I am sure you've been scanning at some time, when suddenly your probes are gone, or otherwise moved way off in a direction you did not expect. What happened there? You accidentally grabbed the z-axis arrow when it was almost invisible, and then you moved the mouse, launching the probe-box like a rocket into the z direction.
How does this work? Well, let's show an example.
How It Usually Works
Here's a normal view of probing in process:
|After first scan.|
I want to refine the scan, so I shrink the probe-range down to 2 AU, then I start moving the probes so that they are centered on one of the dots. I'll go for the left dot first.
First I rotate to the "side" view of the probes. (The "side" is a view looking edge-on of the ecliptic of most systems -- recall that EVE has absolute directions.) Now I adjust the probe positioning in two directions, by grabbing the cube. I get this:
|side view, after one move|
Note that I could do this adjustment by grabbing the arrows that stick out to the sides of the cube. Why not? For one thing, adjusting with the arrows does one dimension at a time, so it is half as fast. Also, notice that from this angle, the left and right arrows are seen edge-on, and so they are quite difficult to grab. It is not impossible to grab them, but with a height of a few pixels, it's not easy.
Continuing with the normal probing routine. Now I rotate the view 90 degrees, so I am looking almost straight "down" at the cube (and thus also the ecliptic). (Note that by CCP's design, you cannot look exactly straight down, just close to it. That's why you can see a bit of cube other than the top edge.)
Then I scan. Yah! One more than this one will resolve 100%.
The Z-Axis Gotcha
OK, now let's scan the other sig. First, I select that sig on the Probe Scanner window. Then I hit the "Launch Pinpoint Formation" button, which resets the probing range to 4 AU. (This is a wonderful feature that CCP added in... Odyssey? Not sure. Anyway, added since I started the game.)
|Changing to the second sig.|
The process is the same as before. I want to refine the scan, so I shrink the probe-range down to 2 AU, then I start moving the probes so that they are centered on the dot. First I rotate to the side view of the probes.
|The probes taking a z-axis excursion.|
|Probes gone, tilting a bit|
|Far out, maaaan.|
The Probe Arrangement Compression Bug
There is one more thing to mention in this connection. Here's a picture of the situation taken immediately after what I did above, but after I moved the probes back to the system:
|Probes have lost relative positioning.|
I moved the probes back into the inner system. Then I zoomed in. Note that they have moved relative to each other, compressing the normal "Pinpoint" scanning configuration.
This is a bug. It's not serious for me, though, since I know that one can always get back to a good pinpoint scan-probe configuration by hitting the "Launch Pinpoint Configuration" button. I do worry about newbs, though. This is an undocumented feature; very handy for those of us who know. But if you don't know, you either have to reset your probes by hand, or re-launch them.
Since I have come this far, why not throw out a few solutions? I already propose a few back in my original article. Quoting me...
There are two fixes I think I'd be happy with.These are good solutions, particularly the second one. In addition, I'd like to offer a quick and dirty partial workaround. Change the "Launch Pinpoint Configuration" button so that when it is clicked and the probes are already set to 4 AU distance, instead of doing nothing, it centers the probes on the local star. This does not solve the Z-axis problem, of course. It simply mitigates it, for expert probers like me, by offering a workaround. Still, it's a lot better than the current situation.
One way to go would be to leave the UI drawn as it is, but make the arrows insensitive when they are sufficiently parallel to the Z axis. Ideally I'd like to be able to grab the cube instead (this is always what I am trying to do). But if it were simply a no-op, I could probably live with it.
The better way to deal with it is to not display the arrow when it is pointing mostly in Z. This is the better UI. To show a control element at all is to suggest it is there for a good reason and that it can be profitably interacted with. In this case, there is no good interaction with the arrow once it gets to an angle of perhaps 45 degrees or less with Z. So, stop drawing it then. (Indeed, if the "don't draw" angle were as large as 60 degrees I think that would be even better.)