Monday, 30 March 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Classic Cobra

Hey space cadets, what is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In this outfitters article we'll be looking at the classic cobra flown by Commander Jameson, and equipping a modern Cobra as a timeless tribute to embark on a star-seeing tour from Lave to Sol.

The exact specifications of Jamesons Cobra are going to be hard to match but I'll take everything I can into account and come up with a ship to be proud of. Outfitting a cobra on a budget can be a difficult so I'm not going to limit my spend on this.

This gives my a shopping list of features to consider as I put the ship together.

Its a rare luxury to go premium, but my starting point is a Class-A Cobra.
The 4A Power Plant provides enough juice for the 4A Thrusters, 4A Frame shift and 4A Shield Generator.  The Life support, Power couplings and Sensors are all upgraded to their maximum 3A too.

This ship already looks very premium,
4A - Power Plant
4A - Thrusters
4A - Frame Shift Drive
4A - Shield Generator
3A - Life Support
3A - Power Distributor
3A - Sensors

Internal Compartments
Now we are ready to start outfitting the vessel.  First on the list is a Large Cargo Bay. I'd say that 32 Tonnes sounds about right, so the two remaining size four internal compartments can have 4E Cargo Racks at sixteen tonnes each.

Fuel Scoops are not a problem, and in a premium ship the best I can buy is a Class 2A model so in it goes.

I'm certain that Commander Jameson had a docking Computer, so in it goes too.  And lastly I'm going to add a 1C Advanced Discovery Scanner into the last internal compartment.

Safety Features
Since Commander Jameson is known across the stars for his military lasers and missiles combo, I can't do anything other than a pair of D2 Gimbal Beams and two B1 Seeker Missile packs.

The must-have Electronic Countermeasures fill the first Utility Mount, and the second is going to be home to a Class-A Shield Booster.  Those extra shields keep the luxury feel, but push the power consumption over the top of the A-Rated plant.  When the hardpoints are deployed, the Frame Shift Drive, Docking Computer and Fuel Scoop will all disengage and power down.

To go with the flow I'm upgrading the Hull to Military Grade Composite too. Its reasonably cheap and feels like a good choice. The extra weight will drop my jump range down a tiny fraction, but I'm still going to be making those long 20Ly hops anyway

No mining?
I remember my original cobra sported a rear mining laser, which I could fit to one of the small hardpoints and swap the Discovery Scanner for a Refinery. However, I just don't see this as a resource extraction ship - it's a space-tourism build I'm going to use to see the galaxy a little so I'm grudgingly willing to sacrifice the refinery. Despite the premium build, there are some compromises I just have to make.
Were I optimising for long distance, then I'd replace the Docking Computer with an Auto Repair unit, but I'm happy to stop by several stations on my trip and won't be going to the outer rim territories in this ship. The Docking Computer fits the theme much better.

Energy Bomb? Galactic Hyperspace?
Sadly there are a few items on my shopping list that aren't available yet. I couldn't find the old thargoid-busting energy bomb for sale anywhere.
If I run out of stars to visit, I'll put in a feature request for the Galactic Hyperspace, but to be honest I think it'll be a while before its needed so I'm willing to omit that from this loadout.

One Last consideration.
For an iconic build like this, I'm going to have to choose a spray job that looks good, but I'll leave that for another time.  How would you paint a classic Cobra?

I think I want the colours of the Blue Rattler but in the pattern of the Cobra Serpent.? But I'm not sure. The striking Orange Ignition would be a great way to visit Sol in style, while the bright Orange Rattler has great visibility.
Perhaps I should go back to the original box art and choose the closest match?

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang, and I'll be flying this Classic Cobra on a convoy trip from Lave to Sol soon. Look me up if you want to come and get some photos taken with the stars!
Fly Casual everybody.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - The Vulture

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

The Vulture is one of the newer ships and plenty of people have had their say about its handling, performance, price and whatnot. I'm not going to go into detail about the exact outfitting of the vulture as I've only flown it for a few hours and I don't have a handle on the options yet.

The role of the ship
The viper is a fun ship to fly, and the vulture turns all the dials up to ten providing a similar outfitting and flight experience.  Like the Viper, the Vulture suffers from an undersized reactor and you won't be able to power everything you want to so a good loadout is about compromising and specialising the ship.

This means there are decisions to make and you'll never be able to "Class-A" your Vulture all round, some systems will have lower ratings than others.  Outfitting a Vulture is going to become a matter of personal taste.

