Dubbed Aether Wars by CCP and Hadean, the maker of the Aether Engine, was about to debut. With a hefty target of 10,000 concurrent players, we all waited for the servers to open up access. Would this be the glorious resounding success many hoped would someday lead us from TIDI to true massive battles? Or, would this leave a smoking crater in the Earth where the servers once stood?
As thousands waited for the mass test systems of the Aether Engine to open its doors, many eagerly posted in Aether’s Discord channels. After a short 30-minute delay, a few thousand users logged in and the numbers went to just over 3,200 pilots.
The environment was EVE-beautiful out of the gate. The ship was responsive and easy to fly and the graphics were smooth. More feedback on hits and damage to targets would have been helpful. Of course, gameplay was not the target of this effort. Hadean wanted data on performance and pushing their OS to the limit.
It was clear from the start that we were not going to have 10,000 human players. Even at the 3,200 player level performance seemed good. The game wasn’t perfect and no one was expecting a polished experience. With the addition of CCP’s art and gameplay, the experience wasn’t bad. Flight controls seemed stable throughout the event no matter how many clients connected.
Eventually, Hadean began to add additional AI clients. They didn’t seem to have much AI short of sitting and firing missile after missile. At around 6,600 clients FPS dipped to single digits. Even at that level it still felt better than TIDI. Soon they ramped the client level to over 13,200 clients with the vast majority being AI drones.
As time went on firing missiles got a little hokey. You could lock and fire but you could no longer see your missiles tracking to the target and they would go somewhere in space and then you would see them come from behind you and hit the target later. At times missile tracking seemed to sporadically work. The missile tracking may be the result of a lite version of a game.
Yet to Come
Like all new technology, this one is going through its crawl, walk, run phases. It didn’t crash. It wasn’t terrible. At the end of the day, a tremendous amount of data was collected. From the post-test email, it seems the powers that be were pleased with the way the demo ran and data collected. We will wait eagerly for CCP and Hadean to share what they have learned in due time.
This test was part of GDC, Game Developer’s Conference, in San Francisco this week. The conference was already full of cloud gaming buzz with Google’s announcement yesterday of its Stadia platform for gaming. This technology is going to heat up in 2019. It will be interesting to watch how it develops.
Gamers want this technology to succeed. There is a pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow for the company that can deliver massive player interaction to the market place. While we may all want a bigger EVE sandbox with bigger fights and no lag, this writer is betting a giant SIMs or SecondLife-like application of the technology will have more mass appeal. We are here waiting for the birth of the precursor to the Oasis. The application of this technology from both an entertainment and a business application are limitless.