EVE Online Fanfest 2011 roundup: Day 1

Once per year, EVE Online developer CCP Games throws a colossal party in its home country of Iceland. EVE players from around the world fly to Iceland to meet up with other players, talk about internet spaceships and usually get completely drunk. CCP hosts a series of events, round-table discussions and presentations all about EVE, showing what the team has been up to over the past year and revealing plans for the game's ongoing development. Fanfest has typically catered to EVE's most dedicated fans, or at least those motivated enough at the prospect of an EVE convention to brace the Icelandic weather. This year, the focus is much wider, with over 3,000 players in attendance and a huge contingent of press.

Day one of the EVE Fanfest has come to a close, and the event is now in full swing. Read on for a roundup of what happened today, along with detailed explanations of a few personal highlights from today's festivities.

Today's events

Fanfest has become an integral part of CCP's feedback-gathering mechanism. With so many of EVE's power-players in one place, the potential to tap them for feedback doesn't go to waste. Today saw roundtable discussions on virtual worlds, marketing, large-scale warfare, quality assurance, wormhole space, web-development, faction warfare, tech 1 small ships, the EVE community, fansites and EVE's game masters. With so many discussions going on at the same time, CCP had to open three separate rooms to host them in.

At the same time, teams of developers gave some really good presentations and talks on topics ranging from account security and quality assurance to the Council of Stellar Management's role in EVE and how the Incursion expansion came to be. Special events today included a character creator session, a player-vs.-developer Rock Band contest in aid of charity Get Well Gamers, and an open mic night.

Personal highlights: Incursion presentation

I'm told Thursday is typically a slow day for the Fanfest as people collect their passes, seek out other players they know in-game and generally orient themselves. If today was slow, then I can't wait for Friday and Saturday. The ever-charismatic CCP Soundwave presented a fantastic talk on the development of the Incursion expansion. He first showed us the raw presentation he gave to the Council of Stellar Management back when Incursion was still in the planning phase. After that, Soundwave took each of the goals mentioned in the original presentation and compared them to the actual outcome when the expansion was finally launched.

It was fascinating to see which design goals, like having NPCs podkill players, didn't make it into release. Perhaps more interesting was the question-and-answer session, in which players highlighted some legitimate concerns about sites in high-security space being completed at much too quick a pace. We also heard from Team TriLambda and Team Commie Pinkos, who answered questions on the design of the new Sansha sites, the storyline behind the Sansha attacks, and balance issues within incursions.

The Q&A session even became a viable venue for players to suggest ideas directly to developers. Team Commie Pinkos called one player's suggestion of making propaganda videos for Sansha's nation awesome, and Soundwave liked my suggestion to allow players to buy advance warning of incursions with CONCORD LP. Before going to Fanfest, I was told that developers were more open to direct feedback during the event than they can be with the EVE population most of the time. I had already been convinced of that by the huge number of round-table discussions going on daily, but the fact that developers took suggestions on board during a presentation really reinforced that notion. This is personal two-way communication, the way it should be.

Personal highlights: CSM/Alliance panels

This year's fanfest has had something of a hidden agenda behind it. A huge number of press have been invited, and CCP has been very keen to shine a spotlight on the Council of Stellar Management. It really seems that this year CCP is trying to get the word out there to the wider gaming community that it's doing things no other company has tried and that it's seen huge success. There's nothing nefarious in trying to get the wider gaming media to pay attention to the CSM -- in fact, I think it's exactly what's needed right now. The Council of Stellar Management has been doing fantastic work, and I think it's really proven itself over this past year more than at any other time.

Perhaps the biggest reason the CSM is so effective is that it's not afraid to call CCP out when the devs' plans don't mesh with player expectations. We've really championed the CSM here at Massively over the past year, and we'd like to hope that the extra exposure has been empowering for both the council and the players by whom the council is held accountable. We've done our best to encourage players to vote, and through interviews, we've helped give the CSM a more public platform on which to express its views.

When things didn't go well at the June summit, the negative PR the CSM was able to generate played a part in convincing CCP to stop and re-evaluate its development plans. As a direct result of the CSM's objections, we now have Team Best Friends Forever working through a backlog of small issues, Team Gridlock focused on battling lag, and a hell of a lot more communication from CCP. The CSM panel was an enlightening experience, and it helped to show the sheer volume of work these people volunteer just because they want to make EVE a better game. As far as I'm concerned, the gaming world needs to know that a player-run advisory council really does work.

Personal highlights: Alliance leader panel

Every year, CCP invites the leaders of EVE's notable alliances to give serious presentations on their organisations, recent wars and other important internet spaceship stuff. Thankfully, every year those alliance leaders get drunk and run hilarious presentations that have attendees in stitches. If you ever come to Fanfest, do not miss this panel. The banter at these presentations really underscores what EVE is all about -- having fun smashing space ships into other space ships.

The hilarious presentations from Systematic Chaos, Test Alliance Please Ignore, Goonswarm Federation, Dirt Nap Squad and Noir Mercenary group were the absolute highlight of today for me. The Q&A session was a little slow, but the whole event really showed why these people are alliance leaders. The raw charisma present in that group is astounding, and their outlooks on the game are very sound.

Join us tomorrow for more highlights from day 2 of the EVE Fanfest!
This article was originally published on Massively.