Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas one and all!

I hope you've had a wonderful day, regardless of creed or circumstance! Best wishes to everyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

However you choose to spend it, your time is valuable, and it’s yours to spend.

It goes without saying, that we're all going to shuffle off this mortal coil at some point. One of my very close friends recently lost her father, and that's not something anyone can carry well. Nic and I are no strangers to loss, and if it's reinforced one thing strongly with me, it's that time is short and you'd best make the most of it.

I've often voiced my personal opinion about working hours, but Eric's post here captures it beautifully (if a bit aggressively) and it's something I've hoped to inform all of the people I've had the pleasure of working with over the last few years (so far, my only opportunity to really get involved in the culture and politics of an organisation, while feeling as though it actually is my place to say this stuff).

The tagline above really sums up the critical bit. You've got one life, so spend it wisely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We're very nearly living in the future

Oh, such exciting times ahead. I'm literally jumpy all day with the prospect of what next year holds, both personally and for the world at large.

One of the areas I've personally been interested in for a long time now is the process of governance and policy making through the mechanisms of democracy. I registered a site for this ages ago, but as per usual my current employment contract is both wonderful and onerous - having to spend all day working on someone else's cool stuff, and promising anything awesome that I create to said employers. This leads to mental and time-constraint deadlocks that stop me actually doing anything awesome (more on this later - much more, hopefully).

I've proposed this concept many times to people before, but this is the first time I've seen it properly captured by someone in an easy to digest form (and props on the name too, I love it).

Ladies and gentlemen - Liquid Democracy.

In short, the concept boils down to this - you vote on what you wish to vote on. If you want your opinion heard, but don't feel informed enough to vote, you can delegate your vote to someone else (anyone else) for that particular issue.

This pretty trivially expands to groups of issues over longer timescales (express a preference for a proxy or delegate to vote on your behalf, and let them control issues grouped by policy type or any other grouping mechanism).

For example, Alice can vote directly on the upcoming "Raise the pension age to 100" issue. Or, she could delegate to Bob (who in turn could delegate to Chuck, etc) who can vote for her. At any point, she can switch her delegate based on who she prefers (which is instantly advantageous compared to our current system). Win all round, then.

Technically, this is pretty trivial to implement - the hard part is the security aspect (including privacy of voting). The good news is that's all solved problems, pretty much. It just needs making.

I'm picturing an app on your phone which shows:

a big YES button
a big NO button
the name of the issue
a link to the details surrounding the issue (including background research)

Imagine if the relevant stats / arguments could be collated in a visible, searchable fashion (including links to learning materials / research where applicable). Imagine that, for those who opt in, voting records could be transparently examined (and of course, if people don't wish to opt in, then their vote is counted on the issue and nothing else).

Who gets to decide the issues that are voted on, and when? That's a bigger question! but raising the meta level of the game would be - I hesitate to say, interesting.

Lots of devils in lots of details (letting people vote up to the wire, tracing influence networks, security implementation, etc) but I'd very much like to live in a society that is willing to try this form of representation.

The LiquidFeedback platform looks like an excellent starting place for this (and it's possible - hopefully highly likely!) that the technology is there. If so - what's stopping us using it?

Friday, September 25, 2015


Just want to capture the word before it goes mainstream (if it ever does):

Telepartation (noun):

The act of virtually participating in a different virtual or physical space than the one you physically inhabit.

includes Teleparting, 'parting, and "part in".

Portmanteau of tele (ancient greek, "at a distance") and participation.

You read it here first.

(yes, I'm aware there's search hits, but they're all mis-speeelings of teleportation)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Busy Busy ...

Ah, life. So much of it, happening all around us.

If you've been waiting on me to add to my E:D beginner's guide series, then you have my sincere apologies. I've been kind of caught up with work, family and brewing beverages.

This week has been a bit of a turning point for me. If you're down for Develop, catch up with me for a beer, I might even tell you all about it ;)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Exploration in Elite Dangerous

Hi! Welcome to my very fast guide to exploring in Elite: Dangerous. I'm assuming if you're reading this you're either pretty new to E:D or you've got terribored by the grind that is commodity trading (and if that's the case, I don't blame you).

If you do want to learn about trading, take a look at my beginner's guide here.

If you've never done any exploring yet, then we're about to go through the basics. The galaxy is full of beautiful and wonderful sights. Put the time into a bit of exploring and you'll realize just how incredible space can be. Frontier Developments have managed to put a huge number of known stellar objects into the game and seeing them with your own eyes is often very rewarding.

So, without further ado - let's explore, commander.

Kit out a ship!

You'll need a ship to explore with. You can do this in a Sidewinder if you desire, but I'd recommend something a little more suited to the job. That means ideally an Asp, or potentially a Hauler or an Adder. You can honestly explore in any ship though, if that's your thing.

The reason I suggest an Asp is because it's designed to explore - the jump range is phenomenal and you can easily kit it out with all the goodies you're going to need - and there's a couple of basic things that really you don't want to be without. A Hauler can also be kitted out with a great jump range and can just about squeeze in what you need, so if you want to do it on a budget that's the ship to pick.

The main thing you'll need is a good jump range. That means the best class FSD you can afford - ideally the A class for your relevant ship.

Next up, you should be packing two scanners. You should get the Advanced Discovery Scanner - the other two (Basic DS and Intermediate DS) are pretty much useless if you're intending to go out into the wild black yonder and find things, because they have a limited range. The last thing you want to be doing is flying around in the dark, literally, trying to spot planets and stars via parallax motion. The Advanced Discovery Scanner is pricey (at 1.5 million credits) but it will pay for itself within a couple of hours.

You should also take along a Detailed Surface Scanner because it provides more information when you scan a planet or star - this translates into more knowledge for you, and more credits when you sell the information to the cartographic service.

You'll be sundiving to refuel regularly while exploring - there isn't anywhere for you to stop and refuel. Pick the largest fuel scoop you can afford, as it will save you valuable time and make scooping less of a heated affair. In an Asp, you can get away with a 3A scoop, but if you can find a class 5 (or better yet, 5B or 5A) you'll not regret taking it. If you fit a class 6 scoop you'll often be done refueling faster than you can scan.

You might normally find a shield booster or extra hull armor useful. However, the goal is not to take any damage at all, so if you want to squeeze the most out of your jump drive, then don't take them with you. Shields don't work in supercruise and you'll be spending all of your time cruising unless you make a mistake.

Jump range is always affected by what you're carrying, so try and slim down your ship to the basics. Don't take anything with you that you won't need, such as Kill Warrant Scanners, heavy plating or loads of weapons. I'd recommend taking a couple of guns just in case you get in trouble in the fringe systems before you leave the Sol core, but most explorers don't carry them. You'll also not need any cargo space, so feel free to remove any unnecessary cargo bays to lighten up your ship.

If you're set on getting your jump range as high as possible, then you can reduce performance in some of the systems you'd normally want to max out. For example, you can get away with a smaller power plant, as long as you pick the A class (which has the best heat dispersion, which is crucial when scooping). You can also pick a smaller class of thruster, as they don't affect performance in supercruise.

I'd highly recommend carrying at least one (and possibly more) Auto Field-Maintenance Units. These allow you to fix any module damage that happens when you inevitably crash into a star or overheat yourself when fuel scooping.

I'd also recommend carrying a Heat Sink Launcher, for that one-in-a-thousand time where you fly into a binary system and arrive inside one of the stars. Yes, folks, this can and does happen.

Example loadouts

Here's a good conversation about the best Asp loadouts. Pop over to EDShipyard and work out your explorer spec before you head out.

As an example, here's my current Asp explorer loadout. You can slim it further quite easily by skimping on systems and weapons. The absolute stripped explorer spec will hit 35LY or more depending on what you want to leave behind.

Cmdr Aygen has recommended the following loadout, which is considerably more optimal than mine! You'll see that he's gone for multiple (AFMUs) which can repair damaged systems if you do get into trouble when out in the stars. He's also dropped his power plant and power distributor right down to the bare minimum.

