Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

A brilliant band-aid

Over the next few days, I want to wrap up a whole series of posts on a variety of topics, most of them centered on those last few features of Rubicon that I haven't yet talked about, plus a few things that came up at our Town Hall meeting on Saturday.

That starts with a question that I was both asked directly recently (twice!) and which also came up in the Town Hall: "What do I think about Time Dilation?" And my position on TiDi is fairly simple: I think it's a brilliantly designed, brilliantly implemented band-aid that I wish was not necessary to the survival of EVE Online.

Now granted, TiDi is immensely superior to what came before: black screens, unpredictable behavior, massive lag, et cetera. TiDi is better than all of that. No question. But is it introducing its own problems?

If CSM8 Chair Trebor Daehdoow had a law, it would be "Fleets expand to fill the lag available." Back when TiDi was first introduced to the game, I predicted that it would simultaneously be the best single change ever for the game and the worst piece of garbage ever to be inflicted on the game. These were not incompatible beliefs. Enormous fights are good for EVE Online: they great for the game's publicity and press, great for marketing and promotion, and contribute to the epic feel of the game. But I also predicted that it would simultaneously increase alliance sizes such that they could put thousands of ships on the field if they wished to attack or defend a position.

Both of those predictions have come to pass: enormous fights have been successfully used for marketing EVE Online and alliances sizes and fight sizes have doubled since TiDi was introduced with no corresponding increase in PCU count. Trebor's law has been coming to pass: since alliances could put thousands of ships on the field, they have been.

And with these changes, the underlying problem that caused TiDi to be added to the game in the first place is again starting to rear its head. We've all now seen TiDi inflicted on us during routine in-game situations. Alliances are now large enough that they can reinforce 15 targets at once across multiple regions and then pick and choose which of those 15 they're actually going to attack when the timers hit. They're even big enough to show up to attack more than one of those targets simultaneously if they choose to. That makes asking CCP to reinforce the right systems tricky or impossible. Does the attacker or defender ask for all 15 systems to be reinforced? Even when the node is reinforced, some TiDi happens anyway.

TiDi is a brilliant band-aid and for now, it's still holding the wound closed. But yeah, we can now see it's not going to hold forever.

At the Summer Summit, I and other members of the CSM warned CCP Seagull directly that her vision for EVE, while fascinating, promises to create the biggest timer in the history of EVE Online. If a few thousand people wanted to be in Asakai for the fight there, can you imagine how many people are going to want to be in the system to see the first player-constructed stargate brought on-line... or not, depending on how the fight over this goes? I certainly want to be there, and I suspect there will be thousands and thousands of others that will be too, enough to make any prior gathering of players in a single system look like a faction warfare skirmish.

EVE is soon going to need more serious band-aids or -- preferably -- it's going to need an architectural redesign at some fundamental level to handle bigger and bigger fights. This isn't the job of one team; this is soon going to be a challenge facing the entire company.

In the meantime, TiDi is causing problems that couldn't have been predicted back in 2011. At that time, I wrote:
In order to survive in 0.0, you have to learn, develop, and practice a whole skill-set around managing deficiencies in the so-called "game" you are playing.
And that's swiftly becoming true around TiDi as well! One of the key components that made the recent live event so deadly for high-sec players, after all, was the fact that the null-sec alliances living around Doril had something like two hours to prepare their kill box... thanks to TiDi. Had TiDi not been a factor, the kill box wouldn't have been nearly as efficient and the event might well have gone differently.

So now TiDi's not only impacting the game, it's creating an all-new meta-game, an emergent game-play mechanic that didn't exist and couldn't exist without TiDi! I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent. But it's interesting, don't you think? Discuss.


  1. > it's going to need an architectural redesign at some fundamental level to handle bigger and bigger fights.

    How many people does CCP have working on this right now ?

  2. can you imagine how many people are going to want to be in the system to see the first player-constructed stargate brought on-line...

    Plz tell me u haven't broken the nda there jester

    1. Nope. Seagull has presented a picture of a bunch of player-flown Bustards constructing a gate several times.

    2. I just don't see it happening. If it can not be used to grief/disrupt then the goons are not interested. This then bleeds into the rest of the CFC. And just any whiff of the location this and expect BL or PL to hotdrop such an effort back to the stoneage. There is more love in the game for knocking over than building up. Who else does that leave to take the risk?

