Header Image by Empanada.
EVE Online’s big battles are one of the game’s main selling points. They’re the events that see two thousand players shoot each other over a strategic objective, or just have fun. Veteran EVE players tell stories of those fights. Often, much of the fun comes from their place in the bigger narratives. LK1K-5 should have been one of those fights. It was the final timer of a staging citadel in the face of a massive invasion; a desperate ‘last stand’. The narrative writes itself. This time, though, the crushing server load turned ‘last stand’ into ‘endless slog’.
Doing the Heavy Lifting
Being part of a so-called “TiDi fuckfest” is seldom fun for anyone involved. Masses of players crowding into a single system creates server loads that cause the software problems. The game not only slows down, but also ceases to function normally. Over the years, CCP has worked to find ways to mitigate this. TiDi itself, aka Time Dilation, is one of them. The server literally just slows down the way it’s handling commands and queries, so what should take 1 second can take as much as 10. This lets the system ensure that everything is calculated correctly and that no commands or requests get dropped. While it can be annoying, this is vastly preferable to the pre-TiDi phenomenon of ‘black screen of death’. People would simply never load system, or crash completely. Then later, they’d learn their ships were destroyed by the lucky few who did manage to get in.
Another is node mapping. Tranquility is a server cluster, in which varying amounts of resources are dedicated to solar systems. The more resources dedicated to a system, the more people can effectively be in system before time dilation slows down the pace of the game to allow the server to catch up and prevent crashes, disconnects and module malfunctions. CCP allows players to submit fight notifications to request such additional resources. We see the effects of proper node mapping in every-day gameplay: Jita, the massive trade hub in Caldari High-Sec, has its own dedicated ‘supernode’. CCP maintains at least one other ‘supernode’ for use when they’re notified of a particularly large fight.
So What Went Wrong?
Even with Jita-level supernodes available, things don’t always go smoothly. The Keepstar battle in 9-4 was run on the available supernode, but even it became overwhelmed. In this instance, though, rumour is that things did not quite work as intended even before Thursday’s fight. Instead of reinforcing LK1K-5’s node, CCP reinforced a different node. The corresponding disconnects and malfunctions were difficult to handle for all involved.
Disconnect and modules refusing to work properly are even more crucial during fights over structures. When you shoot a structure, you are racing against a repair timer after which the structure becomes invulnerable again. You need to apply a minimum amount of damage per second to keep the repair timer from resuming. However, even with the whole system in time dilation, the citadel’s timer runs on the global server speed. This means that even with full time dilation reducing your DPS to 10%, you need to apply full undiluted damage. As a result, you need to basically apply ten times the minimum pausing damage in order to keep the structure paused under maximum TiDi.
Critical Response to LK1K-5
INN spoke to some of the FCs involved to get their impressions.
Hood aficionado Progodlegend, of TEST Alliance Please Ignore (TEST), was in overall command of the invasion forces. His group Legacy Coalition, provides much of the muscle for the Legion of xXDeathXx (xDeath)’s efforts to take new space in Immensea.
“Both sides fought well. The defensive advantages of the Fortizar put the balance of power in the defenders favor based on the capital fleets that were formed. The subcap fleets had a shot, but ultimately CCP’s game doesn’t function well enough for any strategy or tactics to work other than stand still and shoot each other. There’s no such thing as sig tanking when everyone gets disconnected at some point during the fight and their ship drops to 0 m/s. I’ve been playing for 11 years and participated in most of the heavy lag fights over that time period, and the performance in large fights hasn’t been this bad since pre-tidi. There were 2500 people in local on a reinforced node. That is not a large fight, we’ve had larger fights in the past 5 years that functioned much better. There is something wrong with the code that effects fighters and citadels, and it’s breaking the game.”
The Therapists’ Noraus led the defense on behalf of the Winter Coalition. He was equally critical of the way the game is handling the current mechanics around fighters and citadels:
“[The engagement] wasn’t equally unbearable for both sides. Right now it’s impossible to kill a well-defended large citadel—the lag ensures it.” On the issue of disconnects he adds “We had 30-40 carriers disconnected. While should have won the [space superiority] fight, they died instead to a Goon prober. [Progodlegend] disconnected at a crucial moment, when he fleet-warped his fleet. [LK1K-5] shows us that citadel bashes are fruitless and not enjoyable at all. Either fighters or Fortizars need a fix.”
The Imperium sent three fleets, including Jackdaws under Callius Nalelmir:
“It didn’t help that half the fleet [disconnected] the moment the fight started. All in all, I don’t think most people enjoyed the fight. The fight started with more than 100 people disconnecting, broadcasts barely working. It was draining for most of the people involved.”
While the siege of LK1K marks the opening campaign of a larger invasion, the conflict between Legacy and WinterCo has been a longer-simmering dispute. How this defense impacts WinterCo’s campaign against Legacy in Impasse is still unknown. This is unlikely to be the last structure shoot, with Legacy’s staging Keepstar for the region anchored in DY-P7Q. However, it is questionable whether WinterCo will attempt a counter-assault, as their self-expressed motivation is revenge for TEST’s cloaky camping, and not a strategic campaign at their home region in the south.
Looking at the wider importance of the battle, it raises the question how well CCP are doing in their campaign of allowing players greater control over their infrastructure by anchoring structures in space when those structures are playing by different rules than the rest of the server. During the interviews, the FCs agreed that the current state of server performance looks worse than before, sapping the fun out of big fights like these. LK1K-5 could have been an intricate dance of 2500 characters. Instead, to the degree that it worked at all, it was merely a stationary slugfest.