Keep the unknown unknown: disable the discovery scanner in w-space

4th July 2013 – 5.03 pm

Also posted on the EVE Online forums.

I was minding my own business, floating in space, when a new signature pops up in the system. Neat, huh? No, not at all. I'm not in empire space looking to grab some loot from a site, but in w-space where the signature is almost certainly a newly spawned wormhole. Without any input or action on my part, I now know of a new connection in the system, likely to bring at least a scout, maybe a fleet, and can act accordingly. The discovery scanner makes it all possible. And the discovery scanner must die.

I have already argued that an automated directional scanner would change the fundamental nature of w-space for the worse, as it would introduce an asymmetric shift in safety towards those less-inclined to PvP interactions. Now instead of an automated d-scanner, we have been given something more powerful. The discovery scanner may not show when pilots are in the system, and new signatures may not be wormholes, but what it does is give strong evidence of a new wormhole opening before anyone has even jumped in to the system. And this warning doesn't even require a single mouse-click to be effective.

But more clicks don't make the game better, right? So the argument went for the directional scanner, so the argument is made for the discovery scanner. No, more clicks don't make the game better. Yes, not needing to mash the mouse button would be preferable to constant clicking. But that's how the directional scanner works, and that's how it was designed to work. The decision to gain intelligence with every update or to take a rest and trust in general inactivity is the choice every pilot makes, solo or in a fleet, in w-space. The same was true with scouts having to continually update their scanning probes.

The fundamental nature of w-space is the unknown. The space is unknown, the wormholes are unknown, the pilots in the system are unknown. If you wanted to know something about the system you had to uncover it, either through careful monitoring of the directional scanner or through the use of scanning probes. Now the discovery scanner shows you every signature, every site in the system within seconds of entering, and any new signature the moment it spawns. Even with probes launched and inactive, new signatures will be added to the scanning interface. Now there are fewer unknowns.

Fewer unknowns makes for less threat. Fleets engaging Sleepers in a fully scanned and secured system can now take a passive approach to safety. Just watch the scanning interface for new signatures and retreat if any spawn. There's no need to update the directional scanner, and the discovery scanner is already dynamic. You can't sneak up on even mildly experienced pilots through a new wormhole. And if the wormhole is old, well, mildly experienced pilots aren't likely to run sites in an insecure system.

The best a w-space hunter can hope for is activity through a carelessly opened K162, or pilots who aren't paying attention to the most obvious signs of intrusion. That's not only slim pickings, but picking on only the weakest, ill-prepared pilots in space. The level of threat you bring, and the feeling of being in threat, is drastically reduced when the discovery scanner acts as a beacon to any active pilot indicating that someone is coming.

I can see the reasoning behind the introduction of the discovery scanner, even if I don't agree with it. CCP wants scanning and exploration to be an obvious route for new players, but didn't see how capsuleers could stumble in to it. Clearly showing all of the 'hidden' sites in a system is to pique the interest of capsuleers in to finding out how to uncover them properly. But the same information is useless and irritating for pilots who, for example, know about and are uninterested in scanning being presented with useless information on every jump, which for haulers and roamers is frequent.

I don't agree with this approach because the discovery scanner doesn't mesh with the game's usual philosophy. It is a nice idea for brand new capsuleers who don't know about exploration, but after the first couple of weeks, the discovery scanner becomes either too powerful or too annoying. Given that all CCP had to do was create a newbie mission that gave you a scanning frigate, launcher, and probes and got you to resolve a mission signature, much as they do to introduce other avenues of interest in New Eden, the omnipresent discovery scanner is a bizarre choice to go with.

This is not to mention that the discovery scanner is the antithesis to the very idea of exploration. There is never any need to launch probes to see if there are any signatures in the system. New signatures automatically appear in the scanning interface, and on the HUD in space, and around the planet where they are closest to. Perhaps this is of relative unimportance for the site runners in empire space, but the notion of w-space being unexplored and unknown has been completely undermined.

Simply travelling through w-space now shows you what having to launch probes used to. Not only is a wormhole opening immediately obvious to any pilot paying attention, without even needing to update d-scan to check for a cloaked ship entering the system, but merely keeping track of the number of signatures in each connected system lets you check at a glance whether any particular system needs re-scanning for new connections. You don't even need to launch a probe to do so. It is intelligence without input.