  3. you probably know that saying
    "its more interesting to read about eve then to play it"

    that is also true for:
    its more fun to watch those 2000+ fights and supercapital on a commentated livestream together with a public chat then actually sitting in this slowmotion hell.

    i mean i was in lots of those lag fights and most of the time i have a live stream running to watch the battle with high grafic settings instead of the typical zoomed out red vs blue boxes at lowest grafic settings.

    iam ot a fan of that ccp mad ani idea (even it would not be as bad as ccp mintchip). but some kind of tool that allows every eveplayer to watch those epic battles live would probably pretty cool. and maybe help people to be a part of that big fight without being there.

    and of course i was always a fan of trebors point of view hope he will be available for csm 9 as well

  4. It will be interesting to see if warp speed changes will cause more TiDi.
    Moving a fleet with small ships (using gates) will be much faster... I was able to undock, travel 6 systems and dock in 1min 30sec using a blockade runner (before their warp speed was reduced). Session change timer became an issue. More people crossing the nodes faster will stress the servers even more.

    I'm not sure if it was the right decission to make the gameplay faster while still having problems with huge amounts of players...

    1. Not everyone will go faster. You know how slow battleships will be?

  5. TiDi as you have said was and is a "free hamster holiday"
    it, at a single stroke relived the hardware team from monthly updates on what was being done to negate lag, it reduced the need to constantly update eve's underlying code to reduce lag,
    remember when we used to get monthly updates on how the database was being optimized to reduce lag ? remember the efforts the database team went through communicating to the players how concerned they were that lag was an issue that CCP had a vested interest in reducing ?
    since the introduction of TiDi we have had no updates or info, it seems TiDi was the magic bullet that allowed the team responsible for reducing lag to go do somthing else for a year or so, CCP didnt resolve the lag issue they just duped us into thinking they had, by offering up TiDi as a fix.
    i would be very interested to hear what CCP have been doing to address the lag issue since the introduction of TiDi. have efforts in this respect fallen off ?
    TiDi is the emperors new clothes and we are all buying it when we should be asking what is still being done to remove the need for TiDi completley from the game.

  6. I can't help but think that there is no way around Trebor's Law. If you limited the number of people in a system, than capturing a system would be a matter of logging in earlier than the other side. That'd be even less fun fun than TiDi.

  7. Two things - 1:

    Will it make sense from a CCP perspective to split the fleet notification into levels? In the sense that a lvl 1 will work exactly like it does today, so you'll be more or less assured a fortified node, but there'll be some kind of max on how many you can hand in (btw, do we have any idea how many nodes CCP is able to fortify at a given time approximately?). A lvl 2 will be a "maybe", where you're allowed to provide a list of systems (max of 10 maybe?). Here you're not guaranteed a fortified node, but CCP is notified that stuff "might happen" here. This they can use to maybe fortify some of them if they have lots of fortified nodes available, or, as I got the impression that they can do from the Z9PP-H fight, shuffle the systems around so that the lvl 2 notified system are on single (non-fortified) nodes (I assume that will lighten the load on that node...and it could allow CCP to hot swap that single node without risking another Z9PP-H...hell, since know about it beforehand, they could prep, QA and tripple QA the hotswap in advance, so that the hotswap doesn't fuck up...a strong and structured process can go along way where technology falls short). But...all in all something only CCP can judge wether could work or not.

    And 2:

    Could we think of some way, through game mechanics, to disincentivize large fleets? Or rather, large numbers of people in one system, since we really have no way of knowing different fleets' allegiances (hell, in the recent 9UY Provi fight, we fighting it didn't even know who was allied with who (*cough* bl *cough cough* Stainwagon *cough*)). So I'm thinking if we do this, we have to make something that affects everyone, which in turn will have the largest effect on the largest group (since they will have the largest number of affected pilots). I'm thinking a minor penalty to both resists and targetting range, affecting everyone based on the number of pilots in system - probably not starting til tidi's at at least 50% already...maybe around 500? Or maybe even a variable based on both pilots in system AND tidi, to include the factor of fortified nodes and other strain on the node (missiles, drones, extremely excessive local spam :-D) - starting with a very low penalty which increases as this variable increases. The reason for resists and targetting range, is to hit both brawlers (resists) and snipers/logi (targetting range). This won't as strongly affect stuff like tacklers, caps, boosters and whatnot, but these types of ships don't come in as large a number and won't affect the node load as much. Perhaps this kind of thinking could incentivize the large alliances to only bring the fleet sizes they need to get the job done? I'm not saying my specific model's the best possible one, I'm merely saying that sometimes game design can solve what technology can't (and cheaper). Them going for 15 systems at once with their large number of pilots in 15 fleets is a GOOD thing I think...although suggestion number one might be needed here.

