Well, another milestone has come and gone. January 23, 2018 (or, YC 120 if you prefer the CONCORD date). The Battle of 9-4RP2. It was going to join Asakai, B-R5RB, 6VDT, and M-OEEB in the annals of Capsuleer Military History. Or, you know, real-world gaming history. We seem to make that a lot, here in EVE. It was touted as a ‘Million Dollar Fight’. It was going to be a night to remember.
And it will be remembered. It will be remembered, though, more like HED-GP than B-R. A night where server mechanics, in the words of one redditor, “cheated both sides”.
Much of the gaming media agrees. Massively even went so far as to call it ‘a bust’. PCGamesN said “it was a bit of a damp squib”. (For those who don’t know, a squib is a small firework or explosive. It’s the thing they use in movies to make the front of someone’s shirt puff and get a ‘bullethole’ when they’re supposed to have been shot.) Players were not happy.
So what happened? Why did something that was going to be so big go so wrong?
EVE Online’s servers weren’t up to the task. That’s been the biggest chunk of the reaction. The community says so. The media agrees. Even CCP Falcon said so: “What they couldn’t do, because of heavy server load, was they couldn’t relaunch new waves of fighters when their fighters were destroyed.”
Everyone agrees. The servers couldn’t handle it. EVE’s ‘new’ hardware let us down. Right?
No, they really didn’t. And the servers aren’t all that new. EVE’s current servers, the so-called ‘TECH III’ server farm, went live on February 29, 2016. Two years is a long time in computer life, and the code’s grown and developed since then.
Brain-In-A-Box (BIAB) went in at about the same time. When combined, the two produced significantly improved server response time. As CCP Quant says in that dev blog, ”The average CPU time per user now is about 40% of what it was back before we launched BIAB.”
So, 40% of what it was before, per user. That’s pretty good. There was even a test-case fight on March 3, and the server stayed above 10% Time Dilation (TiDi). So what happened Tuesday? The answers are in that two year old devblog.
The average CPU time per user dropped to 40% of what it had been. At the Battle of B-R5RB, there was a maximum system population of 2,670 players. It’s down in the ‘B-R5RB BY THE NUMBERS’ section there. Tuesday night, we topped out at over 6,000 players in the system.
How’s that compare? If we say it was only exactly 6,000 people (it wasn’t), that means B-R was 44.5% the size of 9-4RP2. 40% would have taken 6,675 people. So we were in the range of ‘you know we’re going to hit soul-crushing lag’ right from the start.
The strategy involved contributed to the lag. Both sides fought primarily with fighters and subcaps, rather than just dropping 200 titans and 400 force auxiliaries. Both sides are also rumored to have made use of espionage. There are reports of everything from a cyno trap to a subverted Scorpion FC.
Progodlegend was spot-on when he called the strategy that would be used:
“[The] fleet commanders will get their fleets onto the field of battle and place them into their “safe zones” that they’ve setup for themselves (it’s a dumb new game mechanic). Then, they will stare at each other for literally hours, and send out NPC drones that they barely control that mostly do nothing, while leaving all of their Titans in complete safety.”
This decision on both sides has been criticised by some. Progod even went so far as to call the FCs on both sides “nothing but complete cowards”. But of course, it wasn’t his alliance choosing how much money to put at risk.
Leadership on both sides, including FCs, has a responsibility not to waste their members’ time and efforts. Getting into a supercapital takes a lot more time and effort than losing one foolishly. Losing a ship during an epic fight is one thing. Even the people whose titans died at B-R still have the story of flying a titan at B-R. Losing one as part of a ‘damp squib’ is something else.
Both sides were ready to commit titans and dreads if the fight had actually broken out. Until then, both sides played it smart.
The social hacking side of things—the espionage—obviously doesn’t increase server lag. But what about the ship choices?
“Lessee, nothin’… from nothin’… carry the nothin’…” -Jayne Cobb
At B-R, sentry drones were the drones of choice. An unholy assload of sentries, but sentry drones. Sentry drones move real slow. We act like they don’t move, but they move. 1m/s. That means whenever there’s a calculation involving drone speed, the sentry drone simplifies this calculation by making it ‘whatever number you gave me? That number’.
