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Friday, May 31, 2013

Exploration Revamp is a Win-Win

My friend TurAmarth and I agree on many things, but not this time. In his latest blog post, Slowest Kid in the Class FTW!!, he blasts CCP's changes to probe management as the stupidest thing CCP has ever done. I couldn't disagree more. I think it is brilliant.

The first thing I want to say about this is actually throwing something back at Tur. In a comment on my post about corporate economics last week, he said this:
"You need to read and then relate this to Ripard's Magic Box post...
Fascinating Intricacy or Useless Complexity?"
Tur, you need to go read Ripard's Magic Box post again. Probe mechanics as they are now is a useless complexity. In a civilization as advanced as New Eden's, why in gods' name can't we program an auto-return subroutine into our probes? If the probes are smart enough to identify ships from cosmic signatures, don't they have enough computing capacity to know when they are almost out of fuel? And since they are constantly communicating with the ship they came from, don't they know when that ship is preparing to jump?

Maybe that last's a bit of a stretch for the probe to sense, but the ship knows. With the things the ship must do to get ready to jump, can't one of those hundreds of checklist items be, "recall all probes?" I am sure there are hundreds of adjustments the ship must make, hell, just stowing the guns would require dozens of adjustments. Calling probes back is simple by comparison. They do most of the work. If I were programming a scanning system, I sure as hell would make that a priority. Why must the capsuleer waste his time doing such a mundane task? These are the types of tasks which are best automated, like stowing the damn guns.

I think having truly automated probes lends MORE immersion to the game. It does so from two perspectives. The first perspective is the, "we are so advanced our probes can almost think for themselves" view. You know, like our ships. Aura already can think for herself. It's in the lore. She's an AI. Wouldn't it be immersive if she said, "Preparing to jump. Recalling probes. Stowing guns. Jump drive engaged!" The second point of view is that this change allows the player to concentrate on exploring rather than probe management. What is more immersive than looking out your screen at the beauty that is New Eden rather than constantly checking a probe timer? Let Aura do that. It's what she's there for.

I've also run through a bunch of the new mini-game puzzles that come with exploration now. It is easy to forget you have probes deployed when you start working these little puzzles. Losing probes because you're immersed in the mini-game would be the stupid mechanic in my opinion. Every new bro that loses probes because they were playing the mini-game will hate it for distracting them. This doesn't include the concentration needed now to grab the loot. It would have nothing but negative affects on their desire to continue playing the game if they lost their probes for playing the game.

Because frankly, exploration is a new bro activity. It is one of the carebear play-styles players can start straight away. It was the thing my son wanted to do after coming back to Eve Online. He loves the idea of discovering things while flying around in his Internet spaceship.That is immersion for him and it's what keeps him in the game this second time. The first time he tried Eve Online he choose Amarr, which put him on the opposite side of high-sec from me. He wanted to mine with me so he tried to fly from there to Cistuvaert. I bet you can guess what happened. Yeah, he lost his most valuable ship, his mining barge, to a gank. He stopped playing the game for two years. It was a rage quit for sure but it was lost revenue to CCP. This is how we eat our young. When I finally convinced him to give Eve Online another try, he took on exploration because the ship was less expensive and no one ganks a frigate - usually.

So I see this change as a win-win for both lowering the useless complexity of Eve Online and for making an already popular new bro occupation more new bro friendly. I'll gladly turn over probe management to Aura for that trade off. But there is one problem with the change that is coming. Several bloggers have already mentioned it. The probe market is going to crash. I don't see any way to avoid that outcome as things stand now. There is something CCP could implement that would address this issue and perhaps it'll assuage your ire.

I'd like CCP to make probes destructible when in use. We need a way to pinpoint probes, or at least get a reasonably good location on them. To this end, I want CCP to create a smartbomb probe. This is a true combat probe. It would launch from an expanded probe launcher and it's only mission would be to find and blow up other probes. It would not normally detect ships or ever detect cosmic signatures. But it would have the ability to hone in on the communications stream constantly running from another's probes back to a ship. This would have two effects. First, you could locate the other probes and detonate your smartbomb probe to eliminate them. Second, you could locate the scanning ship based on the communications streaming to it - even if it is cloaked. Think about that for awhile. I'll leave further details up to CCP.