Here's an example Hauler loadout that will hit 30LY.

You can also push an Adder to nearly 30LY but you'll be sacrificing everything to get there.

Go Explore!

Once you're kitted out, then it's time to go exploring. For your first trip, I'd recommend heading out from the Sol sphere to the sides, or up, or down - don't go into the centre just yet. The galactic core is a very long way from Sol and it will take a day or two of real travel time to get there even if you don't stop to look at the sights. It's also where most people start heading first, so you'll be waiting a while for discovery bonuses. Pick somewhere between 500 and 1000LY away, set your jump to fastest, and head on out.

As you travel, you'll see that most of the systems you arrive at will be fully scanned by other commanders - their name will be on the stars and planets in the system. The first person to discover a stellar object is given a name credit, as well as a discovery bonus when their data is sold. As you push out from the core, you'll start to find more systems where only the primary star is tagged. These are good systems to grab a credit if you want to get your name on something - but remember, you don't get the name tag or the money until you return to sell your data.

You don't need to be the first person to find an object to be rewarded for scanning it. The cartographic service will still give you a hefty cash reward for scanning something even if it's been seen before by someone else.

Once you start travelling past a couple of hundred LY out from the core, you'll begin to find the occasional entire system that's undiscovered. Depending on the direction you pick, you might find you need to travel 500LY or more before you get lucky. Don't get frustrated, just keep pushing on out and enjoy the sights.

Once you find yourself in true virgin territory, that's your opportunity to start claiming credit for everything you see. Unless you have a specific goal in mind, then switch over to efficient jumps and explore the area, scanning as you go.

If you're not sure where you'd like to travel - pick something pretty and start flying towards it! The Orion nebula is an obvious first candidate. Pick HIP and HR stars on the way to your goal and you are guaranteed to see some wondrous sights.

Don't forget your fuel scoop, and don't forget to keep your tank topped up.

Always remember : FOG! KBAM! if you fly too far into the unknown, you're going to crash.

(There's loads of other mnemonics, like KGB FOAM or various poems, to help you remember which stars you can scoop. You can also turn on "show by star class" in the galaxy map and select only the ones you can scoop from, to help ensure you don't run dry).

Scan things!

How do you discover stars and planets? Simple! you scan them.

Before you set off, set your discovery scanner on a fire group (not the same group as your weapons) and try it before you enter supercruise. You can use the discovery scanner in supercruise as long as it's been previously used in normal space.

The first thing you should do on arrival at a system is fire off your scanner. Assuming you have an Advanced Discovery Scanner, this pings the entire system with a lovely braaaap noise and tells you what's available to scan. You'll get money simply for performing the initial scan, but you won't get a discovery credit until you actually scan objects. If you have a Beginner or Intermediate scanner, you'll see objects within scan range (500Ls for the basic scanner, 1000Ls for the intermediate). You will most likely be missing a load of objects that are further out in the system - you'll either need to ignore them or fly out and repeat the scan. This process is tedious and time consuming, so (again!) I highly recommend you get the Advanced version.

Really, the ADC should be called the Advanced Discovery Pinger, because it doesn't actually scan anything - it just pings the system and tells you what's available to scan. This was pretty confusing to me at first. Once you've done the ping, you then have to actually scan objects.

To scan something, you simply target the object (either by using your controller to target, or by selecting an object from the navigation system list). Point your ship at the object, and if you're close enough you will begin scanning the object. Nothing else is required.

If you're not close enough, the scan won't start. Simply fly closer to the object. The mass of the object doesn't affect scan distance, but radius does. You can scan something at a distance of 4,000 times the radius of the object you're scanning. Of course, normally, you're far enough away from something that the distance is measured in Light Seconds (Ls) instead of Km. remember that one Ls is approximately 300,000 Km.

Most planetary bodies have a radius that's measured in thousands of Km - for example the radius of the Earth is 6,371 Km. If you're trying to get a distance in Ls and you're using a radius in 1000 Km, then you just need to multiply the radius by 13.3 to get a rough scan distance.

Here's some examples:

Radius (1000 Km) Scan distance (Ls)
0.5 6.67
1.00 13.34
2.00 26.68
5.00 66.7
6.371 85.0
10.00 133.4
20.00 267
50.00 667
695.8 9282

You'll see the Earth and the Sun are both coloured here. One solar radius is 695,800 Km. When scanning stars, you can use this as a guideline for how far you'll need to be from the star. Half a stellar radius will normally scan at around 4500Ls.

The closer you fly to an object, the faster you'll scan it. Sometimes you will want to do this at close to minimum distance (for example the last planet you scan in a system). Normally, you'll actually want to scan from half maximum distance or further, because the closer you get to the planet, the further down the gravity well you travel. When you're close to an object, your maximum speed gets limited, which means travelling to the next planet will take you longer (and the closer you get, the slower you go on the way out).

A good approach strategy is to fly to 7s with the aim of slowing to a stop once you hit maximum scan range - look at the radius in the system map for the object you're heading towards and work out the max scan distance before you head there, or while you're in transit.

If you're flying towards a gas giant with orbiting planets or moons, you will normally scan the gas giant a long way out, before you're remotely close enough to scan the orbiting bodies. Keep heading towards the planet rather than stopping, and try to park yourself above the gas giant with the rest of the moons orbiting around you, ideally 20-30Ls above the planet. this will give you a good view of where to head to scan things, and you won't get caught up in the gravity well of every moon as you fly past it to the next one.

If you get lucky with alignment, you can fly-by scan larger objects like Jovians, keeping your speed up as you go. If you get unlucky with your alignment (all the planets are scattered around the star) then don't simply head to the closest one over and over - spend a bit of time planning a route out and back in if necessary. If you're not sure where all the planets are in space, then head up from the ecliptic so you can see the orbit lines.

once you've finished scanning objects in a system, you can select your next jump destination by finding the highlighted item in your navigation list, or by binding a key to "Target Next System in Route".

Make some money!

All stellar objects are not created equal. Some things are incredibly valuable - Earth-like planets, water worlds, black holes, neutron stars. Planets that are candidates for terraforming give a decent price bump. Tiny ice rocks orbiting distant gas giants are virtually worthless and asteroid clusters are actually worthless, so don't ever scan those.

Here's a lovely graphic created by Dubardo, based off Nutter's excellent work (and Nutter's exploration guides are a great place to get you started after reading this).

Various folks, including Cmdrs Corporate Shill, Exploration and Aygen, have pointed out that the prices on this graphic are no longer correct. Commander Girsi has done the most recent pricing analysis that I'm aware of, with this graphic telling you the kind of rewards you should actually expect.

Depending on your play style, there's a couple of different ways to make money exploring. If you're not bothered about your money per hour, then just head on out and scan just about everything. Anything coloured is worth at least 5K and worlds that look vaguely earth-like are always worth more than that.

It's nearly always worth scanning the star you arrive at, because you'll likely need to scoop anyway. Fly in far enough to get your scoop slurping, point directly at the star, select it, and start scanning. While you're doing this, ping the system.

Once you've done the ADS ping and you're scanning the star, take a quick look at the system map to see what's there, and then take a quick look on the navigation pane to see how far out everything is. You often find you can target close planets (either metal planets close to the star, or occasionally gas giants under 700Ls from the star) without having to move while you're scooping. Secondary stars are also often close enough to scan without moving.

Here's a video showing my normal process whenever I arrive in a system. I hold the ADS ping button as I arrive, and slow enough that I get into comfortable scooping range before stopping. While the primary is scanning, I quickly check the system view and the distance to any other objects that might be worth looking at. If there's nothing cool to see - move on to the next system.

If your scan shows stars over 5K Ls, or a load of ice planets, then you're normally best off moving to the next system (unless you simply have to put your name on everything). If the scan shows Earth-likes, or water worlds, or close Jovians - head on out and discover them.