Supercarriers and carriers carried a ridiculous amount of drones. However, only a small number were in space at any one time. Modern supercarriers can launch up to 36 Space Superiority Fighters at once, and still have room for two flights of six Fighter/Bombers. Yes, the code treats each squadron as a single object for purposes of tracking, movement, and plotting, but each object has a lot of variables attached.
How many fighters are still active in the squadron? This affects its damage, so the server tracks it. Which special abilities are active? Which ones does it even have? How does the active special impact signature, movement speed, tracking, etc etc.
Making all of this worse is the dirty little secret of the ‘40%’ math discussed above: Server load isn’t linear.
If two people are on a grid, then the server tracks all of their interactions. We’ll call the number of interactions between two people ‘X’. So with two people, there’s X interactions. With three people, that’s then three sets of interactions. Person A: Person B, Person B: Person C, and Person A: Person C.
So two people is X, but three people is 3X. What about four? A:B, B:C, C:D, A:C, A:D, B:D. 6X. And no, I’m not plotting out the interactions between six thousand people. The point is, the math gets ugly, fast. 2.25x the number of people doesn’t mean 2.25x the amount of server load. It means… well, a lot more.
So what’s the deal, then? What can be done about the problems EVE ran into on Tuesday night? Can anything be done? Are we doomed to a never-ending cycle of annoyance as we push the hardware past its breaking point?
The short answer is: we’re doomed. Probably. But maybe only kinda doomed?
The long answer gets into how wars are fought, why wars are fought, and understanding a lot of motivational… well, hell, look at who wrote this. The long answer is long. At times it seems to ramble. I’ll make it all make sense though. Still gonna be long. You’ve been warned.
It’s human nature. It’s the nature of conflict. And it’s the nature of EVE: there aren’t any artificial constraints on how many people we can pack into a fight. As long as that’s true, we’ll keep packing them in until we can’t. Right now, ‘we can’t’ is determined by ‘because the server’s struggling’.
It’s easy to dismiss that as people complaining about ‘the blob’. Both sides are right, too. People are complaining about blobbing. Blobbing remains the single most effective way to win. It’s why nations have armies, and not champions. Complain about it all you like, N+1 is the oldest way to win. Pack predation shows it’s even older than ‘pick up a rock and hit him’. So as long as it’s an option, it’s going to be used. And as long as it can be used, it’s going to cause problems. Nature of the beast.
CCP knows it, too, that’s why they tried to push us in the other direction. Remember that? That CCP tried to beat N+1? They called it ‘Aegis Sov’? That’s right. Entosis warfare was the answer to the blob. The intention was to distribute fights around the constellation, to create ‘front lines’.
It’s not like it’s a stupid idea, at its core. Jump-capable ships make creating choke-points and establishing actual front lines difficult. The big complaint people had had about Dominion Sov warfare was ‘N+1 wins’. So you introduce a mechanic to create front lines, and spread out the N+1. Unfortunately, entosis warfare doesn’t actually encourage fights.
N+1/Area = Conflict?
The problems seem to come from not going deep enough into the root causes. Why do ‘front lines’ exist in warfare? It’s not just because you can’t cram more than 8 people into 2 meters of battlespace. It’s because of limited mobility, and the need to present a defense at all points. Where there hasn’t been one, ‘front lines’ have collapsed to ‘the tip of the spear’. Consider the 2003 invasion of Iraq. For the most part, the American armored columns just rolled on through, more or less straight to Baghdad. There just wasn’t anyone standing in the way that could force them to deploy as more than a column.
In EVE, there’s no way to provide that blockading force. Not really. At most, you can blockade one system gate for a few hours, and that really only works where jump drives fail. The last great ‘holding action’ I can think of in EVE was five years ago, at the opening of the Fountain War. TEST, NCPL, and their allies held the J5A gate in B-D for hours against a concerted push by CFC battleship fleets. The distance between the systems, B-DBYQ in Cloud Ring and J5A-IX in Fountain, is longer than a capital could jump. If you want to jump into Fountain, you jump through Aridia, or you jump through Outer Ring. In the end, something like 600 Tempest Fleet Issues died on that gate, and the CFC didn’t break through.
Choke Points and Mobility
Regional gates often provide that kind of natural choke point. But even that has faded as more and more of the fighting strength of the null blocs has moved into capitals and supercapitals. More, simply being able to go around a choke point renders it useless. Had the CFC been prepared to send a massive capital fleet through Outer Ring, the invasion of Fountain could have begun by another vector while defending forces were tied up on that one gate.