If there is ever a feature that needs to be rolled-back, I think this is it. The game is wrongly simplified because of the discovery scanner, and w-space has been neutered, when the intention was to reveal the exploration option to those unaware of it. There are better ways to accomplish this goal. As for a solution: disable the discovery scanner for w-space. Tie it in to empire hardware, if there needs to be a reason. This keeps w-space unknown, more so for those entering from empire space, and further distinguishes w-space from null-sec, all without negating the benefits the discovery scanner has brought for pilots who weren't aware of exploration.

  1. 23 Responses to “Keep the unknown unknown: disable the discovery scanner in w-space”

  2. I would have to say I agree 100% in that the new discovery scanner is much to powerful. As for site running in home system, it's no change to having a scout alt with combat probe out like most semi-paranoid WH dwellers already do, but the scouting part is borderline ridiculous now, and trying to catch Penny in space will become even harder...yes to roll back in some shape or form!

    By Egil Kolsto on Jul 4, 2013

  3. Akely asked nicely, so I'll try to write it down coherently. But please excuse me if I fail at that last part.

    I kinda disagree with the first half of your post. I'll focus on the bit around "You can't sneak up on even mildly experienced pilots through a new wormhole. And if the wormhole is old, well, mildly experienced pilots aren't likely to run sites in an insecure system."

    But I've seen more incoming wormholes since this change. Usually I play for only a few hours on end. That makes it that there can have been many hours since that existing wormhole has opened and plenty of pilots could be waiting for me to make a mistake (like my Itty V).

    Since there's almost always a hole open, following your logic, I would never leave my POS, let alone run a site. And to be honest I haven't run an anom solo since the changes. But that's mostly because of lack of time.

    Before the change I would indeed usually not go run a site when there was a wormhole open either. Until I got an alt that could run a DSP. But you (tried to) always checked your d-scan for probes. And still, there could be a patient hunter in your hole for days on end, waiting for you to make a mistake. I know such players exist, since my corp mate does it quite often.

    There's plenty of hunting you can do in W-space still. But, sure, that one way of hoping someone wouldn't spot your new wormhole in time, that's mostly gone.

    I actually see plenty of people traveling through our system that don't have a (static) high out themselves. Unfortunately I lack the skills to try and catch such by 'myself'. But I'm working on it.

    The DSP kinda got replaced with the scanner. And that certainly makes exploration more accessible. They still need to scan down the signatures to see what they can do there.

    But at the same time I have to agree with you. I'll probably never run an ore site in our hole again. Though that's also because of the massive amount of hauling required for too little gain, versus immense risk.

    By ArmEagle on Jul 4, 2013

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Ashimat has recently written a good description of how pilots get ready to run anomalies in w-space. Make sure the system is clean, kill any open wormholes, and watch your own wormhole for transits.

    Note how her fleet set-up has been changed because of the discovery scanner. A probe launcher is no longer a requirement on the ships, or on the alt, making the entire process far more passive, as well as the fleet composition more focussed and efficient. There is no need to update any scanning process in order to stay safe, as it is now all done dynamically. The threat has been minimised by default.

    I believe I have established that outside of Concord-controlled systems any real threat comes from other players, and not inherently from the more difficult PvE content. With this in mind, having the threat of other players negated by a new game mechanic goes against the core concept of the game. If you want to make the greater profits, you need to face the greater risk.

    Perhaps scanning alts militated against this risk before the introduction of the discovery scanner, but it required scanning alts, fitted with active probes, and constant updating. I understand this can lead to tedious gameplay, but the fix to that is not to remove the risk. If anyone thinks it is too much effort to keep a vigilant watch for new connections with scanning probes, or for scanning probes using the directional scanner, then don't aim for the greater profits available in space that requires such effort.

    And, to be honest, I'm not particularly keen on the discovery scanner showing new connections in k-space either. Before, I could jump in to a null-sec system and any pilots in the system would likely not know where I came from. Now, a new signature will be spotted seconds before my face appears in local. I guess I didn't jump through a stargate, huh? Again, it's intelligence without input.

    By pjharvey on Jul 5, 2013

  5. Cross post that forum link to another part of the Eve-O forums like the feedback or features section. Devs rarely look at the Wormhole section.
    I totally agree with almost everything you've said. If you're paying attention you can actually beat the incoming scout to their WH these days. Makes the whole thing feel a lot less dangerous.

    The only thing I disagree with you about is a rollback. I think positivity will trump negativity on this. Ideas to enhance the Discovery Scanner or tweak it to be unique in W-Space would be the better approach.