    Well, prolly shoulda put this in Features & Ideas, but I can do that if you think it's worth the while...and it was your post that got me thinking about it anyways...

  8. I can come up with two solutions:

    - Instancing
    - Stacking penalties to the size of fleets

    As players will bend on its knees every "big fleet" system (ready it for 4,000 ships and someone will bring in 3,000, the other side too, bang!, enjoy your crash), I would recommend the second method.

    1. The problem with stacking penalties for size, or any other way to limit the size of fleets, is that there's already multiple fleets involved.

      And since the game has no chance of knowing which fleets that will fight together it's not possible to limit the size of an engagement without allowing the ones that are first on the field to lock the other side out.

    2. Just account relative fleet strength too. If your fleet is too big and overpowers too much the other fleet(s), you get double penalty. What's the right size? Figure it yourself, that's why you're FC.

      Further, penalties should be dynamically calculated. A FC may order part of a fleet to disengage and stand by in a near system in order to clear a penalty, or may even split the fleet and fight enemy reinforcements elsewhere.

  9. Once again, you looking at the game through the ultra-narrow lens of "null sec or nothing". Many many people wish to play this game, wanting nothing to do with 4000 pilot fleet fights, or deal with the assholes who run most null sec alliances.

    Yeah, high sec got an ugly taste of TiDi with the live events, and it was a universal disaster, but thankfully, isolated. Don't for a second suggest that this is an Eve problem. It is null sec problem. When you have those 4000 pilot fights, that STILL only represents less than 10% of all the players on at a given time.

    Yes, I am well aware of the domination of the CSM and the CCP dev team by the null sec cartels, and the fact that they are turning the game into "null sec cartels online". But until then, there will be people fighting for the majority of the player base, not the powerful minority.

    One last thing: If these massive fleet fights are so awesome, why does CCP not release a marketing video, showing one of them, at real TiDi'ed time? I am sure that would drag in tons of new players, willing to sit 10 minutes between keystrokes. Am also REALLY looking forward to watching the videos of fleet warps of say, 60 AU, of a goon T1 BS fleets in 90% TiDi, when it will literally take 20 minutes to warp and decelerate into a fight.

    Yeah, that is a great game you guys have in null sec there.

    1. most highsec residents are 0.0 farm and market alts.

      the majority of players do indeed play with their mains in 0.0 space. That is where the content is and is the end game CCP have pushed since they first booted up the cluster, long before you decided to invent the concept of CCP/CSM endorsed "null sec cartels"

  10. This is probably obvious, but a major thread in the History of Eve is CCP's (understandable) inability to foresee the consequences of having large, highly-organized and highly-proficient player groups. So many of the game's mechanics just don't scale to the size of a coalition, and as a consequence, the developers' best intentions are transformed into "game-breaking exploits." It happened with moon goo, it happened with drone assist, it happened with TiDi, and it will happen with whatever player-constructed *things* Rubicon portends.

    Perhaps we should propose an iteration on Malcanis's Law: whenever an additional mechanic is introduced for the benefit of "all players," that will inevitably be to the overwhelming advantage of the largest and most entrenched groups that exist in the game.

    1. That's Jester's Corrolary to Malcanis's Law.


    2. I find my lack of originality disturbing.

  11. The problem with the Live event wasn't so much the TiDi, but it was certainly a huge piece of what event wrong. The TiDi issue has been there for a long time but CCP like to live in denial. We hoped CCP would take it more seriously, but after Goliath's non-apology, it seems that didn't happen so much.

