CCP On The Single Shard MMO

By Jim Rossignol on August 9th, 2010 at 3:33 pm.


While we wait for CCP’s comment on the current player-outrage within the Eve community (more on this soon, I hope) we could pick over this recently-posted article on Gamasutra, in which one of Eve’s key architects, Dr Kjartan Emilsson, discusses the benefit, technical challenges, loopholes, and programming horror of a single-shard MMO.

Such a player-driven system doesn’t strictly require a single shard to function, but it is catalyzed by the extended size inherent to single-sharding. A small economy will be manipulated by a few strong players and exposed to large fluctuations and instabilities. The larger the economy gets, the more resilient it becomes. Once beyond those instabilities, it truly starts to reflect the macro-economic landscape of the game-world, becoming an all-pervading, autonomous, and ever-changing mass of social content that no designer could ever think of hand-crafting.

It’s interesting to see this addressed from a technical and design standpoint, but also interesting because it is such an unusual approach. I wish we saw more such epic undertakings within the MMOs. Go read.

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46 Comments »

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  1. Baka says:

    Player outrage?
    I need to know NOW! MMO Drama is always the best drama.

    • FinalSin says:

      $1200 of in-game time codes were destroyed overnight in a chance raid. Another stand-out EVE moment, which makes all non-EVE players impressed, and all EVE players slightly more worried.

    • FinalSin says:

      Ah, I spoke too soon, I see.

    • wyrmsine says:

      Time-codes were… blowed up? Are they physical objects in-game, now? If so that’s incredibly hardcore. Also insane, but I guess you can’t have one without the other…

    • Azhrarn says:

      @wyrmsine: they have been physical objects for quite a while now (P.L.E.X. or Pilot License EXtensions), but CCP recently made them moveable.
      Before they were bound to the station they were created in, now however they are normal objects and can be transported as conventional items and as such can be destroyed in an attack (or better yet, show up as a drop for the attacking player). It does mystify me quite a bit as to why you’d want to move them though, since I believe you can cash in a PLEX from anywhere in EVE regardless of its physical location, strait from your asset management screen.

      In other words, the lost game-time was mostly due to stupidity, which is hilarious to most EVE players (except those affected by the destruction of said codes).
      As for the reason to make them objects in the game, trade, what else. =)
      You buy a normal 60-day GTC and convert it into a pair of PLEX (30 days each) and sell them for a nice injection of Isk in exchange for an amount of real currency, and for the purchaser, game-time in exchange for earnings made in the game itself.

    • Aganazer says:

      Mostly I’ve just seen LOL’s about the PLEX hit. Pretty much anyone that plays knows the risks inherent in the transportation of goods.

      The last real outrage was about the comments from a dev saying that the core game features won’t get any serious development for 18 months.

    • wyrmsine says:

      Thanks, Azrarhn. It has been a while since I played… Absolutely delightful that there’s an MMO where you can actually blow up another player’s real-world money. EVE is serious business, it seems. I’m now enamored with the idea of re-joining only to tool about space, waiting for the spacey equivalent of the Spanish gold fleet to come floating by…. and then blowing it up, all for teh piratey lolz.

  2. westyfield says:

    Why is the Eve community outraged? That’s not the information we’re waiting for, is it?

  3. goodgimp says:

    They’re MMO players, “outraged” is the default mode.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Shakermaker says:

    You’re a tease, Jim.

  5. Agrajag says:

    I guess it’s the recent isk/game-time destruction, but that’s really not the point of this article. It’s amazing to see a developer so committed to vision and it’s execution.

  6. Dreamhacker says:

    Man, all I really want to know now is what the outrage is about… what the heck is this article doing here?

  7. Rich says:

    Your failure to fully explain the cause of said outrage, has me outraged.

    I’m outraged!

    • westyfield says:

      As Ambassador Udina once said: “This is an outrage!”

  8. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    The last outrage I heard about was about how the latest expansion has totally broken the core game but CCP is spending all their energy doing the console game Dust and that Walking In Stations expansion and they’ve sort of admitted they aren’t going to do anything about the broken-ness in the core game for 18 months or so. Is what I heard.

    My opinion is that the outrage is both justified and not justified in different ways, which I feel is a very balanced view.

    • Azhrarn says:

      Andrew has it more or less correct.
      Most of CCPs development team is currently working on Incarna (or Walking in Stations to use its old name), and very little in the way of bug-fixing and optimisation is scheduled to be done for the next 18 months or so while Incarna is being finished.
      This is a rather large problem as the code-base changes introduced with Tyrannis more or less broke EVE’s fleet stability.
      Where ~1000 ships could be in a single grid without extreme issues pre-Tyrannis (lag obviously, but it worked more or less), now you should be cheering if a reinforced node (ie. set up by CCP to run just a single system with expected heavy load) can handle upwards of 200 players in combat without shutting it down after a few minutes due to issues, as well as unbelievable lag. Even moderate crowding in systems has seriously detrimental effects on the stability of a node, let alone larger scale fleet combat.

