Written by Rashid Mansoor
3 min read
The Growth of Aether Engine: A Next Generation, Cloud-Native Game Engine
- Aether Engine
Since we began developing the Aether Engine, our team has worked tirelessly to create a product that delivers across everything that our technical customers need and more-so. This year, it’s been brilliant to see what the team has produced using the power of this application as we look forward into 2020.
I’ve written previously about how Aether Engine helps developers overcome some of the common issues plaguing the development of multiplayer games including rubber-banding and why the current state of Operating Systems + middleware is part of a rocky, and frankly unusable, foundation. One that simply won’t provide the agility, freedom, or power demanded for this next generation of computing (in general), and video games (in particular).
Our work with CCP Games has been about their teams harnessing the power of cloud gaming and seeing for themselves what it can do. Since March, our technology has held its own on three, very public, showcases.
To explain this a bit clearer, we’ve created a case study about our work with CCP Games during EVE Aether Wars; demonstrating how our Aether Engine has gone from raw technology to a refined SDK ready to be in the hands of developers. We have also developed from scratch and included some samples with this SDK which, while rudimentary in many ways, are intended as pure examples of game mechanics that require the sort of dynamic scale and distribution afforded by the promise of cloud gaming.
EVE Aether Wars: Phase One was built by the Hadean team with input from CCP Games and went live for an hour at GDC 2019 in March. The demonstration was purely a technology test; Aether Engine was still an early-stage product but despite this, the game supported more than 3,750 globally-distributed human players in the single-sharded game.
We wanted to test the overall limits of the technology however and in all, we had over 14,000 clients using AWS Lambdas for the +10,000 non-human connected clients. The technology demonstrated it could cope with the high strain.
Then we put the technology directly into the hands of CCP Games. With consultation from Hadean, a small developer team of seven built the demo in eight weeks; perfectly timed to coincide with Gamescom 2019. EVE Aether Wars: Phase Two went live during the show, using 832 cores across 13 virtual machines, and we achieved our big goals:
We increased the simulation tick rate to 30Hz, doubling the tick rate from the initial demo and bringing it in line with the required rate for first-person shooter gameplay on current consoles, delivering a fully synchronously-simulated, seamless world. We ran our game clients without the rather universal technique called ‘client-side interpolation and prediction’ which virtually all games use to fill in the jarring gaps between the slow update rates and latency of servers. This allowed us to study the player experience over the cloud in its rawest form.
Secondly, we drastically reduced the cost of running a large-scale MMO game. We suffered the strain of egress charges from our first demo but managed to reduce the cost of running the simulation by over 100x. The original GDC simulation processed an average 69Mbps of bandwidth per player, resulting in just under 250GB of data being processed over the hour. In comparison our Gamescom version only required a few hundred Kbps.
The final demo, happened at the end of November. EVE Aether Wars: Phase Three was built entirely by the team at CCP Games and launched on Saturday, 23 November 2019 for an hour, drawing in over 2,800 players from 80 countries Players enjoyed a more fully-defined overall game experience, essentially an early access MMO title, that was brilliantly received by the community.
It’s amazing to consider how far our technology has come and how much has been achieved by the team in 2019. Looking forward into next year, I’m looking forward to developers being able to utilise even more features from our SDK, including distributed navigation and pathfinding AI and cloud-based ray-tracing.
To get the full story behind our work on EVE Aether Wars with CCP Games download our case study.
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