For a very long time it has been vexing, earning materials and just throwing them away, but as you guessed the 3.0 patch changed this. Earning mats has changed very slightly but how you use them has changed…
I have touched on materials in my post about the engineers but this is focusing more on the mats themselves. There are a lot of different elements, data and manufactured goods out there most can be earned from multiple sources. For example Iron, Sulphur and Carbon can be acquired from Mining in your SRV on a planet or by mining in an asteroid belt. Nearly every activity rewards some materials even within a certain type of activity you can earn different rewards, the loot tables are different between types of ships for example Cargo carriers vs combat ships. Another way to earn materials is farming signal sources and depending on the system special materials can be earned. So what ever your playstyle you can earn materials and this will be done almost passively as you play the game. If you actually do different playstyles depending on your mood you can acquire a good mix of mats. Simple things like scanning ships as you travel in system, keeping an eye on signal sources as they appear and always dropping into High Grade Signal source(HGS) to pick up those rare materials, keeping an eye on the state of local systems check for the holly grail of a high population system in outbreak then scour the system for HGS to get pharmaceutical isolaters for those grade 5 Dirty Drives from Prof Palin. It is also useful to change your base of operations for a while to collect faction drops, in Empire space you can collect Imperial Shielding for shield boosters and in federation you collect mats for amour upgrades. As you start maxing out your storage you can head to material traders to upgrade/transfer you materials. When driving my SRV I fill up my carbon, iron and chromium very fast so I trade up to the rare commodities. This also happens with ship scans and manufactured materials, the whole system is designed to acquire materials over time building up reserves as you progress up through different ships.
There have been complaints both on the forums and in Youtube videos about the system. These complaints have come from established players with a selection of ships that they wish to upgrade to the new engineer system. They where complaining about the system while in a transitional state, Going from an extremely low storage amount (500 in the old system for everything to the new where a single grade one material allows you to store 300) to the where the ability to store items has increased a hundredfold. The YouTuber Yamiks has complained about the exchange rate for trading common items up to grade 5 and the raw numbers do look rather steep. But before this system was available what did you do with all those grade 1 materials (Inventory>materials>jettison?) But now those materials can be moved up the line adding to rarer materials which you will also earn while you play. The present system gives value to picking up low-grade materials, manufactured goods and data. With this system within a month of play you are likely to be swimming in all the mats you need. I can see that within a few months people will complain that there is not enough storage and they need to be able to do more with materials.
This game system gives value to all items, similar in nature to such Loot ’em-ups as the Diablo, Borderlands, Elder Scrolls/Fallout or Dungeon Siege franchises. You pick up everything so every kill has value as XP but also loot, you fill up your inventory when its full you might return to town to sell it or you might start comparing value of items and dropping common loot and just keeping low weight high value items. This coin could be used to buy a unique item only available from a vendor like in Fallout with the named guns, or in Dungeon Siege buying a magical Tome for your mage that RNG has not graced you with a suitable drop for many levels. With Dungeon Siege it was balanced that you where not just waiting for loot drops from enemies for a suitable upgrade but that you would be required to have the coin to buy items that where an upgrade ready for the next dungeon. The thing about these franchises I have talked about each individual release has not changed much, look at the number of releases of Skyrim, even the latest Switch version still has bugs/features from the original release on the PC, mobs falling from the sky?! Elite has evolved more like a classical MMO where balancing new players vs older the balance is generally in the long run best to be based on a new player experience. Long term players will have the resources/ability/knowledge to absorb any bumps in the road where as new players/characters its better to have a smooth transition as you progress through the game. obviously everybody wants to slam a grade 5 upgrade onto the ship to get the best speed, the furthest jump range the most Dakka but as a new player with you first engineer unlock do you need a grade 5 upgrade on your Cobra Mk III, If you’re new getting a few levels of upgrade on a FSD or any upgrade on your ship will feel good.
End game almost starts when you have at least 3 ships, an explorer (AspX or DBX), Multi-role (Python) and a combat ship of your choice. With this selection of ships all the possibilities are open to you. AspX with an SRV for long-range jumping and earning materials on a planet, exploring ruins etc. A Python or above for running Missions, mining, low intensity combat, unlocking engineers. A combat ship for combat (durr!) You might decide to have a more specialised ship for example a T9 for trading, a passenger liner. But once you have a few ships at your disposal acquiring materials becomes a breeze though sometimes RNG does seem to stifle you. Saturday night spent 2 hrs looking for isolaters got nothing, within 30 mins on Sunday I got lucky and ended up with over 50.
RNGesus can be bountiful.
The mechanics may seem to be odd to veteran players and seem to have stifled the ability to upgrade your ship, but the 3.0 patch has been a slight reset to engineers. But in the long run should make engineering more available without the need to particularly grind for every material because you where throwing them away because of limited storage. Now when your storage is full you can trade up, down or across to fill up any gaps in your inventory.
So this post is about my opinion about the game mechanic of materials, interaction with material traders and eventually earning upgrades at engineers. I know that people’s mileage will vary but I see my play-style as a generalist. I know some people don’t like driving around on planets so will see acquiring elements as a chore, or maybe hunting signal sources for high-grade emissions is a chore but what ever your dislike with a game there will be other people who enjoy it. You might hate exploration and see no point in it and just want to pew pew other spaceships, where as some people might see shooting ships in an asteroid belt repetitive and boring. But Frontier have given most materials a few way’s of acquiring materials and if you do want to fill up your coffers there is always Dav’s Hope!
See you on the other side…