Everquest Fan Faire Report
New Orleans - Oct 28-30, 2004
Everquest Players Spawn in the Big Easy
Chances are you know what Everquest is right? I mean, who hasn't heard of Everquest, well, other than people living under rocks I mean. Over the past five years the game has reached more than 118,000 simultaneous users at peak hours. It has been tried by more than three million people who have created an astounding over twelve million characters. More than 400,000 gamers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, France, Italy, Australia and other countries are paying monthly fees to play Everquest. What better way to bring a lot of these players together than with a fan gathering of sorts? That would be the Everquest Fan Faire. SOE hosts 2 Fan Fair events per year. This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Everquest Fan Faire in New Orleans. Now you get to kick back and listen to me tell you just how much fun it was.
I'll start my tale on Wednesday the 27th. The Fan Faire didn't actually start until Thursday the 28th, but the wackiness of that day will be far more understandable if you know about the preceding day as well. As with any case Wednesday was a really hectic day for me, but then again, isn't the day before you leave on a trip always hectic? There are always fifty million things you forgot to do. So here I was, running around all day Wednesday like a chicken with its head cut off after having only gotten two to three hours of sleep the night before. Also keep in mind; I had gotten 17 teeth pulled in the week leading up to this, so I wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind as it was, gotta love that Vicadin. Anyway, back to the tale at hand, by time I got everything done on Wednesday and was packed and ready to go, it was after 3:00am. Naturally it was about this time that I realized my plane left at 6am and not 10am as I was previously thinking. Well crude, there goes any chance for sleep that I had.
So off I went to the airport; I won't bore you with the details of how horrible my flight was, I'm sure you've heard enough nightmare stories about airports and flights since 9/11. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I appreciate the added security, but sheesh it's a pain sometimes. Long story short, I arrived in New Orleans sometime between 10 and 11, obviously quite tired. You'd think I would have been able to get some sleep on the flight but well, out of that 4-5 hours of travel time I was only on planes for about an hour. And as Murphy's Law would have it, I was naturally seated next to people who had no intention of allowing me to sleep.
After checking into my room and getting everything situated I checked my itinerary and realized I had a couple hours to kill before registration began. Well, let me tell you there are worse cities to have a couple hours to kill in than New Orleans. I used the time to wander around the French Quarter for a bit, found a nice little cafe, had some lunch, bought some stuff, you know, the usual. At about 1:00 I headed back to the hotel because registration was due to kick off at 2:00. Entering the exhibition room I was greeted by all things Everquest, and those other games SOE makes. While it was definitely focused on EQ you could still get some Planetside and other such gear from the "Phat Lewt" store. At 2:00 the floodgates opened and hundreds of EQ fans flooded into the room and registered for a weekend of fun!
I spent a couple hours there mingling with fans and such until about 5:00 when I had a meeting with the PR team; I was here to work after all. Nothing major, just a brief introduction and discussion about the plans for the weekend. When that was over I swung by my room to check my email and such real quick before heading downstairs to get ready for the Parade. Yes, you heard me right, parade; we marched through the French Quarter complete with a marching band and police escort, beads to throw, the whole nine yards. I think I heard a couple people muttering about "cruel and unusual punishment" to make us walk so long, but everyone had a blast and I'm sure we made quite the impression.
After the parade we all met back up in the Grand Ballroom for the Kickoff Party. Basically this was to get everyone in one room with cocktails and appetizers so people could meet up with others from their servers and get to know one another. The last couple participants for the EQ2 Ultimate Elimination Challenge were chosen and we were shown a brief movie about EQ2. When all the official business was over and we were left to our own devices I hung out and mingled for another hour or so before realizing it was almost 9:00pm and I had been awake for something like 40 hours; and boy did I ever feel it. As much as I hated to leave the party I retired to my room and crashed for the night. Literally, I laid down and called my wife, got the machine and next thing I know it was 8:45am the next morning.
Friday morning I watched the kickoff of the Ultimate Elimination Challenge at 10:00am. Twenty-four straight hours of playing EQ2 all for the chance of winning a nice Alienware computer, boy was I ever jealous. At least until I heard that Crafting experience didn't count, and I'm by far more crafter natured than adventure natured. Not only that, every participant walked away with a free Ideazon Zboard complete with the EQ2 keyset and a really cool EQ2 t-shirt. Challengers had several opportunities throughout the competition to opt out and take what was inside of several wrapped boxes if they felt there was just no way they were going to win.
I wandered around the exhibition room for a couple hours, checking out the new booths in the bazaar and mingling with guests till lunchtime where I took off to grab a bite to eat. At 2:00pm the Panel discussions started up and while it was hard to tear most of the fans away from the festivities, several did attend the discussions. They covered the whole range of topics from "Planetside: Aftershock" to "EQ: Customer Service Improvements" and of course "EQ2: The Basics". The Panel Discussions lasted from 2-6 or so and then there was a brief break while the Ballroom was set up for the night's Grand Reception.
The Grand Reception lasted from 8-10 and much like the first night it was basically a chance for people to get to know each other and meet up with ingame friends to trade tales while enjoying cocktails and munchies. They kept the Ballroom open late so people could stay and congregate as long as they liked while getting to know one another. Personally I made my way downtown with a group of people; we had dinner at Acme Oysters and Seafood and experienced the French Quarter at night. Since I want to try to keep some semblance of appearing "professional" I won't go into all the details of that, but needless to say fun was had by all!
The next morning was kicked off with the announcement of the winner of the EQ2 Ultimate Elimination Challenge at 10:00am. Following that was the Live Quest from noon to 2:00pm. On the spur of the moment the VIPs (people like me who work for various websites and such, someone seems to think we're special, I'm not going to argue with them) and PR people decided to form a team and play. Entering the contest late and with no planning at all Team VIP still managed to come in second. Our prizes were a round of Ideazon Zboards complete with both the EQ and EQ2 keysets. Nice prize, but definitely pales in comparison to the nVidia 6800s that the winning team walked away with. At 2:00 more panel discussions kicked off along with the EQ Best of the Best Tournament. After watching the beginning of the tournament and filming a bit all the VIPs and PR people, myself included, decided to go have some lunch at the buffet in the casino across the street. Excellent food and more good times had by all.
I spent a couple hours after lunch exploring French Quarter a bit more, buying some souvenirs for family and such. At 8:00pm I went in and caught the very end of the Best of the Best tournament before heading downstairs to the Masquerade Banquet. While we were treated to a great dinner, Vannoth handed out more door prizes than I could count. Everything from more Zboards to some really nice $400 speaker sets. Once all the door prizes were gone we moved into the Costume Contest. Tones of people filed across the stage showing off some of the most imaginative mixes of EQ and Traditional Halloween costumes ever. I know I for one wouldn't have wanted to be on that panel of judges, their decisions couldn't have been easy to make. After the winners were announced and the prizes dispersed we were left to our own devices once more to mingle and spend the rest of the last night of Fan Faire however we saw fit.
Overall I had a heck of a good time. Personally I've never really played EQ that much and had definitely never been to a Fan Faire so I really had no idea what to expect. However all that aside, I had one of the most fun weekends I've ever had in my life. I would definitely recommend that if the Fan Faire ever happens to be in your area to attend, regardless of if you're an EQ player or not, you won't be disappointed. Now with EQ2 having been launched I can foresee them possibly changing it to something like the "SOE Worlds Faire" or something along those lines, so as to cover all their games. But that's just an assumption or prediction on my part and you know what they say about assumptions!