If you attended this year's EVE Fanfest or have been keeping up with The Mittani's feature, Sins of a Solar Spymaster, you probably have caught wind of CCP's plan to address lag in large-scale battles in EVE Online using a little feature known as Time Dilation. We haven't had the feature explained in great detail until today's blog by CCP Veritas, which will in simple terms slow down the game clock as servers become overloaded, allowing for a slightly slower, but more fluid gameplay experience without the lag that has been known to wipe out entire fleets. The game clock adjusts dynamically, increasing and decreasing as needed as servers overload and then become less congested. If it all works as planned, you should be enjoying those large-scale fights a bit more and not have to worry about your entire armada freezing as it warps in and being stuck in lag limbo as your enemy blasts you to bits.
Here's how I envision this working for a large engagement (say, 1600 or so). When the attacking fleet warps in, the server gets extremely overloaded - warp-in and other setup tasks like drone deployment are quite expensive - so the game clock gets dilated extremely, down to 5% of real time or something. As those tasks complete, the server gets ahead enough to safely creep the dilation factor up to around 30% of normal time, and the fight is properly joined. At this point, we're sitting with 1600 actively fighting, with their requests being acknowledged quickly and fairly, but everything just taking about 3x as long as usual. The players in the fleet can tell that's happening because many of the HUD elements are animating slowly and the explosions in space are slow-mo too. As more ships die/chicken out, the load of the fight eases up and at around 1200 engaged I'll guesstimate we're back up to around 60% of normal time. Maybe at this point one of the FCs realizes he's boned and calls the retreat. Jumping out is expensive as well, so the clock dilates back down far, to let's say 10%, while the fleet buggers off. With the fighting over and the losers bailed, there's very little load remaining on the server and it returns to 100% time.
There's no ETA on the feature's release, but you can learn more about Time Dilation in the latest EVE dev blog.
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