EVE is about the people. This was a refrain that echoed throughout the halls of the Laugardalshöll Sports Centre throughout the last weekend as EVE Online’s major event, Fanfest, was in full swing. Capsuleers from around the world flew out to the tiny country of Iceland, descending on the capital city of Reykjavik to talk all about internet spaceships, alliance news, war planning, and much more.
Fanfest was back after a four-year hiatus – and not all of those years voluntary. Since taking a year off in 2019 to do the World Invasion Tour, CCP Games has been unable to host the event due to Covid-19 restrictions that locked down the planet for a time. But now, as I walked through the halls of Iceland’s sports hall, it was as if the last few years did – and didn’t – happen.
For many, this was the first time they’ve made the trek as a player. One player I spoke to while walking to the venue on Saturday morning was from Romania, and his only gripe was that he couldn’t pay for the city bus properly. The event? Top-notch. While this was his first in-game event, for others it was like a homecoming.
Some players, despite their issues with the venue itself, were just happy to be among their fellow space nerds again. Long-time in-game animosities were forgotten as players toasted their escapades with a drink, had lunch in the Jita 4-4 cantina, or took in the sights of Iceland together. As one player told me Saturday night, he came for the people first, the game second.
There was a palpable excitement from the developers too, especially as this was the first Fanfest for over half of CCP’s employees, according to CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson during the Fanfest opening ceremony. According to Hilmar, 63% of CCP employees had never been to Fanfest. This is a huge number I wasn’t expecting, but it puts into perspective not just how much the player base has changed, but also the developers creating New Eden. What surprised me more was the metric that 57% of current EVE players started playing since the last Fanfest, and thus have never experienced one while they flew in New Eden.
Reykjavik felt more alive than I remembered, with EVE players cruising the streets, hitting up bars, and taking in the sights around the city. Everywhere I looked, I could see happy EVE players, excited to be with their community again after so long a time away.
“So you’ve heard of resting bitchface?” Max Singularity, AKA the Space Pope, asked me in an interview this past weekend. “If you walk out on the floor, I’ve coined a new term: Resting Smiling Face. You can see it in their eyes, like a homecoming.” Singularity described it as this feeling where players were just relieved to see each other again, to be among the community after so long.
“You just see someone sitting in the corner just [smiling]. Either they’re totally insane, like the Joker, or they’re really happy to be here. Or both,” Singularity said with a chuckle, as well as his own RSF.
While players might have been expecting a Fanfest that was full of immediate releases and updates they could expect right away, the actual event looks towards the future, with the community at the center. The event itself felt very community-oriented, something that Creative Director Bergur Finnbogason states happened very organically.
“EVE is so much about people dealing with people,” Bergur told me in an interview over the weekend. “It’s so much about this human interaction and this human element. And I think there has been kind of a social need, a build-up for a social meet happening. That has been happening for the last couple of years that I think this is just at the top of the mind for everyone. So there wasn’t an official stance, it wasn’t like a strategic thing to focus on players. I think it’s just more where the world is at and what we’ve been going through together. And in many ways it just comes down to us missing this, I’ve just missed Fanfest. I missed meeting players. I missed learning about new play styles or new tactics and getting to talk to people face to face. Nothing beats it.”
As I walked the halls of Laugardalshöll, players certainly agreed with Bergur’s assessment. Laughter mixed with heated debates about fittings and tactics could be heard throughout the main concourse. It was clear: these capsuleers were just excited to be among their fellow space nerds again.
During the pub crawl Friday evening, players from all factions and alliances met and laughed over a pint throughout Reykjavik’s downtown center. A friend of mine wrapped his arm around a player who destroyed his Titan during the Massacre of M2-XFE, vowing - with a laugh and a smile on his face - vengeance next time they were in-game together. Other players could be heard talking to CCP London developers who were eagerly soaking up ideas from fans who showed excitement at the idea of another EVE-universe set FPS in development.
Fanfest 2022 was a celebration of what makes EVE Online such a force in the MMO-space after almost two decades in operation: the players. No other fanbase can lay claim to records and escapades that have made EVE famous, as well as fill two whole history books. Fanfest 2022, what it lacked in bombastic, ready-to-ship-today reveals more than made up for it by its focus on what is most important in EVE: the space nerds we all fly and share New Eden with.
EVE Forever might be the destination, and the updates that CCP announced this past weekend start to align the MMO toward that jump gate, but it’s the community of capsules that will help bring this to fruition. And after what I witnessed this weekend: camaraderie, even after a global pandemic and a brutal in-game war, it’ll be fun to see how this unique group of MMO players help tell more and more interesting stories in the third decade, and beyond.