    By BayneNothos on Jul 5, 2013

  6. The Discovery Scanner is, essentially, a replacement for DSPs. As such I don't believe that it is what breaks your environment on its own. The damage to the game occurs because DSPs previously required high skills, and at least a probe launcher fitted. In return we could get a complete inventory of the signatures in a system.

    If the discovery scanner only revealed signatures when the ship has a probe launcher fitted, it would be no more powerful than 1 DSP. It trades automation for cataloging capability: no longer do we know exactly what is in system, but neither do we have to keep spamming that button.

    I agree with the opinion that the discovery scanner should only reveal cosmic signatures when a probe launcher is fitted.

    By Mara Rinn on Jul 5, 2013

  7. Because EVE Online is a game there should be incentives that favour player input over automation. A player who makes more of an effort should get more of a reward than those who rely on the game performing the same task. This is a tricky balance where most gaming interfaces end up with repetitive tasks that are actually better suited for computer automation, but such is the nature of algorithmic game design. So the discovery scanner running automatically with a probe launcher fitted should still not be entirely dynamic, showing new signatures immediately, but perhaps run once every thirty seconds to a minute, and that's if the player has the scanning interface open and is looking at the system map. If you're finding signatures it's because you're looking for signatures, and not distracting yourself with other tasks. This is the same argument I make for an automated directional scanner.

    However, having the discovery scanner run only when a probe launcher is fitted goes against what I believe to be CCP's desire for its introduction. New players, and those with no exploration experience, may not be aware of exploration and are not made aware of exploration. If it doesn't occur to these players that there are cosmic signatures to be found that require a probe launcher and probes to find them, they will never think to fit a probe launcher to their ship and so never see what the discovery scanner is specifically designed to reveal in the first place. I agree with their reasoning, even if I don't agree with their method of resolution, so even though it's a fair idea I don't see the discovery scanner being modified to run only when a ship has a probe launcher fitted.

    And, personally, I saw the deep space probe as a broken mechanic. Launching a single probe and being able to catalogue all of the signatures in a system based on their return strengths from a single scan defeated the purpose of exploration. Again, such is the nature of algorithmic game design, where identical sites necessarily gave identical results from identical scans. To fix it, I would have attempted to introduce some fuzziness to the low-level scan results, where any results below 20% would have an associated random error level. You could still get an idea of what the signatures might be, but you would need to actually scan them to determine their type. The discovery scanner actually works well in this regard, as the only number of signatures is shown, not their relative (and precisely matched) strengths.

    As for fixing the discovery scanner by enhancing or augmenting it, I dunno. Its implementation is ugly for w-space. Half-hour bursts? I really don't know, as I consider the scanner running on every transit, let alone dynamic updating, as giving too much information to an otherwise passive player.

    By pjharvey on Jul 5, 2013

  8. After Odyssey dropped I felt something was missing…

    I miss the little things…

    I miss the fear, pressure and risk involved in the possibility of not recalling my probes in time…

    I also miss the immediacy and the need to keep your head in the game that imminent probe loss forced on us… you looked away from your screen on pain of death… now you can watch whole episodes of Mad Men and your probes just take care of themselves…

    I miss the trepidation, pressure and risk inherent in needing to be decloaked long enough to launch all 7 probes…

    I miss working out the best probe configuration on my own… not having one that is just ‘meh’ good enough so that I no longer ‘waste’ time setting up my own patterns… and I fear for our poor noobs, who will believe that the one insta-launch 8 probe configuration is the BESTEST configuration ’cause CCP wouldn’t have put it in there if it wasn’t… right?

    I miss launching just the number of probes “I” want to launch, and no more.

    But most of all, most of all... I miss undocking, logging on or jumping a gate or a hole into a deep black forbidding mysterious sky… and NOT immediately KNOWING EVERYTHING around me without trying...

    I miss exploring...

    Strange to feel this way after an ‘Exploration’ based expansion drops huh?

    By TurAmarth on Jul 5, 2013

  9. And... CCP, you wanted to fix Exploration so it is accessible to new players? Then FIX THE GODS DAMNED TUTORIALS.

    I have a brand new player, friend of mine and a RL fem (gasp!) who I am mentoring IRL in EvE... and she HATES the Discovery Scanner... and she feel WoW has far better tutorials.

    That alone should shame you into fixing this.

    Make the tutorials the pace where noobs 'find' the excitement and fun in Exploration not just follow huge sign, push butan, get bacon.

    CCP without realizing it you have killed exlporing in EvE. Huge Roadside Billboards shouting "Hidden Stuff HERE ->" is not exploration... it's marketing.