      The outrage is mainly directed at CCPs admission that implementing new features (like Incarna) will draw more players than fixing older stuff will, and that players will basically have to wait 2 years for this to be resolved (18 months + development time for a solution).

      Dust 514 has little to do with this btw, as it’s being done by CCP Shanghai, and not in Iceland, there’s a small team working on Dust from Reykjavik (7 devs) but that’s mainly for connecting and integrating Dust with EVE.

    • Kelduum Revaan says:

      In Eve University we regularly have 200 player fleets flying around without any issues – and this is flying from system to system, jumping through gates, attacking pirates and so on – not just sitting there. Can’t say we have managed to crash a node… yet.

    • Azhrarn says:

      Correct Kelduum, I’m just repeating what I see in the forum threads. There’s bound to be some exaggeration on the players’ part in reporting such issues, I haven’t noticed much myself either, but I’m generally confined to high-sec and fairly quiet low-sec systems.

    • Bassism says:

      Since I left you guys, my corp has joined -A- to give the alliance thing a trial.
      I’ve only taken part in one alliance fleet battle, which had about 500 in system, roughly equal sides. We were having fairly severe lag problems on the way to the fight, never mind once we got there. The normal tricks to make your modules cycle in heavy lag didn’t work, lots of people didn’t load grid, some people didn’t even manage to load the system in over an hour of trying. The fight between to RR HAC fleets was pure ridiculousness, and both sides struggled to ever get enough alpha on a particular ship with the handful of unstuck modules available at any given time before an unstuck RR could be thrown on it.

      Never in my time with the uni could I ever have imagined that such a thing could possibly exist. For a game that uses “huge fleet battles between hundreds of players” as a selling point, it’s quite ridiculous. Alliance warfare isn’t my thing, but it would be tolerable if it actually worked at all.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      “Where ~1000 ships could be in a single grid without extreme issues pre-Tyrannis”

      No, wrong Expansion.
      CCP broke 0.0 warfare with the Dominion expansion. Tyrannis just made the problems even worse.
      Yes, that’s what..9 months of unplayable 0.0 warfare now?
      I’ve been there. 200 people in local, half of us never loaded. Gms gave everyone the finger, since they no longer support the game.

  9. Ars.Gladius says:

    I don’t care about the vision and it’s execution. (well yes I do, but….)

    I want the info on the drama!

  10. robrob says:

    Satellite of Love servers?

  11. President Weasel says:

    The outrage is due to CCP publicly shooting their feet clean off in PR terms.
    Step 1: create “Council of Stellar Management” (an elected body of player advocates)
    Step 2: loudly trumpet that the CSM are stakeholders, and boast of your innovative player-stakeholder-ing ways
    Step 3: Hold meeting with CSM in which you tell them that all their player-advocacy-type requests are going to have to sit on the back burner for at least 18 months, as you have committed all your dev resources to:
    -“walking in stations” (which very few of the hardcore internet spaceship crowd particularly want)
    – a console FPS planned to tie in with the game (which very few of the internet spaceship crowd etc and so on)
    – the World of Darkness game they’ve been working on for ages
    (for extra credit you can also tell them that the data shows lag is better than it has ever been, despite this contradicting the experience of the playerbase)
    Step 4: ensure you use the phrase “the data does not seem to support that polished quality sells better than new features”, as this is guaranteed to incense the vocal members of the existing playerbase who want you to fix what is broken about the existing content rather than chase new players with shinies
    Step 5: allow to simmer on a low heat
    Step 6: post on your forums that the MMO awards are coming up, and CCP would like the playerbase to vote for EVE
    Step 7: stand back and admire the threadnaught of angry players that results.

    The sheer PR fail was genuinely impressive. There’s a quote from the West Wing:
    You know, it was a screw-up. But I gotta say, I love the way he did it full-speed, bam. Like there’s a Sam Seaborn-shaped hole in the wall.

    • Bassism says:

      Yeah, this is essentially how the outrage has gone down.

      “We’re going to take your money for the next 18 months, and spend it on these products that you will never even play. Then maybe we’ll think about adding new features to the game. And just maybe look at lag some more, and do some of that iteration we’ve been promising for years now.”

      And the problem isn’t only in lag. The new planetary interaction system (whereby you create products on planets) is a complete clusterfuck at the moment, being essentially clicking on timers at a rate of your own choosing, while being completely unable to engage in any sort of pvp activity.

      Any time they release a new feature, they promise to iterate upon it in the future. This hasn’t actually happened for years.

