Welcome to the X3 Terran Conflict Merchant's Survival Guide. I’ve seen a number of people post on the forums that they’re having trouble getting started in Terran Conflict, so I decided to share some of my experience and ideas. This guide won't take you step-by-step from pauper to tycoon, but it will teach the player some essential tools needed to establish an economic presence in the game. This is the first guide I have written for an X game, so feel free to point out any errors or omissions on my part. Also, keep in mind that this guide is a work in progress and will change as I learn new tricks.
Overview:The primary focus of this guide is on the TRADE, BUILD, and THINK components of the game. FIGHT, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that assessment. There is only minimal FIGHT advice contained herein, which centers on surviving combat as opposed to engaging in it. Personally, I very much like the FIGHT element of the X games, and that is my usual focus. However, I have seen a number posts recently that basically state that the player either cannot get started, and/or cannot progress as rapidly without the FIGHT element in Terran Conflict. I immediately thought, “Hmm… I wonder if that’s actually true.” So, I decided it would be a challenge to find out. The results are the foundation for this guide.
Target Audience: Any and all players looking for economic strategies for Terran Conflict may find this guide helpful. New players may want to take it slow and avoid combat because of the steep learning curve. They may find it difficult to jump right into combat without understanding all of the various ships and weapons in the game; much less how to make the credits to buy more potent hardware. Returning players of the X series will find a different economy, in spite of the engine’s similarity to that of X3 Reunion. In fact, I am still discovering those differences myself…
Spoilers: There are no plot related spoilers in this guide. I have not initiated any of the main plots during in my current game and probably won’t for some time. This guide assumes the player has no access to plot related rewards, reputation and/or locations. Spoilers related to ships and equipment will be tagged as such and the player may highlight and read them at their own discretion. But, keep in mind that only the specifics of these things will be hidden. i.e. I might explain that you need X software from an Equipment Dock, but only the specific location of a dock that carries the product will be hidden. The game's manual explains the various types of ships and equipment available, so I do not consider them spoilers. However, if you did not read the manual, they just might be spoilers to you: You have been warned.
So, can you earn credits quickly without fighting? Absolutely!
Can you progress as rapidly without fighting? Not in my experience. But, to be fair, the general consensus is that combat missions are bugged right now and are highly exploitable by the player.
So, how much did you make in your experiment? With 1 day and 15 hours on the clock I have racked up over 40 million credits without firing a shot. My combat rank is Harmless 0%. I have about 5,000,000 credits at this point because I’ve equipped myself with a small fleet of ships and a factory. I just bought a TL; also have a TM, some Super Freighters and a handful of others. I did find a couple of bugs where I could have added about 100 million more credits to my total, but I decided not to exploit them since they’ll eventually be fixed. I don’t claim that this is anything special and others may already be doing better. But I can’t imagine myself of having done this in X3 Reunion without capturing and selling pirate ships while my UT’s were leveling up. I tried a pure TRADE game in Reunion once, and it was mind numbingly slow.
Merchant’s Survival Guide
So, you want to start slow and build your wealth and build and infrastructure before going to war with The X3 Universe? That sounds like a good plan, you’ve come to the right place.
Starting Scenario: I recommend the Humble Merchant start, which I used. It does not immediately thrust the player into a plot mission that cannot be abandoned. It also starts with very neutral notoriety so that no one dislikes you and you’re free to trade anywhere. Only Kha’ak and Xenon ships attack me on sight. Most pirates were friendly, and even the ones my ship registered as Hostile have not blinked an eye when I flew through them. Yaki were friendly and didn’t go bogey unless I was in Yaki controlled space.
First Moves: If you’re completely new, go through the flight school… Then head through the South jump gate to Argon Prime. X3R Veterans might think, “Wait, what about hitting that silicon mine?” Nah, I wouldn’t do that… Take a look around when you get to Argon Prime and you’ll see why. The economy is different, always remember that… I’ll explain more later.
Send both of your ships to the Argon Equipment dock. Once docked, sell your freighter’s 5MJ shield and change ships to your Discoverer. Buy a Duplex Scanner and Trading System Extension for your scout.
Now, send your freighter to the shipyard and sell it.
Yea, I know what you’re thinking…
New Players: “I want to be a trader, how can I trade without a freighter?”
Veterans: “Isn’t this the opposite of what we normally do? Don’t you mean sell the Disco?”
No, I mean it… Sell the freighter. Then I want you to go back to the Equipment Dock and buy a Mineral Scanner and max out your ship upgrades: Engine Tuning, Cargo Extension, and Rudder Optimization. You are of course welcome to do whatever you like, but this is what I recommend.
