Lag is a constant problem in any online game. Taking any number of players with varying connection speeds and distances to a central server, processing user interactions, and sending the resulting data back before the next set of actions occurs takes quite a bit of hi-tech sorcery. Most massively multi-player games simply try to update as fast a possible and hope the servers don’t crash. The number of players in any given area are frequently restricted by creating ‘instances’, or alternate game worlds, run on different servers.
CCP Games, creators of the space faring MMORPG Eve Online, decided they would have none of that. Eve features a single, persistent universe of 5,000 solar systems for its hundreds of thousands of players to share. In a universe where more than seven million missiles are created every hour leading to 14,502 players exploding every day, there is quite a lot of data to process and share out to quite a few players. So how does CCP manage to keep everyone in synch? They change the rules of the universe.
A few months ago Eve Online began to utilize a “Time Dilation” (TiDi) technology to keep the game updating on time for everyone (and prevent servers from bursting into flames) through even the fiercest of firefights between hundreds of players firing missiles and launching fighters across multiple star systems. Game lag and mysteriously teleporting players are eliminated by dynamically slowing down time to keep everyone running smoothly. Senior programmer “Veritas” explains in a blog post:
“The thing to notice here in both cases is that modules were not allowed to lag very much. When the delay spikes up, TiDi kicks in, then the delay goes away. Happy news for anyone interested in making lazors go pewpewpew or reppers go, well, whatever they go. In both huge fights here, the module response time was kept under one second for the vast majority of the action, which is a tremendously large improvement over the 20, 40, 600 seconds we’d sometimes see in fights of this scale.”