Last week in Iceland, more than 1400 geeks from around the world gathered together for a very special occasion. The 10th anniversary Fanfest of the world’s most complex MMO, the colossal, ever-growing and ever-improving sci-fi sandbox EVE Online, and its FPS sister game, Dust 514.
Fans were treated with a multitude of activities, including keynote presentations, PvP tournaments, “round table” discussions about various aspects of the game, concerts, drinking competitions, and a tattoo parlour.
EVE Online? That’s the hard one, isn’t it?
EVE has long held the reputation of being the most difficult-to-learn MMO in the world, with the popular image shown on the left being regularly touted by long-time players to people who express an interest in starting a new life in the game world of New Eden.
It is true that many gamers that try EVE for the first time end up falling by the wayside, finding the complexities of the game too much to handle, with almost every step of the learning curve requiring more effort than the public would usually expect to have to give to a “computer game”. After all, your gaming time is supposed to be easy-going and mindless, right? Not so with EVE Online.
Most EVE gamers will have, in addition to the actual game client, a number of third party software applications to assist them ingame. These include character monitors which allow the player to view the skill queues, wallets, manufacturing queues and various other character attributes and statistics; ship fitting tools which enable a player to build their ships outside the game world “virtually” in order to maximise the CPU and power grid usage on their ships to come up to the most effective fits; industrial applications that can help you figure out the most profitable strategies for all of the processes involved in manufacturing; and common-or-garden office spreadsheet applications.
Spreadsheets? For a game? Surely you aren’t serious?
Keeping track of all the materials and processes involved in even the most basic of manufacturing tasks is pretty much impossible unless you have eidetic memory. Because of the brutal, fluid nature of the player-driven stock market, (which has been reviewed in such prominent publications as the Financial Times and Business Week due to the rising number of real-life financial professionals that use EVE’s stock market for practice for the real stock market), an item whose manufacture was profitable half an hour ago may be loss-making by the time your items hit the market, so it is imperative to the serious industrialist to be able to carefully track costs and market movement.
I thought this game was about internet space ships?
Putting aside the industrial and financial elements of EVE for a moment, even the “chance to hit to hit the enemy with your gun turret” formula is highly complex in comparison with most games, shown on the EVE website as:
ChanceToHit = 0.5 ^ ((((Transversal speed/(Range to target * Turret Tracking))*(Turret Signature Resolution / Target Signature Radius))^2) + ((max(0, Range To Target – Turret Optimal Range))/Turret Falloff)^2)
And that’s just gun turrets. Missiles have a similarly-complex equation of their own.
While such complexity clearly isn’t for everyone, EVE still boasts an impressive number of players, with a reported 500,000 subscribers in 2013, and in the region of 60,000 characters logged in at any one moment in time, all playing in the same version of the same universe on the same servers, together, while many of its competitors still spread their players across multiple versions of their respective game worlds.
This year saw the introduction of the long-awaited Playstation-only free-to-play FPS, Dust 514, to the EVE universe. Dust and EVE don’t just use the same fictional universe for their respective settings, the two games actually work hand-in-hand with each other in the same game-space, so that EVE players in spaceships can seamlessly deliver air support to Dust gamers fighting on planets, with text-based and audio-based communications channels connecting both games together to allow EVE and Dust players to properly co-ordinate their forces in real time.
While originally, voice comms between Dust 514 and EVE players required a “micro-charge” (on the Dust side of things anyway), it has now been made free for all players of both games.
Although the main Fanfest conference activities didn’t start until Thursday, hundreds of tuxedo-clad EVE gamers arriving early on the Wednesday night were treated to an audio-visual feast, as the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra recreated the music and sounds of EVE Online at the Harpa Concert Hall to a backdrop of EVE videos on a large screen behind the orchestra.
