The massive multiplayer online game EVE Online has had the largest battle ever, with apparently about 4,000 players engaged and about 2,900 of their ships destroyed in more than five hours.
The combat is fake, but the emotions are real"
By Ellis Hamburger
I don't understand some details (I was never an EVE Online player), but it appears that the alliance which was on the strategic offensive (grabbing territory) was a bit numerically superior and also vastly superior on the tactical level.
Finally, when the biggest and ridiculously expensive ships were sent into battle by the attacker, the morale of the defenders was broken and they fled, accepting horrible casualties in the process. They did nevertheless launch an unusual and excessively costly last stand counter-attack with some forces.
EVE Online is interesting because it's a "sandbox"-type game, with developers leaving many aspects to the players. As such, it's the equivalent of a free-play exercise, not of a very scripted one. It has succeeded in replicating many known elements of actual warfare (strategy and tactics), politics, diplomacy, economics and espionage this way. All groups in-game are self-organised, huge fleets have formed, gained cohesion and discipline, prepared and applied tactics, trained newcomers - all in a couple years and out of nothing. The degree of sophistication was already very high after very few years after launch of the game.
This is certainly something to keep an eye on in the long term. Such simulations may not only offer great opportunities for behaviour researchers of various fields, but they might also help to give people experience. Negotiators, leaders, trainers, planners, maybe traders could learn something about their actual job in such harmless and almost free simulations.