If you're looking to make the absolute maximum cash you can, then you're often best simply jumping in to a system, scooping and scanning the primary, ADS pinging, and if there's nothing that looks like Earth, head on out to your next system. On average you'll get maybe 10 objects per ping, which is 5-10K, and including scooping and primary scanning you can be in and out in just over a minute. That'll run you around 400K/hour. Add in some decent worlds every couple of hops, and you'll be getting closer to 700K/hour. Not as good as RES farming or T7 hauling, but you're here to explore, not to make huge money. Don't turn exploring into a grind, or the fun will drain away pretty quickly and you may find yourself a long way from home wondering why the hell you are out there. Just take your time, enjoy the sights, and appreciate the beauty of good ol' Via Lactea.

When you come to sell your data, you'll get both money and faction reputation with the faction controlling the station where you sell the data. You can use this to help you improve your standing with minor factions allied to the major factions, which might be useful if you intend to grind reputation with the Alliance, Federation or Empire.

I'd love for Frontier Developments to improve the mechanics of scanning - allowing you to scan while you're orienting, or adding something to boost active scan range, or exploration probes you drop off and pick up on the way back through - we can only hope they improve this part of the game in the future.

Sights to see

There's literally billions of stars, each with potentially hundreds of planets. There's obviously cool places to visit by simply zooming around the galaxy map, but you'll also find some excellent spots to visit by looking through the Gliese,  Hipparcos (HIP) and Bright Star (HR) catalogs - or you could do a tour of the habitable exoplanets. Do a bit of reading up, and you'll find something out there to pique your interest.

Alternatively, pick a direction and head out - see what you find on the way. The ends of the spiral arms, Sagittarius A* in the galactic core, the Great Annihilator, Galactic north and south, or try looking up systems from your favourite Sci-Fi stories - you might be surprised what you find on the way.

Don't ignore the systems you fly through, either - there's nothing quite as spectacular as a pair of Earth-likes orbiting each other around a neutron star, and they're out there to be found.

Happy exploring, Commander!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Five

Hi! Welcome to the last post in my beginner's introduction to trading in Elite Dangerous. This post, we'll focus on how to find a good trade route to make the big money.

If you want to see the rest of this series, here's some links to my beginner's guide:
Part one - the basics
Part two - I think we're going to need a bigger boat
Part three - Rare trading for the win
Part four - Ahab and the whales (bigger ships, mo money)
Part five - Commodities, economies and route planning

If you're getting bored of trading and fancy heading out to see the sights, check out my explorer's guide here.

Are you prepared?

Hopefully you've been following along at home and you're in a ship that's big enough to justify normal commodity trading. If you're still in a Type 6 or smaller, you're probably best served by running one of the various rare routes I covered in my introduction to rare trading. If you're in something larger, or just want to get the hang of making the most of your space with normal goods, then let's go!

What do I buy, and what do I sell?

One thing it really doesn't show is the trade spread. This is the difference between the lowest you can buy the commodity and the highest you can sell it for.

Assuming you can afford a full hold of the most expensive items, then you are always best buying the item with the biggest spread - this has the largest profit potential.

I ran some numbers on the latest trade data from EDDB (and cross-referenced the results with MadDavo's dataset). please note that this is not ever going to be accurate, as the only people who have the full live trade database are Frontier Developments - until then we're relying on croudsourced data (this is true of Thrudds, Slopey's tools, etc).

All of the prices below are based on hundreds or thousands of sample values with anything that appears invalid stripped from the analysis. I'm calculating the lowest and average buy price of any good that has supply, and the highest and average sell price for any good (you can sell something even if the demand is zero, you'll just get an average terrible price for it).

Take a look here for a rundown of the top ten trades by economy pair for every commodity, ordered from largest profit delta to smallest.

Painite : DELTA 36497 SELL 360 < 35768 > 36497
Platinum: DELTA 19954 SELL 697 < 19706 > 19954

You can't buy Platinum or Painite anywhere. They have high sell prices, so if you're mining, they are the best things to target.  The average sell price is pretty close to the maximum, so you'll likely get a good deal at most stations.

In general, slave trading is the highest profit! unfortunately, the supply is low - they just can't crank slaves out fast enough to make it worth chaining gangs of them inside a Type 9. This leaves you with the obvious candidates of Palladium, Gold, Beryllium, Performance Enhancers, Consumer Tech, Progenitor Cells and Superconductors. Looking familiar? You're probably used to trading these commodities already, either through your own trading routes or those suggested by other tools.

You are not going to be able to pick the top two and hope to run them back and forth, however - because the economy of the systems and commodities comes into play, both in terms of what they care about (supply and demand balance) and how much they actually have to trade (supply and demand values). If we take Slaves out of the running for now, then it should be fairly obvious you can't trade Palladium one way and Gold the other - anywhere that sells Palladium at a good price will probably also be producing Gold at a good price.

So, what you actually want to know is the economy type that sells the commodity for the lowest price, and the economy type that buys the commodity for the highest price.

You can make a pretty good guess based on the infographic above. You can sell goods of just about any type in just about any station or outpost, but some economy pairs are much better than others, as the infographic indicates.

However, not every system is created equal. Some systems have a primary economy - and some don't. Systems with huge populations are likely to have more production capacity and more demand. Many systems have secondary economy stations mixed in with their primary (often of a different faction) and some stations satisfy more than one economy type (with varying results on the prices due to internal supply and demand satisfaction).

But, why guess? Let's just do the math! I've worked out the top pairings for every commodity type to validate the kind of routes you should be planning to take.

You'll see in the table that there's a breakdown of the top ten (by profit) economy routes. You'll also see the average supply in the starting economy. A small supply number relative to another economy source means it's highly unlikely you'll find a starting system with a large amount of that commodity (and potentially it won't be there at all).

I've also removed all the data for systems where the economy isn't obvious - this is a big proportion of the dataset and accounts for most of the outlier prices. You might be able to make slightly more if you expand your system search away from the obvious spots, but in general we're talking less than 5% difference on the best prices I've listed.

Again, these prices change constantly. I'll be updating the list every week or so.

How much money can I make?

As you can see from my prices by economy list, the actual sell prices don't vary hugely between different economies - but the supply and demand of the economies varies enormously. As expected, you're best off buying commodities in the economies that provide the highest supply and selling in the systems that have the highest demand.

Jump distances impact your time and profit, but fuel is a tiny cost against a large load (much less than 1% of your total profit even for a full tank) and 45 seconds per jump means a four or five jump trade route is likely cost effective if you can earn more on the trade. As an example, you can run a 10 minute route 6 times an hour, and a 12 minute route 5 times an hour. If you make 1.8K/t on the 10 minute run and 2.2K/t on the 12 minute run, you're going to make more profit on the slower run.

The absolute maximum profit you can make on Palladium / Consumer tech is 3.5K per ton. That would be awesome, but in all the various routes I've plied, the best I've managed on these two is around 2.8K - the buy price is never as low as you want, and the sell price is never as high. If you're making 2.5K/t or more, you're on a good route - stick with it.

With a Type 6 at full cargo (112) and a 10 minute 2.5K/t run, you're making 1.68 million per hour.
An Asp at full cargo (128) on the same run can squeeze 1.9 million.
A Type 7 at full cargo (232) can make 3.5 million. Hitting 10 minutes might be trickier and you're not going to be able to use outposts, so finding a 2.5K/t route will be a longer search.
A Type 9 at full cargo (532) can push 8 million an hour.

Stop with the statistics, and give me some examples!

using the table linked above, all you need to do now is figure out how many systems you want to visit and make sure you link the economies. For example, an obvious high earner is:

Palladium (Extraction to High Tech) with a max profit per ton of 1899
Performance Enhancers (High Tech to Extraction) with a max profit per ton of 1621

another, potentially less illegal, route would be:

Palladium (Extraction to High Tech) with a max profit per ton of 1899
Consumer Technology (High Tech to Extraction) with a max profit per ton of 1598

If you want a three station route, and don't mind being a slave driver, then
Imperial Slaves (Agriculture to Extraction) (1954)
Palladium (Extraction to Industrial) (1915)
Slaves (Industrial to Agriculture) (1866)

would fit the bill nicely.

