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Published December 11, 2012

 

The Evolution of Avionics

The Cessna 172 is by far the most produced aircraft in history, and nearly every pilot from airline pilots to fighter pilots do their primary flight training on it (or something very similar).

Pictured below is a standard cockpit layout of a 172 from several years ago, followed by what now ships (more or less) standard now.

Old Steam-Gauge 172

 And the new:

Modern Steam-Gauge 172

There’s many differences, some subtle, some not.

Although if you're really lucky, you get to fly something more like this:

Modern G1000 (Glass Cockpit) 172

All aircraft have undergone massive avionics changes in the last couple decades with one thing in mind; making available information more easily seen by the pilot, and the more critical the information, the more prominent it needs to be. Many issues in an aircraft can tend to creep up on you. Whether it is the slowly toppling attitude indicator, or the oil temperature slowly creeping up ever higher, the old ‘steam gauges’ can be hard to monitor all at once.

In an old aircraft, an engine with a high oil pressure would have a needle deflect a few milimetres in one direction or another, and it would be up to the pilot to be watching them closely. In a newer aircraft, you might have a blinking, or brightly-lit warning light.

The difference is night and day. The pilot no longer needs to go hunting for the information he needs, and as a result can deal with the problem before it escalates to something much more threatening. Increasing oil pressure for example could be an indication of an imminent engine failure. It’s often said that changes in aviation are written with blood, and there have been many incidents where prominently displayed information may have saved lives.

Enter: Eve Online

(In)famous game reviewer Yahtzee once described EVE’s UI as something that “could only be less intuitive if your monitor was at the bottom of a fucking well.” When he said that, and up until even eight months ago, that was arguably true. Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution all boasted UI improvements, and those boasts were not entirely unfounded.

The aggression panel differences, the threat panel versus searching through the overview, and even focusing your camera on your target all improve a capsuleer’s perception of the situation by leaps and bounds. However this isn’t about what CCP has already done, it is what they still need to do.

Eve's Annunciator Panel

If we are to compare EVE's old UI with steam gauges, to where we need to be compared to the G1000 shot above, what do we need to do to make it functional and appealing? The G1000 is easy because its integrated with the rest of the avionics, you can input and output much more data, while still monitoring everything that’s happening. 

Less Clutter; More Information

Compact local is awesome, but the general chat icon is useless. Why waste the space instead of conveying information? The local window is next to useless unless you're hunting for a specific person. Often a quick scroll-through for approximate ratios of who has what standings to you is all you do in a fleet. The rest of the time, you've probably got it minimized to save space, and are just watching the number to see if it ticks up or down, and how quickly. Instead of having the most useless icon in the world telling you nothing more than "This is a chatbox you can't close:" 

Changing it to something that actually displays information would not only have more information available at a glance, but would reduce the clutter as well. Perhaps something more along the lines of this:

 

Having it display the number of people in local, because lets face it, local is set apart from most other chat channels. If you're feeling really feeling ambitious, you could even do something more like this:


Having it display the current ratio of standings local occupants hold to you might actually be useful. Crazy, I know right? Displaying the information you need without having to open up a seperate window and scroll through a list.

Navigation

With the G1000, there is no need to pull out your map, no need to put it away, it’s just there, integrated into one of two screens. EVE’s current map can display a lot of information, and is very versatile, but it also has many shortcomings. For example; why has there not been an implementation of something like this into the map? There's currently no way to tell who owns a large area of space in the EVE client, aside from mousing over individual systems, or selecting their name from a list of hundreds. 

Don’t tell me about tiles, tiles are terrible. They don't even show who owns it. With little reason for alliances to have a contiguous empire, coupled with the number of alt-alliances which tend to propagate in nullsec, it can be hard determining who is actually control of vast swathes of space. Why CCP hasn't input an influence colouring of their own in the map is beyond me. Rather than having all the data sitting on its own, why not integrate it into something thats already in place? 

Furthermore, probably the most important aspect of navigating or investigating a solar system has been completely left out of the solar system map. Why has directional scan not been integrated into the map function? Sure, there's the 2-dimensional cone that pops up when you hit 'F11,' but thats a pretty sad excuse. It doesn't even show range. Why not integrate that information into the map function?

On the 'F11' note, the current map panel is next to useless. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I don't blame you. Nobody uses it. Here's a screenshot:

Does anybody use this?

Integrating a partial map function (especially the solar system map) into the side panel would actually make it useful when you’re in a rush. The 4-5 second load time for the current map can make it next to useless in a pinch if for example you’re running from a gang and can’t afford the extra seconds. The static nature of the panel means you have literally no control over it. No filters, no functionality, just white dots you can avoid, or in the constellation map, set destination.

Here's more of what I'm talking about:

Form, Function, Less Waiting

Fully functional maps would be quite useful for plotting courses on the go, or analyzing where you should go in the system. And if you like the size of how they are now, there's no reason to remove them.

One of the greatest features on a GPS in an aircraft is the nearest function. Essentially, you pick a feature, be it an airport, a flight service station, radio aid, et cetera, it will instantly pull up the nearest such feature without you needing to search through lists. The current search for services in the map function is passable at best, but why not include a nearest function in the side panel? Picture that you’re running from a gang, and REALLY need to dock up. You hit the nearest function, select station, and go direct to. No going through map settings, hilighting the service you need, setting destination to the ones that look close, and finding the lowest number. Just refresh, right-click, set destination.

Just like the avionics in the aircraft, the aim here is to display the most information in the shortest amount of time, with the fewest clicks. An easy comparison would be that up until very recently, you could say EVE had a UI like the top picture of the cockpit. There have been enough changes that we could even be nearing the middle example. Lets install that G1000 into EVE, and actually display the information we need with less clutter.

Take a lesson from aircraft avionics development. More information, fewer clicks, less clutter.

Kitt_JT
I have been playing EVE since late 2006, with a preference for nullsec warfare. I am currently a member of Nulli Secunda. In real life, I started a career as a pilot in 2007, and many of my articles discuss both flying, and EVE Online.

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