LIFE ON TITAN
Piracy is the key to quick riches in Misplaced Optimism. I use it right from the start of the game.
Rule #1 -- Know what's around you. Use "Radar Range" and the "Next Target" function constantly. Do this all the time unless you're enganged in a dogfight. I've come across some good booty while flying some other booty to a buyer. Always check around you when you're hovering in a Light Well or hanging around waiting to get in a hangar.
Rule #2 -- Never turn your back on money. You may need to get a hangar, upgrade, etc., but don't do these things while there's booty to be had. There will be a lull in your piracy soon enough. Then get amnesty and go about other business. As long as you're targeting valuable cargo, keep pirating! Don't stop! I've even successfully pirated pilots when I only had 50% hull and was on "Emergency Thrust".
The whole point of being a pirate is to kill other pilots carrying valuable cargo and absconding with the cargo. As a pirate you are free to target whoever is carrying what you want. You are not afraid of offending anyone because you know when you need to get amnesty and how to get it.
To find good victims make liberal use of the 'Next Target' function ("Y" key) and the Radar Range button in your Nav Menu. Check to see who's around you when you are in a Light Well. Learn to think like a Trader. Hang around contraband suppliers and bars and shoot the traders carrying Alcohol, Huskar Cigars, and Narcotics. Hang around Trading Posts and check the pickings with Next Target. Weapons shops provide a lot of good victims, too. I've often gotten a free Laser Turret by pirating ships leaving Psycho Bob's 1 and 2.
Some regularly used trade routes include Narcotics runs from General Industrial, Riverside, to either Jupiter 4 or Flyer's Retreat. Psycho Bob's 2 often sends out a call for weapons that come from Psycho Bob's 1, Downtown Munititons, and Dr. Jobe's. Get used to these and other routes and patrol them for prey.
Anytime you find a really good cargo, try to figure out the route. Where did the cargo come from and where was it going? You've probably stumbled upon an active trade route. Stay with that route until you dry it up. Get everything you can.
Keep an ear open for dogfights. The sound of cannon fire is sweet to the pirate's ear. There's always an opportunity for cash somewhere, either bounty or booty, around a dogfight. Find the fight and cycle through the participants until you've got things figured out. Then attack for maximum profit. Make amnesty a second priority. Joining a dogfight has huge booty and amnesty potential.
You'll be using Next Target so much you may want to consider adding it to your joystick. To rearrange your buttons and keys see the Flight Controls section of my Game Setup Manual.
THE GOLDEN CRESCENT
Some areas are more profitable to pirate than others. The most fertile trade routes to pirate can be found in an arc that starts at Riverside and passes through Gamma to Downtown. I call this area the "Golden Crescent".
This area is rife with Alcohol and Narcotics. Downtown is where you'll generally find traders hauling weapons. And, of course, there's the gang transports leaving the Port tunnel. Notice that the Golden Crescent goes primarily through Klamp territory, so it pays to stay on their good side.
I only occassionally go through the Mines and only hit Midway and Haven when I'm needing to kill a pirate for quick Police amnesty. Highrise doesn't seem to offer any real action at all. Neither does Resevoir except for some traders running contraband from Riverside to Jupiter 4.
GETTING YOUR BOOTY
Once you've found a pilot carrying some goods, you need to know what's around you before you go in for the kill. Keep an eye out for any threats like other pirates or Enforcers. You might even find someone carrying even more valuable cargo.
Kill your prey quickly. Once you enter the dogfight, quit targeting everything. Concentrate only on the kill. When the target's Moth explodes, immediately target the booty.
Now spiral down full-throttle and release your drone ala paul. While you're drone's out, bide your time looking for any secondary booty and threats. I generally cycle through everything in the area with my "next target" function. If a pirate targets me, I fly toward my drone and then pivot toward the pirate and open fire. I can hold my own while my drone docks. Don't wait for a pirate to attack you first unless you're really low on power.
Don't forget to check yourself. How are you shields and power? These are the critical items determining if you can hold up through another dogfight (more booty). How are you going to defend yourself given your condition -- run, fight, pre-emptive strike? Make these decisions right after you've scanned the salvage area.
The last question you must answer is where are you going to sell your cargo. Know your geography and bussiness to determine the best place to sell. Don't carry cargo around for too long, but don't be running to sell when there's more prey right in your immediate vicinity. Unlike many other pilots, I suggest going for that second victim and second booty. Don't forget to keep targeting everything on the way to a buyer. You might just find another trader with good cargo right outside the buyer's door.
