Becoming a Space Investor
Elite Dangerous has grabbed me. They got me hook line and sinker. It is very much the type of game that I can lose myself for hours playing. When I first bought the game, I started playing sometime in the early afternoon. The next thing I remember - in real life, an least - it was midnight.
I’ll start this post with a bit of "blog business"…
I think I might try to write some more posts about the games I’ve been playing. As such, I am planning to use some tag prefixes to help sort the posts that I write.
For Elite Dangerous, I’ll use more specific tags that start with "ed-" such as, "ed-trading", "ed-combat", etc. Then for Kerbal Space Program, I’ll use the prefix "ksp-".
The economy model in ED is fairly involved. It is a fully dynamic economy where each station and outpost has their own supply and/or demand for each of the 30 or 40 commodities. The supply/demand of the local station, system and region then affects the purchase and selling price for each commodity.
This means that it isn’t quite as simple to ensure that you will make a profit when you do trade runs. There are some online tools that help you track prices and such so you can plan your route though so it’s still possible to ensure that you can make a profit (provided you don’t get attacked during the run).
In addition to the standard set of commodities, some stations will also have rare commodities. Rares (short for rare commodities) are unique to the station that produces them and are of very limited quantity. The special bit about rares, though, is that their selling price can sometimes be 10 or 20 times the purchase price if you sell at the right location. For normal commodities purchase and selling price don’t change by much and is based on the supply and demand of the region, but the selling price for rares increases as you travel away from the originating system. The price peaks somewhere around 140-170 lightyears from the originating system.
The tricky bit about normal trading versus trading rares is that there are additional factors in the game that can make one method more profitable over the other. The largest factors that I’ve discovered so far are the model of ship you have and the equipment you have purchased for your ship.
Investing in Ships
The capabilities of your ship and its equipment vastly changes the options that are open to you in the game. One of the main mechanisms of limiting the user early on in the game is that your ship has a limited distance that it can jump which places a limit on the distance between stars that you can travel. Effectively this corrals the user into a small area of space where the stars are clumped together. In order to leave that region you need to upgrade your ship to increase the jump distance.
I don’t really want to go too far into the details about the specs of a ship. It should be enough to say that many parts on each ship are replaceable and each part that you can purchase has basically a size and a class attribute. You need to buy modules of the right size for your ship model and then choose a class based on your goals. Classes range from "F" to "A" where the "A" is the best performance and "F" is the worst. However, the classes don’t simply get better as you go from "F" to "A", they have different details. For example, "D" class modules are reduced in weight and armor, while another class has improved performance at the cost of weight, another class has beefed up armor but unchanged performance, etc. All that really means is there is a different recommended choice for when you want to do combat versus trading.
(so much for not going into too much detail…)
What this all means is that the sticker price of a new ship is no where near the actual amount of credits that could be spent upgrading your ship.
One additional detail is the insurance premiums. You have insurance on your ship, which means that if you get blown up, you can pay the premium to rebuy your ship and equipment. The premium is way cheaper than buying it all again, but if you cannot pay the premium you are stuck starting from ground zero again. As you spend more money upgrading your ship, the insurance rebuy cost also increases.
This means that, just like in real life, just because you can pay the sticker price on that shiny new ship, does not mean that you can actually afford the new ship.
I learned this the hard way…
Trading my heart away I managed to save 400K credits. Looking in the shipyard the Cobra was only 300-something thousand credits so I went for it.
The new ship only had the stock Frame Shift Drive though, so the new ship was unable to make the jump out of the system… I was stuck. I had to sell parts from my old ship in order to upgrade the drive so I could do some trade runs and make some of that capital back. In the first system I jump to, I get interdicted by a pirate and blown to smithereens… I couldn’t pay the insurance premium…
That was a hard lesson to learn.