Fly Careful


  1. However in an economy where destruction is the driving force having systems(like outposts now and probes are to become) cause, issues.

  2. I don't mind UI enhancements and so on, and auto-return makes sense, although I can understand why people would like the option to have their probes remain after they leave system, even if I'd never do that personally.

    That said, there's some stuff that's very concerning to me (and my corp):

    1. The grav site change is going to make it far more dangerous to mine ore in a wormhole. This is a real problem for smaller corps living in lower-end wormholes. Consider the 6-man corp living in a Class 1 and doing mining to supplement their income. Today, they can get the barges out in time by watching directional. After the patch, they'll get no warning whatsoever, and probably lose most if not all of their mining fleet every time someone opens a hole into their system looking for easy kills.

    2. The removal of deep space probes feels a lot like a slap in the face to people who'd spent the time to train astrometrics to 5. We have a few really, really good scanners in our alliance. All of them like using the DSPs and they felt like the DSPs were kind of a "reward" for taking their skills all the way up. Now, they're essentially being told they wasted that time. The new modules don't really make up for it - these are folks that can scan down *anything* in seconds using cores or combats already. There really should be something more cool that makes people want to take their skills to level 5. If not the probes, then some kind of really hard-to-scan content I guess.

    1. The Astronometric skill was changed with Odyssey. It now provides 5% scan speed, strenght and deviation per level. Any dedicated scanner will train Astronometric to V just for the bonus, so no, the time wasn't wasted.

    2. Will be, you mean ;) We're still a few days away from Odyssey going live. Which sucks, because I got my battleship blown up tonight, and now I have to decide whether I want to wait like a week to put a new one together, or build something temporary :(

      Good call on the skill bonus changes though - we had totally missed that.

  3. You say "In a civilization as advanced as New Eden's, why in gods' name can't we program an auto-return subroutine into our probes?". The answer is quite simple. New Eden isn't an advanced civilisation; New Eden is a setting for a game where manual processes are what we do.

    If we are talking advanced civilisation why would it require man-hours to mine rocks? What about hauling stuff around? Why couldn't someone write an autopilot that would warp to zero? Why should we even need to scan, probes could be launched from our ships every time we entered a system and return a 100% lock on everything in the system in a short period of time. This would make for a terribly boring game though as we wouldn't need to do anything.

    The changes to scanning are great for attracting new people into exploration. What CCP forgot to do was maintain a reward for people who have invested time getting good at scanning.

    One member of my corp is an awesomely fast scanner yet post Odyssey he'll not be much better than the rest of us. Where's the reward for his investment?

  4. I really really like the idea of smartbombing probes (SBP for short). It'd give EVE a little more "submariner" feel...while you never see them in your overview, and enemy is still able to damage you (assuming the SBP will fly to where the cloaked ship is and explode). The cloaky knows he/she is being hunted and keeps them on their toes.


  5. I agree with you on this one Mabrick - I think TurAmarth is basically moaning that he can no longer leave probes in space unattended to scare people away from a system in the same way as an AFK cloaker would.

    I think the probe changes are really good in terms of the actual positioning of the probes and scanning as previously the formations was something that was either learnt through trial and error or taught. If you got it wrong then you'd get very bad results and that would discourage you from doing further exploration.

    Having probes 'insta warp' into position is a little funny as you can deploy them instantly but then when you move them around space they still need to travel; but I think having probes auto return after use or warping simply means that players won't feel punished for being a little forgetful.

    1. Awww… I haven’t intentionally left probes behind THAT much…! Actually I haven’t just tried it a few times back after null and before settled down in the old C3. =]

      I disagree on the positioning… learning the best way to use probes through trial and error and seeking advice and such was a large part of the learning curve for me… was it frustrating? Of course… which is why when I started to get it right, when I learned HOW to properly use probes I was PROUD of having done so… my early poor results were frustrating, but they were also a challenge. Having it all done for you is nothing but a nerf and Eve in Easy Mode. If that is what you want, why are you here?