Veterans: “Engine Tunings? Mineral Scanner? This is not how you make money early on! WTF?!”
As I asked you to remember before, the Terran Conflict economy is different. In X3 Reunion, we made our starting capital by wandering from sector to sector in our freighter looking for fully stocked factories selling pricey goods at a bargain. Then we wandered around looking for a factory that needed them that was completely out of stock to get the highest return price. Later, we used satellites and jump drives to speed up this process and earn credits even faster. Both of these conditions are far less common in Terran Conflict…
Why? The AI traders have jump drives too! That’s right, they’re scanning the universe for the highest returns and have been there and gone long before you stumble upon them. If you want to buy lowest and sell highest you’re going to be stuck trading ore and energy forever. Even silicon isn’t the cash cow it used to be; far fewer factories use it now. You will find fully stocked mines and buy silicon only to find most of the near-by factories that use it are already stocked. Then you’ll be stuck with it, trudging from sector to sector trying to get it out of your hold at any price you won’t take a loss on. In fact, you’ll find that most times you see a high-return resource at a bargain that the closest consumers are already at least partially stocked. AI traders appear to be working the best possible returns over the shortest possible distances to generate the largest profits in the shortest amount of time. Sound familiar? Reminds me of a Universe Trader…
Note: Admittedly there is some speculation here on my part as to how the AI traders are working now. This is entirely based upon what I have seen in game. I’ve seen deals at 2 or more factories in a sector and jumped in only to find them long gone. I had no idea what was going on until I happened to be parked at a station and noticed a freighter undock and immediately jump; no countdown, no following the lights, just a flash and it was gone… There also appears to be a problem with the economy and some freighters are acting strangely, but that’s beyond the scope of this guide.
So, you need to get a foot in the door to get started. You’re up against well funded heavy weights that have a huge edge on you in capital and assets. Truth is, you’ll need a steel wedge and a great big hammer to do it: satellite networks, fast ships, your own TL, a mobile base, and super freighters on call are all more important than ever… Oh, and don’t forget the jump drives all around.
I’ll bet you’re wondering how you’re going to do all this with a… Disco. Jobs, Jobs… I mean Missions, Missions, Missions!
Making Credits Part I – Missions
General: Missions come in five varieties in X3 Terran Conflict; TRADE, FIGHT, BUILD, THINK, and Plot. Plot is not officially a type, but is instead a mixture of the others that follows the main Terran Conflict story line. I will be concentrating on TRADE and THINK in this section and will address BUILD in the next. I will refer to these as “sandbox missions” from time to time because they’re not plot related.
When you’re exploring a system you will see symbols next to some of the stations. These indicate that a mission is available. The symbols you’re looking for are a light bulb for THINK and a currency symbol for TRADE. When you get within 25km of the station, comm the station and see what they have. Note that you should comm every station that has a symbol no matter what it is because more than one person on board may have a mission. I have seen stations with as many as 6 people offering a mission, so check out everything. You should avoid people that have a book, blocks or especially crosshairs next to their name. The crosshairs are combat, and you’re trying to keep a low profile, remember?
Do you remember those engine tunings and mineral scanners I asked you to sell your freighter and buy? This is why… Scanners make it easier to find missions and a faster ship allows you to complete missions more quickly. Don’t worry about the freighter, you’ll be swimming in cheap freighters soon enough.
I recommend you upgrade to a Triplex Scanner as soon as possible as it has a larger range. You can find them at:
Terricorp HQ in Home of Light
Most Military Outposts
You should take missions with long deadlines (1 hour+) until you get use to doing them. Some are more difficult than others and there are some caveats to watch out for. Save your game often and keep salvage insurance on hand. Failing missions not only wastes your time, it can cost you significant notoriety loss with the government that gave you the job.
Veterans: Completing missions of any kind will raise your race notoriety faster than was ever possible in X3 Reunion. Some might argue this makes it too easy to get your hands on potent military hardware, as notoriety was the one that that kept the player in check in X3R. However, when you consider the sheer amount of hardware governments have flying around now; does it really matter if you can get destroyer in just a few days? I’m not so sure…
Now, on to the THINK and TRADE mission subtypes, the briefing titles will give you a clue as to what to look for in the list below.
Scan Asteroids: These are as simple as they look. They will always require you to scan 10 asteroids in 1-3 adjacent sectors, including the one you’re in, and report back to the mission giver.
If you find more than one of these at a time, you can take them and your scans will count for both. Note that when you scan the last rock you get a new timer to report in to the mission giver. This can work to your advantage if the mission has a short timer. To report in, you need only get within comm range of the station and talk to the person, one of the options will be “I’m delivering your scan data.”
