Your reactor doesn’t have to be turned off in EMCON mode. It’s the noisiest thing on your ships, yes, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the devs “cheated” with EMCON mode. It’s not straight simulation, with by-the-numbers results. The devs tweaked the stealth bars to get some specific results, and one of them is you can have your Reactor and Helm and Nav Computer on, with all other power drains turned off, and be at 2 bars of stealth.
In this configuration in a stock Ceres your emissions total 98 dbW at various frequencies, but you’re at 2 bars. There are other configurations that will take you below 98 dbW and keep you at 3 bars, so this is not simulation, this is specific results for specific EMCON profiles (well, really a blend of the two).
You need to adjust your own EMCON config in the power room to take advantage of this.
You can choose between Reactor, Helm, and Nav to navigate without power concerns but also not see other ships, or Sensors, Helm, and Nav to see other ships and navigate but on a time limit dictated by plunging power. Both lineups yield 2 bars of stealth.
You can make your power last longer in the latter config by going without your Helm, which is just fine if you’re drifting out of harm’s way and don’t need to pivot to keep your foes in view. More importantly, you can toggle between the two configs, turning off you Sensors to turn on your Reactor, filling you batteries, and turning your Reactor off and your Sensors on again to see the ships around you. To do this toggling you have to slide right to the Power Room and turn modules on and off manually, but hey, being a freelance space trader is tough work.
The IFF doesn’t emit noise. It’s a transponder: it explicitly identifies you and reveals your position to anyone who wants to listen, including pirates. The IFF-fine is a bit of a problem, but it’s not impossible to overcome. The cops are not your friends, they will never do anything for you. Avoid shipping lanes which they frequent, because pirates frequent them, too, and IFF fines from the cops don’t stop them. Navigate on the outskirts, use the nebulae for cover when turning and burning, and turn on your IFF only when a cop is going to unavoidably detect you. It’s a more active playstyle, it requires you to be engaged (so it really requires a rework of the time compression mechanic to overcome stultifying delays, but this is Early Access). With a bit of experience you know where to expect pirates in shipping lanes more specifically, and can more closely tailor the steps you take to take to elude both cops and robbers.
Components suffer inefficiencies from simply functioning in a module, and take more damage when the ship does. Different types of components have different durabilities, and different manufacturers’ models within the same socket-type differ, too.
So when your ship is new, the flimsiest components start decreasing in efficiency first: the Hap-Nodes. The stock model only costs 22c, though. One of those every trip won’t make you unprofitable, and they fail less often than once every trip. As your ship ages more durable components start to fail, in an increasing cycle until you’ve replaced them all. And the cycle continues. You can tweak the cycle by buying more durable models. (For the moment, ignore the Efficiency stat, it’s meaningless – the Failure stat is also meaningless unless you run your broken modules until they fail completely)
This means that running a new ship is cheap, and it gets more expensive as the ship loses its new status. This mean you need to be increasing your gross revenue to keep up. Avoid being blacklisted by knowing the routes and locations involved in every contract you take, and by not giving in to pirates, but avoiding them. Your contracts will increase in value and you will stay ahead of the maintenance-cost curve. Concentrate your contract-completing on a specific profitable area until you reach advanced status. With that money-maker in hand you can branch out and develop other regions and experience more of the game’s narratives.
How to Trade
You can also do straight trades if you know the price environment well. You can start to get an idea of where to buy and where to sell by paying attention to the messages the game sends you, and by trying to buy low and sell high while following those tips.
Sell at Crassus and Prefect. Penitent is good, too, Columbus less good.
Best prices for buying manufactured goods: Sterling Industrial in Tega, Bhola in Maru, Capricorn and Aurora in Two Sisters. There may be some others in this rank, I haven’t gone to every station yet.
Next best places to buy manufactured goods: Port Crawford and Zaragosa shipyard.
There’s an illegal drugs market, too. It can be profitable but it gives you another reason to avoid the cops. Sell in Leon, as usual. Buy at Adari in Diwali.
There are profitable trades in other stuff too: beverages, foods. The best routes are more complex, though.
The best profit comes from advanced contract levels, ferrying valuable stuff to high-paying destinations. The reason for this: high amounts of goods. While trading independently it’s tough to even fill a cargo pod with one type of item, but advanced contracts will involve multiple pods-full of an item. To do this well consistently you also need to have an idea of who will pay for what. Independent trading teaches you these details. The best runs combine high-paying contracts and profitable, independently traded godds, but putting these elements together requires some experience: you need to know where the necessary variables come together.
there’s another layer to the trade system, too: how fast prices fall off when selling in volume. This is a complex, spreadsheet-worthy system, but don’t worry about it. Favor contracts for large volumes of items that will sell for a good price at the destination which you do not have to pay for at the source, but simply pick up at no cost. Anything that will sell for 30 credits or better apiece is wildly profitable when you get 40 or more of them for free.