    The issues with the Live Event were the abominations passed off as communication, organization, planning and implementation. They were so badly done that anyone that inept should be at best never in such a position again, or at worst simply fired.

    Goliath's post did little more than reinforce the concept that CCP is only responds to the large null alliances, regardless of what it does to the majority player base.

    Yes, TidDi should only be viewed as a band-aid. No, it wasn't the bulk of the Live Event problems. It was just the most blatant in a sea of failure.

  12. I prefer to think of it as "Daehdoow's Dilemma", actually :)

  13. On a different tack:

    Now that CCP's let fly with a little bit of this, what are you able to say about the subject? ;)

    1. What I think is, "How many subscriptions do pay the people who may actually enjoy Nullsec 2.0, compared to the ones which will not get anything in order to provide their content to the aforementioned?"

  14. Thing is, what happens when you enable even larger fleet fights? Suppose for a moment you could have everyone in the same node, on the same grid, with no lag. N+1 is the root cause here and as long as people continue to ignore that then this problem will never go away. I don't know what the long term solution is, and unless we accept that n+1 is the problem to be fixed all we are ever going to get is band-aid solutions.

  15. I don't know why you are commenting on this. CCP wants the big fights and keeps the current situation with jump bridges, cynos and titan bridges in place to generate those fights. Nothing in the game works to keep the status quo of huge null sec alliances in place than being able to defend their territory on a moment's notice.

  16. It just may need to boil down to the solution of a forced limit of ship numbers. Yeah - I know how well that will go down.

    The whole system of soveignty needs revamp. Although I have no honest idea how to approach this. But frankly - the whole colition concept needs to be kicked in the teeth; it allows for groups to circumvent the inherant limit of critical mass for player group cohesion. The fact that there is zero incentive for null to complete for resources (moons); which is the intention by CCP clearly points to something fundimentally wrong with Eve in its current game mechanics.

    Did someone say Fountain war? Test's removal was because CCP changed the rules. It is a aberration in a flatline of peace and prosperity of null. Hence forward it will be business as usual.

  17. You have two conflicting statements here:

    "[EVE] is going to need an architectural redesign at some fundamental level to handle bigger and bigger fights."


    "'Fleets expand to fill the lag available.'"

    Redesigning the cluster architecture to handle a thousand players on grid without soul-crushing lag will not solve the issue, because then there will be two thousand players on grid causing soul-crushing lag. As you've pointed out, null alliances and coalitions currently can and will grow up to the maximum limit allowed by server resources, because if they don't put as many pilots on grid as possible, their competitors will.

    Only a redesign of core game mechanics, from sovereignty to force projection, will solve the above problem. Redesigning server architecture is just a more-expensive band-aid, no different from time dilation except for cost.

    I think I commented a while back on how alliance size could be restricted -- through massive nerfs to or the outright elimination of jump clones and jump-capable capital ships. Because currently there is no real cost to shoving an entire coalition into a single theatre and a single system, and consequently every incentive to do so.

    For example, the entire CFC can deploy to fight N3, with its entire capital and even supercapital fleet if need be, safe in the knowledge that (1) it can deploy back home within 24 hours to deal with any problems if necessary, (2) that it will take weeks for any meaningful sov losses to occur, (3) that any enemy will be burned out after grinding through sov for weeks on end, and (4) that the only cost to having to retake sov, aside from boredom, is the need to wait for the strategic index to rise sufficiently to re-establish jump bridges. It is the ultimate Schleiffen Plan combined with territory which can be freely traded for time, complete with magically-teleporting fleets and armies.

  18. A gate should send me to the system of my choice. Now Eve becomes BIG again.

  19. Do we really need in general bigger battles or do we need more tactical and strategical value of smaller fleets at more places at once?

    What is stopping an alliance to attack indeed those 15 systems all at once?
    Why is there no diminishing return of large fleets? Why do fleets scale so well with size?
    Is an technical attack angle at the problem even the right solution or should the game design support smaller fleets as part of bigger wars?

    Are travel and reaction times to fast to allow smaller fleets to hurt strategic important targets?

    I am not involved in null sec warfare, so forgive me if those questions are silly. But the whole "bring more ships all to the same place" seems a bit silly design approach from the outside.


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