Proposal: Directional Scanner Changes

Apocrypha 1.0 and the updates that followed overhauled the probing system, simplifying it and making it more accessible to probers. But the improvements neglected the directional scanner, only one tab to the right from probing system. Here are some definitions to help distinguish the directional scanner and the probing system.

Definitions

The directional scanner is a tool that allows you to perform an instantaneous scan of all nearby objects in space. It allows you to manually adjust the scan range from 0 to 2,147,483,647 km (14.413 AU) and scan angle from 5 to 360 degrees.

The probing system is an interface that enables you to control up to 8 scan probes that can be manually moved anywhere within a system. There are various types of probes, but they generally can have their scan range adjusted from 0.25 AU to 64 AU (1024 AU for Deep Space Scanner Probes). Each probe is essentially a 360 degree directional scanner with a self-adjusting scan range within the max scan range you set. Thus they return the distance but not direction from certain space objects (ships, drones, cosmic anomalies, sites, etc.) within that scan range. The accuracy of the distance estimate varies depending on how many probes returned the result, what scan range they are at, and their position relative to the object (Eve does the trigonometry for you).

Of these two systems, the directional scanner has remained nearly the same as before Apocrypha, the only significant change being a nerf limiting scans to every 2 seconds. The current directional scanner today suffers from several significant problems.

Flaws in the Directional Scanner

1. Nonexistent Integration. This is the largest flaw of the status quo’s directional system – it completely lacks unity with the HUD and overview. Unlike with probes, where results are shown on the system map (essentially a very zoomed out HUD – the tactical overlay still shows up), the directional exists only in its little window.

A. Scan Range. Scan range is measured in kilometers while nearly everything else in Eve is measured in astronomical units (AU). It is true that the overview shows range in kilometers for close range objects, but no one uses the directional to see objects that are visible on the grid. Additionally, the overview itself switches to displaying AU for faraway objects.

B. Scan Angle. There is no visible indication of how large of an area the scan angle covers.

C. Identification. There are no scan IDs distinguishing objects. The only identification on objects are their names.

2. Overcomplicated Operation. It only takes a few minutes to understand the directional’s use, for the concept is fairly simple. But actually using all of its features is quite difficult, especially with the new 2-second scan time.

A. Scan Range. Even those who are quite accomplished with the directional rarely ever use the scan range feature; it is simply set to the maximum.

B. Scan Angle. Lining up a belt or planet in the center of the screen while scanning at 5 or 15 degrees is very painful and requires you to reposition and zoom your HUD.

3. Unrealistic Functionality. It is true that the Eve universe conflicts in some ways with the physical universe as we know it. For example, ships in Eve rapidly decelerate despite the absurdly large number of forward thrusters and complete absence of rearward thrusters. But unlike those (largely) aesthetic concerns, the directional scanner is purely illogical.

A. Ship Type. Reading the exact ship types (Impairor) from 2,147,483,647 km is implausible, particularly when not even probes can give this information until you have near-100% signal strength.

B. Ship Names. Viewing ship names (HowCanYouReadMyNameFrom14AU’s Impairor) from impossibly large distances is even more ridiculous. It has no equivalent in Eve – not even the probing system can determine this. This incredible knowledge cannot be attributed to databases in a system’s stargazes – if that were the case, we should also be able to see who the pilot is.

Clearly, the status quo’s directional system is broken and needs amending. There is no valid reason why the directional should be as separated, confusing, and senseless as it presently is. Here are some proposed changes.

Proposals

The current directional system should be fused with the probing system and HUD via the following methods:

1. Probing Integration. The old directional scanner’s tab should be completely removed, its results instead appearing in the same window as the probe system. This is because the directional’s operation currently is identical to that of probing: both involve pressing a ‘Scan’ button and returning results in a list. The new scanner interface would function in the following manner:

A. No Scan Button. The usual ‘Scan’ button for probing would be unchanged, but the directional scanner would be automatically activated every few seconds, thus requiring no scan button. This would eliminate the need to spam the scan button. The time taken for every scan of directional would be affected by the scan angle. For example, full 360 degree scans would take 30 seconds, while 5 degree scans would take half a second.

B. Object Type. In the results list, a ‘Type’ column would indicate whether the result is a site, cosmic anomaly, ship, drone, etc., just as it does in the current probe window. However, unlike the current probe window, objects without 100% signal strength would not be filtered (so a ‘Ship’ result with 9.32% signal strength would still be shown in the Ships filter). The filter would use saved overview settings, eliminating the need to create filters separately and allowing more freedom in choosing what results are shown. All current probe and directional result types (cosmic anomalies, scan probes, etc.) would be added to the overview’s filter settings to facilitate this change.

