Now bugs can be fixed of course and more computing capacity can be purchased. But there's a
limit to how far and how fast Eve can grow. They already run the game on one of the most sophisticated supercomputers in the world.
So if Eve will keep growing both in player numbers and in graphical complexity then a second server becomes inevitable. And it's not like there isn't some precedent: the Chinese play Eve on a separate server and there is also a separate Test server.
After almost every major Eve expansion (about two a year) there is unintended consequences due to the code changes. Sometimes the new bugs are minor or very hard to track down like the desync issues of early last year, or major issues like the gate jumping CTD bug of late last year. I know in a perfect world that Quality Assurance teams would catch these bugs but in a code base as big and complex as Eve, every change can potentially spawn many other unintended issues, and if QA catches and helps kill 99 out of 100 of them its the last one we see and grumble about.
So bugs happen. In Eve they usually manifest as large groups of players congregate, one of the use cases that is hard to reproduce in a lab. Thus fleet fights, where a lot of people are doing lots of things, tend to be the place that players notice the bugs the most and feel the effects the worst when they are on the losing side of a black loading screen.
So is another server to reduce population density the answer to these lag issues? I don't think so.
First off, the Eve server is actually a massive cluster of servers that allow player movement between them. Every one of Eve's 7500+ solar systems is called a Node and each server can support 1 to X nodes depending on how populated that node is or is expected to be. This means that while a second Eve server cluster would reduce overall player density, it would not prevent local node density from climbing since players can freely move from node to node. A lower population density might reduce the number of occurrences of large player congregations for the purposes of fleet fights or trade, but they would still happen and would still suck.
EDIT: As several people have pointed out, I got my terminology all mixed up. See James Harrison's excellent post here to get it right. However, the concept is correct: a system cannot be broken up across nodes and thus limits the workload sharing.
Secondly, the downsides of splitting the Eve community would be severe.
- The new server would be starting from scratch with no established economy and no working supply chains to provide the equipment for players. It would be like living in a third world country compared to the rich economy of the current Eve server (Tranquility) and it would take months of skill training and player base growth before the basic supply chains would exist, and it runs the possibility of never matching the rich and deep economy of the original anyways.
- The Chinese server, Serenity, averages around 4100 players at peak times which is less than 10% of Tranquility's peak players. The systems of Serenity are barren, the economy is weak and bare bones in the trade hubs, and the combat for the most part small skirmishes compared to Tranquility's fleet fights. If the effort is made to create a second Eve cluster it runs the risk of never reaching the critical mass to foster sustained growth, especially when in direct competition with Tranquility.*
- The splintering of the player base should the second server succeed against all odds would create some of the issues many other MMOs face such as lack of easy grouping of friends across servers, less importance of in game happenings ("that fight didn't occur on my server so I don't care"), less importance of player identities, forcing corporations that provide goods or services to either expand on the second server or ignore a potential customer base.
Those are just the downsides that I thought of. I'm sure there are many more.
In the end I believe that the current fleet battle lag issues will be resolved by CCP like they have done for previous issues, and in the meantime the player base will adjust and adapt their tactics to the new reality.
Does Eve's "server" have an upper limit? Perhaps but I would rather add more systems to the current cluster in the form of more null sec space, or more resources in wormhole space and allow outposts to be built there to allow players to live there truly, before creating a copy of the current cluster.
Time will tell.
* -I don't consider the Chinese server Serenity a true second server because the rest of the world doesn't get a choice to use it and Chinese citizens don't have a choice to choose Tranquility over it (in theory). Its a unique situation imposed by Chinese government restrictions and serves best as an example of how a new Eve cluster might develop.