I've gone for Class-A Reactor and Power couplings, and Class-B Thrusters. Everything else could afford to shrink a size class to spare some power so I can squeeze in A4 shields too. There are plenty of options to play with, but those were my priorities on this build.

Safety Features
Being power limited you are likely to compromise on lower that top-spec shields, and since your vulture will be taking a lot of heat those shields will feel a lot weaker than they are.
With lower shields you won't be able to hang at medium range and slug it out with other ships while you exchange fire.  Sure, Eagles and Sidewinders won't be able to touch you but those big ships will tear you up at mid range. That means you have to choose between long-range and point-blank.

At long range, you have to rely on your big 5A Power Couplings to recharge your guns and shields enough to turn in for another pass before your opponent has recovered. Relentlessly lancing in and then boosting out engine-to-engine like this will wear down one of the bigger ships.

However at point blank range your turning circle just can't be beat, and this is where you will do a lot of your damage. Holding High-Six on an Anaconda thrusting down toward its engines will keep you out of a lot of fire arcs, and able to target any hardpoints that can cover. It'll also put its Power plant front and centre of your gimbals, for a devestating take down. Its only chance is to pull away to mid range and bring those big guns to bear, and when it does you'll either stay high on its stern or boost away to long range and prepare to lance in and find a good angle.

Exactly how you outfit the ship is going to depend on what your Wing are doing and your personal flying style.

Wingman Vulture
Since power is your currency I spent a lot of mine Gimbal Burst lasers.  The Gimbal burst lasers empty their banks quickly and get hot fast so aren't good for sustained fire, but they do reach a high damage per second while they fire and can either slam into shields or can be used to pick off modules on the enemy ship.  The sacrifice here is that you'll have weaker shields, as you've had to put a lot of power into weapons and that doesn't suit every situation.
The Vulture builds in a similar way to the Wingman Viper where I've put all of my power into weapons over shields.  Its just not a slugger and you are better off tagging and getting out than slugging away and relying on tanking shields.

Fixed beams are also out of the question.  I tried them for a while, they really pack a punch but you have to be a dedicated combat pilot to score reliable hits, and even then its much easier to target modules with gimbals. Because of this, I found I had a much higher effective damage with gimbals.
The power consumption of beams is also sky high, and you'll be sacrificing around 15% of your shield strength compared to burst lasers.

I'm discounting the other fixed weapons - Rail and Plasma - for the same reason that I didn't get on with fixed beams. The module tracking in gimbals is too much to sacrifice.

Hurting Bombs.
Being limited to two large hardpoints feels like it discounts running missiles. Missiles don't play to the strengths of the vulture, which excels at point blank range damage dealing. Missiles have their place on a less maneuverable ship when you have a six pack of them, or even quad-linked, but in a space superiority starfighter like the vulture it's a waste of hardpoints.
I also didn't see any Size-3 missiles for sale, so I'd be stuck with the same missiles I'd have on an Asp - minus four hardpoints - just not an option.

Frag Cannons cause me to worry about ammo limits, too. They still have have a quite high power drain, which is something we are trying to avoid. If you are flying fighter escort for a pair of T7s, then the powerful fraggers probably aren't your cup of tea.
I've dealt so much damage with A2 Fraggers in my Red Venom Viper which packs a huge punch for its size so these are super tempting.  If you are bounty hunting in a wing then speak to your CAG. It could be worth having one ship with frag cannons which excel at punching through those larger hulls. The high damage per second Frag Cannons are ideal at the point-blank range that suits the vultures flight characteristics.

Cannons will significantly reduce your power consumption giving you better shield options and still have reasonable ammo counts. With stronger shields you can get to point blank range and sit there scoring hit after hit.  You won't out damage those big ships, but can duck out of their fire arcs and keep the pressure up.
The fixed forward cannons are dirt cheap, and although you will pay over the odds for the turreted version they are highly recommended so you can target modules.

Multicannons are a popular option, although I didn't get a chance to try them. But they have a low power consumption and you would probably be able to equip one MC and one Beam, switching over after the beam has dropped some shields.

Overall, I can see this is a viable option - run one Beam/Burst laser and have your choice of Cannon, Multicannon or Frag Cannon on the secondary fire. I think this sort of combo will work really well in pairs too, where you can keep up the pressure by tagging on and off to stop your lasers overheating and then both open up the whole nine yards as soon as those shields drop.

