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AGDC08: The meaning of life in EVE Online really is 42 (no joke)

Michael Zenke

Last week at AGDC we had the chance to sit in on a number of really interesting panels. One that was near and dear to our tech-loving, MMO-playing hearts was the Wednesday-finale entitled "The Server Technology of EVE Online: How to Cope With 300,000 Players on One Server." Presented by CCP CTO Halldor Fannar Guðjónsson, it was an in-depth look at the way EVE Online is constructed from 'the back end'. They've talked before about their backend elements, about their decision to go with Microsoft's SQL Server and Stackless Python. Halldor offered a number of new elements in last week's talk, though, touching on the world-girding supercomputer network that keeps New Eden flying.

While much of the talk was highly technical in nature, one fun element we took away was the mathematical nature of the EVE Online galaxy. When 'putting the universe together', the designers had to make a few fundamental decisions. How would it happen? On what level would the universe be simulated? What method would they use to make planets? Today we have a short clip of the talk, touching on those very subjects. Despite the depths to which most EVE players know their game world, we're betting you might learn something new about the depths of space, as created by CCP. Read on for the details.

"The entire universe of EVE originates from the number '42.'"

Halldor: So this is the answer to the question about the way our system is hung together. We wanted to create a big universe in EVE Online, and it quickly became apparent that Solar Systems were a nice unit. Solar Systems are the big systems that servers emulate. EVE consists of over 5,000 solar systems, and we needed a way to quickly create those systems via simulation. We decided to go with what's called the disc accretion model. Think of it like you put a bunch of dust into space and you spin it around.

The dust settles in space in a couple of particular places based on an equation, that dictates the gravity and decides how the planets form. It's a great, scientific way of putting them together and to make Solar Systems for EVE only takes a little more than 24 hours. We realized when we were making them that the whole thing, all of the Solar Systems, is created from a single seed, a single number. We realized this after the cooking had already started on the systems, and we were sad. Because we wanted the seed to be "42".

We had the time, so we actually threw out the database that had already been created and restarted it with that seed. So the entire universe of EVE originates from the number "42."