Astro Galaxy - a realistic space exploration game
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Author Topic: Odlids Guide to SOS Distress Missions  (Read 146 times)
Odlid
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« on: May 07, 2018, 11:10:38 PM »

I learned all of the following by trial and error and a lot of good advice from people who took pity on my struggles.  I'm now making fairly good coin doing SOS Distress missions so I thought I'd share my strategy and what I've learned with the community. 

There are 4 types of SOS Distress missions:
  • deliver fuel - you transfer fuel from your hold.  They pay a premium - about $45/m^3 but this varies widely.  The most I recorded was a sale of 1371 m^3 of fuel
  • deliver medicine - you transfer medicine from your cargo, they pay a premium price
  • rescue transport - these are the golden tickets.  ALWAYS accept these!  This is why you do SOS Distress missions!
  • mining/prospecting/PT - see below

The profit from the sale of fuel and medicines pays for about 50% of the resupply cost for the fuel and medicine.  The 'payday' is when you transport the rescue missions back to Earth. 

I do not accept mining/prospecting/PT missions at the present time.  YOU have to pay $$ to accept a mining/prospecting/PT mission.  If you don't mine then accepting these missions just costs money.  Also, I was reminded that once you accept a mining/prospecting/PT mission unless you abandon the PT mission at Earth you will be charged a fee (on top of the cost to 'buy' the mission). Abandoning the PT mission at Earth is free, however, you DO NOT get your initial cost of 'buying' the PT mission back - that is sunk cost.  Now that there is the GCA to allow cross-player trading I think there might be a market for high profit SOS mining/PT missions.  I know there are several 'miners' who pay a premium for high-dollar SOS mining/PT missions so you could possibly get a return on your 'buy the PT mission cost' investment. 

In order to do SOS Distress missions you need a ship(s) capable of doing interstellar jumps and holding enough fuel to make searching for SOS Distress missions profitable.  You can start SOS Distress missions with WHG-1 and ACB-10's, however, your goal is to make more money/hour of playtime than doing the intrastellar transport missions you have been doing to this point.  I'm quite happy with following configuration on my fleet of 16 SOS ships:
  • Frigate (8 slot) optimized Scout X
  • 1xFaster Than Light (FTL) mark 1
  • 1xWorm Hole Generator (WHG) mark 50
  • 6xAdvanced Cargo Bay (ACB) mark 200

You can start doing SOS Distress missions profitably when you can configure a ship with:
  • Frigate (8 slot) not optimized
  • 1xFTL mark 1
  • 1xWHG mark 1
  • 6xACB mark 10

You don't need to optimize Scout X to start SOS Distress missions.  This is a costly but very worthwhile upgrade.  Start doing SOS, make some money, and do the upgrade when you can because the reduction in fuel cost and the speed up in jump time calculation is way worth the investment - it doubles your $/hour profit.  However, please note this is one place where you get penalized for stair-step optimization - only optimize to level X and do not optimize to any level between.

The higher the WHG the faster the jump calculation countdown is - and therefore the more $$/playtime hour.  The bigger the cargo the longer you can stay out SOS Distress mission hunting - and therefore the more $$/playtime hour.  I think getting to at least WHG mark 10 is your first goal then ACB mark 20 then WHG mark 35 then ACB upgrade to mark 50, then buy another ship.

WHG 50 is as a bit too high for a 16 ship SOS fleet - by the time I cycle through my list of SOS ships, jump them, do the SOS Distress mission, and select the next mission or jump 16LY in the appropriate direction then more than one ship is already ready to jump again.  To be honest, at 16 SOS ships WHG 50 is now probably overkill but I've been too lazy to 'downgrade' to mark 35.  The cost of doing that vs the fuel savings is not a high enough ROI compared to other uses of my money.  However, if I knew then what I knew now I would have stopped at WHG 35 which is a good balance between speed and cost and would be a perfect 'end state' for SOS Distress missions imho.