Without doubt, I had most luck with dual Gimbal Burst lasers. This loadout is biased because I spent a lot of time in a combat zone and the ammo limits of the cannon were costly. They pack quite a punch against hulls and despite heating up quickly, as long as you fire in short controlled bursts they will keep dealing damage as long as you need them to.

Capable as a lone wolf or pack hunter, the Vulture has been more fun to fly than the Viper although as a small ship it has to be outfitted with a lot less than Class-A. It'll be interesting getting back into the cockpit of a smaller ship although I'm more than a little apprehensive in going up against a vulture. I'm looking forward to bringing the big guns of a Python against the Vulture, where it'll be touch-and-go whether I can keep the fighter out of my blind spot.

If you've got more to add on the Vulture, any tips on power management or how to get the most out of its shields I'd love to hear from you.
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang of the Alliance, Fly Casual everybody.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Elite Dangerous Rules of Acquisition - War profits

Hey Space Cadets, What is going on?
I'm Cmdr TwingTwang and welcome to the Rules of Acquisition.

I've just got back from the conflict at Lugh and wanted to make sure everybody who hasn't done their part gets over there and helps out.  This war won't be won without you, and even including the travel time from Leesti-Lugh this has been the highest Credit-per-hour experience I've had so far.

The four of us headed out there together, a Class-A viper, a top-spec combat cobra with me flying one of the two Vultures.  There are a few conflict zones to choose from in Lugh, and we flew out to Lugh-11 to rendezvous with the capital ship there. Even if you aren't a combat pilot the experience of an epic space battle is well worth the trip out and its a new splash of gameplay.

In a busy combat zone, you need a ship with staying power so you are talking about beams or burst lasers.  I'll have to write a separate outfitters article about the Vulture, I've tried a few different hardpoint options and the Pilots Choice award goes to Gimbal Burst lasers.

With a bit of practice I managed to reach about 1M Cr/H in bounty, and after a few hours cashed in the 12M reward I had earned.  This made it a 15M credit adventure taking a few hours. I really could have stayed out in the stars smoking fools all night but alas I decided to cash in the bounty and get back to civilised space.

The biggest point to be said, is that you can make 1M Cr/H in bounty in a combat zone, but the big 12M payout is available as a mission that you can do just the once. So this was an exercise in reaching that jackpot as soon as possible, then cashing it in and going home.

There are plenty of pilot tricks and combat training you can go through to deal the highest damage per second, but I'm going to leave those on the back shelf and talk about the profit bottom line - this is a Rules of Acquisition article not a Pilot Academy.   To reach the maximum profit, you need to tag as many ships as possible per hour.  You don't need to scrap the highest number of hulls, just contribute enough damage to register for the bounty and then switch targets.
This is where high power Burst Lasers really score well. The short controlled bursts needed to get credits for the kill won't overheat your weapons and will give you a few seconds to cool off and recharge before you hit the next ship.

Just like stopwatch-rares or high-volume freighting, I strongly recommend instrumenting your combat as seeing how much your ship is making. Having a stopwatch ticking away in your eyeline really helps you focus on that profit line. After your 30 or 60 minute limit is hit, check your bounty and try to beat that target.  Switch up your style and see if its led you to a higher or lower income.

The second step is to compare this figure to your trading totals.  E.g. If you are naturally a T7-Pilot, then you'd normally earn two million credits an hour plain sailing.  A Sixer will make a cool one million in the same time frame.  The bigger Fat-9 and Anacondas can carry hundreds of tonnes, and make a significant amount. So much that you don't fight in the war for money - and the profiteering advice doesn't really hold up.  If you drive a Lakon Fat-9 then you go to war for fun, its not about the money.
But I'm a T7 Pilot, so normally pull 2M without breaking a sweat and ended up taking about half that per hour in the combat zone.

A short (few hours) run at the conflict zone gave me a really high return, and while I coulda, woulda, shoulda, stayed there for hour after hour I realised that you can hit the 12M reward very quickly and cash out for a great hourly rate.  Any longer time I spent was likely be become less credit efficient, so stopping and switching back to my T7 was the right move for my bank balance.

So, back to war profiteering. Fighting the war costs me about 1M Cr/Hour.  Thats the profit and loss bottom line. And its not pretty.
One million in bounty, minus the two million lost from not trading, means I'm losing a Million Credits per hour.  However, I'm gaining a flat once-only fixed fee of twelve million.  So.. I could fight in the war for precisely twelve hours and break even.

