2.2. z0r's survivalists guide

Since there is a lot of new people and a lot of random tips strewn throughout the forums, I was asked to write a comprehensive guide. And just in case you don't trust my credentials, I made level 68 last round (under a different level equation, but that was highest in the alliance and when I quit leveling it was top 20 material) before I was forced into a warbird and I never died as a trader. I also recommend trading as stepping stone for hunting, raiding, or being a repair carrier if this is your first round. You'll learn more that way. And now for the guide.

The most important thing to remember is NEVER EVER stay in space longer than you have to. Do not log off in space! Previously the visibility equation was such that someone might not see you, but now always assume they will see you (this isn't always true but it's a good rule of thumb). Currently we have one of the busiest systems in the galaxy, so logging off over a station or over a port in a cluster is a death sentence. Always dock at a port!

Ports have levels, which determine their strength. Try to log off at higher level ports. However, logging off at a slightly lower level port can be safer if there are lots of people docked at the high level ports. Generally, I would stay away from docking at anything lower than about 8 right now (that number will increase as the round goes on, as ports level). Try to always dock at higher level ports. Also shy away from docking at stations as they cough up huge amounts of cash and will be prime targets once raid teams start going up (it will probably be one of our first targets).

Planets can be upgraded to a point where they are as safe or safer than ports. For now, while our main planet is very defensible against frigate raiders and their kin, it still might not be able to withstand a 5 man raid team. For now, don't log off at it. When it is completed, traders can and should dock there (we're about a month away from reaching this point). The other two planets should not be docked at. They are easily takable at this point. Planets refresh at the :15 and :45 mark (every half hour at the two quarter hour marks) and regain 5% shield, power, and however many drones the assemblers can make and goods are consumed. Planets use maintenance money at this time (note: planets need around 20 million to function properly or the shields go down, be careful about this when building).

On a somewhat related note, to dock at a station you need to be within 100 alignment of the station to have a 100% chance to dock. For every point greater than a 100 alignment away, subtract 1%. This does not apply to quelaar (they can dock at any station regardless of alignment).

Moving quickly is the second most important part of survival. Granted, part of this is linked to connection, but by not messing around while in space, you minimize the risk. Do not do the following while in space: read the forums, check your messages, check the online players list, go to the bathroom, get a drink, talk in irc, etc. In fact, this applies to lower level ports later in the game as well (ie, level 5). Every second you are in space, you are vulnerable.

Running out of turns is also an easy way to die. Particularly this early, we don't always have hunters to sit in space with you so someone doesn't blow your ship up. So keeping track of your turns is absolutely vital. Turn usage is as follows:

Normal movement takes: TWO TURNS
Docking (planet or port) takes: TWO TURNS
Using a SSJD takes: TWENTY TURNS (SIXTEEN for Tamaran)
Undocking takes: ONE TURN
Using a jump node takes: TEN TURNS
Movement in a speed aura takes: ONE TURN
Building on the planet takes: TWICE YOUR SPEED IN TURNS (ie, everyone builds at the same speed regardless of ship speed)
Initiating combat takes: EIGHT TURNS (and every subsequent round takes 8 turns as well)

If you are running low on turns, pay particular attention to your turn usage. You're supposed to keep 15 hours of turns for emergencies anyways, but I know that sometimes we cheat on that (especially this early).

This is where some people might disagree with me, but I would highly suggest not buying weapons (note I said weapons, not drones.. drones on frigates are useful for defense) or trying to kill other traders for that matter. Why?

It leaves you very vulnerable and generally doesn't contribute to the objectives behind trading (making cash and exp). For one, you're in space for a long time when not made to fight. An enemy warbird could very easily be trying to blow you up and you don't see him. Sitting in a sector leaves you dead in the water. Also the new maneuver and shields/armor for the tradeships have been raised, making substantially harder to kill another tradeship.

And even if you do, you alert hunters to your presence which will leader to a quicker death. Stay focused, and you'll reach your goal faster and get in a ship that can blow up stuff much more effectively, much more quickly.

Identifying Threats
Staying out of space eliminates the "gimme" kills, but they are not enough to protect you against competent opponents. They key is to identify threats and to stay out of their way and to alert other traders in the alliance of their presence.

The first thing you should once you log on (after reading the forums) is to check the notices, specifically the filtered notices. This will give you a good idea of hunter activity, aggressive forces (aggies), and the like. Hunters and sector forces (drones) are the main threats you will face while online.

If there is an active hunter present, click his name on the notices. Check to see if he is online and when was the last time he was active. If the time he was last active keeps updating, chances are he's hunting in the system at that moment if his last kill was in the system (don't assume he's gone just because he got a kill another system either).

There are two things you can do: if you're confident in your skills, keep trading but do it very quickly, or stay docked until the hunter goes inactive. Please note: good hunters often go inactive for 10 minutes and then try to catch you at the refresh. Don't assume that a hunter is inactive just because he is offline.

There are other means of identifying the presence of a hunter in the system even if he has not been in the notices. If a hunter's drones are in the system, he is probably close by. If an unnatural aura suddenly appears (interdiction fields stop you from moving half the time), there is probably a hunter within a sector of you. If drones suddenly appear (particularly 1 aggie stacks: if you run into an aggy stack a combat screen will appear, return the previous sector asap and dock immediately- if it was a full stack, you'll be dead anyways and this will save a click), the hunter is actively hunting you. The first one isn't too worrisome, but if the latter two occur I highly recommend you stop trading until he leaves you alone (even I'm not arrogant enough to continue in most cases). Remember to alert other traders of his presence.

