EVE FanFest 2013

Keflavik airport welcomes attendees to EVE Fanfest 2013

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Written by: Riri (@lillyums

What a trip! I got to travel to Reykjavik, Iceland to attend the Eve Online FanFest at the beautiful Harpa Convention, hosted by CCP Games on April 25-27. As soon as we landed and walked to baggage claim, nearly one wall was covered with banners of EVE FanFest! Right away you know how big EVE online is, especially when they have banners especially made for advertisement at the airport. This year is also EVE Online's 10 year anniversary! Not only that, but it was also the first FanFest since Dust 514 was fully merged with Eve Online. CCP has achieved gaming history by not only seamlessly linking players from PC and PS3, but doing it with games that fall into two completely different genres.  Now, I don’t play EVE Online nor do I play the current Dust 514 beta, so this review will be entirely unbiased, and based on my experience speaking with EVE Online and Dust 514 players, as well as attending panels and observing the EVE/Dust 514 tournament. If you’re an experienced player of either game, bear with me – I’m going to write this for the outsider in hopes that I can attract some new players to this amazing universe.  My focus during this convention was to see how the merge is progressing between Dust 514 and EVE Online, and to cover the most important part of both of these games: the community.

Overall EVE Fanfest Experience

Before I dive into the background of EVE, perhaps I will discuss the overall convention experience. My experience was none like I’ve ever experienced at any convention – people have formed such tight knit communities and relationships within the game that they all recognize and address each other by their in-game names. Our badges had three spaces for you to fill in – Alliance/Corp name, in game name, and real name. Most of the time, I don’t actually see people fill out that last option either.

Goonswarm Bee 

While this is the first FanFest I’ve been to for just one game, I’m sure this may happen at other single game conventions. Players who introduce each other always start by saying, “My in-game name is XYZ” rather than their real name. Of course, those that knew I didn’t play would introduce themselves to me with their real name but sometimes they don’t introduce themselves at all..which was strange.  Goonfleet, for example, had a “Bee” mascot that everyone there recognizes, so if you see one, all the Goons would high five and gather around and chat like they’ve known each other for years. Essentially, the relationship you develop in game can be just as strong and true as one you make offline.  There were organized group meets depending on what group you came from (e.g. Goons, Reddit, etc) and then we had the event organized pub crawl hosted by the developers of CCP; this essentially brought everyone together, in-game allies and enemies.  Everyone was sharing drinks, swapping stories, and having a great time.

The convention had a pretty packed program schedule from 10 am– 7pm for all three days.  The rooms were named after servers in the EVE online game (Tranquility, Serenity…) which was not something I knew at first! While those housed a larger audience for more general discussions on content and design of the games, they also had Round Table rooms where players literally sit in a round table with the developers to critique and provide input on improvements, add ons, and so forth. Anything that can improve the game, that’s what the developers want to hear. I sat in on a few panels and round table discussions and CCP’s number one priority is making sure their players are happy. This contributes to a long lasting and strong relationship that CCP developers have with the EVE community.

Events

PS3s set up with keyboards for Dust players

One of the most exciting convention events was the EVE/Dust 514 tournaments.  There was a gigantic room set up with a large screen for real time screening of the tournament and tons of computers and Playstation set ups.  One very interesting option that Dust players are able to do is play on the PS3 using a keyboard - so there were keyboards set up with the PS3 as well. There were sign ups for the tournaments and the winning team would receive a plaque and a PS3.  Of course that's quite a bit of PS3s to pass out! We met the team that won the tournament, and they actually donated their PS3s to the local hospitals for sick children.

In addition, CCP included in the EVE Fanfest package several events you can attend (and/or pay for) such as the Golden Circle Tour with the Devs, the EVE Pub Crawl, and the Blue Lagoon Hangover Party.  There were others too like the EVE Symphony and a Charity Dinner. The Golden Circle tour took us to a beautiful historical and national park (Þingvellir National Park (English: Thingvellir)), followed by a trip to the Gullfoss waterfall which was absolutely breathtaking, and ending at the spouting hot spring in Geysir.

That night the Goons from Something Awful had a meet up at a bar where I got to meet many people from all over the world! I even got to meet MORE from other parts of the world the next night at Pub Crawl which was one the best nights I had in Iceland.  This convention is so diverse, I met people/a-person from Germany, Russia, England, Lithuania, Switzerland, Australia, and so many other places. 

