Ship probing (Archive)
The Revelations patch has brought many new things, among them shiny new ships and their wrecks. But what good will it do you to fit out that new battlecruiser if your target runs to a safespot as soon as you enter the system? Fear not, because with the knowledge from this guide that spot won't be 'safe' for long
For as long as I have played EVE, there have been scan probes. Until recently, they were one of the most complicated and arcane systems ever seen in a computer game. Even the most seasoned scanners were seen with their fingers crossed, praying to the god of probes for their scans to be successful. Spending hours probing a deep safespot, only to finally get in range for that last scan and see the target warp away laughing, was a daily occurrence.
Even though the probe god didn't hear our prayers, the developers at CCP have. With the Revelations patch, in addition to the high-profile stuff like new ships, rigs, contracts, etc, it has also included a totally new probe system - a system that anyone should, with a little effort (and this guide), be able to master.
Right Tools, Right Ship
Before we can start probing, we are going to need a few things. First, we need a probe launcher, of which there are currently two different types available - the Scan Probe Launcher and the Recon Probe Launcher.
The Scan Probe Launcher, a long-time work-horse for all old scan probers, has now been relegated to be used for Moon Surveying and Exploration. While it can still be used to scan for ships, it's very inefficient in that role. It takes five times longer to find the target than the Recon Probe Launcher. You should replace your Scan Probe Launcher with a brand new Recon model as quickly as possible. Despite the name, it is not limited to use on recon ships. Any ship with 220 CPU and a free high slot can fit one. Note though, that you can never fit two probe launchers on the same ship.
Now that we have a Probe Launcher picked out, we need a ship to fit it on. While any ship can be used for probing, there are some that will work much better than the rest. Your main ship of choice should be a Covert Ops Frigate which is fairly skill-intensive but has two important features that makes it, without contest, the best ship for the job.
The first is a 10 per cent reduction to scan time per level of your Covert Ops skill (this means that with level 5, the time taken to find the target will be cut in half). The second is the ability to fit a Covert Ops Cloaking Device II, which allows you to warp while cloaked. This is vital as it's not always possible to warp in right on top of the target, meaning you will have to approach the target manually - and most people will not sit still waiting for you if they see you coming for them.
If you don't have a Covert Ops Frigate, there are a few other ships that can also serve reasonably well. The Force Recon ships are your second best bet. They also have the ability to fit the Covert Ops cloak but get no bonus to scan time. There is also a group of T1 Frigates that get a scan time bonus. While they will probably make a nice platform for exploration, I would not recommend them for ship probing unless the target is obviously away from his keyboard. They have neither the ability to fit a Covert Ops cloak, nor the speed or survivability to hold the target down until support arrives.
So, we have our Probe Launcher picked and fitted to our ship; the final thing we need are probes. There are a total of 25 different varieties of probe in EVE, but only five can be fitted into the Recon Probe Launcher - the others are for moon surveying or Exploration. The five probes you want to use are the Snoop, Fathom, Spook, Ferret and Observator probes. What make these different from each other are their ranges, sensor strengths and accuracy.
A shorter-range probe like the Snoop has much higher sensor strength and accuracy than a longer-range probe like the Ferret. The longer-range probes also have longer flight time, which means that you can scan several times with them before they time out. As a scanner, you should carry several of each type. Ten to 20 of each type, plus a few extra of the shortest and longest range, should be enough, but as the probes are very small it will not be your cargo bay but your wallet that limits how many you can carry. Losing a Covert Ops Frigate full of probes can be quite expensive.
Before we start dropping our probes, we should try to get at least a rough picture of where in the system our target is located. To do this, we can make use of the Directional Scanner. Press Ctrl+F11 or click the radar button on your HUD next to the shield/armour dial to open it. This window has three tabs: the first is for your probes, the second is the Directional Scanner and the third is for moon surveying.
The Directional Scanner has two relevant options; you can limit it to show only the things you have set your overview to show, or you can have it show everything it can find. With the Revelations patch, the list of things the scanner will pick up has been limited to only include things related to finding and avoiding other players. This makes the view much less cluttered, especially in the 'show everything' mode. Some objects, like probes, will only show up if set to 'show everything' as there is no option to display them on your overview.
Narrowing the Search
In order to narrow down the search for our target, we need to find roughly where they are in the system using the directional scanner, adjusting the range and angle. The range is defined in kilometres, the maximum being 2,147,483,647 km (approximately 14.35 AU). If you input a value higher than this it will automatically reset to this value. If the target is more than 14.35 AU away, you will not be able to see them on your scanner.
Angle is defined in degrees; 360 means all around in every direction, while 90 is roughly the same as your viewing angle. The direction of the scan is centred on where your camera is pointing; you can see both the direction of the camera and the span of your scan by clicking F11 and looking at the top-down solar system view. By pointing the camera towards a planet or belt, and lowering the angle to five or 15, you can make sure you will only pick up things that are either in this belt on in the direction of this belt.
