Probing – Now and the Future

This is mostly prompted by a comment on twitter, about the player skill levels involved in probing. 140 characters isn’t enough, much of the time. To be clear, I’m talking primarily about site probing, rather than combat probing, which requires a slightly different method.


I generally like the changes which have been made to probing. The primary changes are:

Launch all your probes at once

Sure, some people don’t like this, but it just wasn’t fun, sitting there and manually cycling your probe launcher. It added nothing except a minor annoying time sink. The only downside to this is for combat probing, as the victims have less time to catch the ship of the person launching them, before they cloak.

Auto recall on probes

As someone doing exploration, it’s all good. As a manufacturer, this is a little annoying. That’s the one downside. The probe market will have to adjust to fewer lost probes, so being smaller. However, RSS probes should become more popular. (due to not losing them any more)

Probe Formations

Oh god yes. This is probably the bit where people are saying ‘No skill any more’. The only real differences between now and the way it used to be is: No tedious moving probes into formation, and no needing to hold shift, resize probes, hold alt, move probes. It’s just move and resize in one action. Sure, it’s easier, but it’s hardly different skill wise. Just less tedious.

Notification of signatures, without needing to scan

Again, not a skill change. Just a tedium removal. No more ‘launch probes, shift to cover everywhere a signature might be, scan, get nothing, next system, rinse, repeat.’

8 probes

This does make life easier. It’s the one thing I’m less sure about. You’ll get better signature resolution, because you have more probes.


All that’s really been removed are the fiddly tedious bits. Localizing signatures takes all the same steps, with just a slight reduction in time required. The skills to do that, haven’t changed.


The Future

It’s all been a very good start. Some tweaking is required, however, to come close to ‘perfect’

Probe strength vs skill bonus

With the 8 probes, people with low skills just got a bump to their scanning ability. I’d suggest dropping the probe strength a bit, but increasing the bonus from Astrometrics.

Probe Groups

Right now, all your probes are treated as a single group. resize the group, and you resize all your probes. Ideally, with custom formations, you’ll be able to deal with groups. Say, 4 and 4, so you can resize just four, while leaving the other 4 to localise a different signature.

Custom Formations

Exactly how these would be defined would be interesting. I’d suggest leaving it entirely out of game, with an XML import. Doing it in game is a bunch of work, for a limited market, as the two basic ones are enough for the casual prober.

I’d suggest a format based on 3 coordinates per probe, with 0,0,0 being the centre of the formation, and the units used being in probe scan radius. So if you resize it, it doesn’t matter, everything keeping the same formation, at 0.25 au or 32 au. Leave the interface to create the formations to third party developers. It could be done fairly easily in a web site, using something like WebGL. And an XML file is simple to move around. Like overview files.

Single probe launch

For most of us, launching all the probes at once makes sense. But there are situations you may wish to launch them one at a time. So a toggle, or slider for ‘how many to launch’ makes sense. Stick it on a ‘advanced’ tab, to keep it out of our way.


With all of that in place, probing is pretty close to perfect. If I’ve missed something you consider important, give me a yell and we can discuss it. I’m always interested to hear about edge cases.