These days, the short-term mobility provided by jump drives and titan bridges means that defending forces will be able to respond quickly in multiple directions. Even without them, the game’s built around the idea of being able to move relatively quickly from one star system to another. So you can get from one part of your space from another in a time-frame that isn’t a burden. It’s good for being able to move around, or for being able to go on a roam through enemy space, but it sucks for spreading out a fight.
That mobility means you never need garrison forces to slow an enemy down. You can keep your entire military force in one central home system. Any attempt at a multi-pronged attack will almost certainly fail. The defender attacks only one group at a time. The term is ‘defeat in detail’. The enemy gets clever and splits his own forces. Then you hit one group at a time with your entire force. It’s like the old maxim of ‘divide and conquer’. You just get them to divide themselves up, first. As a result, the way to win in most situations is to throw a massive hammerblow at the enemy, and force them to either meet you head on, or just give up and blueball.
Garrison? Like the Puppet Guy on South Park?
In a real-world scenario, where it can take hours or days to move your forces, or even weeks to actually marshal the logistics and supply capability to set out, garrisons matter. They provide local defense forces that can slow down an enemy’s advance. This helps create choke points and front lines, where the two sides try to figure out where the weak points are and react to one another’s movements. Historically, they’ve been the folks getting the advantage from forts, keeps, castles, and so on. Structural defenses in strategy games have the advantage for the same reason. They give you time to rally your forces. A couple of cannon towers in WarCraft II weren’t going to stop a serious push, but they could slow it down long enough for you to figure out where the hell you left your Ogres.
This creates the balance between offense and defense in many strategy games. You can spread your forces out, or you can turtle—build one fortified location and send everything out on sorties from there. In most modern RTS games, turtling is always the right choice.
It’s the right choice in EVE, too. In both cases, it’s the same reason: mobility. If your forces can get there in time, let them. Don’t send them in to die piecemeal. If your enemy nibbles at the edge of your territory, respond with all the force you can. Obliterate that attack, and then pivot to deal with the next. Eventually, attrition should give you the upper hand.
Theory of War
It runs into problems, though, when resources are plentiful. In the real world, sane people don’t go to war because they’re bored. They go to war because they have to, or because they want something the other guy has. Power, maybe, or land, or money. Whatever the cause, they feel there’s a scarcity, and they do what they can to get it. The big, hammer-and-tongs wars of EVE had followed that pattern, too. The Fountain War of 2013 kicked off because of the moongoo rebalance, an economic driver. The Halloween War, the backdrop for B-R, was about space for a rental empire vs the Russians wanting their home regions back.
“But wait,” some might say, “what about World War Bee?” Really, though, WWB/the Casino War fits the pattern perfectly. Yes, there was an element of pure spite to it all. But was it really a memorable war? Was it a war where people came out of it talking about the great fights they had? Or did one side simply not show up… because we could? There was no real scarcity issue in play for either side. One side had spite as a motivation and casino money to enable it, but the other? We didn’t have a reason to throw good money (our supers) after bad (our space). As much as we wanted our space (and make no mistake, we did), we wanted our supers more.
That’s where EVE is right now, too: what fighting is going on at the bloc-level isn’t going on because of real, systemic conflict drivers. It’s going on because of boredom, or it’s going on because of longstanding grudges and resentments. Grudges and resentments will only get you so far. If EVE wants people to fight—to really fight, not just poke at one another with the occasional dreadbomb—then people have to need to fight. And CCP needs to understand how to get people to fight, and get them to fight the way CCP wants.
It Starts With Understanding
Right now, Citadels are designed to be the centerpiece for warfare. That, and a replacement for POSs. They work differently than POSs though, which some folks at CCP don’t seem to get. For example, talking about 9-4, Falcon said the following:
“With focused damage from turrets on dreadnoughts [they could have] completely obliterated the thing in one go. That would have meant putting a lot of assets on the field and potentially losing hundreds, potentially, four, five, six hundred dreadnoughts, which is a sizeable[sic] amount. You’re talking real world value, several hundred thousand dollars.”
Except, no. The damage cap mechanics of citadels means that even if there had been six hundred dreadnoughts, it wouldn’t have gone any faster. The fighters were already hitting the cap. Also, the defenders would have dropped maybe a dozen titans with BFGs around the dreads and killed them all. So, poof dreads, no acceleration of damage.