It can take some time before you become fast and accurate with the Directional Scanner, but once you master it, you'll find it a powerful tool in your arsenal for finding other players. Why bother with probes and chance being discovered, when you can find out that the target is sitting at a specific moon just by using the Directional Scanner?
Locating Your First Target
Now it's time to give hunting a try. The first thing you should do is open up the Directional Scanner and warp around the system a bit to see if you can locate your target's approximate position. If you can find him on the scanner and narrow the angle down a bit, you can see what objects in the system are close to him. Once you have his rough position, launch the appropriate scan probe. If he is 10-15 AU away, use a Spook probe, if he is 5-10 AU use the Fathom probe, and if he is less than five AU away, use the Snoop probe.
If you can't find him at all on your scanner, he is either cloaked or in a 'deep safespot'. If he is cloaked, you will just have to give up for the time being because it's not possible to find cloaked ships with probes. A deep safespot is a point in space that is more than 15 AU away from any object in the system, making it impossible to get close enough to see him on a scanner without the use of probes. To find a deep safespot, you will need to use either Ferret or Observator probes, depending on how deep it is, as these are the only probes with ranges exceeding 15 AU.
My First Scan Probe
To scan for ships, load up the correct probe, launch it, and open up your scanner (Ctrl+F11). Choose the first tab (System Scanner), select your probe here, and select at least the 'Ship' group from the list above. You can scan for more than one group simultaneously, but we will only scan for ships right now. The level of your Astrometrics skill determines how many groups you can select at one time and there is no penalty for using more than one group, so if it is helpful to do so, go ahead and select as many as you can/want. For the time being, we'll just scan for ships so as not to clutter up the results list with irrelevant data.
Once you have made your selection, click the Analyze button at the bottom of the window to initiate the scan. A timer will appear counting down until the scan is finished. If you have a cloak you can activate it now - just make sure you are not within 2km of the probe or it will decloak you. It's important that you do not close the scanner window or dock in a station. Doing so will abort the scan and you may still have to wait until it's finished before you can start a new one. If a probe times out before the scan finishes, the scan will also fail. It's important to keep track of how long is left on them (as seen in the scan window) and how long a scan takes for you to complete.
When the scan is finished, you will get a list of all the things the probe picked up. The list includes the ship/object type, signal strength, distance and accuracy. The type is the name of the ship type, such as 'Raven' or 'Thorax'. You will have to determine yourself which results belong to your enemy and which belong to your friends.
Signal Strength is the percentage chance that the target had to appear on your scan. For example, if the signal strength is 1.0 it means there was a 100 per cent chance that it will show up on your scan, or if the signal strength is 0.5, it means there was a 50 per cent chance it would show up. This means that you might have to repeat your scan several times before the ship you are searching for is picked up on it, especially if you are using the weaker, long-range probes. Signal Strength is a factor of the sensor strength of the probe you are using, the 'signal size' of the target, the distance between the probe and the target, and any skills you might have. Base sensor strength of probes is listed in their attributes. The 'signal size' is a factor based on the target's sensor strength and Signature Radius, calculated simply like this:
Target Signal Size = Target Signature Radius / Target Sensor Strength
This means that the smaller your target's Signature Radius and the larger his sensor strength, the harder he will be to find with probes. A target with several shield extenders will have larger Signature Radius and be easier to find, while a target with ECCM will have higher sensor strength and will be harder to find.
The final data shown in the scan window are 'distance' and 'accuracy'. Distance is simply the range from you to the signal you received, while accuracy is the maximum deviation from the signal to the actual target. If you are using a longer-range probe with high max scan deviation, it's not certain that the scan will get you close enough to the target to actually see it. You might need to warp to this signal and drop a new stronger, shorter-range probe and scan with that before you can get on top of the target. Before you can drop a new probe, you will need to destroy the old one as the probe system no longer allows you to drop a probe within scan range of another. To destroy a probe, right-click on it in the scanner window and choose 'Destroy Probe'.
The System Map
An interesting feature is the ability to view your results on the system map. Open it by clicking the zoom out button to the left of your HUD. From here you can see the sphere ranges of probes you have selected in your system scanner, and any results found since you opened the system view. If your results are not showing on the system view, you may have to click 'new scan' and then 'show results' without really starting a new scan. This should show the results on the map.
The results will show up as coloured dots on the map, over which you can hover the mouse to see the details. The colour denotes the signal strength, and thus the difficulty to find your target. Tthe colours are red for signal strengths of 0.0 to 0.4, yellow for 0.4 to 0.8, and green for higher than 0.8. You can warp to a signal by right-clicking on it in either the results list or the system map.