      I never saw probes deploy instantly… they always appeared in space within 2k of my ship and the launcher had a several second cycle time. The fact that they can warp into position in seconds across a 10, 20, or 50AU system has always bothered me.

      And being punished for being a little forgetful is EXACTLY what should happen. How much have you ever learned from mediocre success? From success gained with no consequences? This is not the EvE we have grown up with.

  6. LOL! I say Stoopid you say Brilliant! proof in the pudding that these things are, as I clearly stated, subjective.
    You quote Ripard, “Probe mechanics as they are now is a useless complexity.” and say yourself, “…why in gods' name can't we program an auto-return subroutine into our probes?
    We can… but SHOULD we?
    We ‘can’ program in any automation we want, it’s a computer game... Hell there's a EULA and a TOS against it! You're just asking CCP to do it for you is all.
    And from an RP stance, ‘splain me how can probes warp across a 50AU system in 1/50th of the time my starship can? How can they INSTANTLY (regardless of distance) warp back ‘into’ my cargo hold WHILE I am in warp?? From any perspective these are physics and gameplay breakers… they simply should not work that way, cause if probes can warp 100x faster than a ship (which I might grant due to mass) then drones should too, and THAT would be a gameplay breaker. And as for matching my ships velocity while in a warptunnel (!!) AND then somehow (magically?) transiting INTO my cargo hold… oh effin please, get real (or virtual if you prefer), that dog don’t hunt!
    As for the ship recalling your probes on a warp command… OK, I’ll buy that, but only if you build it into the warp mechanic. IE click ‘warp’, get pop-up, “Recalling drones” but ONLY ‘after’ they are in the hold (at a normalized probe transit speed, say 8 or 10AU/s) do you go to warp… IE make the mechanic REAL (mebbe with an option button to abandon or recall drones). But probes just ‘magically’ appearing in your hold from 5, 10, 50AU away in the time it take to get to 75% speed? Oh please Mab… you know that’s a ‘magical’ nerf to the virtuality of EvE.
    Re: "we are so advanced our probes can almost think for themselves" yes… we ‘can’ do that… we can do that for every little irritating, manual, oh so un-needed mechanic until we are no longer playing EvE… the game just plays itself.
    You may have missed the real point of my post… the deeper meaning… that a ‘little nerf’ here and a ‘little nerf’ there never hurt anyone! Until they add up to put EvE into God Mode. And add up they will my friend… they always do.
    You say, “Let Aura do that. It's what she's there for.”… all I can say is if I wanted Aura to play EvE, I wouldn’t be here… and as for sitting gazing raptly out the window as Aura plays my game for me… no thanx. I’m here because I want to PLAY the game for myself, I want to play ALL of the game.
    I see beauty in the use of probes… in the management of a complex and interesting system… and more importantly, in the risks inherent if I fail in that management.
    Losing probes because you dint recall em BEFORE you play a minigame is a “learning experience”, having probes you CANNOT lose is a “magical experience”.

    (to be continued...)

  7. (cont...)
    I find it interesting that you bring up a gank loss and rage quit during a discussion about probe mechanics as one has nothing to do with the other. As for getting a frigate ganked? You know it does happen... in combat sites as well as in ore sites.

    And magical probes do nothing to enhance exploration; all they do is nerf the risk inherent in EvE. And I believe in that risk… deeply. Risk is Real and EvE is not for everyone… CCP has stated, repeatedly, that EvE is a niche game and not for everyone (read mass market).

    As re the market for probes… these changes will be reflected there yes, and that too is a negative IMHO though not one I worry about as market changes are like the weather… they happen and are actually an indicator of a healthy economy. As for destructible probes YES, and not only destructible but scannable, attackable and salvageable too dammit! As should be drones and fighters etc., etc. but no, no assuaging there I am afeared as the nerf is about USING probes not what comes after.

    Of course there are those as will love these changes and those as will hate ‘em… such is the way of man, however my argument is that reducing complexity for nothing more than the sake of reducing complexity is a nerf to the ‘nature’ of EvE.

