This is a bit ambitious, but I feel it’s justified. For the most part, I’m not very fond how the various detection and ranging systems available in the game work today. The systems themselves are functional, but I don’t think the way they oblige players to monitor them is a bit too tedious to be considered fun.
The first step is to reduce specific information available, particularly via the directional scanner. I feel that we would be better served by only having vague and not entirely reliable information about our surroundings. While the messages we pass via this interface are occasionally humorous, I suspect we would derive more satisfaction from a more immersive feature.
It would be worthwhile to make a lot of objects not particularly visible, even scan probes.
This change would also alleviate the burden of consideration of whether cloaking is all or nothing. As recon ships demonstrate, being obfuscated on d-scan has value. Data has value. Sometimes it should be masked.
The rate at which data is updated should also be fixed to a value that is not a burden to the hosting server. D-scan might consume capacitor at a moderate rate when active, but it should remain active at a regular update rate rather than involve the player refreshing the data with a button. There could be a slider to choose between more sensitivity or greater range, but the update rate should be fairly fixed and not unduly frequent.
As scan probes go, I feel that the chance mechanic should be replaced. I wouldn’t suggest removing the scanning minigame, just modifying it. Let everything be scannable, but simply modify the amount of time it takes to triangulate an ID. The smaller the signal, the more data processing time it takes. Some signals might have impractically large processing times if allowed to go to completion. That’s reasonable.
Rather than have a completion time, as the timer ticks through statistical quartiles, the accuracy of a warp would become better. Grids are big, you could land anywhere on them. Very faint signals might always have unreasonably large accuracy spheres, large enough perhaps to dump you onto an entirely separate grid or on the other side of a moon if you are particularly impatient.
We might as well have modules that make it harder to find players. These could be distinct from visual cloaking modules, but they could also be piggybacked onto some existing modules, especially any that are currently underutilized, like ECCM. I’d probably optimize them for hit and run oriented fits, but consider them irrelevant for typical fleet fits. It’s also not unreasonable that having a lot of ships near you might diminish a ship’s signal processing capability. That would be a nice advantage for players with fewer allies on hand.
Another consideration is only giving IDs to static objects. For mobile entities like ships, you almost might as well give them a new ID every time they move, session refresh or no. It would be better if a grid itself had a value that was modified by the number of ships currently on it. In this light, grids could also have negative modifiers from objects present on them, like asteroids, suppressing detectability in their proximity.
With such a set of handicaps in place, it would not be at all unreasonable to start putting burdens on modules like cloaks or those which have similar effects. Moderate capacitor usage on typical hulls could be differentiated from specialized cloaking ships which have lower capacitor costs. You could also diminish the attributes of the directional scanner when a cloak is active.
In summary, I would say that the general goal of limiting information available to players would greatly extend the time that two players could be active in the same system until either becomes aware of the other. This could provide a more interesting and varied game experience.