Also, every year they have the “Party at the Top of the World” which has live performances by DJs and local bands and an exclusive Fanfest lounge for everyone to hang out at. Generally the public is able to show up at the Harpa to come party too. Oh and lots of booze too. Which then leads us to the Blue Lagoon Hangover Party the next day  - this site was also amazing, literally opaque baby blue colored water in these hot springs. 

Another event that was newly added to Fanfest was the EVE Hair & Make-up / Airbrush  station, the EVE Tattoo station, and a Viking-esque photoshoot booth by Mink Viking Portraits. Of course, all of these cost, but tons of people participated.  The make up artists in the EVE Hair & Make-up station actually also designed the make up and hair within the EVE online game as well.  I took advantage of my time here and got my hair and make up done :) I made custom requests for my hair to be in gigantic buns and then requested a different color for the airbrush designs  - basically, I asked them to make me look like a  “Super hero”.  They liked their result so much they took me over to the Viking photoshoot booth and threw on some accessories and there I am! A Viking…EVE..superhero…anime girl. 

Makeup/Airbrush by Hairbrush

Photography by Mink Viking Portrait

One thing we got to do that not many people got to do was go SNOWBOARDING! My boyfriend had the opportunity to take us snowboarding with one the developers of CCP because of a tweet she made – so as soon as we landed, we had a few hours to catch up on sleep, and then head out to meet up with a crew of about 10 or so people. We snowboarded at  Blafjoll and while the first hour was pretty awesome, the weather quickly turned to blizzard conditions and I could barely see a foot in front of me, at time snowboarding to the side to get a pile of snow meant to, ya know, keep us from snowboarding into the abyss.  So this was definitely a wonderful experience – snowboarding in Iceland. 

Ok well now on to what this game is all about – not many of our fans here at Lifted Geek seem to know what EVE is, despite how many of you are gamers!

EVE Online

image from alphacoders.com

So what is EVE Online? Eve Online takes place in a universe comprised of  Well to start, the environment of EVE is a single universe with over 5000 solar systems, each with their own planets, moons, asteroid belts and other sites. CCP further expanded the universe with the advent of wormholes in their 2009 expansion Apocrypha, which can take you across the galaxy in a single jump, or to completely new and uncharted systems.  You get to pilot through this amazing universe (must need awesome graphics) with your customizable ship and participate in PvP battles or in-game missions against NPC.  You may choose to play as a pirate, miner, trader, explorer, and many other professions offered by the game mechanics, and several that evolved directly from players, such as spy or corporation thief.  Skill levels are raised in real time whether you are logged in or not.

So when you begin the game, you start by creating a character, selecting one of four races, and then thereafter each race is divided into bloodlines. Your character will be given pre-defined appearances based on which bloodline you choose, allowing you to further fine-tune these appearances. In general, the game is described as a sandbox game where by definition, you get to do whatever the hell you want and there are really no set rules within certain areas of space.  With that being said, here’s the challenge: if you are killed by another player during a PvP battle, you lose everything – your ship is gone, and everything you stowed inside or fitted on your ship has a chance to drop as loot for the victor.  All that money you have spent creating your dream ship can be gone in a flash… But that’s the beauty of it all; this game isn’t like other game, which means players treat this game far more seriously, because there is real risk and consequences. This however does not stop players from playing this game and I’ll explain why later.

Dust 514

Dust 514

imaged retrieved from shacknews.com

What is Dust 514? At first glance it is your run of the mill shooter with two game modes. Ambush is what most players would recognize as TDM, and Skirmish, a point control game mode where you win by capturing and holding the majority of points on the map until the enemy MCC (Mobile Command Center) is blown up, or your team kills 200 enemies. .  In actuality, it is a whole lot more. While it is first and foremost an FPS, and has quick game modes that a casual player can jump into for an hour after work, it is also an MMO that is joined with the deep and complex universe of Eve Online. In addition to just being able to sit down for a night of blasting people in the face, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on both your game, and the environment of the Eve Online player.

