Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The New Probing UI: CCP Doesn't Hate Smokers After All

Ever wonder why Asian games rely so heavily on point-and-click movement systems? Smoking. Asian gamers will spend a lot of time in internet cafes, using the mouse to grind out mobs with one hand while smoking with the other.

I stopped smoking 15 years ago, but I've always preferred using the mouse exclusively when given the chance. Between the use of the WASD keys for movement and years of crafting in Everquest 2, my left hand tends to get tired and sore after a few hours of playing a normal game. One of the benefits for me of playing EVE is the ability to just use the mouse and peck the function keys every so often. I guess that makes me an honorary smoker.

One of my favorite features in EVE is exploration and the probing mini-game. Before heading off to the Singularity test server Sunday to look at the feature myself, I had heard everyone gush at all the shortcuts CCP had added. "Great," I thought to myself. "Will I need to start using the keyboard in order to probe down sites?"

On Sunday, I scanned down a few signatures and didn't like the experience. In fact, I was so disgusted I didn't write a post for Monday. But last night, in preparation for writing this post, I discovered that some of the things I found so irritating during Sunday's play session were either awkward mechanics or outright bugs.

The first bit of trouble I had with the new probing user interface was that the map toggle button does not show up automatically. On Sunday, I thought I would have to use the F9 key to toggle between the map and regular space. But last night, I discovered how to make the toggle button appear. Initially, the probe scanner window is docked in the map. While the window is docked in the map, the map toggle button will not appear.

The solution is to display the system map in any mode except fullscreen. Then, click on the square in the upper right-hand corner of the probe scanner window to undock the window. Place the window in the desired location, then make the map fullscreen. Presto, the map functions similarly to the old map and you can toggle the map on and off using one click of the mouse.

For years I always had the probe scanner window sitting in the lower right hand corner of the screen, with the ship information wheel in the middle bottom. I have the feeling whoever designed the changes plays with these two pieces of the UI at the top of the screen. The buttons to launch probes, resize the probes' search areas, and the Analyze button are all at the bottom of the probe scanner window. In a move that may have some players swearing, the recall active probes button is now where the Analyze button formerly resided. I can see some players' muscle memory recalling probes right as they were about to resolve the signature.

Instead of buttons across the top of the window, the new UI contains information about the probes. In addition to the probes' status, players can now see their probe strength, scan deviation, and scan duration.

One new feature not shown in the graphic is the ability to shift the point of view from the system plane to directly over the system plane by double-clicking the mouse. I think the feature will alleviate an issue I had with rotating the view in very large systems with probe size diameters under 1 AU. In those cases, rotating the view more than 90 degrees was awkward. I'll need a lot more experience once the feature is deployed on Tranquility to see if the situation improves.

Having spent a couple of hours playing with the system, I think I have a good handle on how to probe without using the keyboard. The graphic for the new UI shows my results of probing down a Superior Sleeper Cache. First, I positioned the probes around the signature and pressed the Analyze button. I then positioned the probes around the resulting point and clicked on the Probe Size slider. The search radius can be adjusted by either clicking to the right or left of the current size, dragging the slider to the desired size, or, if the slider is clicked on and is the active window element, using the mouse wheel. Once the desired size is reached, click on the Analyze button. Rinse and repeat until the signature reaches 100%. I did have to use the button to reposition the individual probes closer together, but that was also necessary with the old system. And honestly, if I had used Sisters gear instead of regular gear, I wouldn't have had to do that.

Once I discovered how to only use the mouse to probe down anomalies, I fell in love with exploration. Despite what I had heard coming out of the CSM summit, I don't feel the new UI puts button smashers like me at a disadvantage. I'll just need to develop new muscle memory and perhaps play with my window layout. And hopefully when the changes hit Serenity, all the smokers will feel the same way.

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