      New content is always a good idea. Those crazy PVErs who run the same 15 missions all day long would surely appreciate having more missions to run. Or maybe some more advanced AI. The tech 3 customizable cruisers are pure win, why not give us tech 3 frigates as well?

      And so on.

      The time code thing is a non-issue in my opinion. Though an interesting one.
      Essentially, a bunch of random people paid real money to get time codes, which they then sold for in game money. Then some retard buys a small alliance’s worth of them and truck them around in a slow, completely defenseless ship. Naturally somebody took advantage of his stupidity, and blew him up. It’s worth noting that a PLEX is worth about 300 million isk. I regularly fly ships worth considerably more than that. 74 of them is worth a fair chunk, but not unimaginably so.

      Most people are worried about CCP having been paid in real money for the plex, then being able to get away with not providing game time in return on account of it having been blown up.
      But the thing is, when you buy plex from ccp, and they give it to you, then it’s yours, to do with what you want. They can seve the function of giving you more game time, or they can serve the function of giving you isk. CCP shouldn’t be responsible if what you decide to do is make a suicide run during war time with it.
      If CCP was forcing you to carry a plex through space in order for you to use it, I could see a problem with it. But it was this guy’s choice to carry them around. He knew the potential consequences of his actions. *shrug*

  12. BooleanBob says:

    “(for extra credit you can also tell them that the data shows lag is better than it has ever been, despite this contradicting the experience of the playerbase)”

    I especially like this sort given how close their name is to CCCP.

    • BooleanBob says:

      … which reminds me that I wanted to link Kieron to The Soviets ahead of the next Sunday Papers. ‘The Waitress’ in particular is indie-rock-pop of a variety that is certifiably both Tight and Strong

  13. Dozer says:

    I am amused that Jita gets a server all to itself. I don’t think I ever went there in my month or so of playing Eve.

    The most productive thing I ever managed to do in that game was to say something amusing at the expense of someone else in the newbcorp chat. Someone laughed and posted me 50 million ISK. This completed my immediate goal of getting enough ISK to pay for the training that makes training faster, and without much to do except wait for week-long countdowns to finish I stopped playing ‘due to change in personal circumstances’, or to be exact I realised that spending hours on internet spaceships isn’t much of a life so the game stopped being rewarding. Hint: if you unsubscribe from EVE for any reason, cite ‘change in circumstances’ as the reason, and CCP won’t delete your character.

    Also: CCP’s name is nothing like the Soviet Union’s initials, which were USSR in English and SSSR in Russian. It’s just that SSSR in Cyrillic letters looks identical to CCCP in Latin letters. But when you see ‘CCCP’ on something Russian, you should read it as ‘SSSR’.

    • Premium User Badge

      Kelron says:

      They won’t delete your character anyway.

    • Bassism says:

      Heh, the reason Jita gets a server to itself is because there is never less than 1000 players in system.
      It’s the worst place in entire universe. I hate it.

      Also, telling newbies to train all their learning skills to max before doing anything else is the worst experience ever. I’d much rather…. play the game, and train skills to the point where I can do stuff, then pump out learning skills as needed. Also, newbcorps are a not-terribly-good place to learn how to play the game.

    • arqueturus says:

      To the best of my knowledge, CCP never delete characters, irrespective of the reason for stopping playing.

    • Kelduum Revaan says:

      Again, confirmed that CCP never delete character, their assets, or anything else. We’ve had people join us on the same character they created 5 years ago, then abandoned.

      And I’m fairly safe to say that you tried to ‘solo’ EVE, Dozer? The thing with EVE Online is that its just not possible to do that and enjoy it – a massive part of EVE is the social element, and I’m guessing things would have been different if you had joined a player-corp.

    • Bassism says:

      Kelduum!

      o/

      (says Levanon)

  14. Dozer says:

    And nightclub posterwriters take note: Д is D not A, and Я is ‘Ya’ not R.

  15. Bassism says:

    Oh, and if you’re bored, the transcription of the meeting in question can be found here: http://www.eveonline.com/council/transcripts/2010/CSM_CCP_Meetings_23-25_06_2010.pdf

    Choice quotes:

    The CSM stated that there is a widespread belief that CCP is emphasizing quantity at the cost of quality, which goes against CCP’s “Excellence” initiative.
    The CSM proposed that CCP focus more on existing content, polishing it post-release until it is excellent.
    Speaking on behalf of CCP, Nathan disagreed strongly with the claim that CCP isn’t committed to excellence. He pointed out that CCP probably spends a bigger part of its income on development than most other large, established game companies. He stated that this is a clear sign of this commitment.