    By TurAmarth on Jul 5, 2013

  10. 'Penny' for your thoughts... =]

    By TurAmarth on Jul 5, 2013

  11. Good write-up Penny, and thanks for trying to spearhead this debacle that is the Discovery Scanner.

    I'll start by publishing how you run sites in w-space and be completely safe, unless you really screw it up:

    1, Scan down your hole(s)
    2, Close your static hole(s), alternatively put a cloaky scout on it/them
    3, Have one person keeping check on the probe window. To be sure have the person click show anomalies on and off every 10 seconds.
    4, Run sites/mine/what-ever
    5, If and when a new signature shows in the probe window: retreat to POS
    6, Scan the new sig down
    7, If sig is a wormhole log off or ship up (few seem to do the last)

    Now, like Mara points out you could before Odessey use Deep Space Probes. That is correct. But you actually did have to do something. Fit a ship, launch probe(s), arrange them, hit scan. Few people did and more fights happened. I do think that the skill required for DSP where a huge factor in them seldom being used.

    TurAmarth makes an excellent point that it would have way more in the interest of exploration to make GOOD guides on how to use the scanner. The path CCP seems to have chosen now is making the scanning itself so easy that a guide does not need to be used. And sure, there have been an influx with of random explorers entering holes, but they soon leave as there is nothing for them in w-space.

    As for now, the only real surefire way of jumping people unprepared is to do what ArmEagle describes. Squat in a hole so that the locals do not see a hole open, or have a scanning alt there and open their static chain to get people in.

    Damn I'm bitter, am I not?

    By Akely on Jul 5, 2013

  12. Good points all, Akely and Tur. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

    One change to exploration I agree with is the skill changes. These work with CCP's philosophy of making skills meaningful, and giving new players immediate access to the maximum number of probes and changing the skills to affect scanning directly is a good, positive change. Add an improved in-game scanning tutorial to that, plus the new data and relic sites, and you have an exploration expansion.

    And, Akely, you're not the only one who suddenly feels like a bitter vet!

    By pjharvey on Jul 5, 2013

  13. Hear, hear. I agree Penny. It is too easy when a new sig just appears without you having to do anything. This is not just the case in wspace; it is in null, too, and perhaps even in low sometime. There should be no special casing there. Of course, in null or low the existence of local means there is little extra info gained via the discovery scanner.

    I think there are some fairly simply changes that would help.

    First is the suggestion that Mara makes, to restrict the discovery scanner's ability to detect sigs to ships with a probe launcher. This does not solve anything fundamental, but it means that at least one person in a fleet needs to use a high for a probe launcher, and that that person needs to pay attention to the discovery scanner. The average grunt in a warship should not get all that free information.

    It would still be too hard to sneak up on anyone, but at least in this case a small fleet would not have N potential eyes to see, just 1 or maybe 2.

    To serve the end of alerting newbies to the unknown: give all T1 frigates the built-in ability to detect sigs with their discovery scanners. This means that for the first few weeks, when the newb is running around in a frigate, he'll see sigs regardless of whether he has fit a probe launcher. And he will also see them intermittently after that, whenever he uses a frig to get around fast or whatnot. Hopefully these will be enough to get him interested if exploration will be something he likes. Most players most of the time won't be able to see sigs on discovery.

    Second fix needed is to make the discovery scanner run automatically only when you enter a system. Running it that one time serves the end of piquing the interest of newbies in "the unknown out there". But once is plenty. The auto-run should be restricted to the least usage possible, and I think "enter a new system" is that.

    Third, make the discover scanner runnable via player click on the "scan" button. If probes are out, the scan acts as it does now. If probes are not out, you get a new discovery scanner sweep. This allows active players, but only active players, to get the benefits of the discover scanner.

    By Von Keigai on Jul 5, 2013

  14. I agree with your post. It simply, ruined wormholes. Along with the removal of grav signatures, I'm not overly fond of wormholes anymore.

    And apparently, wormholes can never be closed off anymore. Closing your statics/K162s doesn't keep the hole "safe". Someone can scan out the K162 that attaches to your static.

    I'm glad I'm leaving for 9 months. Hopefully CCP will pull their heads out of their asses.

    By DreadStarX on Jul 9, 2013

  15. Someone can scan out the K162 that attaches to your static.

    That's an interesting titbit of information.

    By pjharvey on Jul 9, 2013

  16. That is a very interesting rumor. Good change, if true (and I say that regretfully as someone who's gotten used to zipping up my system before doing PVE and PI). But is it true? How do you know?