The Complicated stuff
There are some advanced mathematics behind the formulas used to determine signal strength and accuracy. I will not delve too deeply into them here, especially since they're subject to possible change in the future, but I will give a rundown on what variables effect them and how you can use them to your advantage. Amendments will be made to the scan probe guide sticky in the 'Ships and Modules' forum on the EVE Online website.
Signal strength, as mentioned before, is a factor of the Sensor Strength of the probe and the Signal Size of the target. Sensor Strength of a probe is modified by skills and drops with range. If the target is half the maximum range away from the probe (such as 10 AU away from a Spook probe), its strength is cut down to 75 per cent. At three quarters of the max range, the signal strength is reduced to 55 per cent of the total, and at just under max range, signal strength is just 35 per cent of normal.
Getting as close as you can to the target before launching probes is therefore important. This means that, in practice, the probe will at best operate at 75 per cent strength or above. If the target is closer than half the range of the probe you are currently using, you should switch to a shorter-range one. Essentially, you want to use the shortest-range probe that can reach your target.
Even More Complicated stuff
The 'Signal Size' of the target is a number I made to help with probe calculations. As previously stated, it is calculated as the target ship's Signature Radius divided by its Sensor Strength. Large ships (those with a large Signal Size) will be easier to scan for, while small ships with high Sensor Strength, such as recon ships, are much harder.
Note that these numbers are not static, they can be modified by modules that change Signature Radius and Sensor Strength like shield extenders, inertia stabilizers and ECCM.
Accuracy is random but the maximum possible deviation is a factor of the Maximum Scan Deviation of the probe, any skills you have and the Signal Strength of the scan. If the Signal Strength is 1.0 or more you will always get 0m accuracy and the accuracy can never be worse than the listed max scan deviation (see Scan Probe Stats, page 67).
Not all targets let themselves be found as easily as others. Here are some tips on how to catch those squirmy ones. Mission runners are a juicy target (but are way harder to find with the 13.12.2006 hot-fix patch, as is everything inside deadspace), with some special properties in regards to scanning. First of all, they usually have drones out, which can be found with your probes. Including the 'Drone & Probe' group in your scan will increase your chances of finding them. Secondly, if they are in a deadspace area, you don't need to get a full accuracy result. Just getting within a few thousand kilometres is enough, because at that range the deadspace field will pick you up and dump you at the entrance gate.
You can use multiple probes at the same time, which will affect your scans. Using multiple probes is both a curse and a blessing. You cannot drop one probe inside the scan area of another probe, so to get them positioned right can be a hard proposition. However, if the target is in range of more than one probe, your chance of finding them is significantly increased.
There are two practical implementations of using multiple probes. One is to spread out stronger-range probes to catch people who warp around in an attempt to avoid you. Note that if you use multiple probes and the target is not in the intersection of these probes, both your signal strength and accuracy will be lower than if you just used one probe.
The other usage of multiple probes is to catch someone who is using the scanner to see when you drop them. By placing two or three Spook (20 AU) probes just outside the range of the Directional Scanner so that they intersect above the target, you will be able to get a result that is accurate enough to land you in the same grid as the target without him ever seeing you on his scanner.
This may not be easy, depending a lot on the system's layout and where the target is hiding. You will have to use the system map to see for yourself. Another way to make it less likely that your probes will be picked up on the scanner is to destroy them as soon as you get the result you want. Destruction of a probe can even be done while cloaked and in warp. Done right, and with good skills, your probes should not show up in space for more than 40 seconds at most.
Rigging Your Ship
There is no perfect way to fit a ship for scanning, but there are a few tips for fitting out the most commonly used scanning ship - the Covert Ops Frigate. Since you don't need any guns, your high slots can be used to fit a cloak and probe launcher. If you intend to tackle your target rather than calling in backup on top of him, a warp scrambler to hold him and sensor dampners to deny him a lock until support arrives would be good to fit in your mid slots. Remaining mid slots are best fitted with a capacitor battery to enable you to run your scrambler and dampeners for longer, and to make the 100 AU or greater warps over those really large systems.
For your low slots, nanofibers are recommended. They give the best compromise between speed and agility, both of which are very important to a Covert Ops ship. Additionally, if you don't have Covert Ops level 5, you might need a co-processor in one of your low slots to fit everything. If you're lucky enough to have access to rigs, use either Auxiliary Thrusters for ship speed or Gravity Capacitor Upgrades for scan speed.
I hope you have found this guide useful. You'll be able to find much greater detail on the mathematics involved at the EVE Online forums in the 'Ships and Modules' section. This site will also be kept updated with any changes CCP makes to the probe system, so check in there often to make sure you are up to date.
Scan Probe Stats
Quick Reference Distances
Knowing these distances in a snip can be very helpful for a scanner:
1 AU = 150,000,000 km
So what do all those groups on your system scanner actually mean?
Read this handy reference:
Afraid you may have overlooked an important skill?
Below is a list of all the skills that currently affect probing. They are all located in the Science group.
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