The difference between a crappy weapon and a top-quality weapon can be the difference between life and death in Neocron. For the same level of combat skill, a top-quality weapon might well have double the range, double the accuracy, double the rate of fire, and double or even triple the damage of a poor-quality version of the same weapon.
But buying a high-quality weapon in Neocron isn't supposed to be as easy as just bopping on down to the local megamart, plunking down your 10,000 credits, and walking away whistling a happy tune. Getting a really good quality weapon is almost a quest, a deliberately challenging part of the game. That way, frankly, if you accidentally break the weapon through mistreatment, or worse lose it in Player versus Player (PvP) combat, you're supposed to feel real loss, the loss of the time it took you to obtain that weapon.
UNDERSTANDING THE STATS ON A WEAPON
Consider the following four partial screenshots. All of these are the same model of gun, the Neocron equivalent of a cruddy Saturday-Night Special, the Lazar Gun, a cheap 9mm pistol that requires only 2 points of Dexterity and 5 points of Pistol Combat to use. They differ only in where they came from, and therefore quality.
This gun was bought from one of the pawnshops in Outzone sector 1. Note that the first word in the name is "shabby." This is what we refer to as a shabby quality gun. Now look at the Damage, Frequency, Handling, and Range numbers under Object Stats, and see that they're all around 21%. That's what makes this a shabby quality gun.
21% of what? It's not quite that simple. The short answer is that there's a formula used for each of those four factors every time you fire the gun. It factors in, among other things, your combat skills and the quality of the weapon. So when it comes to the weapon quality variable in those formulae, it uses the value 0.21. Now compare that to the same weapon, as made using a Recycling Tool, by anyone with 2 or more levels of Recycling skill from 3 wood, 1 metal pipes, and 2 metal plates fished out of various trashcans:
This time the quality numbers are around 64%. In other words, for the same amount of skill this gun does three times the damage of the shabby gun from the pawnshop. Now consider a copy of the same weapon made by an Engineer with a Construction skill of 160:
This time the stats are all at 94% quality. For unmodified standard weapons, this is the absolute highest number possible, and this number slowly drops to about 89% as the tech level of the weapon rises. (Don't ask me why, I think it's a stupid rule.) Up to a cap of around 120 to 150 levels (less for lower tech level weapons like this), the higher the skill of your constructor, the closer they can get to the quality cap.
Notice that the name of this weapon includes the phrase, "Free Slots: 1." This is what we call a slotted weapon. The ammunition dealers sell add-on parts called weapon mods. You can only use one of each mod on any weapon, you can't double up. Weapon mods fit into three categories. Upgrade mods change the weapon's stats. For standard low-tech melee weapons, there are only the two sharpening chemicals. For spells, there's a wide variety of mods. For guns, there are basically three: barrels increase range and damage, bullet chambers increase frequency (which affects rate of fire), and gyro stabilizers increase handling (which affects accuracy and recoil). However, if you have high enough skill to reach the "caps," or upper limits of the weapon's ability, adding these mods will not further increase your range, damage, accuracy, or rate of fire, or further decrease the recoil.
Ammo mods enable the use of alternate ammunition. (Always get an ammo mod if you can. If you use the right ammo for the person or creature you're shooting at, the alternate ammo always does about another 40% to 60% damage per shot.) Utility mods add special tricks to the gun. A flashlight mod adds a weak flashlight to the weapon, and is therefore almost always useless. A laserpointer increases the gun's aiming speed when it's turned on. A scope lets you turn on or off 2x magnification. A silencer changes the sound the weapon makes when being fired to a much quieter sound.
All of these mods can only be added to a weapon that has free slots, and each one takes up a slot. Slots are random. I can not stress that enough. If your constructor has enough skill to reach the quality limit on the gun, then roughly one out of three weapons will have at least one slot, roughly one out of 20 will have 2 or more slots, and only very rare guns will have from 3 to 5 slots. There is an extremely rare and expensive optional component that can be added during construction called a slot-enhancer that increases the minimum number of slots on the weapon by 1, 2, or 3; they are only found as loot on some of the most dangerous robots in the game. The same robots also occasionally have loot called "ultima" mods, which add to all four stats across the board.
So, here is the exact same weapon, with a pistol barrel extension added to it.
OBTAINING STANDARD WEAPONS
Getting a top-quality copy of almost every weapon up through level 80ish is a four-step process:
1) Buy a cheap copy of the weapon from a non-player-character vendor.
2) Take the weapon, a blank datacube, and some research substance to a Scientist to get a blueprint made.
3) Buy the parts on the blueprint's parts list, and take those, the blueprint, and some constructor grease to an Engineer.
4) If the weapon has slots, go to an ammo vendor, buy the mods you want, and take the weapon and the mods back to the Engineer to get it upgraded.
