Saturday, February 15, 2014

See All The Things

Immediate panic rose in my gut when I saw on Twitter some devs talking about the Overview. One wrong move, I thought, and they could break the whole game.

* * * * *

As an EVE pilot, I have a love-hate relationship with the overview. On one hand, I hate how it looks and how much screen space it can take up on my monitor, all spreadsheet-y and wide as I try and fit three different types of velocities on it.... what's that? Yes, three. The base velocity which tells me how fast the target is going so I know I or anyone else has a chance to catch it, the transversal velocity to give me an idea if my weapons can track it, and the radial velocity which is a measure of how fast they are moving away or towards me as if I was stationary which is useful for seeing when a target is approaching (and how fast) or running away. I also have the militia column so I can keep an eye out for Minmatar Militia awoxers, and the usual Name, description, and distance.

But while it takes up a lot of space, I love how much information it gives me at a glance. Distance, speed, name, type, whether they are a pirate or suspect or ally... an experienced pilot can look at an overview and in a split second know whether or not he is in position or in trouble.

It is the universal tool; every pilot has one, uses it (sometimes incorrectly), and needs it. There is no other option.

And then I started leading fleets.

As a line pilot in a fight, the FC calls the primary and I attack the primary while locking up nearby secondaries. My spatial awareness doesn't need to be very high. As a tackle pilot in a fleet or a solo pilot, I needed more spatial awareness to know which targets to burn for, which direction to burn off, how to slingshot opponents to catch them or get away, but it was all "where am I in relation to everything else" so I didn't need to pay too much attention to everything, just my general orientation and vector.

But as the FC, you need to know even more. The spatial orientation of your fleet including the tacklers, DPS ships, Logistics, and even your EWAR. Then you need to know where your enemy is and what they are flying and doing. The overview alone is not enough and that's why I've started flying zoomed way out with the range view turned on like so:
Click for full size.
In a battle with my fleet of ~20 or more against a hostile fleet I have that zoomed out as far as necessary to see everything happening on the grid, sometimes up to more than 100 km radius. This view, combined with the information in the overview, gives me the on grid information I need to make appropriate decisions.

How Can It Be Better?

That's the million ISK question, isn't it? Some ideas recently thrown around involve having the overview somewhere else: undocked into its own window so it can live on another monitor, or streamed to a mobile device... but these two ideas involve moving he overview away from where I need it most! So I'm not a fan.

Another idea was to suggest we could have more than 5 tabs and that multiple overview windows could exist, giving the possibility of seeing multiple views on the current environment at once. I can see some possibilities with these concepts but doesn't really address the amount of screenspace the overview requires for me.

I've seen some suggestions that more information could be moved out of the overview and to the sceen itself, perhaps things like velocity and type could be attached to the ship icon. However, this idea quickly falls down for me when we start having more than ten ships on the grid and all that information gets harder and harder to see and process.

But there are some things we could do to improve information visibility in the main view. I've suggested multiple times in the past (and CCP even tried it on SISI once) that the icons need to be updated to give more information at a glance than they do now, so you can tell a destroyer from a cruiser or battlecruiser on the grid with looking up the type, or a battleship from a titan. Furthermore, colours of the icons could be used to indicate a number of things from velocity to damage taken. Right now the icons show rough ship types (small, medium, large, industrial) and that's it. Using the icon could free information from the spreadsheet overview and put it on the field without cluttering the view.

I also think that more customization to the tooltip of hovering over an icon in space would be valuable. Right now you can hack in upgrades to your Targeting HUD but it would be nice for CCP to formalize that functionality and improve it.

Overall I think a few small changes like that could go far into giving pilots and fleet commanders more information at a glance without cluttering the display beyond usefulness.


  1. If you have more than one monitor, you can span eve across multiple monitors and put the overview out of the way. Or move all your chat and other random windows out of the way. The only problem I have using two monitors is all the crap that defaults to popping up in the middle of the game window. It ends up split across the two monitors.

  2. "The overview alone is not enough and that's why I've started flying zoomed way out ..."
    Perhaps FCs, as a unique hierarchical role, could use a unique FC view. Maybe something derived from the hierarchical Fleet Outline?

    I say that, not because I'm FC qualified, but because almost military chains of command are based on an Order of Battle (OOB); gamewise, HOI III does an excellent job, as does Command Ops. Eve Online, quite unexpectedly, seems to have grown into this circumstance.