Being a small fish in the big ocean that is Elite Dangerous might make you feel that it is going to be one hell of a grind to get that fancy space ship you’ve been lusting over; but if you’re willing to do a little multitasking with professions you might get there a little sooner.
Tradin’, Killin’ and Lookin’
When arriving at a station, the first place to stop is initially the Mission Board which is the central location for paid jobs within the game. The majority of these relate to the delivery of goods (either legally or not) but you can also find combat related jobs too. Payouts can vary but as you’d also expect, riskier jobs will offer higher rewards.
The Mission board will automatically filter out jobs that you are unable to take, ensuring you can only take on jobs within your current means. Reasons why you can’t take on a job can include:
- Your ship lacks the cargo capacity,
- Your reputation with the faction offering the job isn’t high enough,
- Your Elite ranking is too low,
- You don’t have sufficient rank within the Federation/Empire/Alliance
Improving your reputation with a faction and superpower by taking on their missions can be highly beneficial in the long term. In the case of the Federation or Empire you’ll be able to gain access to buying some of the higher end ships such as the Federal Corvette or Imperial Clipper.
Another benefit to ranking up is gaining system permits to restricted systems. Sol (our own solar system) is locked behind a Federation permit so if you’re curious to check out the old stomping ground you’ll need to run a few jobs to get there and rank up to Petty Officer. There’s a pretty good list here on the Frontier Forums that will give you an idea of what’s currently known.
Influence is another thing that’s in play when you complete missions. Factions with the highest influence control the system so taking on work from a lesser faction might help push them into prominence. I think this part of the game leans into how Powerplay (the political meta-game within ED) works and might give you a taste of pursuing that further as you become familiar with the game. For more info on Powerplay check out this entry in the Elite Dangerous Wiki.
Trucking it and Digging it
The safest way to make a living in the galaxy involves moving cargo from station to station but to really start bringing in the big dollars you’re going to have to work your way up to a ship with a large enough space to deliver tonnes of cargo. The Mission Board is useful initially for that purpose and getting you a guarantee of profit but the next step is to begin working it out for yourself.
The Commodities board at each station provides the buy and sell prices of trade items at that location as well as the galactic average to help give you an idea of what the supply and demand is. In addition, the board will also provide information as to where this station is sourcing its trade items from – moving goods from those locations to this station could be a good way to start your life as a trader.
If you have the room, collecting rare trading items can earn big dollars on those long trips as their value increases from their source. Lavian Brandy is likely the first of these you will encounter, seeing as the Lave system is a popular starting point. A guide on setting up a trade run involving just rare items can be found here.
It’s worth noting that tools such as the Elite Dangerous Trading Guide have sprung up now that may be of help to players in planning their trade routes. For players just starting this could be a useful guide when trading in the more populated areas of the galaxy.
An alternative to moving goods around is to dig them up yourself. Equip your ship with a mining laser, refinery plus plenty of cargo space and that gives you the basics for digging up materials from asteroids and planet rings. Collection and prospecting limpets (ie. drones) can improve the process but if you’re starting small they aren’t necessary. Useful thing about mining is you can practically go anywhere to get what you need. A good reference for mining can be found here.
As you get successful through these you’ll also run the risk of pirates who see your ship with its hefty cargo as a very appealing target. So make sure to quip your ship with the means for fight or flight.
Whenever you have an opportunity to, it is worth looking at the community goals within the Mission Board to see if you are close enough to a system where one is being held. As the name implies, these events involve the E:D community joining together to work towards a common objective.
I’ve seen two so far that appear to be good to try. The first involves delivery of certain required resources to a designated station and the other basically is one big bounty clean up in a designated system. There are variations of these too but the rules are usually the same for all in that there’s a week at most (real time) to meet the goal and the amount you contribute ranks you which will reflect in your rewards payout once the goal is complete.
For players willing to travel to the locations of these events, it’s a great way to earn a lot of credits quickly and is highly recommended.
On the hunt
If profit through the use of superior firepower is your thing, then the game has you covered. Not only are there jobs from the mission board that offer the opportunity to test out your combat skills but there are more freeform combat options available through bounty hunting, chasing combat bonds or straight out piracy.
Bounty hunting is the most straightforward choice – if you scan a ship by targeting it for a few seconds and it is identified as wanted you have free reign to take it down and collect a reward. What you receive is dependent on the how dangerous the opponent is so don’t expect the easy kills to make you a lot of money quickly.
It’s important to note though that you MUST scan a ship first (and confirm their status) before firing any weapons otherwise you may end up on the wrong side of the law.
Cashing in requires you to stop at a station within the same system, so don’t forget to collect before you leave. Once at a station, go to the Contacts menu and then the Local Security Office. From there you can claim all your bounties or only those from specific factions.
