons and shields if you are a combat pilot, but I'm focusing on Rare Runners and Convoy ships today.

Five Million Credits
For the sum of five million, nothing can touch the Cobra. It's got the spaceways to itself and we are going to build a big ship with great stats.

Start with a pair of fixed forward 2A Frag Cannons, These do big damage to ships without shields and at point-blank range are deadly.  There are a straight upgrade from the Cannons in the 3M build and rely on getting a little closer to target but they will absolutely tear through exposed hulls when you do.
I've added two 1E Gimbal Beam lasers to the small hardpoints too, which is your primary attack to wear down shields.

A 4C power plant and 3C Power Couplings are needed to run all the systems and I've upgraded to 4C Thrusters too. If you find you need a bit more during combat (and who doesn't!) then go for the 3A Power Couplings first, and then the thrusters as you can afford them.

The 4A Frame Shift Drive gives this ship its 19.7-22.8 Light Year Jump range, assuming you are building a ship for long-jumping rares. If you are playing as a short range fighter then fit a smaller FSD and spend the money on Thruster upgrades and Shield banks.

Lastly the Sensors and Life Support are left at Class-D, because thats all we need right now.

The internal Compartments read like this.
4A: Shield Generator
4E: Cargo Rack (16T)
4E: Cargo Rack (16T)
2E: Cargo Rack (4T)
2E: Cargo Rack (4T)
2A: Fuel Scoop.

This gives the Five Million Credit Cobra a huge cargo hold, a great jump range, Class-A Shields, big guns and all the extras.  I've added a Heat Sink Launcher to one of the Utility Points for good measure and the build comes in at 4,980K Credits.

My Five Million Credit Cobra is built for long range runs, and protecting a convoy, and like the smaller spends there is definitely a side-grade option to focus on a short range fighter thats stronger ship-to-ship by allocating funds in that direction instead.  At this price point a Combat Cobra is a tough customer indeed.

Seven Million Credits.
Once you have seven million credits you'll be casting your eye at the Asp, but there is life in the Cobra yet.  The Seven Million Cobra is based on the five million build and we've only upgraded a few options.
The Power plant is upgraded to a the 4B model because we need a little more juice.  At this price point and with the energy available the 4A Thrusters and 3A Power Couplings are a must.
I've also upgraded the Life Support and Sensors to both to the 3C model.  To finish the build I've added a Point Defence to the last utility mount.

This 40T Cobra with a 19.1 - 22.0 jump range has great thrusters and couplings in addition to the weapons we gave it before.  Its a real threat as a space superiority starfighter able to bring those big cannons into play easily. 

You can drop the Life Support and Sensors down to a Class-D and fit a half sized fuel tank if you are trying to trip down the ship for maximum jumps.

For the same price, the Asp gets only 14.8-16.1 Light years and its stock 38T capacity, and is basically a shop-floor model with a 5D Frame Shift and some extra lasers.  At Seven Million Credits the Cobra remains untouchable in the skies.

Its worth mentioning that for 7M you could have a shop-floor Asp with fully maxed out cargo racks, giving you a total of 128T of cargo space.  There is no way the cobra can match this for capacity, but the Asps 10.5-13.8 Jump range isn't great, and it has no shields and just a pair of pulse lasers - it isn't a serious contender.

Nine Million Credits.
At the Big Nine, the Cobra is pretty much fully equipped. You can afford Class-A Components across the board. You don't quite have your choice of guns, and if you want to fit those power hungry Plasma Accelerators then you are going to have to make compromises.

A Pair of 2C fixed-forward plasma accelerators will give this build some serious sting, and if you drop the Sensors to Class-B and Life Support to Class-D you can afford this.  Its worth mentioning that you can manage this with Class-A sensors if you don't mind your frame shift powering down when you pull the big guns out.
Adding the Class-A Life Support is a matter of taste. The Class-D works just fine, while the Class-A powers down when you deploy hardpoints giving you a 25 minute countdown to finish your prey. However with a pair of gimbal beams and two plasma accelerators, the battle isn't going to last twenty five minutes and you will never practically run out of air.

If power management concerns you, The 2A Frag Cannon is cheap with a very low power use, or 2B Seeker Missiles are a snap at 500K each.

You can push this build up to eleven million with turret Beams on the small hardpoints, Military Alloys and an extra 4A Shield Bank.  Out of these, I'd recommend the Shield Bank if you can find power for it (again, your Life support will power down if you've gone for plasma)  and this peak build will reduce your jump range to around 18.0-19.5 with a 24T capacity.

Once you hit eleven Million credits, the Asp really becomes an attractive prospect, not only for its increases hardpoint and utility options but for its increased cargo capacity too.  Once your budget exceeds this and hits the fifteen million range, the Asp does start to dominate but we'll discuss that in more detail in an Asp Outfitters later on.

The Premium Cobre still has quite a long jump range, but you've gained some serious teeth. No small ship will meet you in the void and live long enough to tell the tale.

Final thoughts
In this article I've hardly scratched the surface of the amazing versatility of the Cobra.  We could have focused on Missiles and Shields for a high damage output slugger that will lance into other ships like an express train.

I've not even touched on refinery and mining lasers, or the amount of exploration you can do with that 20Ly range and a couple of discovery scanners.

The Cobra handles well in a fight and this build is biased slightly toward big guns. You should probably invest more in the thrusters and power couplings early on if you are a Viper Pilot looking for something with a bit more sting and staying power.

Have any thoughts, experiences or questions on the building cobras? Leave a comment.
If you have a ship focus you'd like to see, a pilot academy article, or more rules of acquisition then let me know. Please like, favourite, share, and subscribe.
As always, fly casual.