With the newest Uprising build, Dust players can capture districts on planets. These districts benefit the Dust players by building clones that they can use to assault more districts, defend theirs from assault, or just sell off for a tidy profit. Now during these battles for the districts, Eve Online players and converge on the planet. If they are supporting a side, the Dust team on the planet can request orbital strikes from the Eve players to shell their opponents. Once the Dust players have secured their district and are reaping it’s rewards, their control also extends to friendly Eve players in the form of increased production for their facilities on the planet, reduced fuel costs for their stations orbiting the moons of the planet, and increased production being performed by said stations. There is also a link to Eve Onlines Factional Warfare system, which falls somewhere between casual games and planetary conquest. Dust players also fight for districts but when captured the benefit is to the Eve Online faction that they were fighting for, allowing them to gain control of the contested solar system quicker. This mode is more geared towards the mercenary aspect of the Dust player, where they are hired to fight, but do not retain control of what they fought for.

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Now earlier I mentioned that clones generated by a controlled district can be sold off for money (players also receive money as reward after battles). Money, or ISK in this case, the currency of Dust and Eve Online, is quite important to your success or failure. Unlike most FPS games where you unlock new weapons that you can then use with impunity, character load out is quite different in Dust. You buy blank suits, that come in four flavors; Scout, Assault, Logistics, and Heavy. You then customize every part of this suit, including its armor, weapons, damage modifications, ect. Now every one of these pieces will cost you some ISK, and when you die, that suit is gone. So if you die 10 times in a match, you are out 10 suits, 10 rifles, 20 shield extenders (lets say you are running 2 per suit) etc. So it is very important, much like in Eve, to not blow all of your money on the best gear and end up broke at the end of the match, forced to use the poor quality starting fits the game provides you for free. This system also extends to vehicles in the game, so a player must think hard on how they wish to spend their hard earned ISK.

EVE online & DUST 514: Merged 

Check out this trailer of the game:

Now tell me how cool that trailer looks! The trailer essentially describes the backstory of EVE and Dust, and the merge. So, this is how Dust514 is going to work. What happens is that you would become part of this large community – whether you plan to join an alliance or not, this is a commitment you can make to continually be a part of conquering an entire planet with your fellow EVE players.  Once the players in Dust and EVE conquer a district on a planet, you will still have to defend it and may receive notices of attacks from enemies that want it – in this case, Dust and EVE players will set their time of day that their district is open to attack and have to be coordinated enough to be able to show up in force to hash it out with the enemy Dust/EVE team. So it’s not like you conquer a planet and then the game is over.  This is an online MMO on the ground so you will continually have things happening even in your sleep. You may also continue to pursue full planetary conquest by capturing additional bases on the planet and that will also be a full collaborative effort with the EVE online players. So this is what makes Dust514 such a unique MMO/FPS hybrid.  It really brings the serious players together as a community.

The Online Community

The whole reason why EVE has been doing so well as an open sandbox MMO game is because of the large community within the game. At first, when you start playing EVE, it is not very user friendly.  Sometimes this will detract players from continuing and I’ve met several people who have started to play but literally got “lost in space” and quit. The starter tutorials aren’t really helpful, and the learning curve is steep.  However, those that did stick around did it because of the social aspect of the game.  There are alliances that are open to new players and willing to help coach you through it patiently, and with that, if you get accepted into an alliance, you always have people to talk to, and most importantly back up when you need it. The players don’t always play nice either, so that’s why you’ll want to develop relationships – or allies to form a stronger community and thus a larger group of alliances.  The current EVE map consists of sections of the universe that are “owned” by certain alliances and if you happen to fly into their space, you’re begging for an express trip home at the end of their guns. It would be tough to really fly solo if you don’t know where you are, and whose space is whose. So making friends is basically required to get the most out of this game, and in the end the results are rewarding. Two of the strongest entities in Eve Online both stem from other communities outside of the game. Goonswarm Federation, consists of members of the SomethingAwful.com forum community, and TEST Aliiance Please Ignore, who come from Reddit.

Likewise, we will begin seeing a growth in the Dust 514 community. Even though we are <1 week away from the Dust 514 launch (May 14), the beta has started bringing together the Dust 514 community and this was evident during the Fanfest.  When the game launches and people begin to participate in Planetary Conquest, there will no doubt be a larger EVE/Dust 514 community and possibly the largest in all MMOs.

This is a launch you won't want to miss - and it will be a free Playstation 3 download. Get it yours for free on May 14!