The first build of Odyssey-related changes launched on SiSi on Wednesday, and being the intrepid explorer and scout that I am, I was interested to get my hands on the new scanning/hacking systems. It is clearly an early build, so take my frustrations and criticism with a grain of salt.
The first thing I noticed about the new system was that your sensors automatically perform a system sweep that replaces the On-Board Scanner at undock. This function is accompanied by a cool visual sweeping effect that lights up points of interest in space. However, those points disappear after a couple of seconds. If you want to see them for longer, you must select the scanner and turn on “Show Sensor Overlay”.
There are a few notable things about this new system. First, the best way to know if your sensor is finding things is based on sound. There is a small blipping noise for each place of interest found, so scouts may soon have to realize that EVE has sound.
Second, the points in space do not have names; you have to hover over each individual point to determine what it is. The list of all points scanned is gone as well. Even if they do add visible names for points in space (which I think they should), scouts are going to be hindered as they have to look in all directions to find each site, and things may be missed. I'm not entirely sure if that is a bad thing, though.
Another interesting thing to note is that signatures also appear in the DRADIS scan. While you obviously cannot warp to them until they are scanned down, you can keep your camera pointed at them as you warp to quickly determine where they are in space.
After all this is said and done, the new scanning pattern looks something like this: enter the system, look for orange points in space, warp to your safe for probing, keep your camera trained on the site and watch the F11 map to see where it is, launch probes, drop exactly where the site is, receive bacon. At first I felt that this made things a bit too easy, but then I noticed I was using real triangulation to improve my exploration, and I was totally excited!
Finally, the option to keep your scanner running does not persist between logins, but does persist between systems.
Stay in Formation
The new formation system is a very nice quality of life change for those who scan. As of right now, there are two formations, both of which we saw at Fanfest: the flower-like Spread formation, and the diamond grouping - now called the Pinpoint formation - we know and love. Although CCP mentioned in their feedback thread that they would allow for custom probe designs, there doesn’t seem to be a place where that would work on the UI yet, so I am skeptical.
I do wonder about the new formations is what the purpose of the Spread formation is, though. One would think that it allows you to cover the entire system, but it seems like the discovery scanner already does this by showing you all scannable sites on a sweep.
Probes now always stay in formation, and you can move them as a unit. The habit of shift-clicking is hard to break, though, and I found myself having difficulty adapting to the new - and exact opposite - paradigm thanks to my ingrained muscle memory. One thing that is really cool is that reducing scan distance also reduces the probes distance from each other, meaning that you always have a perfect formation. For better or worse, probing just got a whole lot easier.
Part of this change involves the removal of the Deep Space Probe (DSP). This probe, for those who do not know, has a very wide spectrum that all but guarantees that you get basic info on all points. However, its low sensor strength makes it very poor at scanning down to 100%. One of the major impacts of the DSP is that it provides explorers with a quick and easy way to determine the “band” or approximate sensor strength of a site, and from that they could cherry pick the sites they wanted. I believe that this is the reason they removed these probes. However, many people trained to Astrometrics 5 simply to get them, and are notably frustrated at the loss of their tool. Overall, I think this is a good change; I thought cherry picking via DSP was pretty annoying and against what exploration was about.
Also, any probe layouts that require 8 probes are going into the waste bin of history. One of my favorite probe formations for really tricky sites was the two squares formation, which provided 8 probes for a little extra boost to scanning power. That formation is impossible now. Also impossible, given the current system, is the ability to pop out one probe (such as a combat probe) and quickly ID if ships are in a specific area. While you can still do that with seven probes, it plays your hand in a way that you usually do not want to.
Once I found some non-combat sites to play with, I discovered quickly that the rumors of the death of gravimetric sites were greatly exaggerated. They have been renamed “Ore” sites and are found by probing. Thinking that this may have been a mistake, I went to the feedback thread and found in the description that they were, in fact, supposed to be there as scannable Ore Sites.
The hacking site I found was visually interesting, including a ball that was reminiscent of the device from Contact that gave off the cool space warping effects seen inside the new stargates. All of the points for hacking were stacked on one another, and at the moment it seems that modules are not part of the game. Again, this is clearly a very early build for this, and much of it did not seem to be working correctly. If you want to experience it yourself, you have to “open” the container to start the game
The hacking game in its current iteration, though, seems uninspired. You click on blue dots until they turn into red dots. You do not get to know where the goal is, and so you can not do much to increase your ability to succeed. Firewalls sap your strength to break through, although some of them can be avoided. Finally, the gold “boss” generally has a higher defence then your starting strength. This meant that, after a half an hour of playing, I never beat the game. Modules and skills will hopefully raise your power in the minigame, but more importantly I am hoping for the skeletal UI to become intuitive, fun, and closer to Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s hacking game, which it clearly borrowed ideas from.
In the end, the best parts about the new systems seemed to be a collection of quality of life improvements. At best, Odyssey is lacking in anything that seems totally revolutionary, and at worst dumbs down the system so far that many of the people who liked exploration before will be turned off by it. Exploration and probing was filled with people who prided themselves on delving into the depths of space and managing the fiddly things. As a result, those who could probe well were very valuable indeed. While the new system makes things more “accessible” to others, it does nothing to add depth to the mechanic, leaving it a bit soulless. Hopefully we will see the new mechanics become more fully fleshed out in the coming weeks, and ideally exploration will remain one of the deepest mechanics in EVE.