Online Gaming ‘s Greatest Battle

In January of this year we saw a demonstration of just how big and complex online gaming  has become.  A minor oversight in one player’s online account led to a chain of events that resulted in 4000 players worldwide slugging it out in an interstellar battle of epic proportions.  The devastation was widespread, with ships and space stations laid waste, thousands of hours of gameplay time and effort was undone, and the companie’s servers almost toppled under the strain of the online gaming frenzy it was trying to deal with.

An Online Gaming Universe Unravels

The Massively Multi Player Game “Eve” is produced and run by CCP Games, based in Reykjavik, Iceland, and it has created an online universe that allows thousands of players around the world to take part at any one time. It has been running since 2003, and the features of the game itself are:

  • It’s set 21,000 years in the future.
  • The game continues to develop even when players are offline. So if, for example, you leave the keys to your spaceship in a bar – they could be stolen by someone else while you’re asleep.
  • How you play the game is entirely up to you.
  • As a gamer, you are a warship pilot and can either go it alone, form alliances with other players, or join one of the factions that have sprung up and are made up of hundreds of players.
  • The game has its own inter- galactic economy and, just like in the real world, nothing gets done or built without being paid for, so part of the game is making deals and paying your way.
  • It’s possible to convert real-world money into virtual money to gain advantages while playing.
  • Gamers make their way by trading, fighting, building ships and stations, forming alliances and working within, or around, groups and societies.

So far over 500,000 gamers are registered as active players, and when large battles erupt the company servers struggle to cope with the processing demands of all the commands and responses required to keep the online gamers screens’ updated with the live action.

What happened in January of this year was a classic example of the butterfly effect within a complex system, and it started in such a real world way.

One gamer was supposed to pay a virtual bill to ensure a particular area of the galaxy was fortified.  This didn’t happen, and a sharp eyed opponent spotted the resulting gap in the defenses and launched an attack.  The surprise attack was so successful it required a strong response, which drew in further players and the escalation began.  The online gaming battle lasted for 14 hours and at its peak involved over 4000 active players, all engaged in inter-galactic mayhem.  The battle was also watched by thousands of other players using the online streaming facility.

Apparently it was so absorbing for the players that many were reported to have bunked off work for the day (it was a Monday) just to make sure they were involved in the action.

The only thing that stopped the servers from collapsing under the strain was the instigation of  what CCP Games calls ‘time dilation,’ which slows down the game’s servers to about 10 percent of normal time.  In this way the players aren’t dropped and their commands are issued in the order in which they were received. The company stated this made for a “massive but slow” battle.

By the end, many online gamers were looking at the wreckage of what had taken hundreds of hours of gameplay to build (and in some cases hundreds of dollars of real money to buy credits).  Most however seemed un-phased, and were just happy to have taken part in what has become part of online gaming history.

Views of the Battle as it Raged Onscreen


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