Where is Tank when you need him?

19th October 2009 – 5.10 pm

The current entrance to the mobile w-space tower is over twenty jumps through low-sec. I think I'll pass on that. But there is probably a better opportunity of getting to our large, permanent tower, with its static high-sec exit, where I could at least make myself useful and mine some exotic ore. All I need to do is find my way in to the system. Of course, it is easier to find the exit wormhole and be guided in than stumble on a wormhole leading to a particular w-space system. Luckily, I can pull the strings of a capsuleer at the large tower, so I just need to scan down the exit and I am on my way.

There is a suitably equipped Heron that I can pilot sitting in the corporation hangar, which I board. Warping to a safe spot in the system I launch some probes and punch the cloaking device, switching my attention to the system scanner. Resize the scanning range, position the probes, scan. A couple of precise hits turn up, probably old bookmarked sites in the system, and a bunch of weak signals to pinpoint, one of which must be the wormhole. Time to locate an exit!

I generally pick signals based on the aesthetics of the signature, although I missed the PJH anomaly a little while back. Plucking the most pleasing three-letter code from the list I narrow down my search. Position the probes, scan, resize the scanning range, position the probes, scan, reposition the probes, scan, resize the scanning range, position the probes, scan. Perhaps I shouldn't be trying this on a device with a small screen and lacking a secondary button, particularly with the rather fiddly interface.

There may be some use in scrolling the screen to centre on a probe when clicking on the probe's name, but as the names are long and intrusive, and there is no way to cancel such a selection, it can become frustrating having to scroll back-and-forth for every accidental click. Changing the scanning ranges of the probes by selecting the probe's translucent sphere and expanding or contracting it is handy, and it can be nullified by releasing without changing anything. Perhaps it would be better to double-click on a probe to centre it in the display, instead of the single-click, to remove the frustration.

Trying to work in three dimensions with a two-dimensional interface can also be fiddly. I like to think my spatial awareness is keen, but accurately visualising in a vast region of space a source with no shape or determinable size can get tedious. An improvement could be to add smaller screen partitions and allow three orthogonal angles to be shown simultaneously, although this may also exacerbate the multiple window problem that already exists in EVE Online. I think what I am trying to get across is that I am rubbish at scanning and need more practice.

I spend around an hour scanning down a handful of the weak signals. The first two I discard once I find out they are not wormholes. The third I think I ought to pinpoint properly, taking time to get a 100% strength scan to bookmark the location. As it is a gravimetric site, full of asteroids to be mined, and my plan once I am in the w-space system is to mine, it seems foolish not to make a note of this site. The fourth also isn't a wormhole, but when I finally find this out I have a strong enough signal that I may as well continue to get it bookmarked.

By the time I have narrowed down my search to the last couple of weak signals I am sufficiently demotivated by the lonely scanning process that I don't now want to spend more time mining by myself in an empty system. I recall my probes, without having found the exit wormhole, and head back to the tower before releasing the puppets strings. At least I can pretend that I have been productive, and I got more practice at scanning. Maybe with some patience, and a more suitable input device, my scanning will become swifter.

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