There seems to be a continued trickle of calls for the directional scanner to be made to update automatically, at a set period, so that it doesn't need to be done manually. I can understand that, as it can get a little tedious to keep checking d-scan every five-to-ten seconds to make sure you're not being hunted. But I feel there is some confusion as to what is actually being requested. And as the proposition keeps appearing, I have no qualms updating and re-voicing my opinion about the subject.
I'm not actually against an automatically updating d-scan. I just think there should be limits. If d-scan can be set to ping regularly, then it will only do so when d-scan has focus. Are you interacting with your overview? Fiddling with settings? Checking the market? Looking at fittings? Changing ship velocity? Activating modules? Swapping skills? Seeing how much sec-status you've gained? Checking your wallet? Poking a newbie in chat? Spinning your view in space? If you're doing any of these, then d-scan is not updating.
The reasoning behind this suggested behaviour should be clear. If you are interacting with any other part of the interface, then you are not interacting with d-scan and cannot feasibly be in a position to update it manually. And if you cannot update manually, it won't update automatically.
But, you may ask, what's the point of having d-scan update automatically if you cannot then do something else at the same time? Because, I will answer, then you are not asking for improved functionality, but different functionality. You are not really asking for d-scan to update automatically instead of having to do it yourself, you are asking for an active version of d-scan.
Having an active d-scan would be like having an overview for the whole of the system. It sounds pretty cool, and very useful. It is also far too powerful under certain circumstances. Sure, in high- or low-sec, it may mean little to see a whole bunch of ships at indeterminate ranges coming and going. But in w-space, seeing any ships at all is generally an immediate panic button-hitting alarm that sets off red-alert klaxons. Sometimes you want pilots to forget what may be around whilst they focus on the bait right in front of them.
But you think there is too much clicking? Use hot-keys. Need a hot-key for d-scan? There is one: select the distance box so that the cursor is active there and hit enter. D-scan updates. Can't do anything else when the cursor is active in d-scan? Yeah, that's the point. If you want to use d-scan, you've got to use d-scan. If you get bored of watching it and want to interact with a different part of the interface, well, that's what hunters are relying on.
Like I say, I am not actually opposed to d-scan updating automatically. It can be a pain in its current implementation. But an active version of d-scan is too powerful when compared with the current balance of being covert and being vigilant. If an active d-scan were deployed, vigilance would be significantly increased with no equivalent gain in stealth. Sure, you would still need to be monitoring the results, and a blink-and-you-miss-it scan could still be missed if you blink, but such a change would raise the bar too high for successful ambushes.
Go ahead, make d-scan update automatically. Every ten seconds will be fine. I'd appreciate that change. But it had better be implemented so that d-scan only udpates when the scanner window has focus. Even moving away from the window to recommence firing at a rat after a reload cycle, whether by using the mouse or keyboard, should pause d-scan for the time the window isn't active. Making d-scan automatic purely to reduce the amount of clicking required to keep it updated could be a positive change. Anything else is asking for too much, and altogether different functionality.
Additional: A couple of comments over at the thread of this post at reddit have raised a similar issue, which I would like to also address here.
The fact that D-scan isn't better than a 1944 circling radar station in its current state I find offensive. Pressing the D-scan button to activate something just for the sake of pressing a button is just dumb.
I understand that d-scan in its current implementation is far from sci-fi spaceship functionality. It's really quite poor. But it needs to be this way.
D-scan was used long before w-space was known, but I doubt it was ever updated continuously on its maximum settings, or that anyone ever asked for it to be always on. It wasn't until wormholes opened that d-scan started being used for constant updates, because it became necessary to do so. But still it was necessary only in w-space. Everywhere else, pilots continued to have the local channel to alert them to changes in the system population, and only after a new pilot was seen did d-scan get used.
This is still the way it is done in k-space. Use local first, use d-scan second. This is not the way it is done in w-space, hopefully for the obvious reason that the local channel isn't populated. So the removal of the local channel from w-space created a new use for d-scan in its old-tech, arguably broken form. But it needs to stay in that old-tech, arguably broken form to maintain the emergent gameplay that has resulted.
I fully expect my argument to polarise players in to two camps: those who hunt in w-space, and those who don't. What other people are asking for, and which I argue is significantly different functionality, would pretty much kill non-consensual w-space PvP, where w-space already sees the lowest levels of PvP activity.
Yes, d-scan is clunky for spaceship technology, and if it were designed from scratch now it would be much different. But the current d-scan implementation, unlike the popular suggested changes to its functionality, allows for hunting and makes w-space dangerous. Let's keep it that way.