    Discussion then focused on an apparent drive by CCP to add new features instead of improving existing ones. CCP stated that once Incarna and Planetary Interaction/Dust 514 are fully implemented, focus will probably shift far more towards improvement of existing features.
    It was mentioned by CCP that the data does not seem to support that polished quality sells better than new features. This led to a discussion on the balance of customer acquisition through new features versus customer retention through quality and polish. The CSM also stressed the importance of goodwill and overall player satisfaction, which is very hard to measure in statistics until players decide to quit. The CSM is concerned that players are losing faith and loyalty in CCP due previous expansions not living up to player expectations. The CSM and CCP agreed that expectation management can be improved.

  16. Inno says:

    It is indeed a shame the single shard concept isn’t used more in MMOs even if the technical challenges, etc are certainly considerable. As for EVE I remember beta testing this game a long time ago, I didn’t actually play it for real until 1.5 year ago however. Unfortunately I only did so for about 7 months. Still, I would say for me this is probably the game with the most potential to be my favorite game ever.

    The only problem is it never quite lives up to it. It lacks a ridiculous amount of polish, alot of features seem to be only half implented and then there’s the sound engine (if you can even give it the courtesy of calling it that), etc. Add it all up and it’s a downright shame, a game like this deserves better.

  17. Anthony says:

    The PLEX thing is just fucking funny, really. Buy a ton, then fly them around with no thought to getting ganked? In EVE? I don’t want any of whatever that guy was smoking. Much like real life (and probably moreso) EVE is fucking brutal when it comes to things like that. Only fly what you can afford to lose. If you absolutely, positively want to run that kind of money’s worth in PLEX, for god’s sake have some backup.

    In relative terms though, that sort of thing is small potatoes. As anyone who previously owned a dreadnought will tell you.

  18. Dave says:

    Quick plug for RPSH… join “rps community” chat in game to join the most elite corp in Eve*

    The developement thing is lulz but its still the best game since UFO

    also 74 plex man is a pretty cool guy

    *Corp may not be elite,

  19. Tei says:

    If you are making a MMO, and using the money to make the next MMO, you have at least to have a competent team that solve the most urgent problems. It also make sense to generate some compatibility, so the new features created for the new mmo can benefict the old game. Having a very small team, insuficient, on the old MMO, just make people wait too long and generate bad karma. What goes around get around. I don’t know if this is the case for EVE, but I know the tune.

  20. Batolemaeus says:

    By the way Jim, I personally wouldn’t wait for CCP Quell of [a href=”http://www.prcnet.com/Social-Media-Solutions.aspx”> PRC Social Media Solutions to copypasta some Damage Control together.

  21. Lukasz says:

    article about servers
    everyone discuss rage

    Gotta love RPS.
    Eve too!

  22. Anonymous Bastard says:

    More on this soon “you hope”? I sent you an email about this drama what? 3 weeks ago? With all relevant links?

    The important ones:
    How many parts of the game are broken, and for how long? Heaps and heaps, for ages and ages (skim this post)
    http://forum.eveuniversity.org/viewtopic.php?p=293359#p293359
    How many developers are working on EVE Online (you know, the internet spaceships bit)? 20, maybe
    http://eve-search.com/thread/1354510
    What do players actually want? Uh, sounds like more excellence, less new shiny crap (note CSM thread)
    http://eve-search.com/thread/1327362
    How does CCP treat the player representatives on these matters? Stonewalling, ignoring, and basically telling them to sod off
    http://www.eve-search.com/thread/1352338
    How long will it take for these changes to be considered?
    “…CCP stated that once Incarna and Planetary Interaction/Dust 514 are fully implemented, focus will probably shift far more towards improvement of existing features…”
    But wait… isn’t that 18 months from now?

    Quotes from CSM minutes:

    “CSM firmly stated its belief that CCP is on the wrong track in directing their development power into new things that the players have no faith in while acknowledging that the old things need attention. CSM truly believes that CCP needs to pay much more attention to what players are saying. There is a growing frustration among the CSM that CCPFs apparent refusal to tangibly address well supported player requests will never change.

    “The CSM stressed that their criticisms are done made because they love EVE and would like to see it go on for many more years. They are worried about the health of EVE; the excellence of the game and the concerns of its community is the CSMFs top priority. CSM stated that they believe the CSM is at a critical point in time now. Despite their touted stakeholder status, it is clear even formerly supportive players are losing faith in the CSM process due to nothing changing about the way CCP treats CSM-raised issues. If the CSM is to have any credibility with players, it must be able to demonstrate positive outcomes from its activities.

    It was mentioned by CCP that the data does not seem to support that polished quality sells better than new features. This led to a discussion on the balance of customer acquisition through new features versus customer retention through quality and polish.”
    UHHHH… why should I keep playing this game again?

    And all we get from CCP is damage control, again and again.

    this sig has been going around the forums:
    http://machine9.net/sigs/lolveur.gif