During the Game Developers Conference last week the CEO and CTO of Hadean held a presentation to talk about the future of multiplayer gaming and how unique technology they're working on can help remove roadblocks and establish more efficient ways for developers to craft. It was during this event, Hadean and developer CCP Games- makers of EVE Online - also hosted a rather unique and ambitious tech demo to show their ideas in action.
Titled EVE: Aether Wars, this tech demo aimed to use Hadean technology and assets from the EVE universe to support more than 10,000 players in a multiplayer space battle. Massive digital space battles are nothing new for CCP Games and EVE Online, the groundbreaking MMO which set a record in January 2018 for featuring a battle of 6,142 players, but this demo aimed to demonstrate how those battles can be improved.
For massive battles in EVE Online, the code and servers must compromise. Even in a game that has no physics like EVE Online, to support that much action and that many players there needs to be time dilation for the servers to keep up. With the Aether Wars tech demo, gone is the need for time dilation. And in are things like physics, and not just for the vast amount of player and AI-controlled starships, but for every single torpedo launched (all 14,710,908 of them).
How Hadean's Aether Wars Tech Demo and Cloud Gaming Open Opportunities for EVE Online's Future
We spoke with Joshua "CCP Fozzie" Bayer, Senior Game Designer at CCP Games about the potential of EVE: Aether Wars during the EVEsterdam 2019 event. “It’s got a ton of potential. I don’t actually know whether that tech is the way we’re going to end up going or not. It’s an investigation but we’re always working on a whole bunch of options. We’re always investigating ways we can keep advancing EVE and that’s how we’ve been able to support larger and larger groups of players over time and it’s the only way to keep doing it in the future." Bayer continues:
Working with Hadean has been a really great partnership. I haven’t been involved with it myself but I know some of the engineers who have been working with them and they’ve been really complimentary about all the Hadean folks and their technology and really ambitious stuff they’re doing. It’s incredibly ambitious. It’s really great to be investigating this blue sky tech. You need to build the new rocket technology before you can go to the moon. Sometimes there are layers of tech you need to build.
Bergur "CCP Burger" Finnbogason, CCP Burger, Creative Director at CCP Games and one of the leaders driving the vision of EVE Online, is extremely enthusiastic about the potential for big change in the long-term future of EVE Online, recognizing that the game was ahead of its time, both in the gameplay offerings, and it its setting, and wants this to continue.
Hopefully we will have more tests like that in the future. I’m super excited about the stuff they’re doing. I met them for the first time in October or November of last year and these guys are amazing. These guys, they know their shit backwards and forwards. And oh my god, I mean these are guys that come from like hardcore science and when they met Hilmar Veigar Pétursson (CCP Games' CEO) for the first time I’m not sure gaming was really on their mind. They were doing more like crazy, fantastic science stuff that I’m a huge nerd about. The stuff they were doing has real potential of changing the course of EVE forever. Like I talked about in the Keynote I asked a lot of “What If?” questions at EVE Vegas last year and I feel like to properly have these conversations we had to prove to us first and then the community that we’re making strives, that we’re investing in proper R&D for this to be a thing we can even talk about. The technical part is complex but we have to figure out a way to solve it, but the meta part, that’s the real difficult question. What happens if there’s no time dilation in a 6000-person battle? What happens to the role of an FC (Fleet Commander)? How does it change the meta? Really quickly your head starts to break a little bit and the headache starts to swell up and you’re like “What? Yeahhh!” What happens if you can duck and cover? How does that change how you move your ship? It sounds very basic but when you start to dig into it, really dig into what could happen, it changes everything. It’s really interesting talking to people who don’t really know the game, they’re like “so, this thing you’re showing is super cool, cool numbers, how will it change the game?” and you start talking about this stuff and people go like “why did I ask this question, it’s so complicated!
EVE Online players don't think of it during gameplay because it's never been that way, but if (when) EVE Online ever adds space physics, in a way where ships and other objects can block shots like in more traditional space sims, the entire game changes. CCP Burger emphasizes that "everything!" will change. "It is a big, scary thing. It’s a ‘for the next decade’ sort of thing but we have to start taking these steps to be able to have these conversations, and I’m super excited about this. I love the challenge [Laughs]!"
EVE Online is Old, For Better or Worse
Senior Community Manager Paul "CCP Falcon" Elsy, who began by writing loads of fan-fiction for EVE Online, and later, actual books and support materials for the game, reflects on the early days of EVE Online and what he sees as the "dream" target for the future:
“When you’re talking about the future I always like to give a little bit of reference by talking about the roots of EVE. Back when I started playing EVE in 2002-03, believe it or not, EVE was running on a cluster of computers powered by Pentium 4 processors. That’s how old EVE is. These things weren’t even hyper-threaded back then and EVE was basically written around single threads. It’s not a multi-threaded game. So yeah, there are so many things that we can potentially do. I think everyone at CCP’s wet dream is a ground-up multi-threaded code rewrite of EVE and probably pulling it out of Python and putting it in a language that performs a little bit better.”
As one of the longest-running MMOs, EVE Online is stuck in its old ways from a tech standpoint, but experimenting now and planning for the future may be what EVE Online needs. “It’s a double-edged blade," Elsy continues. "EVE’s been around so long that it’s got so much heritage and so much history but it’s also been around so long that it also has its technical limitations. I think exploring things with Hadean and other companies, that’s why, it’s exploring taking the lid off those limitations and letting EVE breathe a lot more. It’s super exciting. I played the playtest and I was like 'this is pretty nuts.' I’ve never seen this many things going on without time dilation and with physics. I was like 'wow, this bodes well. Maybe this can be a thing.'"
For more on Hadean and CCP's partnership and EVE: Aether Wars tech demo, head to Hadean's official blog here.