    I suppose it might be proven: one could pop a static, then scan down the new wormhole (don't fly to it), then get in dscan range and sit there and watch it. The time to watch would unfortunately be unbounded. Problem is I don't imagine any actual human being doing this.

    By Von Keigai on Jul 9, 2013

  17. Not unbounded, if it's open it'll die when timer expires.
    Where is this rumor coming from anyway?

    By Mick Straih on Jul 9, 2013

  18. Actually, that's a good point, Mick.

    If the K162 is scannable, then wormholes must open automatically when spawned. And as wormholes have a set lifetime, they will now be on a permanent cycle unless forced closed.

    If this information is true, I can foresee some unintended consequences.

    By pjharvey on Jul 9, 2013

  19. Then again, if the K162 is open and scannable, how is it that we see new wormholes spawn on the discovery scanner?

    By pjharvey on Jul 10, 2013

  20. Penny, presumably we'd see new K162s spawning whenever the wormhole despawned then respawned. This suggests that if the rumor is true, the incidence of players coming through fresh K162s should now be dramatically lower than it used to be.

    Mick, if it is open in the current sense then yes you could just wait for it to die. So, if you were certain that over 16 or 24 hours there had been no connections made to your wspace system, and also nobody in the system left, and then the wormhole repositioned itself, that would be some evidence. This is an experiment that would actually be reasonable to run.

    On the downside, the preconditions stated above are pretty hard to guarantee. I am not going to sit idle in EVE for a day making sure nobody has fired probes in my system. (And if they do? Argh! A day lost!) And also, even if you did to this experiment (please do report it if you do), then there would be the problem that maybe CCP did not implement opened-but-unvisited wormholes in the most obvious manner (namely, full instantiation). It may be the wormhole is partially instantiated: for example, it gets a K162, but its timer is not started.

    By Von Keigai on Jul 10, 2013

  21. Well, that is possible i guess, but i have found no evidence indicating that is that case.

    In fact i have circumstantial evidence (non conclusive tho) that nothing was changed.
    Ie. I warp to a static of a some unoccupied system (so i didn't just close previous static), jump in, see a fleet running anoms.
    Before i decloak they've all GTFO'd. And then they start probing.
    Which seems to be consistent with that wh not being open, me opening it, having id spawn and them seeing that due to new awesome scanner.

    Tho i didn't consider option that k162 may have a sig but not have wh open.
    On another hand if this was the case I'd expect a lot more k162s which i didn't notice either.
    (in c4s especially as most of those are empty and so statics often are not open)

    By Mick Straih on Jul 10, 2013

  22. Everything here makes sense and there are a lot of good points for and against the Discovery Scanner. Though I would have to agree with Tur that we need better tutorials then oversimplified game mechanics.

    But the one thing that everyone seems to be missing there is that this is just the beginning of something much worse. Look at this with the changes to industrial ships... it is all just a start to the dumming down of the game that we all love. I play this game because of the complexity. I love the difficluty of it. What are they going to change next? Are they going to Automate the Directional Scanner? Then what? Reduced requirements for T2 equipment, in the name of making it more accessable to newer players?

    By Calliope Kemplaner on Jul 10, 2013

  23. Right, the complexity is what makes EVE Online work. Better tutorials would increase the accessibility of the game by introducing the basics and getting the player involved with the complexity, whereas simplifying the game merely reduces the overall options available.

    By pjharvey on Jul 14, 2013

  24. Hi,

    On the subject of scannable K162, I used to live in a C3 and did some carebear time). It was a C3 static LS (U210), and slow in traffic (only 3 active members in, and several days when I was the only one). Due to my timezone (EU), I was able to do the following test :
    - Close a wormhole before downtime.
    - Scan down the new static, bm it, and note down the sig name.
    - Get the new sig name after downtime (first pilot in system, forcing the loading).
    - Next downtime, recheck wormhole position (nobody closed it, it's on the bookmark), wait for downtime in order to get the new signature (elapsed time then : 24h)
    -Repeat the next day. Wormhole here again. (48h elapsed time).

    The 3rd day in the evening, I was forced to open the hole for a new incoming player in our home, but this was sufficient (in my eyes) to prove that an hole spawn only when someone warp to it. Else, the signature would have change position.

    But this was one in spring 2012, before incarna. So, maybe this has been changed (but the experiment can easily be reproduced, in a low trafic hole, like a C4/C4 or another C3/LS)

    By Jivane Perich on Jul 14, 2013

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