Thursday: Intro and Dust 514 Keynote Spee
The main presentations began on the Thursday with an eye-opening guest lecture on the future of faster-than-light space travel from Dr. Richard Obousy, founder of real-life organisation Icarus Interstellar and senior designer of Project Icarus – an ambitious project that hopes to send unmanned probes to neighbouring star systems, powered by nuclear fusion.
The rest of the first day was dedicated to Dust 514, with the keynote speech addressing the main changes to the game that will be arriving with the upcoming free patch, Dust 514: Uprising.
Graphics have been upgraded across the board, and the user interface has been improved, but the main points of interest were the much-anticipated addition of territorial control gameplay and the aforementioned dropping of micro-charges for voice-comms between the Dust and EVE clients. This latter announcement earned a loud cheer from the audience.
EVE: Wormholes Round Table
Almost 200 people turned up for the unscheduled Wormholes Round Table discussion, compared with the 20-or-so people that attended most of the other Round Tables over the course of the convention.
The first topic was wormhole starbases, and the confirmation that in the forthcoming update, EVE Online: Odyssey, all starbase structures will be accessible from anywhere inside the POS (Player-Owned Starbase) force field, whereas at present a player must be within 3km of the structure they wish to access.
Apparently, when wormholes were first introduced to EVE in the Apocrypha update in 2009, the game creators briefly discussed whether or not to tick the box “disallow POS anchoring” in the wormhole system options. They assumed that the logistics of setting up a POS in wormhole space would be so difficult that nobody would bother trying it, and so left the box unchecked.
Four years later, almost all wormhole systems are now occupied by corporations and alliances, many of whom are permanent wormhole dwellers with little or no business in Empire Space aside from selling their loot and wares that they’ve earned or manufactured in and around their home wormhole system.
This unexpected outcome has led developers to begin planning the addition of a new type of wormhole system, in which POS anchoring will be prohibited.
CCP also confirmed that personal hangars will arrive the near future, which will be music to the ears of wormhole-dwelling corps that wish to invite new unsolicited members to live with them. Currently, many wormhole corps (my corp for one) don’t accept new members that they don’t already know in real life, while many others will only allow players that they’ve known for some time in other aspects of the game, such as Faction Warfare or Incursions.
Developers hinted that wormhole mass limits may be given a greater randomness factor in the near future, and that they’re at last considering possible ways that abandoned w-space POS structures could be more easily removed by players.
CCP and fans clashed on one major talking point, that of capital ship escalations. Cap escalations were introduced as a way of discouraging players from bringing capital ships into wormhole PVE sites. It was assumed that such a large increase in enemy battleships onsite would put players off from bringing capital ships.
Again, the playerbase responded in an unexpected fashion, with players coming up with tactics that allowed them to “farm” the escalations for massive amounts of ISK, the ingame currency; enemy PVE Battleships being the most lucrative of w-space PVE “sleeper” enemies.
Lowsec, Security Status and Faction Standing
Next up, CCP tackled lowsec (low-security space), which currently is only marginally more profitable than hisec (high-security space) but with a much greater risk, due to lack of CONCORD (the NPC space police) and the possibility of fleets of cap ships “hot-dropping” on you with precious little warning.
In preparation for their new lowsec feature announcement, the developers briefly discussed pirates and suicide gankers, whose standing takes a hit each time they kill an innocent passer-by and can only be restored by almost endless grinding.
To tackle this latter problem in the context of the former, CCP announced the introduction of a new collection of “tags” – essentially “dog tags” as worn by members of the military, but different to the existing tags ingame in that they can be earned from “ratting” (killing incidental PVE enemies) in lowsec asteroid belts, and then traded in to agents in order to gain CONCORD standing.
As these tags will be allowed for trade on the EVE market, rich players will be able to stockpile them for use whenever they need them, while dedicated ratters will be able to earn more ISK from their lowsec operations.