The typical two jump trade loops will be:

Palladium -> Beryllium
Palladium -> Consumer Technology
Palladium -> Resonating Separators

Switch Gold with Palladium for slightly lower profits.

What should I avoid?

Apart from Tobacco and Slaves, Agriculture systems sell hardly anything that will ramp your profit. You might find an extraction station in an Agriculture system that can hit you up with some Silver, Indium or Gallium. If you're looking for easy to find routes, I'd skip them.

Industrial systems are also generally going to give you mid-profit items. If hauling Power Generators and Mineral Extractors is your thing, then throw an industrial stop in your loop but be prepared to take a hit to your profit per hour.

Just like the real world, the big money is in illegal items (weapons, drugs, slaves), shiny metals and huge TVs.

How do I pick a starting place?

Use the galaxy map, filter by economy type for the starting economy of your first planned stop, and then ramp up the population. You'll start to find candidate stars. check the system map (buy it or fly there) and check out the stations to see if they have enough supply to satisfy your needs.

Once you've got a starting spot, repeat the process for each hop in your route. You can speed this up by, after docking at candidate stations, checking the "exports to" for systems that are already expecting to get that commodity. Sanity check it is of the economy type that matches your next purchase.

Or, if you're feeling lazy, look at Thrudds or use Slopey's tool (or any of the alternatives). If you're hauling huge amounts of cargo around, don't be at all surprised if the prices are not what you expect when you arrive (or tank as soon as someone else jumps on your route).

You will mostly find that systems don't list the top candidates in their export list. There's two reasons for this - the first is that the supply is lower than another item (and you'll only see three items on the list). The second is that it's just not present. Because of this, you can't just rule systems out based on the "imports / exports" view in the system map. You can try and purchase trade data and then filter the map view to show the trade arrows, which will hopefully let you filter to exactly the commodity you want - if you see it flowing, great. If not, it might still be there but not in the supply you want, or it might be there but no-one is moving it.

Trade routes tend to show AI trade just as much as player trade, and an existing flow does show the route is possible - but it doesn't show that it's very profitable. If there's a lot of trade on the route already, chances are the supply is high but the commodity will be well off the price extremes you're looking for - if there's lots of traders hauling a commodity then the station won't be motivated to sell at a discount or buy at a premium.

Ultimately then, this means that the in-game tools are not much use for finding the best trade routes. You can't rely on the import/export panes, you can't rely on the trade route flow indicators and you can't rely on the system map to tell you what you need to know. You are going to have to go visit stations yourself and write down the prices somewhere (or take screenshots).

I find this pretty frustrating - you might really enjoy it. It's all down to your playstyle, I guess. I'd definitely prefer FD to put in some sort of trade prices log for pilots in-game, so you could see what prices were like at the stations you previously visited (instead of having to capture them outside the game). We can hope they add this at some point.

Using the in-station price list and the commodities profit spread data above, you can pretty quickly see if the buy or sell price is going to give you a good profit.

How far should I travel?

Finding your starting system, I'd recommend pushing out of the core (but obviously not as far as the outer rim systems). You want somewhere that's a bit backwater but has a large set of populated systems in a fairly close range.

For your jumps, don't be afraid to make a couple of hops - it's going to add less than a minute to each leg for every hop you make, and fuel costs are negligible these days.

Tools of the trade

Thrudd's Trading Tool:
Elite Dangerous Database :
MadDavo's price database :
Slopey's Best Profit Calculator :
EliteOCR :

There's plenty more tools out there if you look - but I'd recommend learning how to do this in the game as much as possible - I'm certain Frontier Developments will make our lives easier in the long run.

Wrapping up

Thanks for reading along, I hope you've found this introduction to trading a useful resource. I'll be continuing to update it over the coming months (maybe even with some pictures and videos) but for now I'm heading out into the wide black yonder to see the sights.

If you're interested in Exploring, check out my explorer's guide here.

See you out there, Commanders!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Four

Hi! Welcome to the fourth  fifth post in my short series on trading in Elite Dangerous. This time out, I'm going to dig into the bigger ships a bit. The next post will be about finding the best trade routes - I was going to cover them both in one go but they deserve their own focus.

Bigger ships, more money

If you've been following along at home, I'd expect you've probably ground out a few normal trade routes, got the basics down, and (hopefully) tried your hand at some rare trading. If you're still hauling around semiconductors in a Cobra or a Type 6, then might I strongly suggest you read the post about rare trading and give the Lave / Witchhaul route a couple of runs - I'm confident that your income will be massively higher and you'll see a lot more of the galaxy than you've seen to this point.

Once you've got a Cobra, you can make over 1 Million credits an hour. Running the same route in a Type 6, with a little luck can get you close to 1.5 million an hour. I'll be giving some details in another post of a more optimal route in the Type 6 which lets you run with a mostly full hold and gets close to 2 million an hour without much hanging around.

At some point though, you'll start tiring of grinding the credits on someone else's route and you'll get the lust for a larger ship. After all, even at 2 million an hour you're looking at a lot of rare runs to get that Anaconda.

How can you speed it up? Rares don't really scale terribly well because of the caps on items. Even if you get incredibly lucky and get full allocations every time you dock, there's still a maximum return just because of the sheer amount of travel involved.

This is the point you'll likely look at upgrading your ship and cargo space and head out to find a lucrative short haul route. Let's take a look at what you could be flying.

(Please note, as of 2016 this is nearly a year out of date now! There's more ship choice and the game has changed pretty radically since I originally wrote this post.)


Lakon Type 7

A measly 17.5 Million credits will buy you a Type 7. This is the obvious upgrade from a Type 6. It's slower, uglier and fully upgraded can reach around 17LY when full of cargo, which will be a bank-breaking 216 tons (or 212 if you decide to plump for a docking computer).

The Type 7 is a large class ship - it can only dock on large bays which stops you from being able to use outposts. Bear this in mind when you're working out your routes.

Of course, to run decent trading routes you'll want to pimp it. You're recommended to wait until you've got around 23.5 million before you switch - you'll need around  20 million to get a nearly-top-notch version plus you're looking at another 3.2 million to buy a full cargo hold. If you then want to get the class A FSD that's another 3.5 million upgrade which adds around 3.5LY to your jump range.

Lakon Type 9 Heavy

Once you've got 76.5 million in the bank, you can afford the Lakon Type 9. The Type 9 is currently the ultimate hauler, with space for 532 cargo if you're insane and fly with only cargo bays. Most sane pilots will keep at least a class 5 shield giving you 500 cargo space (496 with a docking computer). On a good route, you can be making a million credits every run. You'll also start seriously impacting the local economy with the huge amount of cargo you move around.

Even larger than the Type 7, you're also constrained to docking only on large bays. Assuming you traded up from a Type 7, you'll be used to that by now.

How much should you keep aside to actually buy it? a round 100 million will be a good start - and add another 10 million to that for the 6A FSD. Here's a 97 million build but you'll need to fill it with cargo too.

Multipurpose ships


If you liked the Cobra, you'll love the Asp. At 6.6 million credits, It's a multi-role ship in the same style as the Cobra - slightly larger, slightly slower, slightly less manouverable. It has an enormous jump range, which means it's the perfect ship to start pushing out into the galaxy - and it's not too shabby at trading either, given that you can push the cargo space to 96 tons while keeping the stock shield. It's tricky to downgrade the shield class in an Asp - the 3A will just about stop you from damaging the hull if you graze a station but not much more. You can use shield boosters to give you a bit more protection.

Why would you buy this as an upgrade to a Type 6? Because it's beautiful and deadly. You can also outfit it for other roles (like taking a sightseeing trip, or mining, or a bit of pirating if you fancy). The Asp is more than capable in every role. It might not pay for itself quickly but you'll love the ride.