Of course, our theoretical dreads are suicide dreads. That means an inexpensive fit. But let’s say they were 3.2 billion ISK each. 500 PLEX, one month’s subscription, costs 1.6 billion. Let’s call it $20 for simplicity. So each of our dreads is $40. That’s $24,000, not ‘several hundred thousand dollars’.
Now, Falcon was speaking extemporaneously. So we’ll forgive him the brain fart. But the mechanics issue—that the damage cap would have made anything more than maybe a dozen dreads useless—that’s more illustrative of our issue.
CCP doesn’t actually know how to get what they want. This is also why warfare in EVE right now is so skewed toward defense. Citadels replace POSs. So they’re getting massive battles in one location. Aegis Sov replaced Dominion Sov, so they’re not getting fights over sov. They gave players limitless resources to exploit, so there’s no scarcity driving warfare.
What You Want…
CCP’s been giving people shiny things to entice them to want to be out there, using their shiny things. That’s not wrong. But at the same time, they’re giving them shiny things that makes them not want to lose their shiny things. They need reasons to lose those things. And they need reasons to lose them the way CCP wants them to. So what does CCP want, and how do you get that?
What they want is pretty simple: they want big fights with a lot of players where lots of expensive things blow up. It’s sort of obvious. After all, that’s what they’ve made their marketing around for years. They wait for us to give them the next big news item to tell everyone about. That’s actually a good move. When was the last time you saw a commercial for any other MMO? Seen any WoW Guild Leaders get profiled in Playboy? Seen raid leads go on the CBC? World of Warcraft gets coverage based on the number of subscribers—on how many people are following the script. EVE gets coverage when we write our own.
They also want those fights distributed through a constellation, so the servers can handle the load better. Granted, the current structure of TiDi spreads the load out across the entire constellation. At first it seems like this wouldn’t be a huge benefit. Remember, though, how the N+1 math works on a grid. Break those 6k people up onto just 2 grids, and things improve significantly. So if you can spread them to 2-3 systems, you should see a fair amount of improvement. 4-5 systems, even better.
… And How You Get It.
Good freakin’ question. First off, if I had all the answers to that, I’d have already spammed CCP with them. That said, I’m gonna spitball some thoughts. Broadly, though, you need to have multiple objectives that have to be actively contested. Don’t give us some placebo about ‘grid control’. Grid control means a hundred different things in a hundred different ways. The guys who have a half-dozen bubbles and smattering of Griffons can have effective ‘grid control’ in entosis warfare, but that doesn’t mean they’d have it if there was something to shoot over.
And it needs to be something to shoot at, something multiple people can attack and multiple people can defend. Otherwise, you get fleets sitting around with their thumbs up their butts going ‘gee, isn’t this fun and exciting’. We tried that. Everyone hates it. Don’t do it again.
Maybe something on the order of a ‘Constellation Command Cluster’, where the initial attack can happen at any time, and then you get a timer. Because we all know there will be a timer. That’s how you schedule fights, and unscheduled fights don’t happen. Shut up, we all know B-R wasn’t really scheduled. So the initial attack can happen at any of the nodes in the constellation. Then they all RF. Then they all come out of RF at the same time. Does this sound like Aegis? Kinda. You know what the difference is?
The Difference is You Shoot Them.
The attacker shoots them, the defender tries to keep them from being shot. Make it a 30 minute vulnerability window, modified by the ADMs. Damage cap optional. You want to keep the constellation, you need to keep 50%+1 nodes alive. It’s shocking, I know, but by making it something you shoot, you remove the cheeseball nonsense that makes nobody want to attack these things. You return to ‘you can receive remote reps’. Defenders have to actually fight to protect things. Get through the 30 minutes with the number you need still alive, any that were destroyed get replaced at downtime, even if the thing’s been re-RF’d.
And then we fix the problems inherent in carriers and supercarriers: They’re a great idea, but they’re hell on the server. Abstract out the fighters. Stop worrying about tracking the damage degradation. A fighter squadron is a single object with a single set of characteristics while in space. You don’t need to add yet another layer of math onto everything.
