Monday, March 25, 2013

Odyssey Mumblings, The First

Odyssey is upon us.  As much as I’d love to make a crack a Jester’s great caravan of the stars, there are some other ideas I’d like to spin out a little.  With the hints in CCP’s release at PAX, there’s plenty of opportunity to speculate and put on our tinfoil hats!  I'll put some posts up over the next few days regarding the topics announced in at PAX, and my thoughts regarding those topics.  Today I want to talk about exploration a bit.

Discovery scanning.  We have no idea what it is.  I can hope that it is a system that makes the process of scanning sites down more enjoyable.  Currently the dedicated explorer is pigeon holed into a few core concepts.  You need a scanning ship, either a CovOps or a T3 fit properly.  If you are serious about beating the competition, you probably also have another account with a combat cruiser, again likely a T3, flying with you to jump into those sites as soon as you find them.  The choice of useful ships is rather limited, and the fitting requirements to take advantage of those ships narrows the selections even more.  The skills needed to fly the narrow range of suitable ships are not insubstantial.  The skills to utilize the sites are very specific and often have no use outside scanning.

This is not bad, per se.

What is ugly, however, is the capricious nature of scanning and the tedium of finding and resolving signatures.  It usually requires a notepad and some patience.  So how can CCP improve things?

First, I’d love to see a change to the dynamics of what ships are allowed into resolved sites.  Specifically, I’d like to see the mechanics work so that if your ship can scan it, your ship can go inside.  There’s nothing quite like finding a handful of sites in a system, and learning that your cruiser, battlecruiser, or T3 isn’t allowed in.

Second, I’d like to see dedicated exploration ships that can fit some of the scanning gear without severely sacrificing the ability to complete the sites.  While this is primarily true for combat sites, there is only one CovOps that can fit all the modules needed for a scanning roam without needing to dock up to switch modules.  Obviously there are balance issues, as giving a cruiser PvE or PvP tank and gank AND scanning would break aspects of combat scanning.  But giving each race a cruiser hull with a few more mid slots and scanning bonuses would go a long way towards making solo scanning roams more feasible.  Perhaps make cloaks and probe launchers a dedicated hardpoint?  Perhaps just change the way high-slot hardpoints work by adding specific role-only slots?

Third, and tied directly to the first two, scanning needs to be made more possible for solo roamers.  A dedicated scanner should be the fastest and best option, and PvE and PvP fits should excel at those tasks, but reasonable balance should exist that makes scanning and completing sites a one-ship, one-account activity.

Fourth, the scanning mechanics need a tweak.  Saved probe formations.  Ship-board logging of sites you have resolved or are working on resolving even if you leave the system or need to dock.  My ship can hand a neural-interface, route through all of known space, and control weapons, navigation, scanning, targeting, and EWAR at the same time.  It can’t remember how I launch my probes or the data loaded in the scanning system if I close the window?  And as for the D-Scan, if it can figure out what something is and how far away it is, why can’t I warp to that point in space?

Fifth, and most contentious in my mind, is that scanning should be less random in the rewards received.  Nothing saps my will to scan like clearing through a half dozen systems and getting nothing for days on end, only to hit the jackpot once in a blue moon.  I'd love to see low end rewards boosted with a corresponding reduction in high end rewards.  If exploration is to be a viable career in Eve, like mission running or industry, there needs to be a more dependable income stream that comes from it.

I'm sure some of these ideas are not feasible, and others, such as ships I consider suitable for scanning and completing sites and rewards, are open to debate.  But there are many changes CCP could enact to make exploration more interesting overall, and more enjoyable and accessible.  

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