I didn't start SOS Distress missions until I could outfit with ACB 10's - before outfitting 6xACB 10 you just can't store enough fuel to make SOS Distress mission hunting more profitable per playtime hour than intrastellar transport.  I just kept pouring RP into ACB and kept a rolling mark upgrade going as follows:  As a new or upgraded ACB was delivered the next time a ship came back in to Sol to refuel I'd swap out that ships ACB module(s) for an upgraded ACB of a higher mark level.  I would then do a manufacturing mark upgrade for the lower level swapped-out ACB to whatever ACB level I had researched at that time.  After a while I'd have all my manufacturing bays active with building ACB's or SLB's and still have cash left over - then I'd buy a license and a new frigate and as cash and modules became available I'd outfit my next ship in the SOS fleet.

How do you get these WHG and ACB modules?  One of two ways:
  • Manufacture Your Own Modules
    You'll need at least one Titan (100 slot) parked at Earth full of Science Lab (SLB) modules and enough ACB's to act as your manufacturing and science ship(s).  Note: SLB's give you Research Points (RP) which are needed to research the ability to build higher and higher module mark levels.  While I was learning I spent RP foolishly on this, that, and the other thing.  What I should have done is:

    1. research ACB to 10
    2. research WHG to 35
    3. research SLB to 100 and ACB to 200 alternating 1:2 - and then do a rolling upgrade for both ACB's and SLB's
    4. not spend ONE RP on anything else until that was accomplished

  • Buy Modules from Another Player
    There is now an alternative to building any modules.  Go to the Astro Galaxy forum here and put in a build request.  Soon someone will offer to build the modules you need - or Publius has a standing offer to build modules at a 15%-over-cost premium. Buying from the GCA will always be at a premium over 'build your own', however, doing so saves you money you'd spend building up your RP=Research Point capability.  Had this been available I now see I would have been better off from a cash flow perspective buying modules and earning SOS-level $$ instead of building SLB's to research my own build capabilities.  Either way is good - buying modules would be faster cash flow at a premium vs build your own at a slower cash flow but less total $$ outlay.  A good balance would be to do intrastellar transport missions until you get about $5 million saved up, buy 1xWHG35 and 6xACB 50, outfitting your first SOS Distress mission capable frigate ship, start doing SOS Distress missions and pull in SOS Distress mission level $$, and then build your own modules after that.

While certainly not mandatory, for SOS Distress missions you really want VIP (16LY/jump instead of 12LY/jump, -33% on jump calculation time, convert diamonds to fuel at 100% efficiency vs 60% efficiency).  It is also really useful to get the Navigation Officer (-35% on jump calculation time) and the Engine Specialist officer (-40% fuel use).  It only cost a few $USD to buy enough QP for 15 days of each - if your reading this you like the game enough to pop a few bucks.  Alternately you can convert AP to QP and buy VIP/Nav Officer/Engine Specialist for QP.  Buy VIP before Nav Officer.  Engine Specialist is more of a 'nice to have' where VIP and Nav Officer really juice up the $$/playtime hour.

Whenever a SOS ship goes back to Earth for resupply I do the following:
  • ACB upgrade if applicable
  • resupply 200 diamonds as 'emergency fuel' if necessary (read that I goofed up and converted some diamonds to fuel and want to get back to the 200 diamond emergency fuel level)
  • leave 200 m^3 free space - useful if the first SOS Distress mission is a transport mission
  • Of the remaining cargo space I resupply back to 85% fuel and 15% medicine.  When it is time to resupply the ship I always have maybe 1000 m^3 medicine and a little fuel left - I take that into account and so after refueling I maintain the 85% fuel and 15% medicine ratio.  I always have medicine left - you may choose to do 90% fuel, 10% medicine - but I hate getting to a medicine SOS and not being able to sell to them so I over-stock medicine a bit.

Once I've dropped off the passengers, refueled, bought medicine (and diamonds if need be), and installed the ACB upgrade when possible I do a blind jump from Earth.  If I land within 2 sectors of another one of my ships I head 'away' from the direction that ship(s) is heading.  After that initial go I don't really pay too much attention to where my other ships are - I should, and to maximize profit if you are waiting for all your ships to finish jump calculations then it is a good time to do fleet position management.  Or if you're like me that is when you make a chess move on www.chess.com which for me is a way to keep the 'waiting for jump' boredom down. 

