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Iceland, Reykjavik, Fanfest 2013
Fanfest in Reykjavik enjoys an almost legendary reputation, not only for people that play Eve Online, send scanners through out galaxies and have starting playing Dust 514, a free-to-play title for the PS3.
The descent upon this volcanic island by plane, already gives a good impression, how the designers of the game, which is produced by CCP in Iceland, got their inspiration for the graphics. The venue hall Harpa, whose facade was inspired by facettes on icebergs and provides stunning views of the surroundiing landscape, became home to almost 2000 players and fans, who made it over to this barren rock in the northern atlantic. The Harpa housed the fans now for a second time, but the Fanfest celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.
Ten years are indeed a long time for any game, especially, when you become aware of the fact, that it is probably the only game, that still attracts a growing number of players, every year. This is not only due to that fact, that CCP constantly evolves Eve and listens closely to their fans and meets with them personally at Fanfest itself.
After years at various gaming industry and gaming events, may they be big or small, have i ever felt so at ease and so close to the actual developers, so very relaxed was the whole atmosphere, surrounding the event, and so absolutely approachable, was anyone from the development side, an absolute pleasure to behold, even if you met them rushing between lectures.
These lectures did not only cover the three different games anf their universes and implementation, with Make Eve Real a series of lectures was introduced, not only for the hardcore gamer, but for anyone interested in space and possible future technologies. Former astronauts, scientists and entrepreneurs gave fascinating glimpses into the future and talked about possible space elevators, how reaching the speed of light might be possible and close to the interest of many Eve gamers, there was even a lecture on how to possibly mine asteroids at some stage and what the implications could be. A lot of interesting questions were also raised by the gamers.
The big announcements this year naturally covered CCP's main games, Eve and Dust, yet another game is currently developed and features in the world of vampires, mages and vampires in the World of Darkness, but few facts were announced. Some promising glimpses into the world were given, but gamers will have to wait for a couple of years before they can hold the actual game in their hands. Bearing this in mind, one does wonder, how this MMO will be used to tie into the Eve universe, and how a possible successor may play a big role in bringing the universe of Eve and Dust together even more.
A physical copy of Dust will have to wait also, but the game is already in open beta and downloadable through the Playstation Network and will be finished by May the 14th (514, get it?). As a free-to-play title, Dust is looking quite good already, but as was shown on Fanfest, it is currently vastly improved and possible future downloads will continue to tie the game even more into the big Eve universe. Fanfest featured a big PvP-tournament, in which mercenaries in Dust 514 played against pilots in Eve Online. Both parties fought for a space station in orbit around one of the planets in the vast Eve universe and the thought, that two different games on two different plattforms can seemlessly play together on a single server to achieve one goal, really raises the bar for other games to achieve such a level of immersion.
By making Dust 514 free-to-play, gamers can buy ingame items, which are mostly cosmetic in nature, as CCP wants to avoid a pay-to-win approach, but the additional currency that is introduced into the game and into the whole economy of the universe. This allows for contracts, that are interesting for both type of players and further the political and economical aspects of the game, for which Eve is already known and for which Dust could provide a whole new level of scandals.
The extensions and new features, that will be introduced into Eve: Odyssey are probably more intersting to the Eve hardcore gamers and will feature new ship models, a restructuring of scanning, and possible new animations and the fight against the loading bar. Mainly the focus seemed to be to further unite the whole universe and fuse Eve and Dust more and more together.
A truly astonishing and surprising experience was the glimpse that was provided by some CCP developers, who worked in their "20% time", gracioulsy provided by CCP, who worked on a little Spaceshooter, set into the Eve univers and was playable with the new Oculus Rift, a high-def VR-helmet fitted with accelerometers and gyros. Gamers at Fanfest could play 6 vs 6 dogfight, trying to hunt down the opponent with lasers and missiles, a truly immersive gaming experience, which left me desperately wanting for more.
In such a comprehensive universe, with the strategic and political aspects of Eve and the more casual shooter approach of Dust, in which by sheer force of numbers, an army of mercenaries could be created, to either serve the cooperations of Eve, or possibly dominate them through means of war, brings a unique and fascinating prespective to the table, that shows, what could be possible in these games.
Reducing the Fanfest to a few words just doesn't work. The atmosphere generated by the fans, the scenery outside the venue, glaciers and mountains as a backdrop to a temple of glas, all on the first day of summer in Iceland, when it just snowed a little, provided for a unique experience, that i was really happy to be a part of. I truly hope to be able to be part of it again, even though the tickets were sold out as early as february this year ..