If the sectors are large you may need a jump drive to complete them in time; especially if the mission sectors are out of order and you have to double back. While most ships can do these, an M5 is required to do the ones with the shortest timers.
The pay is very random, but appears to scale with your notoriety and security level of the sectors you are asked to scan. The highest I’ve been paid is 89,000 Cr per rock, and it was probably the easiest 900,000 credits I’ve made.
The Ship, Ship, The Ship: Some of these have really odd names don’t they? Most of these are going to involve claiming an abandoned ship and returning it to the owner. However, there is a caveat here to watch out for. Some of these will ask you to return a stolen ship, stolen being the key word. You have to hunt down and persuade the person who stole the ship to give it up. You know, my mother always said that you can get more with a kind word and a plasma thrower than you can get with just a kind word. Stolen ship missions are actually FIGHT missions in disguise, you have to shoot up the ship so they will bail out, so avoid these.
The kind you are looking for asks you return an abandoned ship to the station. These are pretty simple as well; fly to the ship, claim it and order it back to the station. You’ll get a message when it arrives asking you to release control. Compensation appears to be tied to your notoriety and 150,000 credits was the highest I’ve seen, which really isn’t enough for some of the ships they asked me to retrieve.
These will become more difficult as the pay goes up, so here are some tips:
- * When you go EVA to claim the ship, use your repair laser on it, this will make it move faster.
* If the ship has to travel a long distance you can send it to the closest Trading Station and buy a couple of engine tunings.
* You can also buy military transports (Class:TM) that will allow you to dock some of the ships and jump them right to their destination. TMs are available at shipyards, like any other kind of ship.
* If the ship is too large to dock with a TM, you can send over the Navigation Command Software, Jump Drive, and Energy Cells from your fighter and jump the ship to its destination. Dock your fighter to your TM and jump in behind it. Then you can undock your fighter, chase down the ship and get your equipment back.
Well, there are consequences, and the answers to these are spoilers.
If you try to keep the ship, by claiming it and abandoning the quest, you’ll lose notoriety with the race that gave you the quest. They will also dispatch police to destroy the ship.
If you claim the ship and sell it you’ll get a message saying you’ve destroyed the ship and the authorities have been notified. I assume you’re supposed to lose reputation, but I did not when I tried it, so it’s clearly bugged. Since I found this method to be exploitable, I just reloaded my save and returned the ships.
These missions appear to be bugged, but they’re actually not, so let me explain how to complete them. First, you must be on the freighter when it makes a delivery. You cannot remotely send freighters to complete these, nor can you be on a docked with a different ship than the one that makes the delivery. You can make more than one delivery to fill the order, where the mission time allows, but you must be on that freighter each time it docks. A transporter and a docking computer on your freighter can help a lot with this. Docking Computers allow you to “instantly” dock with a station when you’re 3-5km away, just keep selecting Dock and it will happen when you’re close enough.
You won’t be “selling” the goods to the station, they’ll be taken out of your hold automatically and you’ll see a “delivery received” message. You might see requests for more resources that the station can actually house. Don’t worry about this; the station’s hopper will just be filled to the max when you complete the mission.
The highest paying missions are difficult to complete in the time given, so I have some tips. Keep some Super Freighters on call with jump drives, transporters, and docking computers installed. When you see a mission with a low time limit, don’t take the mission until you’ve got the goods on hand. Remotely send your freighters to find and collect the goods, a satellite network helps here. Don’t be afraid to pay any price for the materials as you will be getting paid many times the base value of those resources. If you see an AI freighter headed for the station with what the mission requires, comm the station and grab the mission, because it will disappear as soon as that resource is stocked.
When your freighters are loaded up with the required materials, jump the freighters in and tell them to dock at the station. You can use your transporter to jump to each freighter when it gets into docking computer range and instantly dock it. When you get the delivery received message, undock, fly away from the station and transport to the next freighter.
Some of these missions are a little different in that they are requesting illegal goods instead of station resources. They’ll warn you to avoid police in the briefing. The good thing about them as that they’re usually offering big money for a small amount of goods (800,000 Cr for 232 space weed), so you can bring them in on a fighter or fast TP. I plan to keep some Falcon Haulers stocked up with space fuel, space weed and slaves docked in a pirate sector to fill these when I get a chance. The normal dangers of smuggling still apply; if you get scanned you’ll lose notoriety and possibly be shot at.
Scan for Illegal Goods/Scan for Valuable Goods: Which one you get depends on whether you’re in a government sector or a pirate sector. You’ll need a police license to do these in government sectors and AI ships may turn hostile if you scan them in pirate sectors.