Remove tethering during a vulnerability timer. And for the love of god, don’t put that window in that lets people fit a citadel up after it anchors, but before the ‘post-anchoring vulnerability timer’. ECs and Refineries get 1 reinforce if they have services. If they don’t, hell, blow ’em right up. They’re industrial infrastructure, not defensive hardpoints. If you want hardened infrastructure, use a Citadel for refining or building. Hardened moon miner? You’re out of luck.
The GTFO is also a really terrible idea. They’re walking back the idea of putting it in null, but in highsec it’s probably worse. No capitals, so everything’s vulnerable to it, and you’ve got 60 seconds of being warp disrupted after you land. Highsec fleets tend to be smaller to begin with, so when that thing goes off, it’s a good bet the timer starts counting again. How often can it fire? Get lucky with how far the attacking fleet goes, and it can be a full minute before battleships can get back.
The Human Cost
Developing these things takes work. It takes time. It takes people. CCP’s just shed a bunch of folks in the last year. They need to hire some. Right now the current team of develops is working their butts off on every project. CCP promised a ‘dedicated balance team’, remember? Turns out that’s CCP Rise + Team Five-0. You know what? A dedicated balance team that has other responsibilities, where each of the members has other projects? That’s not a dedicated balance team. That’s heaping one more job onto already pressured developers.
It’s a trend. The community team was cut to the bone. The lore team is what, three people? To deliver a quality product, CCP needs to expand its roster again, and offer a competitive rate to get developers to the UK.
Yes, the UK, not Iceland. I know Iceland is CCP’s ancestral home and all, and if the company wants to keep the executive offices… wait, no, those are in London now. Time to move the guys who do the actual work of keeping the game running to someplace where you can attract talent. It sucks to move away from home, but eventually, you just can’t get what you need, living in your mom’s HARPA err… you know what I mean. It’s not going to be an easy move, but it’s the right move, just the same.
FanFest should probably keep going in Reykjavik, though. I mean, hell, where else are EVE nerds going to go to hang out with gorgeous Scandinavian women? Glasgow?
A Million Dollar Fight?
It’s been over a year since CCP had something like this to hype. The last time they, RPS, Massively, or any of the other news sites, had something really big to say about EVE was the Casino War. Yes, Judgment Day happened, but that was about the espionage, not the epic space battles. So of course they all went all-in. For once, the media thought they knew when it was coming in advance! Even the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation got in on it. They had PGL on their financial news programming. Think about that. Progod. On Financial News. And he didn’t even take the time to smug a ‘shout out to Aryth’ for making it onto a show about money.
In the end, though, Progod was right when he said, “So what will actually happen? In all likelihood? Nothing.” But he was wrong when he drew the conclusion that nothing would happen because everyone involved are ‘cowards’. Nothing happened because right now, the system’s designed to make sure nothing happens. It can be corrected, but that’s going to take time, effort, and money from CCP. It’s also going to take patience from the players. Let’s hope everyone involved believes enough in EVE’s potential to make those investments.
It’s also wrong to just dump this on ‘the servers weren’t good enough’. A whole lot of things, from the server achitecture and the older chunks of code still running on them, to player behavior and the mechanics that give rise to it, contributed. If we want epic fights, we have to put in effect the conditions for epic fights. All of us. From the devs to the players. And ignore the hype. CCP will know when the next million dollar fight happens the same way the rest of us will: someone’s gonna fuck up, and someone’s gonna make that hurt.
Because that’s EVE.
In a traditional magazine format, this would have been an inset sidebar, but since we don’t have those… FIRST COMMENT!
The Bigger Picture—An Aside
To call the FCs on both sides ‘cowards’ requires viewing the single battle as an ‘endgame’ scenario unto itself. In the larger context of EVE history, the conflict between PanFam and the Imperium is just the latest expression of a conflict between the cores of these two blocs.
That conflict has lasted for over a decade. Sometimes, it’s a hot war. Sometimes, it’s a cold war. Usually, it’s a kind of low-grade, simmering conflict of skirmishing and small cuts. But neither side intends to lose. So neither side intends to waste their strength.
By comparison, in the last 18 months, TEST has gone from attacking CO2 (along with the rest of the Imperium) alongside NC. and PL, to being allied with CO2 against Panfam, to working with CO2 and NC. against Stainwagon. That ability to compartmentalize, to leave the last conflict behind and say ‘ok, this is what we’re doing now’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, demonstrate a very different strategic outlook.