There are two types of drones to worry about: aggressive and neutral. Aggressive drones attack anyone not in the alliance of the person who laid them, and if activated they will generally kill a tradeship. If someone has been killed by aggies, do not jump around! Jumping circumvents aggies between the sectors jumped, but if you jump into a sector with aggies they will trigger. Be sure to scan any sector you move to before you do any trading.

If the forces are neutral, you don't have to worry about them unless we're at war. Neutrals only attack someone if the two alliances are warring. Otherwise, they only respond if attacked. Please note: drone stacks always win initiative and thus get first shot.

Fly on 2x (or primaries or secondaries weapons only) so if you do run into drones there's a greater chance of survival (you probably won't survive anyways unless the level difference is in favor of you by a wide margin). The main defense against hostile sector forces are scanners (so you can scan any sector before you move into so you don't ram into drones) and drone transponders (which give you a 50% chance of not getting attacked by them if you do run into them, 75% if sniv). More on this later.

Try to contact a warbird as soon as possible to clear the stacks. And make sure they have one strong enough to survive (I've killed two wraith warbirds with neutral stacks of drones). Shield based ships are particularly weak against drones.

Trading Basics
Ports with less than 25k of a good buy that good. Ports with more than 25k of a good sell that good. Goods are cheaper and give more experience if they're purchased from a 50k stack instead of say a 28k stack. The same is true about selling: the closer a port is to 0 of a good, the more experience and cash you get from the sale of that good. Always try to buy at 50k and sell at 0k. Don't fill up a port too much or the experience and cash become less desirable. Ports refresh at :00 and :30 (every half hour), which means the goods change randomly and you can resume trading if you've filled up and drained a pair of ports.

Goods on the left are experience goods, with food giving the most experience, goods on the right are cash goods, with narcotics giving the most cash. The rest vary somewhere in between. Illegal goods circumvent that rule to an extent, as they give higher experience than their counterparts that are sold at similar prices, thereby making them ideal trade goods.

Since our systems alignment is negative, the illegals trade is in part why our system is attractive. Always trade illegals when possible! However, your alignment must match the port's you are trading so that you are never scanned and caught with illegal goods. If you are caught with illegal goods, you lose turns, cash, the goods you were going to sell, and alignment.

Try to not focus on trading certain goods. While you can prioritize them, don't completely ignore food if you're trading for cash. If you're trading narcotics on the other side of the route, the two balance out and form a nice medium. It is better to trade a 50k/0k food/narcs stack than a 35k/15k narcs/lux stack. Try not to trade a port to 25k, as you may end up with leftovers that you have to trade to some other port or jettison (which is very wasteful).

As a resourcer, stay away from crystals as a general rule. Purify ore into precious metals and refine fuel into chemicals. Resourcing gives terrible cash, but you make experience faster. Generally you'll want to stay away from resourcers unless you don't have much time or are a zallun (or if you have someone funding you). As a resourcer, since experience is the priority, selling right up to 25k is acceptable as you still make 100% exp purifying or refining.

Tradeship Design
As a freighter, the only thing you'll want is speed and cargo holds upgrades and the following pieces of equipment: scanners, cloak, drone transponder, sub-space jump drive, and spatial rift generator. Do not upgrade anything else. Some of these items are difficult to locate, as the stations list is not up. However, you can purchase a ssjd at the station.

As a resourcer, you'll need to upgrade speed, cargo holds, and drone hangars (so you have resource drones). Upgrade speed and cargo holds to the desired level, then add drones until you reach your desired refine/purify rate if you don't have money. If you buy these out of order, it will cost you money. Resourcer equipment is external resourcing module, improved processing module, micro purifier module, micro refinery module (skip this if you're resourcing in 23k, as we don't have any gas clouds over ports), and ssjd. Replace the refinery module with resource scanners, scanners, or a dt. Please note: some of the equipment will be hard to find until the stations list is up, a lot worse than hunting for freighter equipment will be.

Tradeship Theory
There has been a lot of argument about whether speed or holds is better within the community. Some say speed, some say holds. My take on this: heavy on holds is better, but a combination is best. A good rule of thumb for freighters is 1 speed upgrade for every 4 or so cargo holds upgrades. For resourcers, speed is usually better. And speed is always better for zalluns.

My recommendation for a freighter is 24 speed and 1700 holds for non-tamarans (a level 150 ship which costs around 700 mil) this early in the round, which equates to 24 speed and 2000 holds for a tamaran. That is As the round progresses, more expensive freighters will popup, but for right now that's the most efficient you can get and still not feel a ton of pain if you get podded. I don't recommend using freighters for zallun.

For resourcers, 6 cargo holds, 5 main engines, and 7 drone hangars upgrades, which is 850 cargo and 30 speed with 90 resource drones for about a level 180, 667 mil ship. For zalluns, 7 main engines, 7 cargo holds, and 6 drone hangars gives 32 speed, 807 holds, and 80 resource drones, which is level 200 which costs about 1.5 bil. I don't recommend using resourcers for tams. Please note: sniv have slight resource drone bonuses that modifies their ship a bit. It results in a ship with 6 upgrades of cargo holds, main engines, and drone hangars.

Any other ships generally don't make good tradeships. Frigates and interceptors do work to some degree, but it's not recommended. They tend to have higher speed and less holds and are not quite as efficient. Corvettes can make some interesting tradeships as well, but they're as slow as freighters without as many holds. So sticking with resourcers and freighters is in general, a good rule to follow.

And that concludes my guide. I hope it helped and any questions or comments are appreciated.