Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fighting in 10% Time Dilation

I have to be upfront: I am not a 'big fleets' guy. But sometimes.. they just need to happen. And so, last night, I found myself in KW-I6T in an N3 fleet, fighting against, well, everyone and their dog basically. It was Nulli Secunda, Northern Coalition, PL and others (such as ourselves, Mildly Intoxicated) against SOLAR, -A-, Black Legion, assorted CFC forces and who nows what else.

I took the titan jump from the Nulli staging system I-NGI8 as part of a Proteus fleet. When I landed in KW-, it seemed time had come to a standstill.. there were some 1400 guys in local and time dilation stood at 13%. It rapidly fell to 10% and remained there, more or less, for the four hours I spent in the system.

Titans in KW-I6T
For those new to Time Dilation (TiDi for short): when the server that runs the solar system becomes too busy to process all incoming commands quickly enough, it slows down the time in the system. This allows the server to process all actions (a ship warp, weapons being activated against a target, a ship that is exploding, ship and drone movements et cetera) in the correct order and everyone has a reasonably fair chance that his or her action will be executed, and even in the correct order! This is a nifty way of dealing with heavy load and it usually works well.
But when tidi is at 10% it can take minutes for your actions to be effected. I selected a fleet member to warp to and gave the warp command, got up from my chair, went to the toilet, got myself a new drink, briefly spoke to my wife, sat down again - only to find I moved 500 kilometers in that time, instead of the 7 AU I should have moved!

Finally I landed at the fight and quickly discovered I could barely do any damage to the targets the FC would call. My grid and overview didn't load: the FC was calling targets I didn't even see. When my grid finally loaded.. I was at first too shocked to comprehend what I was seeing! Hundreds of ships, blobs of grey, red, blue and orange ships shooting one another at point blank range. One big swirling cloud of ships, drones, missiles, laserfire.. It was overwhelming and my overview settings (a separate tab for hostiles and one for hostile battleships only) were far from adequate to work under these circumstances. I had a hard time locating targets from the overview, but once people stopped to spam the fleet broadcast with incorrect targets we could target from there which was a relief. I really need to do some work on those overviews!

People where (slowly) shooting and getting shot, ships exploded in stately flowering balls of fire, we were outnumbered, but discipline on voice comms remained excellent. FC's calmly ordered what to shoot or to repair, where to move, and they smoothly took over from one another when one of them got destroyed. Of course there were moments of irritation or elevated stress levels, that's unavoidable I think, but I was impressed by the professionalism these FCs exuded under the circumstances.

Occasionally I would succeed in targeting something before it exploded and I managed to get on one genuine kill. Then I was targeted myself and I had to warp out.. in 10% tidi.  Slllooowwwllyy my cruiser would begin to align.. some incoming damage.. nothing for a few minutes... ah there's the warp. And when I got to my safe after a few minutes, I had to move back at the same speed. Basically, I was out of the fight for ten to fifteen minutes, every time I had to warp out.

At times it was like I was watching a painting being painted: everything is there and it all happens, but just very, very slowly. (edit: see this comment on Reddit!)

In the mean time, the number of participating pilots had risen to some 1800 which doesn't help when the server node is already overwhelmed, and we began to notice that the server began to get out of sync.

After a while the FC ordered everyone to deaggress and dock up. Hilarity ensued: deaggressing and docking in 10% tidi took well over 30 minutes for some pilots! Unfortunately for me I got stuck in the gaggle of capital ships on the station undock, and with just a few more meters to go, a few hostiles managed to kill my ship. Such a crappy way to lose something..

I died somewhere in there
When you're docked in station, there's no way to tell what's going on outside. I had high hopes for Incarna: I wanted to have windows I the station! Wouldn't it have been glorious to watch such a large fight from within a station bar or your captain's quarters? Unfortunately Incarna never got that far and so we resorted to watching the stream on Mad Ani who was broadcasting live.

Then.. suddenly supers. Black Legion dreads landed on grid and the fight quickly escalated to a super fight, when N3 jumped Titans in to get the BL Dreads. BL Dreads die, N3 Titans get bumped, Doomsdays are being employed and the fight now officially goes from 'good fight' to 'epic fight'. I want to see what's going on so I undock in my pod and enjoy the view from the undock ramp..

Bubblewrapped Titans

Bubblewrapped Titans
 By this time it's 01.20 AM and I really, badly need to go to bed. Reluctantly I logged off. The following morning I learned that the fight had raged for hours more, but finally the server node crashed, effectively ending an epic supercapital and Titan fight before one of the Titans could die: TheMittani battlereport.

Mad Ani put recordings up: part 1 and part 2.

Edit: corp mate Valkyr Eupraxia had some very nice screenshots here. This one is remarkable:

One of Valkyr Eupraxia's screenshots of the KW- capital fight

From a technical point of view, it's remarkable that CCP is capable of allowing 1800 man battles in a single shard MMO. I will not belittle that, it's quite an accomplishment, even if the server node finally dies after five hours. On a high level, the game play works: a battle is happening and someone is losing or winning it. But for an individual pilot, there's not much joy to be had in such battles, apart from the fact that you can claim: "I was there!"