Building the future of cloud-based MMOs with EVE Aether Wars

by Gaming

Creating compelling multiplayer experiences is one of the toughest challenges game developers face today, especially at scale. The technical complexity in building and running an online multiplayer game, combined with the limited resources available to developers, often results in compromises being made to the original vision before the first line of code is even written.

CCP Games approached Hadean to help them find technical solutions to some of the problems stunting the development of their successful MMORPG, EVE Online. Time Dilation (or TiDi) was a particular issue, a mechanic introduced to combat server lag which slows down action in the game to help the server cope with the strain of a high number of players — an innovative solution but one that is limited and has a negative impact on the player experience.

CCP Games started work with Aether Engine in early 2019, allowing them to dynamically scale massive game worlds, upgrade pre-existing tools within their tech stack and develop EVE Aether Wars – a series of public, technical demonstrations showcasing the capabilities of this new technology and the cloud gaming experience it facilitates.

Over the course of seven months and three phases, CCP Games and Hadean were able to fully realise the strength and capabilities of using cloud-based spatial simulation technology to build bigger game worlds with unprecedented gameplay possibilities faster and more cost-efficiently. The technology also demonstrated a viable business model that could be taken and utilised by CCP Games in the development of future projects and the next generation of EVE Online.

Phase One

The first demo was built by Hadean with input from CCP Games and went live for an hour on stage at the Game Developers Conference in March 2019. The demonstration was a pure technology test with Aether Engine still an early-stage product. Despite this, the game supported more than 3,750 globally-distributed human players in the single sharded game.

As well as testing the amount of real players who could join, EVE Aether Wars was also used to test the overall limits of the technology. AWS Lambdas created over 10,000 non-human connected clients to further stress test the simulation, bringing the total to 14,274.

Phase Two

Following the success of Phase One, the Aether Engine SDK was put into the hands of CCP Games’ developers. A team of seven from CCP Games created Phase Two in just eight weeks, perfectly timed to coincide with Gamescom 2019. The demo went live during the show, using 832 cores across 13 virtual machines, and delivered two key goals;

Increased gameplay performance at large scale. Hadean increased the simulation tick rate to 30Hz (doubling that of the first demo), matching the required rate for first-person shooter gameplay on platforms such as Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Reduced the cost of running a large-scale MMO game. Egress charges make cloud gaming prohibitively expensive and often forces the cancellation of high-profile and ambitious large-scale multiplayer long before they are realised. To reduce operational costs and prove the viability of the business model, server and bandwidth efficiency was a key focus of Phase Two.

Phase Three

The third and final demo, was built entirely by the team at CCP Games and launched on Saturday, 23 November 2019 for an hour, drawing in over 2,800 players from 80 countries. Players enjoyed a more fully-defined overall game experience and it was brilliantly received by the community.

We are very proud of how far our technology has come and how much has been achieved by our team in 2019. We are looking forward to developers being able to utilise more features from our SDK, including distributed navigation, pathfinding AI and cloud-based ray-tracing.

Download the Hadean & CCP Games Case Study and discover how Aether Engine can help you deliver unprecedented scale and smooth gameplay experiences.