Another fantastic multi-role ship. at 57 million credits for shipyard spec, you can push this beauty past 250 tons of cargo space if you want, while retaining decent combat capability. If you are bored of the grind and closing on the "Type 9 or not Type 9" decision, this may be the ship for you.


You've reached the pinnacle of ships, both in cost (at a piffling 147 million with no upgrades) and capability. Of course the Anaconda can trade well (with well over 400 tons of capacity even when combat ready), but once you've bought one, unless you've gotta catch em all, you're likely going to be doing something else other than crashing economies. I've not come anywhere near my Anaconda budget yet. If you have one, try not to crash it!


The Imperial Clipper, at 22 million, is a great cargo hauler - nearly as capacious as the Type 7, but handles better. If you have the reputation, check it out. You'll need the reputation first though!

The Orca, at 48.5 million, looks pretty but it's basically a skybus. Until there's a motive to fly your superconductors in style, you're not going to benefit from picking the Orca above any other large capacity hauler.

The Federal Dropship, at 37 million, isn't great at anything other than making you feel like Bishop at the end of Aliens (or Ferro at the beginning). Not recommended for cargo hauling.

None of the other ships will gracefully carry more than a Type 6. That's not to say they're not fantastic - just that you'll be better doing something else than hauling eggs in them.

If you're looking for more details on the ships and recommended loadouts, then you should take a look at Broncho Saurus' ship progression guide.

Recommended upgrades (and downgrades)

Cargo bays

You want as much cargo space as possible, because that's where your income is coming from. More cargo is more profit. Get the largest bays you can in every slot. You might have trouble buying the larger bays, so you should be looking at High Tech systems. I've seen recommendations for Aulin, Styx and Asellus Primus. 


You might be tempted to reduce your shields where possible to fit in extra cargo bays. As always, you can run a ship with no shields at all - and you might even get away with it, but any large hauler is going to be slow as molasses and hard to dock. You're also going to run the risk of someone else flying into you while docking and you won't have much control over that scenario - I'd recommend always having at least some form of shields to take the brunt. Losing a Type 9 and your 500 tons of cargo is not going to make your evening.

Here's a link to some calculations on shield performance - look up your ship and see whether it's worth downgrading your class while upgrading the rating, often you'll get just as good protection from a lower class A rated shield than you do from the shipyard stock. Feel free to read up on the research if you want.

Power plant

In all the cases I can see, a class A rated power plant in a class one lower than spec is a great upgrade as long as you're looking for good performance and mass. They are definitely more expensive than the equivalent D of the stock class but they outperform in every other aspect (mass, heat rating, maximum power). If you want to get the absolute maximum power, then go for a stock class A.

Fuel costs

Before 10th March, fuel in large ships used to cost much more than smaller ships - but after 11th March all fuel costs have been set to the same value per ton. Bonus!

Now, all you need to worry about is whether to buy it at a station or whether to scoop it. You can work that out based on your scoop performance and your fuel consumption. I'll put some accurate formula here shortly.

Wrapping it up

Look out for the next post where I'm going to go into detail on finding trade routes (both inside and outside the game) and how to make the most profit without succumbing to the grind.

Part five - Commodities, economies and route planning

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Three and a bit

Hi! I was expecting my next post to be about trading in the larger ships, but I thought it would be worth sharing a few of the observations I've made from running the rare trade routes in my Cobra and my Type 6.

The first question I've been looking to answer is, "should I jump to maximum range and scoop, or should I use an efficient jump route?" - and I've got a definitive answer, at least for one set of upgrades.

The second question I've been looking to answer is, "How much fuel do I use to jump?" - and I've got a definitive answer for that, too.

Read on for more detail!

Jump to max range and scoop, or jump efficiently?

When you plan a route in the galactic map, you've got to make a decision between "Economical Routes" or "Fastest Routes".

The key difference is the amount of fuel you use overall and how far each jump will be.

When you select "Economical Routes" your planned route will take many short jumps as close to a straight line as possible - but it will aim to minimize the amount of fuel you use, so the route travelled may be quite winding and will likely have jumps that you don't expect to make if you draw a straight line between your starting point and your destination.

When you select "Fastest Routes" your planned route will aim to jump as far as possible based on your current max jump range, as long as you're heading in the correct direction. This route will have fewer jumps.

You'd expect that this would use the same fuel - or maybe even less fuel, since it's more direct - but that's not what happens.

Fuel use is not linear on distance. one 10LY jump does not use the same fuel as two 5LY jumps.

This is pretty obvious when you look at the fuel gauge and your rebuy costs, but it's not immediately obvious how much fuel you will use for a certain distance. If you want some more details on that, take a look in the next section.

You can decide between the two, but which one should you pick?

Flying as fast as possible within your maximum range

Always use fastest routes. you take fewer jumps, which means less time.

Flying as fast as possible exceeding your maximum range

Always use fastest routes, and scoop as much as you can until you can reach your last jump. You can check this (while you're scooping is the most efficient way!) by looking on your galaxy map - if you have a dotted line on your final jump, you can't make it all the way yet. If you have a solid line, you're good to go.

If you do care about your fuel costs, then always use fastest routes and scoop as much as you can on every jump you can. This way you'll only pay for fuel on your last jump (or you can scoop before heading in to the station if you wish).

Since the March 11th update, fuel costs are now tiny, even in bigger ships. Buy as much fuel as you can when you get to your destination.

Using economical routes is slower than jumping and scooping unless you have a rubbish scoop and you're bad at scooping.

And to prove it, here's some math! Yay!

How long does it take to scoop?

You can see the fuel scoop efficiency here:

I ran my timing tests with a 2B scoop (65 units per second max). There's 1000 units per one ton of fuel (let's assume 1 unit of fuel is 1 KG of Hydrogen) so scooping 60 units per second will take 17 seconds to fill one ton of your fuel tank.

The worst class 2 scoop scoops at 32 units/s. That would take around 35 seconds to fill one ton of your tank at just under max scoop.

You can safely scoop at 90% of your max scoop rate while staying at a decent temperature - I tend to fly into the star until I'm at 70% rate, slow to minimum supercruise speed and blip the throttle until I'm sitting at 90% scoop rate or above, then level out (and orient myself so the target jump star is above me). Once the scoop is finished, or even better nearly finished, I point up to the target star and accelerate at max, then charge the FSD as soon as the temp drops below 56.

How long does it take to jump?

Here's some timings taken in a Cobra with a 4A FSD and D class systems.

A jump will take around 43 seconds on average assuming you do the best job you can of jumping as soon as you arrive. This is made up of:

10 seconds waiting for FSD cooldown upon arrival
13 seconds of charging time
5 seconds countdown to enter hyperspace
12 seconds inside hyperspace
3 seconds to exit hyperspace

entry, exit and transit times can vary by a second or two each way depending on network connection, lag and other factors, but your own response times and piloting skill probably make as much if not more difference. I did manage to do a few jumps in under 42 seconds but it's pretty hard work.

If you round this up a bit, you can safely say that your typical jump will take 45 seconds.

Jump or scoop?

Bear in mind that you can be scooping during the FSD cooldown phase, so you can get 5 seconds scooping for free if you're smart. add another 30-50 seconds to fill your tank. On average, you're better off jumping to max and scooping rather than jumping twice, and you're definitely going to go much faster doing this than jumping three times to get the same distance. This also assumes you want a full tank at your destination.

If you're happy to arrive with a nearly empty tank, then you're always best off scooping and max jumping as long as you are competent at scooping, even if you have the worst class scoop. Better scoops save you more time (or money, your choice).

Example numbers

Here's an example from some runs I've made between Orrere and Witchhaul. This is in my Cobra with 4A FSD, D class just about everything else apart from the scoop (2B) and a full cargo load of 40 tons.