When your ship has a jump ready and the SOS Distress mission you have routed to is gone it can be for 3 reasons:
  • another player got to the SOS Distress mission before you did - maybe me!
  • SOS Distress missions 'time out' after a while, however, they also respawn someplace in the sector
  • it was actually you who accepted the SOS Distress mission
You can't stop the first 2 reasons from happening but you can control for the third by keeping your ships far apart.

If I see my jump is ready but to 'nowhere' then I do a quick starmap view to see if it was me who I'm competing against!  If so I route away from my other ship.  If I'm not competing against myself then I route to the closest SOS Distress mission, or if none are available I route a 16LY jump in a direction away from my other ships - but I'm usually lazy and just go in the same direction I was traveling. 

If all your ships are on jump time calculation countdown you can use that time to make sure you are not sending two ships to the same SOS Distress mission.  Sometimes I'll end up jumping two of my ships to the same place (the first one rejected a mining mission, which is still there, and the second ship jumps on top of the first).  When I notice that has happened I just point the second ship in the opposite direction from where the first ship is heading.  However, those ships may 'synch' to the same SOS group again.  I've kicked myself more than once realizing one ship has been burning fuel 'following' another ship for a while.  I'm getting better at looking where the other ships are but...meh...I'm lazy a lot of the time now.  However, your profit per hour will be much higher if you keep your ships well apart from each other.

I keep track of the number of jumps away from Sol a ship is.  I try to keep 1000 m^3 fuel beyond what the 'return to Sol' fuel cost would be - as soon as my fuel level gets to 'return-to-Sol' + 1000 fuel I stop taking SOS Distress missions and head back to Sol for refueling/buying medicine/buying diamonds if needed/upgrading ACB if possible.  I make mistakes and sometimes forget to go back to Sol before I find myself short of fuel.  That is why I carry diamonds - 200 diamonds will convert to enough fuel to bring you back from anywhere within ring 5.  I've needed this <facepalm/> 1

I try to keep a paper 'log' for each ship jotting down the jump time minutes and the 'fuel-to-Sol' estimate - with an WHG-50 I multiply number of jumps to Sol x 300 for a good estimate of how much fuel it will take.  Your 'fuel-per-jump' numbers will vary from mine...but if all your WHG's are the same mod level it is easy to do this quick mental calculation, look at the current fuel, and see if you are in good shape.  I'm not perfect at this, however, when I am I never run out of fuel and always start back to Sol when it is appropriate to do so.  When I don't...well...that's why I have diamonds or that's why I find my ship is near Sol with no SOS Distress mission in sight and about a half of my cargo still full of fuel.  I'm hoping this public admission will goad me into being a bit more diligent on keeping track of fuel - to be honest I don't really log it diligently any more. 

However, I am diligent in logging the 'jump time in minutes' and crossing out the previous entry for that ship immediately after I set the next jump for that ship.  This is important...you'll find by looking at the jump time list and where each ship is on the list you will know which ship(s) is ready to jump and which ships are still in jump calculation countdown.  Also, on the log, if the last jump was a mining/PT mission (which I do not accept) then I put an asterisk next to the time.  That way I don't forget and jump back to the SOS Distress mission I just rejected.

Always remember, keeping each of your ships in jump time calculation countdown is your #1 goal to maximize $$/playtime hour.  When my fleet was small and every $$ mattered soooo much I could spend a lot of time on fleet position management and fuel management and still keep every ship on jump calculation countdown.  As your SOS fleet grows it gets harder to keep them all on countdown - and more of a pain to do fleet position management.  Here are some tips on how to achieve your #1 goal:

  • Big tip: Set the jump to the next SOS Distress mission (or 16LY jump if no SOS Distress missions are available) immediately after pressing the 'JUMP' button.
  • when your fleet is all on jump time calculation make a list of the next few ships with the shortest remaining jump time calculation
  • always set the jump to what you think it should be.  Get the timer ticking.  Only then check if your original hunch was right - it usually is and you saved time by 'optimistically' setting the jump
  • if you can predict you'll have a long cooldown window coming you can wait a bit on unloading passengers (PAYDAY!!) and refueling/medicine/diamond buying. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few
  • after you refuel, set the blind jump and then wait for that countdown - it is only 10 seconds.  Then set see where you are on the starmap relative to other ships in your fleet and set the first jump for that ship

After jumping if there are no SOS Distress missions within reach I just pick a direction 'away' from my last jump - that is if my last jump was from N to S I'll do a 16LY jump due South, if my last jump was SSE to NNW I'll do a 16LY NNW jump, etc. I often forget exactly which direction the ship jumped from but I do go 'generally' the same direction as before.  Doesn't really matter-you could do a random jump in any direction and be fine just as long as you don't go back the way you came - presumably there are no SOS Distress missions there because you've cleaned them out.  If your fleet is small, and you don't have any ship that has a jump ready, then after setting the jump in the same direction check to see if this will put you around another of your ships...and if so adjust the 16LY jump accordingly.  But set the 'same direction' jump first - this will usually be good and getting the jump calculation countdown going is your #1 goal.

While SOS Distress missions make more money in ring 4, there seem to be a LOT less SOS Distress missions out there (probably due to competition from other players).  Conversely, there are a lot more SOS Distress missions in rings 1, 2, and 3 but the payout is a lot less.  I play it both ways...and for me both seem to give me about the same $/hr of playtime.  There are no missions in ring 5 and beyond - no planets, COM missions, or SOS Distress missions.  When I see I'm in a totally 'blank' sector I make sure I'm not in ring 5.  When I find I've accidentally jumped into ring 5 I make a 16LY jump back toward SOL.

Hope this helps!
« Last Edit: May 09, 2018, 06:20:00 AM by Odlid » Report to moderator   Logged
NoBrain
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2018, 12:18:14 AM »

Just one thing Remember to pick up COM's as well, due to there is a max of COM/SOS there can be spawn in a Quadrant, so if you only take SOS the number of SOS will fall..
So give you ship power to pick up COM's as vell..(I think is 50K power)
So if no SOS to pick up, then pick up a COM, in the direction you want to fly..
This way you will help keep a good balance of COM/SOS respawn..

And mastering SOS is a good income.;-)


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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2018, 02:12:27 AM »

Excellent Guide, Odlid.  Thanks!

You can disembark unwanted COMs and SOS Prospectors at Earth for free.  Otherwise there's a penalty for breaking contract.
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Odlid
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2018, 02:23:58 AM »

You have to pay to pick up SOS mining/prospecting missions.  You DO NOT get this initial investment back if you abandon the mining/PT SOS mission at Earth - you just do not pay the penalty.  If you abandon the SOS mining/PT mission outside of Earth - even at the Sol 'safe point' - you not only lose your initial investment but you must pay a hefty penalty as well.
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2018, 02:36:38 AM »

You have to pay to pick up SOS mining/prospecting missions.  You DO NOT get this initial investment back if you abandon the mining/PT SOS mission at Earth - you just do not pay the penalty.  If you abandon the SOS mining/PT mission outside of Earth - even at the Sol 'safe point' - you not only lose your initial investment but you must pay a hefty penalty as well.

Definitely :-)

However, as a major SOS player, you're "polluting your fishing hole" if you don't collect everything.  The stuff you don't want lingers, and gradually skews the distribution so there's more of it vs what you want.  Smaller players shouldn't worry about pollution - they're too cash constrained anyway.
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2018, 04:41:43 AM »

The problem is that clearing the COM mission 'pollution' costs about as much as the profit from a SOS rescue mission.  I admit it me leaving a trail of COM mission and SOS PT mission 'pollution' in my wake 1

Does anyone know how long a COM or SOS mission exists before it winks out of existence? Seems like it is <4hours but that is just a feel rather than knowledge.
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2018, 11:11:18 AM »

Iím earning money from my SoS now, but the fuel cost is pretty high...
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2018, 11:14:52 AM »

The problem is that clearing the COM mission 'pollution' costs about as much as the profit from a SOS rescue mission.  I admit it me leaving a trail of COM mission and SOS PT mission 'pollution' in my wake 1

Does anyone know how long a COM or SOS mission exists before it winks out of existence? Seems like it is <4hours but that is just a feel rather than knowledge.


Fortunately, the Prospectors you leave are our bread & butter  laugh

COMs not so much.  You can only service so many of them, due to the unadvanceable Timer used with AI pirates.  COM pollution's a real issue that's sometimes handled by "good samaritans" who want to see more SOS and fewer COMs when they harvest a quadrant's SOS.

Neither SOS nor COMs "wink out" (though SOS Prospectors can point to dead stars).  It's just that enough folks have discovered wealth through SOS, that the Cluster is getting pretty small ;-)
SOS and COMs are replenished hourly, not sure about the time, but lots of stuff happens around 23 past the hour, so maybe that too.
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2018, 12:10:36 PM »

Canít you go around picking up COMs just to drop them to clean up?
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2018, 12:16:43 PM »

Canít you go around picking up COMs just to drop them to clean up?

Penalty unless you let them go at Earth (Red dialog path).  No issue if you have plenty of storage.
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2018, 06:11:06 AM »

I find that with my SOS frigate ships at 6xACB 200, 1xWHG50, 1xFTL1 I really can't pick up COM missions at all - I don't have enough 'ship power' - I get a "You simply wouldn't be able to handle those pirates in your current ship" dialog instead.  I can build AES 200's now so maybe I'll drop off an ACB 200 and replace it with an AES 200 and see if that makes it possible to pick up COM missions.  I am now seeing areas that are nothing but COM missions - probably because I've been farming the SOS rescue missions too hard.

Cargo space is not the problem - I burn fuel fast enough to keep plenty of cargo space.   
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2018, 07:00:06 AM »

I honestly haven't read your guide coz it's too long but I'm sure it's very helpful. Good job. It must've eaten some of your time.





P.S. just figured out your name.  laugh
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2018, 09:55:07 AM »

At just under 3000 words it did take a while to write.  However, I would have loved to have had this information early on.

I'm starting to mine now - and making mistakes there too.  I'll put together a guide for that after I feel comfortable I wouldn't be BS'ing anyone.  Was thinking of doing a similar (but smaller) treatise called 'A Beginners Guide to Astro Galaxy' which goes over how to make money doing Intrastellar transport. 

I spent probably 3months of the 5+months I've been playing building up RP generation capability by leveling SLB and buying SLB's.  Had I bought modules from the GCA, and a 'guide' for Intrastellar and SOS Distress missions been available (and I followed them laugh ), it would have only taken 2months to get where I am now.
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2018, 03:23:27 PM »

When I do SOS I grab everything COM and SOS (I call myself: vacuum cleaner) to one exception, the prospectors of value 10 millions and more. I leave those for those that need them. I sell at earth and give the POD to our smallest players. The vacuum cleaner way is to prevent myself to go to the same mission a second time and also to regenerate SOS missions. I was generating a profit of about 8 millions an hour if I remember well.
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2018, 12:42:14 AM »

I'm currently running an experiment to see the minimum ship power needed to pick up COM missions.  I am, unfortunately, running on a ship with only WHG 1 so each jump takes 10hrs or so.  (now that I think of it I could have built a WHG 10 in 15 hrs and have the jumps take 30 mins...doh!)  I am not really doing COM missions - each of my SOS ships has exactly 710 power (I get manpower 130 but I don't see how I get weapons 208 and 472 for Combat Speed) so I need to add something - AES?, MAU? - to spike up my power to the minimum needed to pick up COM missions.

While you do not need power at all to do SOS Distress mission - and I certainly do not have any - I do see the advantage of the 'vacuum cleaner' approach.  It will eat up more fuel to do that - probably 2x the fuel consumption - and will at least double the time to clear a sector.  Collectively that will probably drop my $/hr rate in half.  When I am extremely focused and not playing chess or watching pr0n I can make about $10million/hr now.  I am keen to see whether the respawn of SOS missions by elimination of COM missions yields a net $/hr increase.

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