Rule #2 above is important. You should put off plot missions, upgrades, etc until there's a lull in your piracy. When you're not finding anything in the Golden Crescent, get amnesty and then go about other business. There are a couple of things you need to keep an eye on to be constantly ready to pirate a good target: power and amnesty.
As a rule, don't get into a dogfight unless you've got the power to finish it. If some good booty flies by and you're near emergency thrust, check out Captain Zedo's Dirty Pirate Tricks for advanced advice on how to get it. Your best bet is to just go to the nearest Light Well when your charge drops below 25% (33% in a Silver-Y).
It's generally best to clear up your Police record and avoid their Enforcers. I don't press this too much. I kill a pirate to get Police amnesty for every four or five traders I've pirated. I make sure to clear my Police record at least once each day. Don't sweat faction amnesty. You can get that whenever you need it by killing a memeber of the opposite faction or using advice from the Amnesty Page.
Attacking faction ships will put you on their Enemies List immediately. It does not put you on the Police Wanted List. Pick these fights wisely, but don't be afraid of them. A lot of money can be made in rewards and booty by attacking Laz and Klamp Transports. On the other hand, your piracy will be limited in their craters by their Patrols. If you're good enough, kill the initial patrols and the crater will be yours (for a few minutes anyway). I don't really recommend this route for new pilots.
You don't want to kill your bounty or have him jettison his cargo over water. You won't be apt to salvage it. The whole attack will have been for nothing.
If your prey is over water, follow him awhile to see if he's heading toward land. If not, strip his shields and give him a little damage. Now break off the attack and run over land yourself. Your victim will come gunning for you out of revenge or will try to sell his cargo, repair his Moth, or charge at a Light Well. Either way he will be over land and you can finish him off.
Your target may die or jettison cargo in a tunnel. This is okay because other pirates and scavengers won't pick it up unless it's right at an end of the tunnel. You've got plenty of time to pick it up, so don't sweat it. Just try not to bump yourself to death.
There's a glitch in the game where your target may not die no matter how long you blast him in a tunnel. If your target seems a little "tougher" than he ought to be, use radar range and see if his cargo shows up. If the cargo is detected by Radar Range, target it and launch your drone. He'll probably explode as soon as the drone lifts the cargo.
Just like any other Scavenger, you may have to fight a crowd to get to your booty. My advice is to target the booty and release your drone as quickly as possible. Don't get mixed in with the crowd. Keep some distance. Once your drone is out, others cannot capture your booty with their drones. Be quick about everything: the kill, booty targeting, and releasing your drone.
Using The "H" Key
Use the "H" key to see what cargo you're carrying. This key changes what's displayed in the right center of your HUD. Your weapons array is displayed here by default.
You should be familiar enough with your weapons array that you don't need to keep it displayed. It's a much better idea to keep tabs on your current cargo so you don't go after something you can't hold or forget what you're carrying (and where to sell it).
1) Constantly use your "Next Target" function ("y" key by defaut) to see what's going on around you. Check for cargo in your target view (bottom left of your HUD). Put the Next Target function in a very convenient place on your joystick or gamepad. You should be using this as much as your trigger.
2) When you get busy flying, like in fleeing or running expensive goods, use the Nav Menu's "Radar Range" function to see what's around you. Pay special attention to known traders and pirates. Use Radar Range when approaching a crowd of Moths to separate the potential victims from others. Target traders and innocents first, then other pirates.
3) Keep your pilot menu clear and organized. Keep a few known traders, like Sister Magpie, locked in. It won't be long before they are carrying valuable cargo. Also, keep a couple of pirates locked in for quick Police amnesty.
4) Use trading messages from HardWarp FM to find new trade routes. Work these routes quickly. They don't last long. It's better to wait around the business buying the goods. This way you don't have to fly so far with your ill-gotten gains.
5) Kill a pirate every 24 'HardWar' hours to gain Police amnesty. This prevents them from sending out Police Enforcers. They will send out an Enforcer 24 hours after your fisrt attack on an innocent. Keep the first message they send you to keep up with the time you've got left before they release an Enforcer after you.
6) Kill your victims. If you let them live, they'll come back after you. Kill 'em while you got 'em.
OTHER PAGES FOR
I don't know if you've thought of this:
Use the F5 key on someone to see if they have a laser turret, if they do they're a pirate. You can use this to find pirates who stole some goods and target them without having to worry about amnesty. This can also be used to find targets that will get you amnesty.