there are three basic ways to make money, and they're all useful at different
stages of the game. Knowing now only HOW to make money, but WHEN to use the
different methods is an important key to playing well. The three methods for
making money are Trading, Combat, and Colonizing. I'll address each one
Getting Your TRADE On
In its simplest form, trading is purchasing a material good at one starport, flying to a nearby starport, and selling it for a profit. There are several variations on this theme. For example, you could pick up a bunch of resources out of one of your existing colonies and sell them, or you could farm aliens on planets for resources. I also consider Taxi and Escort missions to be a form of trading, and I'll tell you why.
When you trade, no matter how you do it, you're really just exchanging your warp fuel for credits. You're basically selling fuel. When you dock at a starport, fly a hop, dock again, and fly back, you're expending warp fuel in order to make your profit. The same goes for Taxi runs... you're expending warp fuel to move from one system to another in order to make a profit. All forms of trading require you to guzzle your precious warp fuel in order to make credits. So, keeping that in mind, the best way to trade is to make your warp fuel sale go as far as possible. It makes sense that you want to get the most credits for your fuel, right? Let's look at the various methods of trading and figure out what's efficient and what isn't.
First, Taxi runs. Taxi runs pay 3000 credits per hop, plus a variable bonus if you finish the run quickly. The efficiency of Taxi runs is directly related to your ship's warp fuel cost. Simply put, a ship that uses less fuel to warp will be able to do more efficient Taxi runs. It's better to Taxi in an Antarean SpeedStar (6 warp cost) than a Galaxy Whale (9 warp cost). So, if you plan on doing a lot of Taxi runs, get yourself a fuel-efficient ship. But even still, Taxi runs don't give you very many credits for your fuel. At most you're getting 5000-6000 credits per hop (after your speed bonus), which equates to less than 1000 credits per fuel unit spent. In other words, you usually don't want to do Taxi runs if you're looking to earn cash, unless conventional trading isn't profitable for some reason (you only have 20 cargo holds, you can't find any one-hop routes, etc).
Now, conventional trading (buying at one port, selling at another). You can make some good money through conventional trade, but there are a LOT of variables which affect your profit. The first variable is how far apart the two ports are... generally, you don't want to waste fuel running trade routes that are more than one hop. The second variable is what resources you're trading. Obviously, a Spice-Equipment run is better than a Metal Ore-Oil run. Third is how many cargo holds your ship has; the more cargo you can haul at a time, the more profit you make. Fourth is your ship's warp cost. Warping cheaper means more profits. Finally, there's the demand for your resources at both ports, you'll make more doing 100% runs than you would doing 20% runs. The absolute best trade run would be a 100% Spice - 100% Equipment run of one hop in a very cargo-efficient ship (the Whale, the Starcruiser, etc). Under good conditions, you can often make 300 or more credits of profit per resource unit traded. That means a Galaxy Whale with 160 cargo holds is earning 48,000 credits and using 10 fuel in each direction, resulting in a profit of 4800 credits per fuel spent. Compare that with the 1000 credits per fuel you get doing Taxi runs. A 100/100 Spice-Equipment route can earn you upwards of 10,000 credits per fuel spent, especially if you have good Wisdom.
Don't waste your time farming aliens for resources. That was a joke, son.
Finally, the absolute most efficient way to trade is to pull resources off a colony you own and sell them at a starport in the same system. The only things that matter here are WHAT you're selling, WHAT the demand is, and HOW MANY cargo holds you have. You only need to spend two fuel units to sell resources from a colony (one fuel unit to land on the colony, one to dock at the starport), and you have absolutely no overhead since you're getting the resources for free. Selling spice at 100% demand, you can easily make 700 credits per cargo unit. In a Galaxy Whale, you're talking about an absolutely amazing 56,000 credits per fuel unit spent! The only problem here is, you need a place to GET those resources, which means you either need to build your own colony or steal someone elses.
Trading is a very good source of short-term income. You can trade whenever you need a little extra cash. Just head to the nearest starport and pick up a Taxi mission or find a nice one-hop trade route, and you can make yourself a couple million credits an hour easily. Trading is not an effective way of making money in the long run, however, because every time you need cash, you have to spend warp fuel to get it. If you're stuck on some galactic arm with 191 fuel units, no credits, and 500 shields, you're pretty much out of luck.
Fools - COMBAT Style
Combat is certainly a viable way to make money when done properly. Combat consists of both ship battles and colony invasion. Both are likely to make you some enemies, unless you do nothing but shoot down NPCs all day long. However, the potential rewards are vast, depending on your skill and strategy.