I currently avoid these missions because I think they’re bugged. (Someone correct me if I am wrong.) Every time I have taken one of these I haven’t found a single smuggler, and you will fail the mission if you don’t find at least one. I suspect that the mission script is supposed to spawn some ships coming out of the jump gates with illegal goods, and perhaps that part isn’t working. My advice is to avoid these for now…
Taxi/Passenger/Troop Transport Needed: These missions come in three varieties. Note that you will need a Cargo Bay Life Support System to carry passengers of any kind. Some times of ships have these built in, and you must buy them separately for others. Just like the delivery missions, you must be on board the ship to pick up or deliver a person. You cannot remotely command ships to complete these missions.
“I need a fast ship to get to a meeting.” – If there is no mention of a ship class you can taxi them with your fighter. If they tell you there’s not enough room, try selling some of your jump energy. When there’s enough room they’ll board automatically. I highly recommend an M5 class ship fitted with a jump drive and a docking computer for these, as the highest paying missions will have impossibly short delivery times.
“I/We need a ride and require luxury/passenger transportation” – You’ll need a Passenger Transport (Class:TP) to complete these. Again, the fastest TP ship you can find with a jump drive and docking computer.
“Troop/Military Transport Needed” – You’ll need a Class TM ship to complete these. As always, fast and well equipped.
My ship recommendations and where to get them are spoilers.
- M5: I suggest you upgrade your Discoverer to a Discoverer Raider as soon as possible. The discoverer is on of the few scouts that can hold medium sized cargo, and therefore equip a jump drive; which is essential. The top speed of the ship is 427 m/s and can hold enough jump energy to cross 8 sectors on its own. You can buy them at the Federal Argon Shipyard in Cloud Base Southeast. You will also need a Cargo Bay Life Support, since scouts don’t have them built in. You can find these at Split Equipment Docks.
TP: I suggest the Iguana Vanguard, as it’s the fastest TP available moving at a snappy 173 m/s. Just don’t tell your snobby passengers that the ship used to be for transporting slaves in the Split Consortium. I’m not sure if they are available at any of the new shipyards in Terran Conflict. But I can tell you that one might be offered for sale as a used ship. There is also rumored to be a derelict Iguana Vanguard somewhere in the Split sectors. Life support is already built into these ships.
TM: I suggest the OTAS Zephyr as it’s the fastest available moving at 140 m/s. This ship also makes a great mobile base as it docks 4 fighters, has 600MJ of shielding and good turret/gun options that make it a less attractive “target”. The freight bay holds 1250 cargo, so you can load up on energy, have the ship follow you on auto jump and you’ve always got a place to dock your scout and plenty of jump energy on hand. This ship will also help with the “retrieve my abandoned ship” missions. It’s a great investment at 400,000 Cr and many of us think they actually intended to price it at 4 million credits. (More about that later…) I can’t remember if it came with life support or not, but if you’re reading this then you already know where to get it.
These are great for making large amounts of credits and building your personal fleet quickly. You can also obtain rare types of ships from these, so look carefully at the name and information about the ship. I’ve seen several people complain that they have lost a lot of money on these. Well, they are THINK missions, and you’ll notice the difficulty is always “???”. You are not guaranteed to get a good deal, so you have to use your noggin. Don’t be afraid to say no, sometimes they are trying to rip you off.
No need to worry, I have some tips:
- * When you enter sectors with shipyards, look at the prices so you get a “feel” for what the various ship classes are worth. You’ll notice that Vanguards and Raiders are worth more, and Sentinels are worth the most.
* Shipyards buy healthy, unequipped ships for about 30% below the price they are listed for sale at. So always knock 30% of the list price when considering a deal.
* Used ships with perfect hulls are, more often than not, a rip off. Be extra careful investigating the asking price if the ship has a perfect hull. Also, don’t count on getting the installed equipment. Equipment is almost always removed when you buy the ship.
* If the ship has hull damage it will sell for even less. Take the new price and subtract 30% to get the used price. Now, if the ship has 25% hull damage subtract 25% from the used price to get the resale value of the ship. If the selling price is below that, you can make instant money.
* If you’re not sure about the new price of a ship, check your encyclopedia to see where it’s sold. Then, have your scout jump into that sector so you can check the price while you wait in your mobile base. Don’t leave the sector yourself because that usually resets the available missions.
* Get your hands dirty: Go EVA and use your repair laser to maximize your profits. Most ships can be repaired in just a couple of minutes. Fighters are worth more, and take less time to repair. Freighters can be a chore, and miners seem to take the longest.