In that context, it’s easy to understand why leaders prosecuting a war on the time-frame of real-world wars have a different view than someone who considers a conflict over and done, as soon as the shooting stops. So it’s easy to see why Progod might take a more ‘video game’ outlook, rather than the ‘strategy game’ style played by the larger blocs. Neither side is wrong, they simply have different priorities and different styles of gameplay. It’s one of the things that makes EVE so rich: there is no one way to play it. That holds just as true at the level of nullsec Alliance and Coalition leadership as it does between PvPers and Mission-runnersJanuary 25, 2018 at 7:44 PM
You had me at Scarcity!January 25, 2018 at 7:45 PM
Arrendis Caleb Ayrania
I figured I’d get you at ‘what’s a squib?’January 25, 2018 at 8:01 PM
Caleb Ayrania Arrendis
I let you handle the pyrotechnics of literacy.January 25, 2018 at 9:41 PM
I for one like the idea of defending the nodes. Makes more sense from a gameplay perspective, and as you said, spread out the server strain. Doubt ccp will listen thoughJanuary 25, 2018 at 11:44 PM
Server coding is hard. Very very hard. Same with game balancing. CCP is listening its justjsuper hard to do changes right.January 29, 2018 at 12:48 AM
You do know that fight was run on One core of a CPU right.
Regards, a Freelancer
ps: When the fight ended Killah Bee (NCDOT), the project manager of the 9-4RP2 defense, stayed on comms afterwards and took questions from several capsuleers. “How close we were to losing the Keepstar?” After a short pause he told us “closer than most people think”.January 26, 2018 at 8:13 AM
launching waves of fighters and drones while the ships stay safely tethered at the citadels strategy Sucks.January 26, 2018 at 8:25 AM
Rammel Kas Freelancer117
It was a toss up between risk to ships and effectiveness, with our own experience of Mach guns red-cycling in prior fights since BITB the coin fell on what we’d seen working at another occasion. Fighters 1 skill guns kept shooting under heavy tidi whereas gun platforms didn’t. Since you can never certainly predict how CCP prioritized operations before the node goes into peak use, do you blame the FC teams of both sides for concluding that it would likely be the air war scenario rather than the compass point dreadbombs, subcap engagement only or several other scenarios which were possible and provided for logistically?
Make no mistake. BOTH sides anticipated this strategy and were seen to employ game plans for this. Witness Gobbins pinging a focus-built Scorpion doctrine for jamming out the fighter squadrons. And carriers of both sides coming in with pre-loaded space superiority flights. Because the air war strategy at that point worked for another null battle and it had already worked for Imperium at both two shield and the armor timer before this.January 26, 2018 at 9:31 AM
Defensive Titans sitting in perfect safety on the KS was not exactly a very good strategy either from the space samurai view point. In big fights you don’t risk strategic assets for uncertain results. And especially on our side where basically any other move would have allowed PL and pets to destroy our ships from perfect safety of the keepstar.January 26, 2018 at 11:36 PM
Yup, I do. I also know it could only be run on one core. That’s not a result of the hardware, it’s a result of the software. Fixing that doesn’t mean new servers… it means more *coders*, ones who aren’t already working on five different projects at the same time.January 26, 2018 at 2:13 PM
In answer to what CCP wants- they want smaller groups of players than the current bloc level coalitions. Much of FozzieSov and Aegis was aimed at hurting huge blue donuts, and hoped to break up coalitions into smaller alliances with many more borders to fight over.January 26, 2018 at 9:45 AM
But CCP has trouble anticipating the impact and player reaction to their changes and ‘fixes’. Instead, there are even fewer players in sov now than before, and the donuts are even larger. Watch the This Is Eve trailer and realize that half the big name alliances in that video aren’t around any more.
The groups doing sov now, are the same groups that were doing sov before (except fewer). There was no exodus out of high sec to fill the void in sov even though lots of alliances folded- the void was just filled by the same couple blocs already there. Care bears stayed in high sec, sov empires just absorbed the empty space to become even more bloated than during DomSov. New citadel mechanics make it nigh impossible to change this either.
Arrendis Alaric Faelen
In answer to what CCP wants- they want smaller groups of players than the current bloc level coalitions. Much of FozzieSov and Aegis was aimed at hurting huge blue donuts, and hoped to break up coalitions into smaller alliances with many more borders to fight over.
