Scanning is computationally easy but manually tedious

25th January 2010 – 5.55 pm

Scanning is vital in w-space. You need to scan to find a wormhole to get in to w-space, and you need to scan to find an exit wormhole. You need to scan to find Sleeper sites to run, or to hunt down other capsuleers. It is unsurprising that the scanning system was overhauled for the Apocrypha expansion, drastically reducing the time and skills needed to perform scanning with probes, otherwise w-space would remain unexplored and uninhabited. And yet, despite it being simplified, I still have a problem with the scanning process.

The fundamental process of dropping probes and scanning for signals is sound. Locating signatures and determining their type is interesting and, to some extent, enjoyable. But resolving the signatures so that you can warp directly to them, or bookmark them in the scanning window, is unfortunately tedious. The problem is inadvertently highlighted in CCP's own EVE Online: Scanning Guide Tutorial video, created alongside the introduction of the specialised and limited Zephyr scanning boat.

When you find a bunch of signatures you want to resolve, you pick one, reduce the scan radius on the probes, adjust the probes' positions to triangulate the signature, and scan. The new scan result gives you a better reading, at which point you reduce the scan radius on the probes, adjust the probes' positions to triangulate the signature, and scan. The new scan result gives you a better reading, and, well, I think you may see my issue with the process. The tutorial video gets boring just to watch once it becomes a matter of resolving the signal from 'known site' to '100% scan strength'. Having to scan manually this way can quickly become a chore, particularly with a dozen or more sites to resolve. My qualm is not simply that scanning is repetitive, but that it is a process that can be automated easily.

Changing the scan radius and repositioning the probes to recentre the signature seems to me like a trivial task to delegate to a computer system. After all, computers are ideally suited to performing repetitive computational tasks, and are often touted as being able to relieve humans from such tedium. But capsuleers are humans too, and we are sitting in vastly complex spaceships with considerable computing power at our disposal. I don't quite understand why it is left to me to perform trivially computed operations until I get a 100% scan strength result. I could just as easily select a signature and punch a button, letting the ship's computer take care of resolving the signature.

I understand that effectively automating the process would simplify scanning too much, and that the current system is preferable to the old. But there has to be a better way to scan systems than by moving probes manually, chasing down individual signatures using a repetitive and ultimately monotonous method. Personally, all I really need is a method that doesn't make me wonder why my computer isn't doing the task for me, instead feeling that my judgement and experience is being used effectively.

  1. 5 Responses to “Scanning is computationally easy but manually tedious”

  2. It seems to me that if scanning were easier or more fun then everyone would do it.

    As it is it's a somewhat esoteric skill in Eve that I would guess the majority of pilots don't use. (Except defensive directional scan usage which people who venture outside of high sec soon learn).

    That means if you use it you have an advantage.

    By Stabs on Jan 25, 2010

  3. I wouldn't mind scanning being exclusive were it simply a skilful or specialised task, but it is a daily consequence of life in w-space. To discourage players from scanning by making it tedious is rather cheap once it moves from being an optional advantage to necessary for survival.

    The current situation for w-space pilots is akin to agents requiring everyone to scan for the deadspace complexes for every mission. It would get tedious quickly, but that is almost what it is like to live in w-space.

    Salvaging is an optional and specialised part of capsuleer life, one that I enjoy because it can be as involving as combat but without the risks, so I don't mind that it is a necessary aspect of w-space life. It would be great if scanning to be made to feel as engaging and involving as salvaging is to me.

    By pjharvey on Jan 26, 2010

  4. And as a couple of other thoughts they could use to tweak probular [yeah I made that up] scanning:

    1) Astronomical distances are currently negligible for communication, but I wouldn't mind seeing probes that took longer to report back the farther you were from them.

    2) In a similar vein, as you narrow down a site, every result prior to 100% could/should be warpable with a corresponding increase in resolution or deviation based on your physical location to your probes. Basically, your ship acting as +1 probe/reference point.

    3) The ability to snap shot probe configuration and then recall that config later. You would then likely only need to set up an optimal scan tetrahedron for 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, .5 and .25 AU distances. Then you only need to switch configuration and reposition as a group.

    4) Give the Zephyr a bonus to probe strength.

    5) Allow wrecks to be scanned down.

    6) EVE Uni tells me there is no six.

    And all of this is because I know you have inside contacts at CCP and they all read your blog first thing over beer, bacon and eggs.

    By Kename Fin on Jan 27, 2010

  5. The ability to snap shot probe configuration and then recall that config later. ... Then you only need to switch configuration and reposition as a group.

    Yes, it is the UI lacking this kind of option that frustrates me a little. Having your created ideal arrangement of probes scaled as a whole is what computers are good at! Moreover, the computer is much better suited than me to determine the centre of the arrangement and align that centre with a selected scan signal.

    Again, I can understand why these options aren't currently included, as it could make scanning far too quick to remain meaningful, but these are exactly the options that any real scanning software design company would include in its UI. What is needed is a modification to the scanning process that can include these UI improvements whilst keeping the process meaningful.

    But beer for breakfast?

    By pjharvey on Jan 27, 2010

  6. But beer for breakfast?

    I have to admit, I have a certain stereotypical imagine in mind for Icelandic CCP employees that involves large quantities of libation and hopelessly arcane thought process that eventually lead to choices like beer for breakfast, lager for lunch and stout for supper.

    Oh, and a hint of fish.

    By Kename Fin on Jan 28, 2010

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