* Beware of freighter designations. Some governments have more than one kind of Super Freighter; one that costs millions and another that’s more of a Hauler. If you’re unsure, check the ship’s info for the freight capacity.
* Keep some of them! New Super Freighters cost millions and you might be able to use them later. So, if you’re not strapped for cash and think a ship might be useful, park it at an equipment dock. They don’t depreciate and you can always sell them later.
* Don’t EVER by a used TM. They are always priced at 1-4 million credits used, when they sell for a few hundred thousand new. (This is one of the reasons many people think the price is incorrect at shipyards.)
* Don’t be afraid to buy an over priced ship if it is a rare type. While this has not happened for me yet, I suspect it’s possible. This might be the only other way to get Advanced, Enhanced, or Prototype versions of ships outside of capturing.
I have yet to see a Corvette or larger ship for sale used. I’ll update this guide if I see that, but I suspect that the mission won’t spawn ships you don’t currently have the money to buy.
Covert Ops/Meeting Details: I have only done one of these. Basically, the player is asked to follow a ship and record the goings on and report back to the mission giver. If you get to close, or you lose the ship, you fail. I stayed about 10 km behind the whole time and stopped when he approached a jump gate, then caught up with him on the other side. The mission wasn’t difficult, but was uneventful and very time consuming. If you want to do these, you’ll probably need an M5 and a high tolerance for boredom. Personally, I have better things to do...
Warez Delivery/Courier Needed: Basically you need to pick up some non-commodity freight from one station and deliver it to another within a very short amount of time. The pay being offered is quite lucrative ranging from hundreds of thousands to several million for the shortest timers.
I see a lot of people saying these are “Impossible” on the forums, and I’m here to tell you that they’re not. And, in fact, I have yet to fail one…
How? Well, they are probably the most difficult THINK missions that exist in the sandbox game. But THINKing, is your key to competing them. You must be on the ball to complete these. You have to use every trick that exists in the game to minimize your flight time. There are a lot of these tricks and, if you put your mind to it, you can get places in a very short amount of time with the right plan and the right equipment. Think of these as doing Kessel Run from Star Wars.
That said… I have some tips for doing the seemingly impossible missions with very short timers:
- * You need to pick the right ship based on the cargo. Most of these non-commodity wares are a cargo type (S) and have a volume of 1. The exception to this is Radio Active Waste, which is cargo type (XL) and requires a freighter. I have been declining those until I can find a really fast freighter. If the mission has a small number of wares (1-20), you need an M5. If the number is around 100, you’ll need an M4. These should be the fastest available ships in their class, but will need to fit medium (M) sized cargo.
* You need to plan your route. The mission briefing will show both of the involved stations, make sure you can see both of them on your maps. If you cannot get from a station to the jump gate leading to the other station, or from one station to the other should the stations be in the same sector, in less than ten seconds; you will need to use your jump drive. You should always jump to the gate closest to the station you’re trying to reach.
* You need the right equipment. You should have maxed your engine tunings, cargo extension and rudder optimizations on the ship you’re using. (Remember me asking you to do that in the beginning?) You will also need a docking computer, boost extension and jump drive. The jump drive is a medium size cargo, which is why you needed a ship that can carry (M) cargo. You will need to have enough jump energy for 2.5 jumps on board. The energy to jump to the destination, the energy to jump back to the source station, and enough for an in-sector jump should you have picked the wrong gate during one of them.
* Save your game before accepting the mission and don’t use SETA during these missions. Sometimes your ship just won’t be fast enough, and SETA can really mess you up when you’ve only got 5 minutes on the clock.
* You must be 100% ready before accepting the mission. You should already have everything you need on board and know exactly where you’re going. Your mission tracker should also be set to track this mission if you have more than one active.
* I’ll tell you how I do them… I start a jump drive sequence towards the gate that is closest to my destination. Then I comm the station and accept the mission. As soon as I am out of the gate I fire my boost extension and head towards the first station. When I am 4 km away I begin repeatedly issuing the dock command to that the docking computer will fire and instant dock when I get in range. As soon as I see the “wares loaded” message I undock, thrust in a random direction and start a jump sequence back to the source station. I come out of the gate, boost towards the station and start issuing the dock command again. It really is amazing how fast you can get from A to B this way.
My recommended ships are in the spoiler below…
Making Credits Part II – Build
So you’ve done lots of missions and have a small fleet at your disposal. You’ve got the hammer and the wedge and you’re ready to start your empire… Well, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait just a bit longer for me to finish this. I just got my TL myself and need time to try the various ideas I have come up with to see how they pan out.
So, check back soon…