They want smaller groups to be *able* to be involved. If they wanted to break up the blocs, they wouldn’t have *increased* the number of people that can be in a single corporation. I mean, we can both say ‘CCP doesn’t always understand the impact of their actions’, but I think ‘hey, you can have twice as many people in your corp now’ is pretty clearly *not* going to make smaller blocs, right?January 26, 2018 at 2:16 PM
Alaric Faelen Arrendis
No, i think CCP wants a somewhat smaller scale to sov empires and combat. I don’t think CCP sees essentially two giant superpowers owning 7/8 of the map as the sov mechanic working as intended.January 26, 2018 at 4:48 PM
For one their equipment can’t handle it. Two, there is no room for new or independent groups to compete with such huge, unassailable coalitions in place. The fact that CCP increased corp size was just to offset trying to break up coalitions with other changes like restricting who can hack sov modules.
I would counter that if CCP actually liked the coalition of alliances, they would have made it a game mechanic. But it’s not supported by the game, coalitions exist in the meta and the highest level of organization in game is alliance. The goal being to force smaller groups to be the focus over giant blocs of vaguely related groups that signed onto some agreement outside of the game.
In a perfect world, CCP would see the current power blocs shattered into many small groups with far more conflict, and conflict on a scale that doesn’t melt their servers or anger players with DC’s and soul crushing TiDi.
It’s a balancing act. Big battles get press and become the stuff of advertising. But at these scales the reality becomes TiDi and server crashes.
Frankly, I just don’t think CCP ever anticipated this level of player organization. Much like they didn’t think there would ever be more than 3 or 4 titans built and now people suicide that many in one battle.
Arrendis Alaric Faelen
Well, sure,they want the big blocs to reduce their footprint. That’s what the ADMs are for. And in one case, that footprint has been reduced. We’ve got all of Goonswarm, LAWN, Bastion, TNT, BIA, etc, all in one region. Querious has other people in it. Fountain has other people in it. Period Basis has other people in it. Sure, some of those folks are renters in one way or another, but compare that to ‘The North’, to PanFam. Vale. Tribute. Branch. Deklein. Pure Blind. Fade.
It’s great to talk about ‘essentially two giant superpowers owning 7/8 of the map’, but… that’s not the case. Smaller groups live in Cloud Ring, Fountain, Querious, most of the east side of the map… the larger groups certainly aren’t ‘two giant superpowers’. Legacy isn’t Imperium. DRF isn’t Panfam. Provi isn’t… anything but Provi, ever.
The current level of player organization, Coalitions, has existed for almost ten years. In that time, CCP’s changes have allowed larger groups. They’ve been designed to make larger groups. There’s just no way to say ‘we’re doubling how big this kind of group can be’ isn’t designed to make that kind of group bigger.
The changes have also been built to try to cram more of those players into smaller amounts of space. And they have. But that’s caused its own problems. There’s really no need for groups to go to war. Nobody really needs more territory. We didn’t invade Fountain. We bought it… because the Culture was looking to leave.
No need to hold it. No need to fight over space. The fighting takes place over staging facilities. ‘You put something too close to me’. When it takes place at all. Go basically anywhere but Delve. Fly around. See how many people are actually in space.
I flew through Pure Blind, Fade, and Deklein two days ago in USTZ. Most of it was empty. Sure, some of that’s the time zone, but that still means that there’s room for more people. They could consolidate more. There’s no reason the AU-heavy Darkness couldn’t overlap directly with Horde or Blades of Grass.
But they don’t. So you have vast swaths of space where.. nobody is, a lot of the time. And nobody’s trying to push into it. Nobody’s trying to join the coalitions to get access to it. There’s just easier places to already get that.