Every minute after twelve hours is a net loss. Every minute less represents my war profit margins.

With that established, the quicker I can earn that twelve million and bail, the higher the profit margin in going to be.  Granted, I probably could have reached the fifteen million mark in fewer than fifteen hours, so continued to turn a profit for as long as I'd wanted.  But that sounds too much like hard work. This is an article about war profiteering - getting the highest income from the lowest effort, and that sweet spot seemed to be a few hours of awesome fun and a jackpot payout.

So that's my war profiteering, cold and calculating. I ran the numbers, smoked some fools and flew home with pockets full of gold.  If you have war stories, tactics, or profit numbers leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you.

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang, making money one war at a time. Fly casual Everybody.

Elite Dangerous Outfitters - Missile Gunboat Asp

Hey space cadets, what is going on?
I'm Cmdr Twingtwang and welcome to the outfitters.

In today's round-up, we'll be looking at a very simple thematic build for a combat Asp designed for bounty hunting.  I love strongly themed builds more than I like the utilitarian min/maxing I usually focus on at the outfitters, and this ship has provided some real flying moments.

This is a thematic build designed specifically for scoring kills, ideally suited for working your way up the federal or imperial ranks [Cmdr TwingTwang, supporting the feds ... what has the galaxy come to? - Ed] And its going to do this by scoring kills the old fashioned way.

As you can see there is no subtlety here, this is a brute force trauma wrecking ball that knocks it out of the park.  The Missile Gunboat is thematic ship designed to be flown with a Combat Cobra, Wingman Viper or the vicious Vulture that will light up the skies and take down some shields before you swoop in for the coup-de-gras.

Once you get an open shot, the shock-and-awe impact of the missile gunboat is enough to finish the job quickly, and this is what it's all about.  Designed as a bounty hunter to get the job done this Asp isn't built as a profit grinder, so the extra munition costs are going to soon rack up but its all about swapping credits for promotions as you become a drone of the Empire, stooge of the federation, or Hero of the Alliance.

I'm presenting this with dumbfire missiles, as they have the maximum stopping power.  You can swap these out for Seeker missiles at a small reduction in damage and your mileage may vary depending on the targets you are hitting. There aren't many hulls that can survive quad-linked dumbfire missiles, and even a big Type-9 [perish the thought you turn pirate] is going to be reduced to scrap metal in around fifteen or sixteen missiles.

I've found those Anacondas and Federal Dropships are big enough targets that you can lance in when the shields drop and really show the galaxy how we do things down town.  In one-on-one slugfest this tank puts out more damage per second than anything else I've flown, and its maxed out Double-A shields with Boosters means it can take the licks while it dishes out the damage.

In Wing combat the Missile Gunboat Asp is enough of a tank to hold its own for a reasonable amount of time, and carries enough ammo to take out a handful of ships as long as your wingman is sporting plenty of lasers to balance the team.

I don't recommend pulling this bad boy out in a conflict zone, as you'll soon notice that its limited ammo supply (100 Missiles... Limited?) means you'll have to bug out before long.  And also as I discovered - and I'm sorry CMDRs - swooping in like this and stealing big kills for high bounty just isn't cooperating with pilots out there trying to earn an honest buck while they win a war. This isn't such a problem where bounties are shared, but it does feel a little mean in some cases.

Overall this is too specialised a build for general purpose, although I'm more than tempted to try quad-missiles offset with a pair D2 Beams as a trade route loadout since you can only get interdicted once or twice on a short route and will get the chance to reload when you dock.  The top-notch shields mean you can tank with the beams and spank with the dumbfires.

The Missile Gunboat makes its mark as a hunter-killer in combination with a friendly wingman to back it up, It's not as fast an manoeuvrable as a Viper or combat Cobra and you can get caught out unable to score hits if you are at close range corkscrewing around.  I wouldn't recommend the Missile Gunboat unless you are hunting big ships for big bounties, but when you do get the drop on them and unleash your hurting bombs its a hell of a moment.

I'm Cmdr TwingTwang, and this has been the outfitters.
If you've had some good experiences with dumbfires or builds like this, or have a loadout you'd like to see, for a sole ship or as part of a coordinated wing then drop me a line.
And as always, fly casual.