I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock Saturday morning. I had just enough time to get up, start up my computer, and get into one of the fleets headed for the battle over the timer in the system HED-GP.
Instead, I went back to sleep while something like 4,000 ships converged on that system in the Catch region.
I was tempted to go along. I was in the staging system and I had ships ready. And I think it is pretty obvious by now that I don’t mind going on a big event like this, even if it has fiasco painted on the side in large neon letters. But I stayed in bed while many of my comrades in arms… or foes… took up the battle cry.
The fleets clashed, and the result was a system lost and a great big red spot on the recent kills map of New Eden.
The red spot in Catch
Kill charts from DOTLAN
Like many others, I watched from the outside as the battle was streamed. Twitter was alight with updates. And on Jabber updates and calls for pilots, first to get into the system and then to cover the extraction of capital ships, went on for 10 hours. EVE Online did not handle the battle… gracefully.
Null sec blocs are in a Malthusian Trap of sorts. The performance improvements done by CCP back in 2012 allowed fleet engagements to be bigger. And so they got bigger as the null sec blocs engaged in their own version of the race to the sea, with each side adding allies and piling on with more ships in order to win the important fights.
Up through the war in Fountain, which culminated in the giant battle at 6VDT-H, things held together. There were warning signs however. CCP fumbling the node management at Z9PP-H and just the general behavior at the peak of the 6VDT-H fight indicated that we were nearing another limit.
Waiting on 6VDT-H station
But since then, big fights have pushed nodes beyond their limits. Nodes dying, or behaving badly, have become the norm. The null sec blocs have expanded their operations to consume whatever extra room time dilation offered. The spirit of Malthus is no doubt laughing happily that he has been proven right yet again.
Time dilation was a good idea, but it did also contain within it the seeds of its own demise. Yes, we can harp on about drone assist and how that has sped up the problem. Both sides have been profligate in their use of drones and show no sign of cutting back. But I am pretty sure that if CCP turned off all drones in the game tomorrow that it would not buy us all that much time before we started hitting the node barrier again. Time dilation slows down the area of the fight, but allows the rest of space to solider on at normal speed, so the ability for alliances to pile on while a fight is still in progress has been greatly enhanced.
And pile on we have.
Asakai, already a year old in EVE lore, was a prime example. The allure of getting on a titan kill mail put pilots in motion all across New Eden. Back in November there was the Long Guy Fawkes Day, where I was in a fleet that pretty much crossed half of space to arrive in time for the fight. And crash the node. And we have carried on, with node crashes, or at least performance degradation to the point of the game being unplayable, becoming more common as battles become giant pile-on affairs.
And so CCP sits in the middle, having tried to make things better, but ending up with nearly the same problems they had two years back, compounded by a few new twists. The forums seem full of people either indignant that CCP hasn’t fixed this yet or very smug because they knew this was how things had to end up.
So CCP is in a bind. If there was an easy fix, they would have done it already. There are a couple band-aids they could apply.
Nerfing drone assist was on many lips even before this fight. I am not sure how much that would change things for N3, which favors capital ships in general and carriers specifically. They will still use drones either way.
They could put population caps on systems, as they have done with Jita. Of course, that would just lead to both sides rushing to pre-fill contested systems in advance of timers.
Or they could just tell the null sec blocs to “suck it” for now. Null sec players aren’t any sort of majority in the game. But then CCP loves to use those big fights and changing colors on the sovereignty map for publicity. Your low sec gate camp, your wormhole fight, your factional warfare gains, they do not get covered by the BBC. Big fights in null sec get coverage. And I am sure CCP is loathe to let go of that publicity.
So I suspect CCP will spend a lot of cycles looking into the problem, which will take time and pull people away from other potential features, which in turn will make nobody happy in the short term.
Posts with actual details or observations about the battle at HED-GP: