Addressing Issues: Alright, I'll address the negative income issue first. The chief cause of this, I have found, is when you own planets - particularly when you first take them over. Remember, pirates do not have a private sector nor a private sector budget. Everything comes off your main credit pool. When you first take over a planet they are probably going to be out of (or at least short on) nearly every material in the game. They will try to rectify this by placing orders for all of those materials, and this includes luxury items - which are something pirates are usually low/out of. Plus, with a state financed freighter service, you won't have as many freighters operating as a normal Empire would. The result of this is that your planets end up sending most of those requests to NPC independents, whom all charge you money for the materials. Thus a sudden spike of spending in your "mining" row of expenses, as they try to buy everything that your regular infrastructure could not provide quickly enough. This is why you probably don't want to conquer several planets in quick succession unless you've got money to burn. Generally, though, larger & more established colonies are more likely to have their basic needs in stock and won't be as expensive to stock as smaller, easier targets.
The second big killer of funds is upgrades. Again, with no private sector every upgrade for every freighter, mining & passenger ship comes off your main wallet - along with every mining station. Unless you've got enough savings to bulwark against this then you need to turn off the "auto update" option in all of your civilian designs. While we're here I should also mention that in your Policies screen it is also a good idea to set your Capture/Upgrade rules to reflect a Pirate lifestyle. This is to say you want it set so that your ships never attempt auto-capture (the leading cause of the boarding pod bug, see above). You also want it set so that any ships that are captured are immediately scrapped unless they contain a new technology that you can potentially steal through disassembly. One thing you definitely do not want to leave is upgrading of captured ships, as this can cause a massive credit dump when you wipe out an Empire and all of their leftover ships decide to upgrade themselves at once.
Now as for opening moves: As I mentioned previously, how you set up your game is the most important factor when playing a pirate. Generally the larger the map the better, and place yourself in the Center area when starting. AI pirates almost always start out in the fringes, so this will keep you from having to deal with rival pirates at all for a good while. Also, a central location is essential to avoiding excess corruption, because it is always based on distance to your capitol (or, later, you nearest Regional Capitol). You will want to make sure to manually assign AI Empires as well to make sure that none of them start off at high tech levels or already expanded. You want everyone to be at Pre-Warp with one planet (note: this is perfectly lore friendly, by the way, and the default setting unless you screw it up somehow). Most of all, you want the one race that is the same as your Pirate faction to be listed as "Same System" at the start of the game. So if you're Human, you want the Human Empire to be listed as "Same System" as you. They probably won't end up in the same system, but will be close enough to be on the map from game start and you can attack them immediately.
That is exactly what you are going to do. Now for my Pirate Strategy: Opening move is to PAUSE the game while I think & plot. First, pick five or six techs to research. You don't have much RP but that's no reason to let them go to waste. Next I load my "Pirate Starting Kit" and delete/obsolete all the original designs. Then I manually right-click order my two Explorer ships to "Explore this Sector" whatever sectors that occupied planets happen to be in - usually one Empire world and a few independents in another nearby sector. Then I set them to "automatic" so that they'll go back to their regular routine once done. Then I send in my Construction Ship to retrofit and set build orders for 2 ore mining ships and 1 gas mining ship. That will occupy my 4 build slots for a while.
Next I send my Resupply ship to attack that nearby Empire world, destroying their Starbase before it even gets half built and opening with raids. Though difficult to build control against, that Empire would will pay a lot more to control than it would just trying to extort them under Protection. If there is more than one Empire in opening range I may extort the other Empires, but that opening target planet never even gets the offer. I just move straight in and start raiding. This will also solve a lot of early supply issues, as stealing from them gets a lot of materials. My 2 frigates I will send to hover around & raid any Independent worlds that are nearby and build influence on them, as well.
Once this gets going I make my next batch of ships all Harpoon class, so as to get more and more boarding pods into play - which is important because the two pods on the Resupply ship won't be enough to make much headway against that Empire world. So I move the Harpoon in and lay down the hurt on them. If I discover any more Independent worlds I'll build and send out a lone, non-fleet Harpoon to hover each of them as well. I do NOT sign any protection agreements with rival pirates, by the way. That only gives them permission to raid the worlds that you're trying to claim. The ships in the Starting Kit can easily pulverize twice their number of NPC pirate at this point, so I've nothing to fear from them.
I continue this pattern and build pirate bases as needed to boost my income. This is a bit of juggling act, as pirate bases are expensive and take a while to pay for themselves. What I'm mainly looking to do is raise the 250,000cr I will need to put a Criminal Network down on that Empire world as quickly as possible. Note that you may get a lucky break and find an abandoned colony ship while this is going on, in which case you can skip all this and go straight to making your own dang home planet instead of stealing one.
As for my builder, I will make one size 900 research base at a good spot if income allows it. But the first thing I am going to build is a gas mining station in that Empire world's system (and there will be a fuel producing gas giant in every Empire's home system - it's hard coded in). This provides easy fuel for my garrison ships, and will also pay off later as when that plant becomes my homeworld I'll have a fuel source in sublight range for rapid delivery.
The main thing here is that all efforts are going into getting a proper homeworld of your own. Once that hurdle is cleared things get much easier. I generally set all my taxes manually (heck, I do everything manually). 10% for newly acquired world won't upset them too much and help offset their expense, while 20% on an established world with real income is more than enough to pay for their Spaceport and keep everyone happy. Now you can set the taxes higher without causing revolt but here is the catch: Taxes effect immigration/emigration. Meaning that populations look for two things - high world quality and low taxes. By keeping your taxes low and building a few anonymous "neutral" Passenger Ships you can (and will) routinely steal the populations from rivals without firing a shot. By endgame it is possible to make such Passenger ships that can carry 150 million plus passengers per trip. That adds up fast, kids.
Next I build my main research base at my homeworld, or upgrade the Starport to a class that has research labs (your pick) and up the pace of my research. If I build pirate bases on other Independent worlds I will make sure to build a Defense Platform (a cheap one, never more than 1000cr upkeep) to keep rival pirates and, more importantly, Empire colony ships away from it. Independent worlds are you primary source of Pirate Contract income, by the way. First, smuggling to them never hurts your own position of power in any way. It's not like they'll use those goods to build ships to attack you with, after all. Second, they constantly spawn Defense Contracts. Well, if you've already got a Pirate Fortress planetside and a Defense Platform in orbit, of course you're going to take the contract. It is literally free money at that point, no further effort required. Just click accept and cash your check in two years. When you're taking 8+ contracts per year that adds up fast.
Of course eventually the population on those Independents will get high enough to make a proper takeover worthwhile, to build a Starport if no other reason. Ah yes, I forgot to mention this. I do not build Starports over planets that I don't own if I can help it. Why? Because Starports, while useful, have space limits. They can only hold so much stuff and that is based of how many Cargo Bays they have. Cargo Bays cost money, both to build and in upkeep. Planets, on the other hand, are nearly limitless and a Starport over a planet can instantly transfer cargo as needed. This means that if you own a planet (not just pirate bases but ownership) then your Starport will never need more Cargo Bays than your largest freighter (so they can unload it). If my largest freighter is 50 cargo bays then that's all my Spaceport needs, too... so long as it's over a planet that I own.
This is the problem with the starting Spaceport - it runs out of room, and quickly. All those materials you steal during raids gets teleported to the nearest Spaceport, but if there's no room, it gets tossed. Being greedy, I want to keep all of it (even if I don't need it) so I want to make sure it ends up going to my planet, not my Spaceport. Only one way to do that.
Also, go easy on the freighters. You should never need more than two per mining base. Also, don't overbuild mining bases. As always, their upkeep comes off your main wallet, and you can easily throw yourself into debt by over building. Build only what you need, and try to maximize your intake. What do I mean by that? On every map there is always a few planets that have all four of Steel, Gold, Irridium and Lead - all on one planet. This is where you build a mining base. Do not bother building on the planets that do not have all four of these elements. Likewise, there will be gas giants that offer four elements as well - look for the one that has Krypton, Argon, Helium and Tyderios. That's the planet you want. Eventually you'll stop needing Caslon and switch over to Hydrogen, and when you do scrap those Caslon bases or, better yet, when looking for fuel sources look to the planets that have Caslon and Hydrogen together so that you needn't change base locations at all. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a single volcanic world that has Aculon, Nekros Stone, Osalia and Emeros Crystal all on one world - though personally I'll settle for 3 out 4, as these can be rare. Finally, Dilithium should always be accompanied by Polymer when looking for planets to set up a mining base on. Silicon, sadly, is a pain because it's rarely accompanied by anything you can't get elsewhere.
Still, if you do this just right you can get at least one source of every strategic element in the game with only six mining bases total. Likewise, I have never needed more than three fleets, composed of no more than 24 combat ships total, and 8 basic infantry units to dominate even the largest maps. To a Pirate you have to constantly trim the fat off everything you can to keep your income in the black. That means no auto-anything if you can help it. Like I said, the only thing I ever leave on autopilot is my Exploration ships, and even then I'll manually take over from time to time to sniff out abandoned ships to recycle for tech points.
That should be everything you need to get established. I hope this helps.
Tech Theft and Power Economics: There are two alien technologies in the game that are easily overlooked as being pointless, as both are easily outclassed by other items in the general tech tree available to everyone. These techs are the Quameno Fusion Reactor and the Ackarian Efficient Engines. At first glance you can see that the basic HyperFusion reactor can outperform the Quameno version: 260 output, 560 storage and a 2.52 fuel efficiency at top level, while the Quameno only has 192 output, 375 storage and a 2.00 fuel efficiency at max. Likewise, the standard VortexEngine can put out 2340/1370 thrust @ 8/4 energy while the Ackarian only puts out 2150/1325 thrust at 5/2 energy.
But here is the thing: Power output at that level really matters for military ships that need it to power their weapons and charge shields quickly. For civilian ships, however, that's not a concern at all. You only need enough power to keep your engines working, nothing more. I've tested this and found that when you pair the Quameno fusion power plant (which gets fuel economy) along with the Ackarian engines (which get better energy economy) the end result is a massive increase in the gas mileage off any ships that use this combo. So for freighters, passenger ships, mining ships, Construction Ships and, most importantly, Explorers, having these two techs make a heck of a difference. Explorers, in fact, can effectively double their operational flight time over their higher-power but less economic variants. That means more time exploring and less time spent limping along on an empty gas tank to refuel. Same goes for any other non-combat ship that uses them.
You can technically do the same for bases, but since any sensible base design is static powered entirely by Solar Panels, it's kind of a moot point and you may want that extra power for weapons should you get attacked. But it's your call on whether you want more firepower or more credit savings.
Of course for combat ships this all goes out the window. You combat ships need to be V8 war machines all the way, so steal the Sluken Starburners while you're at it just for them. Yes, they will suck fuel, but hey, it's the military. Performance is your main priority here.
< Message edited by NephilimNexus -- 11/25/2015 1:18:03 AM >