FanFest 2012 - Party on Top of the World
Once a year CCP lands its spacecraft, hangs up its mining turrets, and stows away the drones. Occupying the monolithic HARPA centre, EveFest throws Iceland into orbit around scenes of Sci-Fi frenzy and breaking announcements. Culminating in the world's most northerly techno-rave, forget Blizcon, RuneFest, and SOE Fan Faire - the developers in Reykjavik are showing the rest how it is done.
While most people wouldn't be able to point to Iceland on a map, one of the MMORPG genre's biggest events unfolds right here, every year. Occupying this tiny morsel of the Atlantic, CCP continue to push boundaries and redefine the nature of online innovation from their dock-side offices in the nation's capital city.
The latest 'fan group hug' at EveFest this year had the developer opening their hard drives and letting the contents spill out in keynote presentations, round table discussion, and more than a few bar crawls. Gaming might not be rock 'n' roll but CCP are always ready to give it their all, wireless keyboard and headset at the ready.
The action kicked off on the 22nd of March, with the highlight of this year's Eve Online bonanza being the FPS spin-off Dust 514. Taking place in the same universe as the space-em-up MMORPG, CCP's latest creation takes the action (excuse the similarity) planet-side. Having more in common with Battlefield than Ultima Online, this latest addition threatens to blow that social life-sapping addiction you had with EO, into a full blown personality complex: Grand Moth Tarkin of Ohio anyone?
Utilising the same Carbon engine as CCP's flagship title, Dust 514 is a fully integrated multiplayer-shooter, with events that will have real implications for those hovering above in spacecrafts. With dozens of trailers, in-game footage, and tournaments available to the fans who made the trek, it wasn't long before the excitement for the keynote presentations grew to a crescendo as the developer's detailed how the new game would work within New Eden.
"Your next shot could topple empires" announced Brandon Laurino, D514's executive producer. Playing side-by-side with creative director, Atli Mar Sveinsson the pair wowed assembled fans with the high-octane thrills of their creation; culminating in an orbital explosion courtesy of two Eve Online developers overseeing the action.
Things got even more rowdy as the lights finally went down for CCP's unveiling of Eve Online's latest expansion, Inferno. CEO Hilmar Péturssontook to the stage announcing "everything we talk about is not some futuristic vision - it is happening this year" to massive applause and cheers. Later, other speakers such as senior producer John Lander helmed the presentation, introducing new ships, a plethora of fixes, and even more promised updates - by the end the audience were in raptures as a Rammstein-fuelled trailer played out - demanding a second showing, as well as rising for a standing ovation.
Fans of the sci-fi MMO were not disappointed by what CCP were ready to show them, but in the midst of what was essentially a celebration of EO, there was also a hint of humbleness to the procession.
Addressing the assembled players around the auditorium, Péturssondidn't refrain from talking about the company's troubles over the past 12 months: Speaking bluntly he said "[last year] we released a beautiful room- a beautiful room with beautiful people in it, and expensive monocles: and we had the audacity to call it Incarna."
Amidst the light-hearted boos, the assembled players present seemed more than ready to forgive CCP for its past indiscretions. Humorous slides appeared proving that the developer has humour as well as a conscious ear to the virtual ground - from Wall Street's "Greed is Good" to lead designer, Kristoffer Touborg pleading with fans to stop telling him "he is going to burn in hell" evident with a community-made picture flashing behind, the developers we're ready to take the gentle-ribbing given to them, and wanted to earn back the trust, respect, and loyalty of their subscriber-base.
Then came Inferno. Introduced by senior producer, John Lander EO latest expansion is concise and refined in nature: "there are no more Jesus features, Eve Online is about that core spaceship game, and improving upon it." CCP's latest expansion is a progression from Crucible in that they are making incremental changes, rather than massive and sweeping, statement-making updates - in the words of Lander "it's about taking that core spaceship game, and making it better."
With over 75 ships, masses of fixes, and a vision to generally refine the materials already out there, no fan left the auditorium dissatisfied. The Icelandic developer was keen to express that Inferno would show further dedication to the players and their intergalactic sandbox - driving home that point Tourberg stated "[we are] committed to rolling this out in an awesome way - and one that you guys won't stab us for."
Not content with just teasing fans with the latest and greatest from New Eden though, CCP also lifted the lid on the hotly anticipated World of Darkness MMORPG. Currently in development at their Atlanta studio, senior producer Chris McDonough introduced their pen and paper inspired game "our project is still very much in active development - I don't want to release much information until we are really ready to make you guys just go nuts - we aren't going to feed some marketing machine, we aren't ready and that's where we are at."
Despite this resolve to keep information to a minimum, McDonough and Reynir Hardarson did reveal a few interesting details, such as the game will be a sandbox with elements of theme park and 'coffee shop' gameplay. They were keen to stress the importance of the ideas visible in Eve Online, and that the latter is a key influence in development, but they also want to stay true to the source material. WoD will also take place in during the Vampire: The Masquerade scenario, while also having multiple cities, clans, innovative combat, and more controversially: perma-death.
And so Saturday came and went, 3 keynote presentations, countless round tables, panels, and finally the evening came: ready for the Party on Top of the World. Proudly described as gamings best 'shindig' CCP's convention turns from uber-nerd into rock n roll with the appliance of a few strobe lights and a house band.
The second band to ascend to the stage were none other than RöXöR featuring Permaband: never heard of them? Perhaps in a nod to Monty Python-esque surrealism, this rag tag bunch of songsters comprises of CCP employees, from World or Darkness producer Chris McDonough to community developer Sveinn Jóhannasson Kjarval. And while at first it was like watching your high school teachers rocking out - they were the surprise highlight of the night. Code by day, rock by night.
After beers, dances, and much Eve Online chatter, EveFest finally drew to an end. An amazing spectacle of community and mutual respect between developer and player - these are the types of events that make our beloved genre great. With next year's fan convention already marked in for the April 25th - what better time than now to book your experience in advance.
So that's it for another year. Time for CCP to pack up the inventory, re-equip the turrets, and launch back up into interstellar development. See you back on Earth next year.