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.