In January of 2018, EVE Online set a Guinness World Record when 6,142 players fought in the biggest multiplayer battle ever. It should have been an amazing moment, but it turns out that having 6,000 people all fighting in one tiny section of space places a massive burden on the networking infrastructure of a game that was originally launched in 2003. EVE Online's enormous fights are unparalleled feats of cooperation and political scheming, but it's hard to appreciate that when you're stuck in a battle so crippled by lag that your ship is taking minutes to respond to inputs and disconnects are killing more people than lasers.
It's a glorious, frustrating, spectacular mess, and it's one that developer CCP Games is trying to fix. In a new dev blog, CEO Hilmar Pétursson revealed a partnership with a UK-based tech startup called Hadean that specializes in cloud-based computing. Using Hadean's proprietary engine, CCP is running a test in two weeks to see how it'll handle a battle with 10,000 players.
Called EVE: Aether Wars, anyone can sign up to participate in the tech demo. On March 20, participants will be able to log in and join a battle—or something like a battle. "Be warned though, what you will be experiencing is not a game, it's not even a prototype of a game," Pétursson explains. "This is the raw Aether engine with EVE spaceship assets and some interaction dynamics, which are nothing like EVE Online or EVE: Valkyrie. CCP is providing our visual assets for use in the Aether Engine, enabling Hadean to focus on addressing the challenges we face with large-scale online multiplayer environments."
With testers playing at home on March 20, the demo will be broadcast live at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco where Pétursson will then host a small talk to address the results. Don't get too excited just yet. As Pétursson explains in the blog post: "The partnership with Hadean is about more drastic, fundamental changes and is currently in the domain of cutting-edge tech research and development. Given that it’s still in its early stages, it’s not possible to put any timeframe on at this point, or even if the various attempts will work out the way we want them to. I do believe though, that this type of activities will be huge steps in the process of making sure that EVE really is forever."
Still, it's cool to see EVE Online swinging for the fences and experimenting with tech despite being over 15 years old. If you want to participate in EVE: Aether Wars, you can sign up here. PC Gamer will be at GDC, so look forward to our report on how the experiment pans out.