Buying the Weapon: You can get a more-or-less complete list of weapons from one of the fan websites, the Neocron Resource site. That tells you what weapons are available. Unfortunately, that doesn't tell you where to buy them, and some of them are an absolute pain to find. Here's a partial list.
If the weapon you want isn't at those vendors, then you have to find the appropriate smuggler. There is are low tech pistol smugglers in Plaza 4 and the Military Base, a high tech pistol smuggler in the Old Canyon (God help you), and low tech rifle smugglers in Pepper Park 3 and the military base, a low tech heavy weapon smuggler in the Military Base (who also has a few rifles), and high tech heavy weapon smugglers scattered across Via Rosso 3, Industrial Area 1, and Tsunami Sector in the Dome of York. Tech Haven has the high tech melee weapon smuggler and the high tech rifle smuggler. There are low-level psi weapon smugglers in Pepper Park 3 and the CityMercs HQ in the Military Base. There is a HackNet software smuggler in Fallen Angels Sector in the Dome of York.
- Archer & Wesson, in the Plaza in Neocron City and the Main Retail Area of the Military Base, sells most melee weapons, low tech pistols, low tech rifles, and low tech heavy weapons.
- HEW, in Via Rosso in Neocron City and in the Main Retail Area of the Military Base, sells most high tech pistols, high tech rifles, high tech heavy weapons, drones, and HackNet software.
- Boobs & Guns in the Dome of York sells pistols, rifles, and drones.
- Fist Weapons in the Dome of York sells melee weapons and heavy weapons.
- Brothers in Arms in the Dome of York sells low-level psi weapons.
Getting the Blueprint Made: If you're very lucky, you don't have to go through all of that. You may be able to find a Scientist (researcher) who has a blueprint of the weapon you want already made, and is willing to run you off a copy. If not, then go to Crytons Tech Tools or Tech Angels Equipment (or your faction HQ) and buy at least one blank datacube, and a small tube of research substance. Now, find a player who is a Scientist. You might find one in your faction HQ. There may be one hanging out in Tech Haven sector 2. You may know one personally.
Otherwise, you'll have to advertise for one. Hit F1 to change chat channels, and click Custom. Make sure that the channel you want is checked, and select it. The game is designed so that you can ask for, or here advertisements for, services like this in the SERVICE channel for your side in the conflict. In practice, the better channels to use are ALLIANCE, FACTION, and (especially on Terra server) the TRADE-NC channel, which on that server has always been the generic tradeskiller chat channel (unfortunately). Here's what to say: "Does anybody have a blueprint of (name of weapon) they would sell me?" Wait at least two minutes before repeating yourself, somebody may be in combat. If you don't get any offers, buy the weapon, then advertise, "I need a researcher, TL (whatever the tech level of the weapon is)." Use chat to set up a meeting with the researcher.
If you're going to be using this weapon for a while and you can afford the parts, you may want to get 3 to 5 copies of the blueprint made. That way you can have multiple copies made, which improves your odds of getting at least one free slot.
Trade the blueprint cube(s), the weapon, and the research substance to the Scientist. Wait. He'll trade you back the weapon and the blueprints. You are not technically required to tip. On the other hand, he's not technically required to give you back the weapon and the blueprints, either. The expected minimum tip is around 1000 credits per blueprint. Tip more if the researcher went way out of their way to come to you, or if you want to be remembered as a good customer. If you can't afford the tip, you can't afford the weapon -- but if you're a very low level character, and seem new to the game, many top Scientists (who really don't need your money that badly) may give you back the tip or waive it. To specify the tip, click in the Amount field of the trade window, backspace, and type out the number.
Getting the Weapon Made: Right click on the blueprint (or stack of blueprints) and select Show Info. There will be a list of parts. Weapon Parts 1 through 7 are sold by Crytons, Tech Angels, and your faction HQ. Weapon Parts 8 and 9, unfortunately, are not. They drop as loot from very high level robots (Warbots and above), or are made from lower level parts kits by high level Recyclers, or manufactured by Scientists and Engineers, so you'll have to find a player with some and buy them.
Take the parts, the blueprints, and a small tube of constructor grease to an Engineer, who you find the same way you found a Scientist. Don't bother getting a weapon made by anybody with a Construction skill below about 80, or below about 120 to 150 for the highest level weapons. Trade them the parts, the blueprints, and the tube of grease. Wait. They'll trade you back the weapon(s), in exchange for the same customary tip.
Getting the Weapon Modified: If you got a slotted weapon, run to the ammo vendor and buy the mod(s) you need. Make sure that they match the weapon! Take the mod(s) back to the same Engineer. It's customary to mod weapons that you made yourself for free; if you wait and can't find them, a small 1000 credit tip to any even mid-level constructor will get you the weapon modded.