Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Quick Look At The Agency 3.0

Another expansion, another yawn. Usually when we get an expansion, my gameplay gets nerfed more than buffed. The more I watched and read, the more nervous I became.

One of the phrases I dread to hear from the devs is, "We're updating The Agency." Ever since CCP moved the agent finder from stations and moved it to The Agency, I grew to despise the feature. After all, why do I need to see more than 12 agents at a time, right? That just means a player needs to refine the search parameters. Oh well, at least they didn't ask, "You do have a smart phone, don't you?"

Look, I realize that EVE is a complex game and new players need all the help they can get. I also appreciate the ability to keep The Agency from automatically popping up every time I log into a character. But the "Progressive Disclosure" tech promises an increase in clicks to find things.

The dev blog did promise some hopeful improvements.
  • Larger space for content results
  • Remembering your last filters for each content type
  • The return of the 'Agent Finder' advanced agent search
  • Bookmark any content pages to bypass the page tree with a single click
The dev blog also filled me with dread. I thought CCP was about to give hunters another huge jump in intelligence, this time when hunting explorers. The description sounded bad.
Combat Anomalies
In this section you can see all systems containing Combat Anomalies, filter them based on location and security status, then see the number of Combat Anomalies that exist within those systems. For systems that are within one jump, you can also see the type & name of the Combat Anomaly. We feel that this increased transparency will encourage bewildered players to travel outside of their system if there are no anomalies present in the current system.

Cosmic Signatures
In the Cosmic Signatures page, we will be making a big change to how Capsuleers will be exploring New Eden. The main change here is the visibility of the number of available signatures in all systems. For the system you are currently in, you will be able to view the signature IDs as normal. We are aware of the implications of this change and will monitor the effect on New Eden and the Exploration career, with the possibility of balancing and tweaking in the future.
Coming on the fifth anniversary of the Odyssey expansion which hurt low sec mining by replacing gravitational sites, which required probing down, with today's always visible in the interface ore sites, I was not looking forward to even more intel given to hunters on a silver platter.

The day of the expansion, I got home, fixed dinner, did some perusal of the black market, the usual thing. Then I logged into EVE on my main and jump cloned from my Abyssal clone to my exploration clone, hopped in my trusty Cheetah, and took off for Ingunn to start doing a little fact-finding.

The first thing I discovered was The Agency has a well-designed home page. Hopefully new players find the layout as intuitive as I did. Players can access the home page at anytime by either clicking on The Agency icon in the upper-left hand corner, or the word "Home" in the path, also in the upper left-corner of the window.

In general, I like the ability to find pages without having to do the normal hunt through menus EVE is famous for. The tabs at the top struck me immediately as a major improvement for navigation. The ability to create bookmarks to my favorite pages is a godsend. And perhaps most importantly, the toggle to open the page automatically upon login is in the lower-right hand corner of the home page. The devs did not hide the option in some obscure location in the general settings window.

My biggest pet peeve with The Agency was the agent finder functionality. The original version could only display 12 agents, which is pretty meager. Yes, the previous version did have additional filters to limit the search results. In my opinion, though, the options weren't well laid out and sometimes limiting a search down to 12 results or less just isn't possible.

The search that really set me off when CCP first introduced The Agency was when I was researching mining agents. The old agent finder worked great when I researched mining agents two years ago. When I decided to revisit the subject using The Agency, I found the 12 agent limit very annoying. I still can't display all the level 4 Gallente mining agents at the same time, but at least I can see all the level 4 agents in low sec. More importantly, I can see all 17 agents in Placid when I use the region filter. One of these days, I really need to visit Intaki.

One of my big concerns was the intelligence hunters would receive. The way the combat anomalies and cosmic signatures were described in the dev blog, players could see the number of sites half-way across the cluster. All a player would wanted to check for exploration activity was to watch for the number of sites to decrease. Conversely, players could watch for wormholes appearing in systems by noticing an increase in the number of unknown signatures.

At least for the first night, the system didn't work quite as advertised. Players still received the more detailed information in their current system plus any adjacent system. But starting two jumps away, the anomaly and signature counts were always one. Among the benefits of testing in low sec are the plentiful number of unrun sites with which to test these features.

Of course, I saved the most awesome and wonderful addition for last. Tool tips. Yes, I know that the Eve University wiki is a wonderful thing. But having information just a mouse hover away is wonderful. Just knowing where to find a particular type of ore is very useful. Now imagine trying to find the right type of planets for Planetary Interaction. The EVE University wiki is still a great resource for what to do once a player has found the desired planets. But one obstacle to PI for me was always finding the planets I wanted in the first place.

I do have one request for CCP if anyone in Iceland reads this post. Could you please let us know if you see an uptick in people running the Epic Arcs? The fact that the starting agents for the arcs is so easy to see know I'm sure will probably result in more people running the content. Or perhaps more players grinding the reputation to run the missions arcs. Either way, I hope the accessibility leads to more people running the content.

I'll admit, when I logged into the game to check out The Agency, I fully expected to hate the feature. At this point, I like the changes I've seen. I just hope that some of the things I saw were not bugs and that once everything is fixed, I'll like the new UI feature less. But as for now, I don't have any complaints about The Agency. But I do reserve the right to change my mind.

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