C. Distance. Appearing together with probe results, the distance to scanned objects would be measured in AU. As with the current probing system, the accuracy of this range estimate would depend on both the object’s signature radius and your scan angle (see 1D). As range is automatically calculated, the current mechanic of allowing the user to choose maximum scan range would be removed. Maximum scanner range would still be 14 AU (but not 2,147,483,647 km).

D. Scan Angle. The scan angle would be set via a drop down list on the scanner interface (not the current slider, which is difficult to control at small angles), and would directly affect scan speed (see 1A) and the accuracy of range estimates (see 1C).

E. Signal Strength. This would be unchanged from the current probe system.

F. Identification. Objects found through directional would display scan IDs, just like probed objects.

G. System Map. To complete the integration with the probing system, directional scan results would appear on the system map just like probe results – large red spheres indicating estimated location. The results would be marked similarly because probes are essentially directional scanners that change scan range instead of scan angle. Not only is this change imperative for a full splicing of the directional and probe systems to occur, but it would also make the directional useful in probing, as you could thereby gain a general estimate of the location of nearby objects.

Here’s what the proposed scanning system would look like (apologies for my poor photoshop skills):

2. HUD Integration. The system map is fundamentally a HUD that is zoomed out enough to view distances in AUs instead of kilometers. For this reason, the improvements to the system map would also carry over to the HUD.

A. Scan Angle. When the angle is set to below 360 degrees, a light blue cone (identical in color and texture to the current probes’ scan spheres) would be displayed on both the system map and HUD indicating the angle and direction of the scanner. The direction of the scan angle cone would be set by alt+clicking in space (custom shortcuts allowed) or right-clicking in space and selecting “Set Scanner Direction”.

B. Scan Results. When a scan result is clicked or highlighted in the scanning interface, the appropriate bracket for it would temporarily appear in the HUD. For example, if you were at a planet and clicked on a scan result at the planet’s asteroid belt, a red bubble would momentarily appear on the belt. This HUD feature would work with any result in the scanning window, with the appropriate marker (green dot, yellow dot, red dot, or red bubble) appearing in space.

Conclusion

As explained earlier, the current directional scanner has severe defects. This should not be the case. It is hard to imagine that, in an age where warping, jumping, and interstellar spaceships are possible, capsuleers do not even have an automatic scanner. Even in the twenty-first century, submarines’ sonar and aircrafts’ radar systems automatically give objects’ range and direction. With the proposed scanner interface and HUD changes, the directional system would simultaneously become easier to use, more realistic, and more robust.

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  1. Interesting article! I’m not sure whether I completely agree on you…being able to tell object type is a crucial part of living below highsec, as well as getting into the habit of spamming directional scanner. It’s not the greatest mechanic ever, but seriously intensive testing would need to be done to check what kind of response this would have.

    • What do you mean by “being able to tell object type”? With the changes I’ve proposed, you can still see hull type, just not ship name and exact ship type. It’d make warping to a belt or planet a bit more exciting because you no longer know exactly what you’re fighting.

    • jamenta
    • September 26th, 2009

    Excellent analysis and good suggestions based on analysis.

    I really like your idea of simplifying via merging directional scanner into 1 tab with probe panel ui. Just makes better sense, and would make it easier for players as well. Makes sense to also make the directional scan with similar mechanics to probe scanning.

    Also doing away with scan button spamming is likely a win both programmatically and for players.

    • Jason
    • September 26th, 2009

    I don’t know if it would make finding ships that much easier, these care bears in golems are hard enough to nab before the warp to a pos as is.

    Also “B. Scan Angle. Lining up a belt or planet in the center of the screen while scanning at 5 or 15 degrees is very painful and requires you to reposition and zoom your HUD.”

    The trick is to use your ship as point one, the celestial bracket your looking at as point two, line them up, any 2 points make a straight line, then your good to go.

    • Aye, I know to line up my ship. It’s just that the lining up is hard. My mouse isn’t overly sensitive or anything either; Eve just moves the screen too quickly. And being able to set the center via alt+clicking in space is far easier. E.g. You can alt+click on a belt and have instant alignment on it.

    • Vaslav
    • September 28th, 2009

    One small point: I actually quite like the slider, it’s fast for changing radii as you move through a system. Faster than a dropdown would be, I think. However the points along the slider should be equally distant apart, it’s the way the narrow-range points get close together that’s a just a bit too clever and makes it hard to use.

  2. So agree that the directional scanner is the suckiest of the suck right now. Like your ideas.

    • Tnelson
    • September 30th, 2009

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. There are some good points here.

  3. Great ideas! This would make using the directional much more useful. Slowing down the directional would need to be carefully balanced. Directional awareness saves me from wormhole pirates fairly often. I don’t want to lose the ability to cut and run when the pirates scan us down!

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