This page is one of a 10 part tutorial. The tutorial is designed to be read in order.
This part of the tutorial introduces trading and the use of shuttles to run simple trade routes. It logically follows on from the previous part, indeed you can leave your battlecruiser and pair of shuttles sweeping for cargo in the same spot if you wish. If you are starting this part with a fresh character, you will need to raise starting capital by selling most of your spare parts – ensure you keep Radine, Plutonium and similar cargo required for normal ship operations. Then launch, jump into Mars region, ‘park’ your battlecruiser with Halt orders, and crew your shuttles.
Piloting support craft across the galaxy
In an earlier part of the tutorial probes and waypoints were used to direct craft between different regions. An alternative is to ‘fly blind’. This method involves ordering the craft to Jump At jump points. Once the craft arrives in the next sector, simply order it to Jump At or Fly To the next point on the route without ever seeing the full radar situation in that region. In this way we can steer a craft across several sectors without using probes or physically entering the cockpit. Only the final few seconds of docking procedure with the destination station require us to pilot.
Order SC-3 to Jump At Mars To..Earth (which shuttle you use does not matter, I will assume it is SC-3). Now move the mouse over SC-3 on the right-hand side of the bridge view. Do not click, just hover. On the bottom line of the display you will see the line “Range To To..Earth” – watch the numbers countdown followed by the shuttle making a jump to Earth. Once the shuttle has jumped, left-click and select Orders–Fly To–Friendly–Earth Ter Mil GalcomHQ. (This *must* be done from the bridge view – if you attempt it from within Tacops the contact list is that for the region you are in, not the region the shuttle is in – I’m not sure why.) Again let the mouse hover over SC-3 until you see it is on the final approach to the station. Then switch to SC-3 as before for the final docking procedure. In the unlikely event of attack, you might wish to jump into the cockpit and take evasive action, notably fire up afterburners. Often the craft can rush across the region or perhaps be ordered to jump back and lurk in a nearby sector until trouble dies down. Take care to switch to the shuttle before it reaches its target and dock. Sometimes BC3K suffers a logic flaw and automatically docks the shuttle with your battlecruiser when the shuttle reaches a station, even though the battlecruiser is in a completely different region. At other times the shuttle rams the station and takes damage.
This method is best suited to fairly short runs across relatively safe areas of space: Shuttles are too fragile to routinely jump past sectors with enemy stations in unless you are prepared to jump into the cockpit every so often. Although the constant monitoring and reassignment of orders may at first seem a pain, it is quite easy to conduct alongside low-intensity operations such as Debris Field cargosweeps. Time you spend docked in the station does not count towards total time in space unless you stop to make repairs in-station (which you must not do using this method), so if you time switching between ships correctly, you might only be away from the bridge for a matter of seconds. Shuttles use no fuel, so can trade effectively without sucking up hundreds of units of Radine a trip. Lastly, you can keep one or two shuttles on trade routes while you use your battlecruiser for something else – making money without needing to use a battleship to undertake such mundane tasks.
There are a few tricks to ease the pain of constant re-ordering. One is positioning your battlecruiser at the end of a route, guiding the craft out one jump at a time, but simply ordering the craft to RTB on the return leg. Another option is to position probes at one or both ends of the route, assign a single waypoint at the other end of the route, and give the craft Resume Waypoints orders. Although not technically a feature, one can access the Navitron from a shuttle and set a course it will follow. Known methods include switching to the shuttle, entering the Roster (ALT+R) and then selecting the Navitron from the Galcom menu, or switching to the shuttle, entering Tacops (ALT+S) and then selecting “Nav” from the Command Palette. Although you are actually seeing the battlecruiser’s Navitron, routes set in this way are accepted and flown by the shuttle.
Trading for fun and profit
You are paid a salary, but it will not cover your operating costs, and certainly won’t allow you to buy upgrades. You need to make extra money, at least at the start of the game. Trade exists within the game as a means of making money. There is no obvious strategic value to trade that I can determine, with no clear relationship between a cargo being delivered and availability of other cargo via production, or anything of that nature.
Every item of cargo has a base price. This base price is affected by two factors: (1) Inflation and (2) Technology class. These two factors vary by station. At Galcom HQ select the Tradcom–Info screen. Infl(ation) level is “0%”. Zero inflation means there is no inflation modifier on the price – zero inflation will tend towards lower prices relative to elsewhere in the galaxy. Class level is “AD“. This means AD-vanced technology items are this station’s specialty. Specialty items modify the base price downwards. Non-specialty items (everything else, in this case all non-AD categories) modify the base price upwards. The combination of zero inflation and AD specialty means that currently this is probably the cheapest place in the galaxy to buy AD items. What are AD items? Manual appendix S lists the class of each item – AD includes most weapons and certain battlecruiser parts such as cloaking equipment. Alternatively, move the mouse over the buy/sell buttons in the Tradcom to display the relevant statistics. When selling, look for a destination where AD items are not the speciality, and ideally inflation is slightly higher, thus creating significant price difference and profit. There is no taxation on trade, so any price difference is profit.
For a full explanation of trade equations see How are trade prices calculated? below. It is relatively easy to make money by trading at the start of the game, so unless you are curious, you do not need examine the detailed mathematics. Be aware that Technology level (in the case of Galcom HQ, 3, on a scale 0 to 5) influences the production capability and hence the availability of goods. Also consider that inflation changes over time, and only inflation levels at the start of the game are known. Technology level, class, and starting inflation are included within manual appendix E.
Precisely what AD items you buy depends how much money and space you have available. Consider Deflector Arrays, Cloning Modules, Solar Reactors, OTS-Bugnors. There are two non-AD stations in Sol: Genesis, Moon; and Gazer-1, Pluto. (The appendix lists the later at 40% inflation, but this was modified by an early v2.x patch and not changed in the appendix – both stations offer 10% inflation initially.) Load up and launch. Esc back to battlecruiser and guide SC-3 to Gazer-1, Pluto using the same method you used to travel to Galcom HQ. Gazer-1 is a neutral station listed under Other radar contacts. Switch to the craft to dock.
You should be able to sell the cargo for around a 30% mark-up without any operating costs. There is a logical return run of HT items – consider Laser Arrays, Solar Panels or Medibays. You could return to Galcom HQ, but an alternative non-HT station with a higher inflation rate will give a better price. Load up and launch for Starpath, Mars. On launch you can either guide SC-3 jump by jump, or order it to RTB – when the shuttle appears in Mars region, order to fly to Starpath instead of the battlecruiser. Dock with Starpath and sell everything. In two trips you should have increased your credit total by about 50%, using just one shuttle, in perhaps less than 10 minutes of in-game time. Who needs money cheats 😉 ?