Jumping with an Economical route:

31 jumps (193LY as the crow jumps, but actually travelled 237LY)
Average jump distance of 7.65 LY
Total time for journey: 26.5 minutes
Total time just jumping: 22.5 minutes
Time taken launching and docking : 4 minutes
Fuel used: 59%
Fuel left on arrival : 41%

Jumping with a Fastest route:

11 jumps (193LY as the crow jumps, but actually travelled 208LY)
Average jump distance of 19.0LY
Total time for journey: 15.5 minutes
Total time just jumping: 8 minutes
Total time scooping : 3 minutes
Time taken launching and docking : 4 minutes
Fuel used: 130%
Fuel scooped: 55%
Fuel left on arrival: 25%

How much fuel do I use to jump?

Fuel use isn't linear, as I said earlier - so how can you figure it out? Well, here's the results of some of the tests I've run.

These are all in a Type 6 with a 4A FSD, but I'm pretty confident they'll be applicable to all ships / FSDs - just because the math is so close to correct. I'll be trying out different ships over the next couple of days to confirm this result.

(Update2 - Taleden has linked me to a dev post describing the correct formula for fuel costs, which also describes your maximum distance.)

Distance jumped -> fuel usage (3.0 tons max fuel per jump, 20.61LY max range)

4.05LY -> 0.08 tons
10.24LY -> 0.60 tons
15.15LY -> 1.44 tons
20.36LY -> 2.89 tons

Your fuel usage appears to be (update2! slight change to formula!):

((Jdist / Jmax) ^ Power) * Dcap

Jdist is the jump distance to the target star system.
JMax is your current maximum jump distance.
Power is specific to your ship's FSD class (see below)
Dcap is the drive capacity. See "Max fuel per jump" for each FSD class.

Power varies by FSD class.

FSD Class23456

(I had previously, incorrectly, guessed at Power as a constant for all ships - and given I'd worked out it was 2.3 or as close as possible in my tests, I'd assumed FD would pick some high-falutin constant, and the Universal Parabolic constant was a great match! turns out I was wrong.)

So, as an example, if you jump 16.0LY with a max dist of 21LY, a class 4 FSD and a max fuel per jump of 3.0 tons, your fuel usage will be:

((16.0 / 21.0) ^ 2.3) * 3.0 = 1.60 tons.

As a rough approximation, since you probably don't want to hit up a calculator every time you jump:

half your max jump distance will cost you 0.2 * Dcap fuel.
3/4 of your max jump distance will cost you 0.5 * Dcap fuel.

If you want to see the numbers / research methodology on this, drop me a comment!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Three

Welcome! This is part three in my short series of posts about trading in Elite Dangerous, and today's post is all about Rare Trading.

What is rare trading?

Rare commodities trading is a fantastic way of making a huge pile of money in a small ship. It's possible to make profits in excess of 16K per ton. With a full cargo hold in an Adder, that's a nice 320K profit for a trip. If you're smart about your route, you can do that trip in under an hour. With a larger ship, you can make even more money, and even faster - a Cobra is the perfect ship for rare trading, but if you can't wait you can get started in a Hauler or an Adder.

So what is rare trading? In essence, you find goods that are only sold in one place and you cart them to the other side of known space to sell them. The further you carry the goods, the more they are worth.

Most of the rare goods can be bought for less than 5K a ton. They nearly all become worth around 16K more than this at a distance of 180LY from the origin system. This means to get the most profit from rare goods you need to fly one hell of a long way away.

The increase in sale price is an S-shaped curve - goods don't become worth much more at all until you hit 60LY away from where you bought them, and they tend to be worth around 8K more at 100LY, rising to 15K more at 160LY and 17K more at 200LY. the price really doesn't rise much more than that for any rare good regardless of how far you travel. Commander P2k captured a load of data to find the best fit curve, and if you're interested you can read about his research here.

This price increase is fairly common across the board, regardless of how expensive the rare good is in the first place. This means whatever rare goods you buy, you're going to make a decent profit on them if you haul them far enough. You can make 25K on a Leathery Egg from Ridley Scott in Zaonce, but most other items will net you 16-17K at max distance.

How do I make serious money from rare trading?

Buy low, sell high! It's simple!

except, it's not that easy - rare goods are rare. You will often find that you dock at a station that sells rare goods and there's only 3 or 4 tons available to buy. you could haul them to the other end of known space and make 80K, but if that takes you an hour you're not making much cash! Luckily, you're not competing with other commanders for buying rare goods - every pilot has their own allocation of rare goods at each station.

Each rare good has a maximum allocation of available items. You might see all of them available to buy straight away, in which case you're very lucky and you can load up and move on. If not, you can often wait around 10 minutes in the station and a second chunk of goods will come on the market. I have waited another 10 minutes and had a third chunk of goods arrive a couple of times, but it's rare. You'll never get more than the total allocation for the station in total.

If you look at the rare goods list above, you'll see an allocation value - this is the absolute maximum you'll ever be able to get of that item. You may get unlucky and not be able to get the whole allocation, no matter how long you wait.

Rare goods of a specific type don't respawn until you've sold them.

Assuming you're flying something larger than a Sidewinder, it's likely you'll want to visit at least two (and probably four or more) stations, buying up the rares, before you head out on your long journey to sell them. Once you get to the other end of your long journey, you'll be wanting to repeat the process for the return leg.

Let's assume you're sensible and decide to get something larger than a Sidewinder - in fact, let's assume your goal is to trade up to something classic and elegant, like ...

The Cobra

Rare trading in a Cobra is hands down the best way to be making serious money quickly before you hit the big ships (Type 6 and above). at 380K for the shipyard spec (plus another few hundred K for the beginner upgrades and cargo space) it's also a fantastic ship to explore in, fight in or just plain fly around in. You should definitely make it your goal to own one of these before you decide to go large.

Rare trading will mean you can pimp your cobra with a few hours of effort. Filling up on D rated items and a 4A FSD will get you a 20+ LY jump range and (assuming you keep your shields) 40 tons of cargo space. If you want to skip the shield you can push to 56 tons with a fuel scoop.

Of course, you might just want a big cargo bay, regardless of how ugly it looks or how well it flies, in which case ...

The Lakon Type 6 Transporter

There's an ongoing discussion as to whether it's still best to trade rare commodities in a Type 6 at 1045K for the shipyard spec, or whether to just run normal trade routes - the devil, as always, is in the details, and we're going to get to that shortly. However, whether you're grinding it out on a normal route or running a long haul rare route, a Type 6 is going to do you very nicely indeed.

Planning your journey

You have 20-40 tons of cargo space, and you have decided to trade some rare goods - now you want to know where to go to buy them, and where to go to sell them. There's some excellent tools out there that will help you plan a rare trade route, and your second stop should probably be the Elite Rare Trader Site here:

Note, that I've said this should be your second stop, because your first stop should be looking at this route map.

(and here's a link to the original, created by Tom Gidden : )

This route map should be enough to get anyone started trading rares. If you're not sure where to start on the loop, I'd highly recommend dropping in at Lave then following the route map via Leesti to Diso to Orerre. Keep going until you're full, then begin the trek over to Witchhaul, sell everything, and kick off your return leg.

There's plenty of other routes out there, and you can make your own using the Elite Rare Trader. Because you're not competing with other commanders, you'll find people are more than happy to discuss their favourite trade routes.

Fuel scooping on the way

The most important thing to remember about your rare trade journey is that you'll be travelling over 150 light years in a single leg. There's places to stop on the way if you look, but you need to be careful that you've got enough fuel to get to the next station and you might find yourself running on fumes with a 10 minute supercruise to a station - or worse yet, arriving at a system with no fuel and no station.

To avoid having to find stations to dock at along the way, I highly recommend getting a fuel scoop and just topping yourself up at every scoopable sun on the way. Some people like to jump until nearly empty and then fill up (ideally in a safer system) but I prefer topping right up every time I can. Bear in mind you can't scoop every star you arrive at.

