A smugglers life for me: Thoughts on improvements to smuggling

My first introduction to smuggling in Elite Dangerous was the Robigo Mines slave runs. At the time I was using my cobra mkiii to ship 24T of slaves back to the bubble as fast as possible while avoiding NPCs at almost every star and speeding away as fast as an unmodified cobra mkiii could when I would get interdicted. I felt I was living the life of Han Solo or Mal Reynolds, on the run from authority figures, criminals, and reavers and double crossing my contacts when a juicy deal from another NPC party would come up. Silent running was widely debated on whether it made a difference to scans or not, but it still roleplayed well with the idea of a smuggler “sneaking on to a station”.

The instant failure on scan condition of the missions was so nerve wracking right at the end of the mission too, lining up your ship while in supercruise so you would be facing the mailslot once you dropped and then just going as fast as possible into the mailslot and hearing “scan detected” was thrilling. Even more fun was when these missions would send you to an outpost and knowing there would be no cover that a mailslot would normally offer as you try to land would get the hands all sweaty!

I would love to see a return of these types of missions. The current fine for getting scanned while doing a smuggling mission is not enjoyable or thrilling, just a bit of money to pay off. Now with the introduction of Crime and punishment I suppose this may offer some challenge so you don’t get a wanted ship; however, the mission givers should not be so lenient on this. Why would they want you to deliver the illegal goods if the authorities already know you are dropping it off, would the authorities not try to stop you or try to find the recipients of the illegal goods? The mission givers should be angry with you and cancel the contract, why should they pay you for a failed job that also might cost them valuable assets.

Below I will identify some changes I think could benefit smuggling as a profession and would cater to hardcore smugglers and those just wanting to test the waters:

Missions
  • Add failure condition to missions based on being scanned (a must in my opinion).
  • Add timed bonus for missions that decreases as the time reaches the max time for completing the mission.
    • ex. 2mil bonus if mission is completed in absolute minimum time (assuming average jump loading screen time, no scooping, no interdictions, no mess ups) this amount would drop by the percentage associated with the maximum mission complete time. If you complete the mission in minimum time you get the full amount, take an extra 15 mins maybe it is only 1.5mil, take an extra half hour it is 1mil, take an extra 1.5hrs and it is 500k. Complete it at the last moment before the timer expires and there is no bonus awarded.
    • This would encourage prioritizing your destinations when taking multiple missions, also reduce the amount of board flipping to fill up missions or cargo hold by encouraging bonus credits (why waste time filling up the mission tabs when you could get a lucrative bonus?). This also allows for different ship configurations and playing around with adding fuel tanks or fuel scoop.
  • Payouts shouldn’t be astronomically high, but they should be paying better than standard trade/hauling missions, you are taking a greater risk after all.
  • NPCs who are spawned to chase you down to your destination should be fast and agile ships (maybe lightly engineered?) that can chase after you if they interdict you, make us need to try to use the new equipment detailed below and craft our ships for speed and low thermal signatures.
  • Allow us to choose which cargo racks will contain what items from the mission. Similar to how we choose what cabins passengers will occupy. Being able to choose which cargo racks will contain which items would be useful with the proposed cargo rack engineering mods detailed below.

New Utility Slots
Scan indicator
  • Adds a passive ability to show how an incoming scan is going (a requested feature by many)
    • I envision some kind of pulsing over your ship model on the right HUD, with the pulse increasing in frequency as the scan nears completion, this way we are not just given some timer. Or even a pulsing inwards scan on the radar circle that once again as it increases in frequency would indicate the scan is nearing completion
Scan jammer
  • Works similar to the kill warrant or manifest scanners where you would need to charge it first (approx. 3sec) and it would have a cooldown time after (approx. 10sec). There should be a fairly high power draw to such an item.
    • When you hear scan detected you could fire this off to jam the scanning signal, the ship performing the scan will get an indication you have jammed their scan and will have to begin the scan over again, buying you some time to get out of their range or highwake out of the interdiction.
New engineering upgrades for smuggling:

Cargo Racks

  • Shielded cargo racks (grade 1 to 3)
    • Additional time for scan to be completed
    • Each grade adds additional 2 seconds to complete scan on top of original 10sec scan from manifest scanner (grade 1 +2sec=12sec total, grade 2 +4sec=14sec total, grade 3 +6sec=16sec total)
    • Each grade adds additional mass (multiply the cargo weight by a small factor for each grade) and a new and increasing power draw requirement
    • This would give you a bit more time to get out of range once a scan begins


  • False Cargo racks (grade 1 to 3)
    • Gives a false report of what cargo is stored in the ship (or even saying no cargo aboard), after first manifest scan the true cargo will be displayed on the next scan by any party.
    • Each grade adds additional times the cargo slot can be scanned before revealing the true contents (grade 1 – one false scan –> second scan reveals correct cargo, grade 2 – two false scans –> third scan reveals correct cargo, grade 3 – three false scans –> fourth scan reveals correct cargo)
    • Each grade adds additional mass (multiply the cargo weight by a small factor for each grade) and a new and increasing power draw requirement (would be in greater amounts than shielded mod)
    • This mod allows you to go through a couple unlucky scans before you would fail a mission


  • Encased Cargo racks (grade 1 only) [not really sold on this one personally]
    • Mod to remove any ability to scan cargo rack
    • Mass of cargo bays are tripled (assume mass of full cargo bay to be tripled at all times, even when empty) to account for additional lead lined exteriors to cargo racks, ex. 2E cargo rack which can carry 4T of cargo would now weighs 12T empty and 16T with cargo
    • This allows people who still want to smuggle without the worry of failing due to a scan (essentially keeps things as is), but requires you to forfeit jump range and maneuverability due to increased mass