Grocs – When starting in a new system, particularly in a decent fighter like an Eagle early on, go to the system nav point and try and collect some bounties on “Wanted” ships. When you scan them they will tell you they are “Wanted” in the bottom left of the HUD. If you are fighting for a particular side, Federation or Empire, fighting the opposite ship type will help with this.
When you go to hand these bounties in not only do you get some great starting cash to upgrade but you’ll also make the “Controlling Faction” for that space station / port become friendlier with you. You’ll receive an internal email when you rise in reputation with the “Controlling Faction”. Check the mission board to find out who the controlling faction is for that spaceport and you’ll find better missions the friendlier you get with the system.
In some systems there are conflict zones where a number of factions may be fighting for control. Helping one win can be a nice earner too and this is where combat bonds come in. In this case, as you arrive at a conflict zone you need to declare yourself as supporting a particular faction – this can be done through the Functions section of your ship’s Systems menu. Once done your ship’s HUD will clearly identify friends and foes.
Your faction support setting is reset once you leave a conflict zone so if you’re returning to earn a few more credits, remember to go back and set it again.
Rewards for taking down ships are tiered based on the model from smallest to largest. It doesn’t offer the potential for large payoffs that bounty hunting provides but factions will take note of your contributions. And combat might be a little easier to manage as you’re likely to supported by a lot more allied ships in a conflict zone so the potential for staying longer and accruing ship kills to make up the difference is pretty good. Claims are once again through the Contacts menu on stations in the same system.
If you like to equally shoot and trade your way around the galaxy there’s always one other choice: piracy. Ships usually drop cargo on their destruction so if you pick your target you can sell their cargo at Black Markets (accessible from the Contacts menu at stations). Cargo Scanners and Hatch Breaker Limpet Controllers can be useful kit to have on your ship in terms of choosing your targets and forcing them to drop their cargo – the ultimate reason you’re doing this.
Some really good information for starting out as a pirate can be found here. However, no tips about wooden legs or shivering your timbers are included… yet.
To boldly go…
Exploring the galaxy might not seems like the most glamorous occupation to pursue in Elite Dangerous but it can help you in making ends meet early during your travels. Stations will pay credits for navigation data via the Universal Cartographics menu.
Thankfully your ships starts off with a basic discovery scanner which you can use to collect data. Using it every time you arrive at a new system will help you build up your data. There are upgrades for the scanner too that improve the range of the device including a high end version which can do it all in one go.
If you’re playing the Xbox One version of the game, you’ll be wanting to set up the discovery scanner in a fire group so that you can quickly switch to it.
Additionally there is also a planetary discovery scanner for collecting even more data – if you’re able to get all the gear you need you can make the process a moderately handy source of additional income.
There are some limitations with what you can sell in that it has to be data from systems more than 20 light years away but as you travel out further that will be less of an issue. Though the payouts may seem miniscule compared to trading or hunting, they can be enough to refuel your ship, repair it or restock your weapons. But sometimes that’s all you need to keep going.
And if you look out the right window…
For players not keen on the combat or trading aspects of the game but love the travel, there’s a new way to make money and that’s by converting your humble vessel into a passenger transport.
The process itself is simple in that you only need to replace cargo modules with passenger cabins (if available at your station) but it’s worth noting that your selections can impact the kinds of jobs you’ll pick up. If you have the space, having a combination of economy and first class cabins will give you the most freedom in choosing jobs. However, you can still make plenty by catering for only one class.
Once your ship is equipped with cabins it’s time to head over to the passenger lounge and see what jobs are available. These can range from transporting refugees to taking VIPs on a tourist jaunt all the way to taking scientists deep into space. Rewards tend to be related to the prestige of the passengers and the distance you have to travel.
To maximise your ability to take on jobs and the return that you’ll get, first take note of the number of passengers for each of the jobs available to you and see which ones can be accepted together to fill all of your cabins.
Passengers can also be a fickle lot and may have expectations on the quality of service and your ability to meet their demands. Whether this be taking a detour to visit a beacon or avoiding conflicts, keeping them happy may be difference between whether you get a reputation boost of find they’ve all headed out to the escape pods.
With some careful planning it is possible to combine trading/delivering cargo with passenger ferrying as it’s likely to be plenty of crossover in destinations, especially in the more populated systems. Getting bang for your buck is key turning a profit and passengers can help provide a reliable stream of income to help you on your way.
Greed is good… but so are pulse lasers
No matter how successful you are making money in Elite Dangerous, there’s always going to be point when you’re going to end up facing off against someone. The next part will cover us trying to figure out how to survive in combat and hopefully avoid those annoying insurance payments.