You can figure out if it's better for you to carry more rares (a fuel scoop is probably going to cost you at least 4 cargo bays) and buy fuel on the way - but remember that time taken docking eats into your profit margins.

Some people prefer to use efficient routes with more jumps - this saves fuel at the cost of time. I prefer using the maximum jump range possible and spending the time scooping - the choice is yours.

(See my next linked post for more details about efficient vs fastest routes - basically, you should always go fastest!)

Buying and Selling

Visit each station in turn, and buy as many of the rare commodities as are available. Fly to the next station. Repeat. If you're doing an end-to-end run, fill up, make the long jump, and repeat the process at the other end. if you're running a ring, you'll need to know what to sell at which particular stations - either memorise it, or just watch the commodities market for a profit per ton over 15K.

If you're doing a long jump route, once you're at the other end, you can normally make a decent profit by simply selling everything in one go. You might find you make a bit more cash holding on to one or two specific items for another jump, depending on how the route is planned. Remember the price curve and decide if another 1-2K per ton is worth the wait - and worth holding in your cargo bay. The most important thing is to buy as many new rare goods as you can get at every station on the route.

If you're flying a Hauler or an Adder, you'll likely find you can fill your ship by stopping, buying what's available and then heading straight on to the next point in the route. If you're flying something with 40+ tons of space, you'll likely need to wait around for the full allocation or take in a few more stops at each end of your route.

Some people prefer just finding a couple of stations 200LY apart with a large allocation and bouncing between them. If your jump range is good enough (such that the long leg of the journey takes less time than a couple of docking hops) or your cargo hold is small enough, then this can be a viable tactic too. Bouncing between Toxandji and Zeessze or Altair is viable, making a potential 300K each way, with 10 minutes at each end plus your transit time.

Some folks, especially in larger craft like a Type 6, Asp or above, will put the effort into longer circle  routes which allow you to max out the cargo space while still running short distances between buy and sell points to avoid scooping. An example T6 route is listed here.

Fingerbob's Asp route

After flying rares for a week and getting my Asp (in preparation of some exploration) I've done a bit of number crunching and come up with a decent Asp route (and possibly Type 6 if you don't mind a bit of scooping). in an Asp, you can run this route with a 5B or 5A FSD without ever having to scoop.

I'm making around 1.2 to 1.5 Million an hour on this route.

All of the stations apart from Witchhaul(9) have at least 17 items in stock.
None of the items are illegal.
All of the stations are under 1000LS.
You'll be able to buy and go with an average of 10 items at every stop.
Running the route takes just over an hour if you don't wait at any stations.

DestinationStationAt (LS)Dist (LY)JumpsMax StockSell From
LeestiGeorge Lucas257109621Coquim, Wuthielo Ku
AltairSolo Station670115522
ZeesszeNicollier Hangar48926218Karsuki Ti, Jaroua
39 TauriPorta 98042317
WitchhaulHornby Terminal2203729Baltah'Sine
CoquimHirayama Installation600109620
Wuthielo KuTarter Dock145120717Leesti
Karsuki TiWest Market2892518Altair, Zeessze, 39 Tauri, Witchhaul
JarouaMcCool City14372418

There's plenty of additional stops you can throw in if you want to shorten some of the longer sections - Throw in Delta Phoenicis after Witchhaul and Ariel after Jaroua, for example. You can also do the whole Leesti cluster (Diso, Uszaa, Orrere) if you want a few shorter hops or you're running with a lot of spare cargo space when you arrive.

You can skip Witchhaul if you want, and sell the Baltah'Sine goods in Wuthielo - but if you're loading up at the Leesti cluster you may be over capacity at that point.

Bear in mind that 6 jumps (4 minutes) takes less time than docking and less time than waiting for a refresh. It's also more fun. However, if you want to wait (let's say you only get 4 tons of something when you arrive) you'll get a nice big chunk after another 10 minutes at all of the stations listed above.

Diso Ma Corn Community Event (get it while it's hot!)

From 11th May for a few days, you'll be able to get up to 50 units of Diso Ma Corn at Diso / Shifnalport. Make sure to fit this into your loop, or if you want to pingpong, try Rajukru or Jaroua as your other end. Good money is to be had! This event will stop at some point soon, at which point I'll try and remember to take this note out.


A huge thank you has to go to everyone who has spend time and effort researching prices, allocation caps and routes (as well as making the tools to simplify your rare trade route planning). I've found countless awesome threads on Reddit and the E:D forums filled with gems of info, and it's well worth doing a bit of your own reading and researching to find the best routes and tactics out there.

What's next?

Once you've pimped out your Cobra or Type 6, you'll likely find that your next trading ship upgrade is so big that you make more money going back to the basics - except this time at massive scale (hundreds of tons each way).

Look out for my next post, where I'll go into details of trading in the larger ships.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fingerbob's guide to Elite Dangerous Trading, Part Two

Hi! this is the second part of my trading guide, where I'll discuss ship upgrades, flight strategies, more complex trade routes and take a brief diversion into some basic economic theory.

If you'd like to read the rest of the guide, here's some links.

Part one - the basics
Part two - I think we're going to need a bigger boat
Part three - Rare trading for the win
Part four - Ahab and the whales (bigger ships, mo money)
Part five - Commodities, economies and route planning

Upgrading your ship and buying new ships

If you're reading this after finishing the first part of my guide, you're probably sitting in a Sidewinder with upgraded cargo bays and you're thinking "where next?".

The simple answer is, a bigger ship. I'm not going to go into details about where to purchase new ships, but Industrial and High Tech systems tend to sell the best and biggest ships. You'll probably want to buy a new ship as soon as you're maximizing your profit potential in your sidewinder (once you're making 5K+ round trips).

First new ship - Hauler or Adder

I went for an Adder, you might prefer a Hauler, as they are cheaper - the choice is yours. I'll give a brief rundown of both and you can decide which sounds best. I'd recommend trading in your sidewinder to get a return on any upgrades you've already made - you'll be able to buy another one pretty darned quickly once you're raking in the money.

Both ships are okay from shipyard spec but you're better served by getting at least an FSD upgrade and full cargo bays. You're also going to need enough cash to fill your hold - and that'll be three times your previous cargo cost. Do the math and figure out your break even point, or play it safe and wait until you've got at least 100K stashed. Don't forget insurance costs (5% of your total ship cost including upgrades). You don't want to buy a shiny new ship, crash it into a wall and be left with nothing but your loaner Sidewinder.

The Hauler

The hauler is basically just what the name describes - it's a cargo carrying freighter that's cheap as chips. You can pick one up for 52K and it comes with 8 tons of cargo space from the shipyard. It's not fast and it's not pretty but it's dead cheap.

The first thing you should do is upgrade the cargo space and FSD. Swap out your class 2 cargo bays for two class 3s. Each of these hold 8 tons, giving you 16 tons of space. Swap out your discovery scanner for another 2 tons of space. Again, if you like to live on the edge, you can get another 4 tons of cargo space by trading in your shields (I'm not recommending this, by the way, but it's an option).

Assuming you've got 18 tons of space and a shield, drop in a D2 FSD and you're off and running. you should be able to make around 2-3 times the profit you were making in your Sidewinder for the same investment of time.

The Adder

The Adder is, to my mind, the better upgrade - it's a classier ship and it's basically better all round, apart from the horrific cockpit view. you're looking at 88k for the shipyard spec version which comes with 6 tons of cargo space but you can upgrade to 22 tons and still carry a shield. Maxed out the jump range is well over 20LY which can really help shorten a long trade route. This means you're probably looking at 3-4 times the profit you were making on your Sidewinder runs.

Both of these ships are capable of making a decent profit from rare trading (see part three of my guide!) but as an upgrade to your Sidewinder you'll easily see the benefit just from sticking with your comfort runs.

Working for the man

I found that you'd occasionally spot a mission that was still profitable, and if you're working more complex routes or have a great grasp of what's available in your local space, you may well benefit from looking on the mission board. Honestly though, if you're cranking the credits you'll mostly see equivalent returns just doing your normal haul.

