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By Humna

In Starport, 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 separately.

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.

 

Blasting Them 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.

COLONIES - Your Cash Cow

Finally, we come to colonies. Colonizing is the best way to make money, hands down. Notice that I did not say the easiest way, because it isn't. Colonizing ain't easy, and it ain't always fun. But it's consistant, efficient, and lucrative. So without further ado, let's hit it.

There are two kinds of colonies - cash farms, and long-term outposts. I'll talk about the advantages of each one. Why are colonies so good for producing money? Once a colony is fully stocked with colonists, it will continue to generate cash without requiring you to spend warp fuel. That's why. Colonies are like free money.

Cash Farms
Once upon a time, you could put 1000 colonists on any random planet, set the tax rate to 20%, come back 3 days later, and pick up 20 million credits. Not so anymore. But that doesn't mean that you can't use colonies as sources of revenue... you just have to do it a little differently.

The first thing to understand is that tax revenue is greatly reduced while a colony is under UN protection. That means that you can't really start to make any sort of significant tax revenue until after a planet is vulnerable to invasion. Cash farms are planets that make a couple tens of thousands of credits every hour, that you can farm over the long run to make millions of credits. For a cash farm to be successful in today's game, it has to stand undisturbed for a number of days.

For that reason, you need to be a little selective about where you put your cash-producing colonies. You want a planet that's unlikely to be invaded, but you don't want to have to spend a million credits on flak cannons to defend it. So, you have two options at your disposal.

The first is called "security through obscurity," and it's a critical theme to ALL colony building, not just cash farm creation. Security through obscurity (STO) means building colonies out in the middle of goddamn nowhere, where players aren't likely to find them. Dead-end sectors are a good place. So is the middle of a galactic arm, or a random system on the other side of the galatic center from Sol. Just grab a biodome, drop it on a planet, bring 1000 colonists, and let them build experience until UN protection runs out. Then raise the tax rate to 10-14%... just high enough that the morale of the planet doesn't decrease much over time. And then make frequent trips to pick up your cash.

The downside to STO building is that someone with a neutrino scanner WILL eventually find your planet. It might be sooner, it might be later, you never know. So building using STO isn't a foolproof method... but it's pretty good for the first week of the game, when most players are more worried about making credits than scanning every system they enter. Just make sure you pick up the credits regularly, so that when someone DOES take your planet, they don't walk off with 5 million of your credits.

The second option has been a personal secret of mine. I've never seen anybody use it, but I'm going to share it with you. You want a planet that nobody will stumble upon, but you don't want to defend it, right? Right? RIGHT?

Greenhouse worlds.

Drop your biodome on a Greenhouse world about 10-15 hops from UN space. Put down 1000 colonists, and tell them to build a Refinery immediately (with Prison government). They'll gain 2 morale per hour and have the Refinery done in just over 8 hours. When it is finished, drop some Medicine on the planet to stabilize the population, and immediately start work on an Ion Tower. You'll have to deliver the resources yourself, which means investing a hundred thousand credits or so, but just do it. You'll make the money back in a few hours after the colony is up and running. Once the Ion Tower is finished, set your government to Democracy and increase the tax rate to 10-14%. If you're still in UN protection, you can have your colonists build you some experience until protection ends if you want, or you can suffer the reduced revenue. Either way, your planet is now officially good to go, and should produce you 20,000-30,000 credits per hour, every hour, for the rest of the game. Greenhouse planets with an Ion Tower don't show up on neutrino scanners, so the odds of someone finding your cash farm are infinitesmally low. Build yourself 2-4 Greenhouse cash farms, and you'll be able to reap a steady source of income until the end of the game. It won't get you rich quickly, but it will keep you funded.

Why not build a Biodome 2 and go up to 5000 colonists, you ask? The answer is morale. With 1000 colonists under a Democracy, you can raise your tax rate as high as 10% without losing any morale. With 5000 colonists (and just an Ion Tower), your colony will suffer a negative morale even with 0% taxes. You'll have to build a Radio Receiver and a Broadcast Receiver if you want to be able to tax your people, and building those structures requires an investment in resources. You can take this road if you want, but then your colony becomes much more of an investment than a simple cash farm. If you're going to build both Biodome upgrades and both Receivers, you might as well go all the way and slap down the rest of the buildings as well. But that's not really even a cash farm anymore, that's a colony into which you've made a serious investment, and that falls under our next topic:


Long-Term Outposts
An outpost is a colony that you nurture, building it up to full capacity. A completed outpost will have a level 2 Biodome upgrade, a Refinery, a Solar Cannon, a morale structure or two, and possibly a unique planetary building and/or a Weapons Factory. Outposts require a huge investment of both time and credits, but they pay off in spades when they're complete.

The best way to build an outpost is to set the Construction level of the colony to 100%, put the government on Prison, and simply buy all the resources you need and dump them on the planet. This is terribly expensive in terms of both credits and warp fuel (especially if you have to travel one or more hops for certain resources), but it will allow you to fully stock an outpost BEFORE its UN protection runs out. Here is my building order:

Refinery - Biodome 1 - (Heater Core - Arctic) - Biodome 2 - Solar Cannon - Radio Receiver - Broadcast Receiver - Refinery 2

Then a Weapons Factory if necessary, and/or the planet's unique building. I'm really not going to get into the ins and outs of outpost construction, you can find that elsewhere on the Launchpad.

Ok, so your outpost colony is complete. You have 5000 colonists there, morale is above Neutral, you've got your solar cannon up, and pollution is manageable. What next? Research. Research is critical, have a look at the Starpedia if you don't know what you can research. I generally set my government to Directorship and crank Research to 100% for about 8-10 hours on each of my planets. That's usually enough to hit 10 or more of the 16 possible research upgrades. If I'm missing an important one, I'll let it go a little longer before returning to Democracy. Advanced Architecture is absolutely critical on every planet, it doubles your production rate, and therefore doubles the experience yield of the planet.

Once you have all the research you need, you can decide how best to turn your little colony into a credit factory. If there's a starport in the system that buys or other expensive resources, you can set Harvesting to 75% and make trips back and forth to sell what you harvest. Or, if you have a Commodities Market, you can save your fuel and just sell resources straight from the planet (albeit for much less cash than you'd get at a starport). You can also build a Weapons Factory and crank out nukes, which you will then use to slaughter NPCs and other players. Or, of course, you can just set the tax rate to 6-9% and watch the credits roll in with no effort at all on your part. Best part is, while you're taxing your citizens, you can have them on 100% Construction producing Experience, which will pay off 125 experience per hour (50% more than that if you have Advanced Architecture, and +50% more again if you're on an Arctic world with a Heater Core).

So that's my guide to making money. If I can sum up these last 3 posts in two sentences, they would be the following:

Don't waste your time with taxi runs, make cash farms and outposts instead. Use trade to boost your income when you or your outposts need a boost.

Thanks for reading, and good luck.