One thing to realize is that combat is not guaranteed. It's dangerous, it's inconsistant, and you never know how much combat you'll be able to find. Sometimes you'll spend 200 warp fuel jumping around looking for a fight without getting one. Combat should not be regarded as your primary source of income, but rather a nice suppliment to what you're making using other methods.
Let's talk about ship combat first. When you shoot down a player, you get all the credits he was carrying at the time. When you kill an NPC, you get an amount of credits proportional to its rank. But in order to succeed in ship combat, you need a whole bunch of cash up front to buy a nice ship. You ain't killing nobody in that old Merchant Cruiser of yours. You need at least a Battleship (250,000 credits) and a Fusion Blaster (250,000 more) in order to get any combat done. To really succeed, you need at least a CEO ship and a Grav Beam, and maybe a few Negotiators (around 4 million credits). So don't expect to hop into a new game and become the scourge of the galaxy right away.
Combat is a flaky thing. You might see 5 NPCs come whizzing by you all at once, or you may convince yourself that you are the only life form in the galaxy. If you're looking to make some cash, find a hot spot where NPCs fly fairly regularly. I don't have any tips for you here, except to stick near the center of the galaxy and make sure you're in a station with a starport. Shoot down every NPC you see... good or evil, Thief or Nuisance, doesn't matter. This is not the time to worry about your reputation. Attack players only if they are weaker than you and unknown... attacking the little brother of the #2 player is a poor idea.
When attacking NPCs, try to conserve your shields as much as possible. If you win a fight but lose 11,000 shields in the process, you probably won't come out ahead. One trick if you have a Grav Beam is to pull into a tight orbit around the sun, shooting the NPC through it where they can't shoot back. NPCs with projectile weapons will probably orbit with you, trying fruitlessly to shoot you through the sun. You can make a lot of quick combat cash with this little tactic, but you have to have a Grav to make it work. Remember also that many NPCs pack hardware, and each missile that hits you will cost you around 2,000 credits worth of shields.
That's all I'm going to say about combat tactics, this really isn't the right FAQ for that sort of thing.
The real money in combat comes when you take over a hostile colony stuffed with freebies. There's nothing more exciting than landing on a seemingly abandoned planet and finding 4 million credits and 1000 spice inside! To help you make the most of your colony invasion experience, here are a few tips:
- Make a note when new colonies are going to lose their UN protection, and try to strike as soon as possible.
- Right at the start of the game, most players drop a colony or two as close to Sol as they can in order to make some money. Practice what I call the Day Three Invasion. Three days after the game starts, all those colonies will lose their UN protection. Run around just outside of UN space, landing on every colony you can find. Many players will forget to make a final pickup, and you can find literally millions of credits just sitting there waiting for you. You'll probably have some competition though, so be careful.
- For the most part, don't waste your time landing on empty colonies. If a colony's population reads as deserted, few and far between, ghost town, sparse, or other such qualifiers, you're probably better off moving to the next planet.
- Revolting colonies don't produce credits, so you may want to save time by ignoring them... BUT! A revolting colony was definitely taxed heavily by its previous owner, so there may be a little residual cash lingering on the surface. I only invade revolting colonies if I have plenty of warp fuel. Much of the time, revolting colonies are empty, but occasionally you'll find a mega-payoff.
- Invading colonies of powerful corporations is only going to make you enemies. Is picking up 300,000 credits today worth being blown out of the sky tomorrow?
- When you do invade a colony, don't just pick up the credits and blast off. Colonies near Sol change hands ten times a day. Unless you plan on defending the colony or making very frequent stops, you want to make sure the next guy doesn't stumble on a windfall when he lands there. Change the tax rate to 0%, change the build structure to Experience, set 100% Construction, and set the government to Prison. Sell any valuable resources, and pick up and jettison the rest. The next jerk to take this colony will find it devoid of credits, and you'll rack up a little bit of experience for every hour you keep it. If you really want to be a jerk, pick up all the colonists and jettison them too. Jettisoning colonists while on a planet's surface will kill them without lowering your reputation.
- Buy a Neutrino Scanner when you can afford it, and learn how to use it. There's a FAQ elsewhere in the Launchpad about how to use the scanner properly.
- Finally, never leave credits on any colony you own that isn't UN protected or backed up by a Solar Cannon and a ton of flaks. Eventually, somebody will find your colonies, no matter how remote they are. Don't let a lucky explorer walk away with 5 million of your credits.