In my Adder, I found a route making me 1.5K per ton one way and .5K back on a single jump. 40K for a 10-15 minute run puts you into the 200K per hour range.

Let's talk about money

Here's where we take a brief aside, and discuss money. Moolah. Dough.

You're trading to get rich, right? I hope you're not doing it to see the sights, because if you're in this for the pretty view you're better off kitting yourself out with a set of disco scanners and heading for the hills. Nope, we're here to print green.

Once you're in your new ship, you should be able to start figuring out your K/hr rates and your K/t rates - that's KiloCredits per hour, and KiloCredits per ton.

Regardless of how big your ship is, you ideally want to maximize your profit per ton. if you've got a 1K/t route and a 2K/t route, all other things being equal you're going to make twice as much money on the 2K/t route.

Of course, all things are never equal - you need to take into account jumps, station distance, system politics, supply and demand rates, competition and a host of other factors. Still, you should at least do the math and work out your basic K/t rate.

Once you know that, you can time your run (for instance you're normally looking at 10-15 minutes for a one hop loop, but you could be looking at a 30 minute triangle or an hour long haul cycle). This, in conjunction with your cargo bay size, will let you figure out your K/hr. Once you're in an Adder or a Hauler, you should be able to comfortably bring home 200-250K/hr. You might find the tedium sets in, but that's okay - you're making bank and you're heading onward and upward to your next goal.

As an example, if you're doing a round trip that's netting 2K/t and you're running 20 tons of space on a 15 minute loop, you're making 160K/hr. Not too shabby!

Flight strategies

Let's look at the details behind flight strategies. Often people will stick with a single jump round trip - it's easy and fairly safe. However you're often going to make much better money by pushing further out - jumping two or three times in between stations. Basically, you're expanding the radius of the sphere of systems you can reach which gives you much more choice of goods and a wider range of profit margins.

You have to offset that against your fuel costs, the time it takes to repeatedly jump and the potential for violent interference the longer you're out in deep space.

You also need to take into account the amount of time it takes to get from the jump arrival point to your destination station or outpost - in fact, this is often the largest portion of the route and the easiest to effectively improve.

I highly recommend timing (at least once!) your route, and figuring out how long each section takes, but as a rough ballpark, you're looking at:

1.5 minutes from launch to jumping (take off, navigate the docking slot, clear mass lock distance, charging)
.5 minutes jumping (countdown, hyperspace, exit)
2 minutes super-cruising to target (at 500ls average - 3 minutes at 1000ls, 5 minutes at 10Kls)
2 minutes docking
1 minute navigating menus, restocking and launching.

that's 7 minutes right there. Add another 45 seconds to 1 minute for every extra jump.

You can see that it's actually a better trade-off to make more jumps than it is to go hiking all the way to a far-out station. If you can find a trade route where the stations are under 200ls from their suns, that will shave a couple of minutes off your average 15 minute run.

You can improve your launch to jump time by flying faster - if you thrust up to the station axis, straighten out, disengage landing gear and boost, you can be out of the station and clear of mass lock in under a minute. If you charge while you're aligning to your target, you're also saving yourself valuable seconds.

When you arrive at your destination system, point yourself at the ecliptic (the mass of planetary orbital curves, or more accurately the plane of the system where most bodies orbit), get some speed up and then quickly navigate and lock on your target station. use your pitch axis rather than yaw as that's always the faster axis (so you want to be moving up and down, not side to side).

Once you're pointing in the right direction, max out your throttle and watch the countdown. When there's 8 seconds left, bring your throttle to the midpoint of the blue supercruise region. If you do this right it should sit at 6 or 7 seconds and you shouldn't overshoot (no slow down warning). Once you're within 0.10ls, wait for 15Mkm and then max your throttle again - and be prepared to drop out in the safe region - you should slow to just under 1Mkm/s just as you hit safe distance.

This approach can save you 20-30% of the time taken if you use safe supercruise speeds, shaving up to a minute off typical system travel.

Finally, when you arrive at the station, boost towards the entry lane, request docking permission, boost again and then get in the slot as fast as you can - I like to approach at max speed, drop my landing gear and hit 50% throttle, just as I arrive at the slot. This way I rarely ding the shields but it's a pretty fast approach. Just be careful not to accidentally boost in the station or fire your weapons. Once you start to learn the landing pad numbers you'll know which ones are right beside the entry slot.

Complex trade routes

Jumping back and forth between two stars is rarely the best way to maximize profit in the largest ships. It also becomes incredibly tedious. Round trips between two stars with high profits are sought after by all trading commanders and if they are being regularly run, the available profits drop fast (for the reasons why, read on). Often you can find a much better route by using three or four systems. This takes into account the fact that different economies have different needs, and it's not a simple mirror - it's more like a complex game of rock, paper, scissors.

Once you've figured out a three or four station route, you'll often find you can make 2.5K per ton without affecting the economy or competing with other traders - most other traders don't bother putting in the effort!

You can also fit in a little wanderlust if the grind of a back-n-forth gets too much. Once you know what kinds of systems you should head to next, you'll begin to get a feel for where to jump, and you can start filling up with confidence, pick a destination based on economy and make a jump.

The value of your goods is pretty much fixed based on station settings (apart from the influence of other traders). Your gold or semiconductors won't be worth 20 times more elsewhere, which is a shame - fortunately there are some commodities that do become more valuable as you trade them at distance. These are called Rare Commodities - They are sold at a single location, and if you sell them over 100 LY away from where you bought them you'll make a substantial profit (6-8K) rising to over 17K per ton when you hit 200 LY.

Rare trading in E:D is a fairly rich topic (both in detail and profit!) - it's possible to make 500K in an hour in a 22 ton Adder (and 1.5 million an hour in an Asp) - but you'll be following some pretty complicated routes and you'll need your wits about you (and most likely a fuel scoop!). I'll be going into rare trading in detail in the next part of this series.

If you have no idea how to pick systems to fly between, then watch Mitsurugi Jones' tutorial about trading using the commodities market and the galaxy map. This will teach you the basics of finding systems with the goods you want to buy and sell.

Basic economic theory - supply and demand

In the smaller ships, you'll be making most of your trading choices based on the profit you calculate on your goods. However, you're not alone in the universe - plenty of other commanders are flying the stars and often they will be running the same trade routes you're running. Even if you play in Solo mode (which is a much safer way to trade!) the prices at stations are affected by the actions of other traders. People who are hauling thousands of tons an hour between two stations can affect the price of goods - buying huge amounts of an item that's in massive supply can raise the price if the supply drops, and selling huge amounts of an item that's in massive demand can drop the price at the other end if demand drops.

You can see the amount of goods and the supply/demand status in the commodities window. If you happen to hit on a lucrative route, you're best off keeping it to yourself if you want it to remain profitable. A post on Reddit can drop profit on a route by 20-30% in a single day if enough commanders turn up in their Type 9 and begin hammering away at the supply and demand curves.

However, there's thousands of viable stars to trade between and there will always be somewhere that has a need you can fill. If you find the profit on your route dropping, simply head somewhere else and find a new route. This is much more fun if you go find it for yourself, rather than looking for someone else's routes online.

If you're in a Hauler, Adder, Cobra or Type 6, then it's likely that the fastest (and for me, the most interesting) way to make money is rare trading. This isn't affected by supply and demand, instead it's based on personal allocation caps and a few other rules. You won't be competing with other commanders for these goods.

Once you get into the big haulers (Type 7, Type 9, Asp, Python, Anaconda) then it's likely that the most lucrative trading approach is normal commodity trading, so you'll need to find somewhere out of the way that's not being thrashed by everyone else. Find your 3K/t route and strike it rich!

See part three of this series for more on Rare trading.
Part four goes into more details of trading with the big ships.
Part five covers the most lucrative commodities, economies and planning your routes.