Friday: EVE Online
Friday was the highly anticipated day of EVE revelry, reverie and revelations, with round tables and presentations throughout the day focussed on celebrating the last decade of EVE Online, forthcoming features in the Odyssey update, and the long-term future vision for the EVE universe.
The keynote presentation began with an extensive look at all the ways that EVE has changed from the original Alpha and Beta tests over a decade ago, through each update over the years, to the current version.
From there, CCP turned to the future, and how the highly successful “spaceships first” approach they’d used in the Apocrypha update will be the prime directive for future updates, having learned a harsh lesson from the Incarna update, from which they suffered a massive player backlash due to the apparent focus on the importance of CCP income over that of the player experience, through the then-new Aurum currency that can only be bought with real money and can only be spent on clothes and aesthetic accessories for a player’s character.
Beginning with all the new features that will be included in the exploration-focussed Odyssey update, CCP announced that player-built stations will be upgradable to the functionality of Empire-space-based stations, ore minerals are being rebalanced, tech 2 production bottlenecks are to be solved, and ice belts will be moved to anomalies.
Graphically, in accordance with the last few updates, another few tiers of ships have been updated to new shinier models, gun turrets have been given “the missile treatment” (missile graphics having been upgraded in a recent previous update), but most impressively, jump-gate travel between systems has now been animated to look like a beefed-up version of the warp animation. Jaws dropped. The crowd roared. The animation was shown again, and again.
See this video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9bZjBST-Dw
Also new with the Odyssey update, pilots will be able to launch the optimal 7 scan probes at once, instead of having to wait for the launcher to cycle in between each probe (cheers of appreciation from covops pilots around the world) and at long last there will be default probe formations that your probes will be able to snap to (loud roar of appreciation and standing ovation from covops pilots).
The next addition to be demonstrated was a new system scanner, the Discovery Scanner, which will show anomalies graphically, rather than in the list form they take in the current system scanner. The hacking and archaeology mini-professions have also been revamped to be more interactive, fun and graphically impressive, with the basic cargo cans found in current RADAR and Magnetometric sites being replaced with ancient space hulks – wrecked alien ships whose contents can be unlocked by skilled hackers or archaeologists using a completely new interactive mini-game.
In the next few updates after Odyssey, CCP will be focussing on colonisation, with the major bombshell announcement being that players will be able to build their own interstellar warp gates, in order to populate currently undiscovered systems.
That’s right, players (or more likely corporations) are going to be responsible for expanding New Eden in new directions. With great power comes great responsibility, and this is no exception, with devs hinting at the possibility of discovering new alien races in the uncharted regions beyond deep nulsec.
Saturday: Relaxation and recovery?
Not this time. Well, not totally anyway.
CCP announced on the Saturday that a comic book series, lore compendium, and collectors pack are to be released shortly, and even a TV series based on actual real EVE player experiences in New Eden is in the works.
Those teasers aside, much of the Saturday felt very marketing-oriented, which is hardly surprising when you take into account the “Pub Crawl With A Dev” part of the Fanfest.
All in all, the EVE Online / Dust 514 Fanfest 2013 was filled with thrills and spills, and was a very special way to mark a decade of increasing success for the EVE universe.
The question is, will SomethingGeeky be attending next year’s Fanfest, or will I be sitting in my living room, LAN-partying-it-up with my SomethingGeeky company director and EVE corpmate in front of the online feed again, like we did this year.
(You wouldn’t believe the amount of crap we’ve been getting from our workmates for taking 2 days off to watch an internet feed of EVE Fanfest 2013. Our response? We don’t care, we’re geeky for life and proud of it!)
Fly safe, fly wreckless, and stay geeky, everyone!
(And no, we won’t tell you the name of our characters or EVE corporation 😉 )
All images have been lovingly pilfered from other websites and used without permission under the “fair dealing” (“fair use” to US readers) news reporting exception to copyright law.
No SomethingGeeky staff members’ characters’ names appear in any of the images above.
We’re not that stupid. 😉