    The argument here is, what is interesting complexity and what is useless complexity? And that is a subjective assessment… what we need to be discussing is what mirrors reality best? I do not want to play EvE on Easy mode… ever.

    1. simple point from someone who had started learning probes maybe 3 months ago: Right now if you click warp to site(or warp anywhere) and then in warp recall the probes they come screaming back to fill your hold. You can even watch them on the map. some get there once you are on the site if the site is close, others get there mid warp. and end up in the cargo hold. With that in mind this change really is minor from a lore, and physics perspective. its only a quality of life issue, on both sides (forgotten probes vs. wanting to leave em in system)


    2. No, these do not 'expire' they save themselves from our stupidity and jump back in the hold even if we forget them... I have several posts, damn good ones on what I call 'Adventures in Wormholes' where someone gets trapped without a launcher, or has probes DIE while scanning... this is now GONE due to Magic Probes.

  8. I love your idea for smartbomb probes, a whole new way to pvp. Can I add that they should be allowed to run in high sec space so that if you blow up someone else's probes you only get flagged as suspect you don't get concorded. This would allow the care-bears to more effectively defend against ninja looters and thus we could point to this mechanism when they cry and tell them stfu.

  9. Sure, make scanning newbie-friendly. But don't dumb it down so that it stays simplified. At least give us a switch to enable hard-mode scanning, for maximum flexibility.

    Blatantly copied from my comment on Tur's post:

    The problem with CCP's aim of making exploration 'more accessible' and the changes made are that they don't align. 'More accessible would be giving access to 8 probes with the basic skill trained, and having the basic skill already learnt. This is being done, and this is a positive change. However, the other changes don't really make exploration more accessible but simplified, and simplification doesn't necessarily encourage players to try something new.

    For example, the default probe configurations are not helpful. Sure, they are convenient, but they give the wrong message to the scanner. If CCP have created configurations that are optimal, then there is nothing to learn about probe placement and positioning. If the configurations are not optimal, perhaps to encourage experimentation, then the convenience of the default configurations is lost because the probes will always have to be repositioned after launch in to a more optimal configuration.

    So either CCP have already done it right and there's nothing to learn, or they've not and we have to fiddle with probes as before. There's no convenience for the experienced scanner, and the beginner will not think to move the probes from what CCP imply is right. The best idea would have been to have no default configurations but an option to save one or more player-defined configurations. Then we would have experimentation done, guides written, and experience counting for something.

    1. The scuttlebutt is we'll get custom formations in a later iteration with the ability to specify a default. I've not found a good source for that statement, though I've heard several people in the alliance talking about it.

    2. The custom formation thing was a quick mention in the dev blog on scanning changes a few days ago. It maybe has been mentioned in some forum threads too, since people were talking about it before the dev blog went up.

  10. I completely agree with Mabrick on this one. I think a lot of us love eve particularly because of its harsh learning curve, high risk:reward correlation and thew ability to creaqtively use your understanding of complex game mechanics to advance your position in game.
    I think a lot of players get confused between things which are difficult because they include a skill/intelligence element, and things which are difficult because theyre just a pain in the ass.The reason I left my probes behind isnt because i'm 'rubbish at probes' or stupid, its because I was high and forgot. Going back to get them is a pointless exercise everywhere where theyre freely available as it just adds more grindy work. One place I could agree that it makes things too easy is in WH space, where remembering your probe etiquette under pressure could be considered a valuble skill and makes a large difference to the gaming outcome. I am a strong proponent of reducing grindy activities in eve (while appreciating some grind is necessary to make stuff 'worth' something), whilst maintaining the amoun t of difficult activities which reward high skill.
    I don't think that people should necessarily be punished too much for being forgetful. I mean if you forget to cloak your blops battleship (something important) you can be and are punished with a real loss (replacing the ship), which is good and in the spirit of eve. If you forget your probes (not very important) you are punished by having to do something annoying (going back to get them or going somewhere to buy more), when have annoying tasks with no other redeeming components ever improved a game for anyone?


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