Right now, there’s more space than people want.January 26, 2018 at 6:24 PM
Axhind Alaric Faelen
Issue is that small disorganised group will never be as successful as a large organised group. There is exactly nothing that CCP can do about it without killing off everything that makes EVE special.January 26, 2018 at 11:33 PM
Adding more nodes to shoot could help spread out fights, but it would still be a game of whack-a-mole that is Fozziesov. But, I have a terrible idea: How about artificially adding tidi to systems connected to the source of the tidi? Perhaps scaled out to where each jump out from the source loses 10% of the tidi. This will slow down the reinforce speed to a heavily contested fight and give you choices about catching and harassing enemies en-route rather than just on the main grid, not nerf jump range/fatigue again, and not add more nodes in space for the servers to keep track of, There is still n+1; you need to stage what you’re going to bring for the initial assault. But, you’re not just going constantly jam more subcaps into the fight. I’m not sure if this will mean a bigger chance of a capital slug fest once the support ships are weeded out, but maybe? Again, it’s probably a terrible idea.January 26, 2018 at 12:35 PM
TiDi’s already spread out to the constellation. Unless you’re fighting on the edge of the constellation, what you describe already exists… and wouldn’t stop jump drives (which can come from 1-2 constellations away, easily) from bouncing right in.January 26, 2018 at 2:11 PM
TiDi is spread out normally as CCP made a few years back the idiotic move of mapping systems that are next to each other to the same node (it used to be based on mean load so you could have two systems on opposite sides of EVE on the same node).
When they reinforce a system than that system is alone on one of the “monster” cores (16 core CPU with 12 shut down and used as heat sinks IIRC). So the TiDi does not spread but systems around will have the same neighbourhood mapping and will get TiDi on their own.
What might work for things like asakai and B-R is to have any kind of jump in action happen when the internal system (TiDi:ed) time catches up to the time when you jumped in. That would basically entirely remove instant reinforcements that were a huge issue then and are somewhat of an issue now (space aids kills capitals moving fast enough at least).
In the end the best solution might be to change how commands are processed by the server. At the moment the order in which commands come to the server and are processed matters which makes the load serial and practically impossible to multithread. However, if we change it to accepting all commands during one tick (this can be spread out) and then adding results of all those actions to calculate the final “result” of that tick. This would quite heavily change the mechanics of the game but would allow more multi-threading and should actually remove ping sensitivity of some actions as order of actions does not matter as long as they all arrive inside the tick.January 26, 2018 at 11:26 PM
Delaying jumps from out of the contested system was kind of what I was thinking, just achieved in a different way. Changing action priorities might help, too. But, wouldn’t that cause additional server load as it sorts the priority list rather than just processing them sequentially?January 29, 2018 at 12:44 PM
I think there was a stroke of genius in old POSes with the need from deffender to repair a portion of shield to save them. We could use something close to that in upwell structures. Also remove damage caps, they are an absolute cancer 95% of a time. few ever talks about this but removing even undefended asshouse or fort is an absolute cancer due to dmg cap (for everyone, not just blobs)January 26, 2018 at 1:12 PM
Carvj94 Doughlas MacAlister
I dunno. I think the damage cap is good to have in place when there’s actually defenders. Maybe no damage cap for structures with no online service or if someone isn’t manning the guns.January 28, 2018 at 2:16 AM
This is a fantastic article, well written and well argued. I think you are totally right.
I would also add, as you have talked about before, doing something about remote rep stacking would help battles become more of a bloody brawl than a one sided rout.
In stellaris, which has a terrible blobbing problem, for exactly the reasons you mentioned, their solutions are; to add choke points, to give a damage boost to the smaller side and to make disengaging easier.
I also think jump drives are a big problem in themselves.January 27, 2018 at 11:50 AM
Arrendis Pew Pew
I don’t know that giving a damage boost to the smaller side is really a viable option, especially in EVE. It gives lip service to the idea of a ‘fair fight’, but if the game’s going to enforce parity between the sides, why bother trying to actually organize your people?
There’s a lot of work that goes on on both sides to try to maximize the effectiveness of your forces during a fight. Most of that work takes place well before the fighting, and it’s an integral and vital part of the game. Enforced parity… that’s basically just kicking all of the logisticians, theorycrafters, and leaders in the balls and saying ‘your efforts don’t mean shit’.
I think CCP’s been very smart to actually let us have a game where a fair fight means someone screwed up. It encourages people to play socially, to make friends, to network. For all ‘the blob’ is demonized, the player who doesn’t make connections within the playerbase… doesn’t stay.
As for remote reps and diminishing returns… that bone’s well-chewed, and it’s not an easy balance to run. :/January 27, 2018 at 10:46 PM
Carvj94 Pew Pew
Personally I think simply getting rid of the cap transfer amount bonuses would go a long way to removing the overwhelming advantages of remote reps.January 28, 2018 at 2:20 AM