Manifest Scanner

  • Deep Scan
    • Experimental effect to cut down the number of scans required to see through the false cargo racks mod by 1
    • Mainly for pirate players
    • Comes at the cost of power draw and mass

Thrusters

  • Heat dispersal pattern
    • Experimental effect to keep heat build up low during silent running
    • Decrease thermal load (could be stacked on clean drives)
    • Increase to power draw on plant and distributor
Bulkheads
  • Reflective coating
    • Experimental effect to distort the ship visual signature on sensors
    • Increases odds of not being visually selectable by the sensor systems
    • Would help with masking your presence when silent running, your ship would only be targetable when say within 1500m or 1000m
    • Comes at the high cost of integrity to the ship bulkheads (paper hulls!)

Some balancing issue would need to be looked at in greater detail, but these are some ideas I had and would like to see others feedback on them.

Thanks for reading and any responses!
 
I did only a few smuggling missions yet so, maybe my ideas could not be that good. In the past 2 days I had a similar idea like one of yours. It is about a special cargo rack: you can equip only one on each ship and it has much less cargo hold capacity than normal racks, 30% or less. It gives you 90% chance that scans will not find illegal cargo, BUT silent running will have no effect on wheter you are going to be scanned or not (or if it is not possible to program into the game, than this special cargo rack would increase your signature with 1000% so, silent running would be pointless).

Also, what if we would have some kind of corruption element in the game: when you are scanned and found something illegal at you, there would be a possibilty to bribe the sec forces. This could be based on a chance system as well. You can have 50%-90% chance to bribe. Of course this could be extremely high amount of money, I am thinking about not getting paid for your succesful mission at all, so you transported the illegal stuff for "free".
 
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I miss smuggling, so felt all Mal Reynalds when I did it.

I like it, I really like it, but here are my suggestions to your suggestions

New Utility Slots
Scan indicator
  • Adds a passive ability to show how an incoming scan is going (a requested feature by many)
    • I envision some kind of pulsing over your ship model on the right HUD, with the pulse increasing in frequency as the scan nears completion, this way we are not just given some timer. Or even a pulsing inwards scan on the radar circle that once again as it increases in frequency would indicate the scan is nearing completion
    Interesting idea, might be good for their to be a pulsing tone as it does it, like a beep that beeps with pulse.
Scan jammer
  • Works similar to the kill warrant or manifest scanners where you would need to charge it first (approx. 3sec) and it would have a cooldown time after (approx. 10sec). There should be a fairly high power draw to such an item.
    • When you hear scan detected you could fire this off to jam the scanning signal, the ship performing the scan will get an indication you have jammed their scan and will have to begin the scan over again, buying you some time to get out of their range or high wake out of the interdiction.
    Might be better to have this like a Shield Boost and actions like an EMP. You fire it, and it sends out a pulse that resets all active scans in a 5km radius around your ship, draining your system and weapons power distribution columns (so if you screw up, you have nothing to keep replenish your shields when the pew pew starts... that's the trade off). Affective against general scans, kill warrant scans, manifest scans, honking, wake scans, basically any and all scans. It then has to recharge (full system and weapons distributor making it a one time use as it's to slow to recharge) before you can use it again. This way you would have to time it right to get the most out of it. The recharge rate must be slower than a general scan.
New engineering upgrades for smuggling:

Cargo Racks

  • Shielded cargo racks (grade 1 to 3)
    • Additional time for scan to be completed
    • Each grade adds additional 2 seconds to complete scan on top of original 10sec scan from manifest scanner (grade 1 +2sec=12sec total, grade 2 +4sec=14sec total, grade 3 +6sec=16sec total)
    • Each grade adds additional mass (multiply the cargo weight by a small factor for each grade) and a new and increasing power draw requirement
    • This would give you a bit more time to get out of range once a scan begins


  • False Cargo racks (grade 1 to 3)
    • Gives a false report of what cargo is stored in the ship (or even saying no cargo aboard), after first manifest scan the true cargo will be displayed on the next scan by any party.
    • Each grade adds additional times the cargo slot can be scanned before revealing the true contents (grade 1 – one false scan –> second scan reveals correct cargo, grade 2 – two false scans –> third scan reveals correct cargo, grade 3 – three false scans –> fourth scan reveals correct cargo)
    • Each grade adds additional mass (multiply the cargo weight by a small factor for each grade) and a new and increasing power draw requirement (would be in greater amounts than shielded mod)
    • This mod allows you to go through a couple unlucky scans before you would fail a mission
when you say false, do you mean cargo rack that takes a slot to provide false readings? think given the potential loss in cargo space this might be a choice of the crap smuggler, or the decadent player.


  • Encased Cargo racks (grade 1 only) [not really sold on this one personally]
    • Mod to remove any ability to scan cargo rack
    • Mass of cargo bays are tripled (assume mass of full cargo bay to be tripled at all times, even when empty) to account for additional lead lined exteriors to cargo racks, ex. 2E cargo rack which can carry 4T of cargo would now weighs 12T empty and 16T with cargo
    • This allows people who still want to smuggle without the worry of failing due to a scan (essentially keeps things as is), but requires you to forfeit jump range and maneuverability due to increased mass
    Yeah I think this will be a hard sell to the Devs. It's basically easy street for smugglers.. and to my mind, the fun in smuggling is the 'squeaky bum time' of getting into the letterbox.
!
 
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