December 19, 2014

D-scan - towards a unified scanning and probing system

We have some big changes to D-scan coming with the Proteus release, as announced in the Recon Rebalance thread.  There is a lot of … let's just say "feedback" … from the community on the impact of making Force Recon ships invisible to D-scan.  Really I think this is an opportunity for CCP to do something much more deep and interesting with D-scan.  Right now we have a D-scan that provides perfect information.  That takes away ambiguity, which is a shame in a game that is as complexly nuanced as Eve.  What if we change that to provide a fog of war?

Current D-Scan

Let's recap briefly before we launch off to the proposal.  D-scan currently reaches out to 14.3 AU or 2,147,483,647 km (which probably not coincidentally is the maximum value of a signed 32-bit integer).  You can change the angle of your D-scan from 5 degrees to 360 degrees.  Recently the user interface changed to make both of these values (range and angle) more easily manipulated with sliders.

If a non-cloaked vessel is within the range and angle of your D-scan then you see exactly what the ship is but not how far away it is, unless it is already on grid.  You do not see pilot information nor indeed if there even is a pilot in the ship, leading to what many people call "POS trash" - ships that are unpiloted but inside of the force field of a POS.

So we've identified a couple things here to play with.  Let's consider if we changed the level of precision that we see with two of them: ship information and distance.

Directional Scan Strength

Consider if the baseline for all ships was 1 D-scan strength.  This allows scanning to 14.3 AU - we'll call that 1 "bracket".  What if some ships such as Force Recon, Interceptors, and Interdictors had a D-scan strength of 2, allowing them to scan 28.6 AU (2 brackets)?  These ships would then be a valuable asset to fleets, allowing them to more rapidly scan down distant gates and plexes.  What if a module such as a "Directional Scan Booster" allowed you to add additional D-scan strength to your ship, adding an additional D-scan bracket?

(Credit where it's due: the original idea here came from Kyle Yanowski both on the forum and in our corp chat)

Stealth Rating

Consider if the baseline for all ships was a 0 stealth rating.  This would mean that they had no ability to avoid being d-scanned.  But then perhaps Force Recons had a stealth rating of 1.  When the D-scan algorithm hits a possible target ship, it compares its strength to the stealth rating and the distance bracket.  So at less than 14.3 AU, a baseline ship will see another baseline ship, but would not see a Force Recon (+1 Scan, -1 Stealth = 0).  A Force Recon (+2 Scan) would see a baseline ship at 28 AU (2 brackets) but not another Force Recon, but would regain the ability to see that target Force Recon at 14 AU (1 bracket).

What if there was a "Stealth Booster" module that allowed a ship to increase its stealth rating?

Partial Information in D-scan

When you use Combat Probes, you get progressively more information about a ship.  I've often wished we saw that kind of progressive disclosure in D-scan.  Consider if we saw this:
1 bracket to 0.75 bracket = Ship Hull Size  (ex: Cruiser, Frigate)
0.75 bracket to 0.50 bracket = Ship Hull Type (ex: Vexor hull, Punisher hull)
0.50 bracket to 0.25 bracket = Full Ship Information (ex: Ishtar, Retribution)
0.25 bracket to 0.00 = Full Ship Information, Pilot Name, actual distance at time of scan

Note that your bracket is independent of the scan range you've selected on your D-scan interface, so if you're tuned down to 1 AU then the first time you see a ship you'll have full information on it.  Again, ships with higher D-scan strength rating become valuable to be able to more accurately scout out opponents.

Interaction with Combat Probing

The Proteus-proposed changes already have introduced an new dynamic here.  In order to see if there is a Force Recon somewhere, you will have to combat probe where you think they may be (ex: in a FW plex).  There is also an interaction already that I personally find disconnected - that the sensor strength of a ship (otherwise only used against ECM) provides protection against being probed (see also Slippery Pete doctrine).  What if instead we keep the sensor strength to its combat role against ECM, and use Stealth Rating?  Given "Stealth Booster" modules, we still allow the possibilities of Slippery Petes, so we haven't taken away that niche.

Interaction with Cloaking

What if we consider cloaking part of this unified proposal of scanning and stealth?  Perhaps a cloak provides additional Stealth ratings, but it could be overcome by a sufficiently prepared counter?  For instance, let's consider that a T2 CovOps Cloak provided a +5 Stealth, and perhaps other Meta Cloaks provided a lesser (or greater) benefit?  As before, modules could increase the stealth rating of the defender and the scan strength of the scout.

Another possibility would be that being under a cloak decreases your scan strength - so a CovOps scout tracking an enemy fleet might need to do so uncloaked in order to get the best possible information, making them vulnerable to being scanned and dropped on.

If we really want to keep going, we could then complete the unification of the system by saying that being on grid with a target gives you an additional level of scan strength.  This is how we suddenly see the actual distance on our D-scan when on grid, and how we will see the Force Recons on d-scan (as mentioned in CCP Rise's follow-up comments on the thread-naught).

I think there are a lot of possibilities here to bring a more unified, coherent system of scanning and probing to Eve, and I hope that CCP is able to entertain these idea.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. I would very much like to see this sort of overhaul for intel and cloaking mechanics.