EVE Evolved: What to expect from EVE Fanfest 2014

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Almost 10 years ago, EVE Online developer CCP Games started a new tradition with the first ever annual EVE Fanfest. The event started out as a largely informal gathering in a tiny venue that allowed players and developers to mingle on a more personal level, but it's now grown into something massive. Over a thousand players now make the annual pilgrimage to EVE Online's birthplace in Reykjavik, Iceland, to hear what the future holds for their favourite MMO. For many, the event is also a social gathering, a chance to swap stories with other players, and a rare opportunity to meet the corpmates they fly with every day in the virtual galaxy of New Eden.

The Fanfest weekend is typically a packed schedule of panels, talks, roundtable discussions with developers, and keynote speeches revealing the future of the game. While the event is understandably focused on EVE Online, it's recently expanded to cover aspects of DUST 514, the latest goings-on with World of Darkness, and even CCP's new virtual reality dogfighter EVE Valkyrie. CCP has announced that this year's event will see a monument to the EVE playerbase unveiled in Reykjavik Harbor as well as the first reveal of EVE's summer expansion, but what else can we hope to glean from this year's event at the start of May?

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I delve into the EVE Fanfest announcement and speculate on what we might expect to hear from this year's event. Will this be the year that World of Darkness gets some serious news? And what's new for DUST 514?

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Official Fanfest reveals

Each year's Fanfest contains at least a few big reveals, spread throughout the keynote speeches and key talks from developers. CCP tends to release information on a few of the big events ahead of time, but keeps the best stuff for the actual event. We already know that this year's event will include details of EVE Online's yet-to-be-revealed summer expansion, a live playtest of the next iteration of DUST 514, and hands-on time with a new build of EVE: Valkyrie for attendees.

This year's event will also include the official unveiling of a real-life EVE Online monument. Etched with the names of every active EVE subscriber as of March 1st, the "Worlds Within a World" statue will be erected in Reykjavik Harbor as a tribute to the players. CCP has noted that we'll hear the latest on the EVE comic book and the live action TV series. It's also expected that crowdfunded documentary A Tale of Internet Spaceships filmed at last year's Fanfest will be premiered during this year's event. The film attempts to give the general public an insider's view into the EVE Online community and the EVE Fanfest itself and features interviews with both players and developers.



EVE Evolved side imageEVE Online: The summer expansion could be huge!

EVE Online's summer expansion is something of a mystery so far, as CCP has kept the expansion's core features very close to its chest. All we know is that it'll be the next stage in CCP's grand plan for deep space colonisation and that it will likely involve deployable structures. I've written before about the ideal next steps toward deep space and how CCP needs to start making much bigger leaps in each expansion to avoid being overtaken by upcoming sandboxes. If CCP shares those sentiments, we could be in for something seriously huge. My money would be on new structures technology designed to control wormholes or Jove space finally opening up.

EVE Evolved side imageWorld of Darkness: Don't expect too much

Last year's talk on World of Darkness showed that the game was still in the engine technology phase, which put it at least several years from completion. Many have given up on the title or are now calling it vaporware, especially as CCP hasn't announced anything new on the game this year and a round of layoffs hit the team back in December. I wouldn't expect anything big, but hope that we'll at least get a progress update on the title showing what's been accomplished in the past year. With up to 55 developers still working on the title, hopefully more of the gameplay has been hashed out by now.

EVE Evolved side imageDUST 514: Could it get a PC release?

DUST 514 took centre stage last year and several members of the community even attended Fanfest, but EVE players mostly treat the title with a quiet reservation. I'd expect DUST 514 to take a back seat to EVE this year, with a few talks on the game's future and the promised hands-on with the next version for attendees. And I'd expect the next big update to include more persistent gameplay through faction warfare and territorial control. The big hope for DUST this year is that CCP announces it's coming to PC or at least PS4. There's still some life left in the PS3, but being locked to that platform could strangle the game in the long-term.

EVE Evolved side imageRoundtable discussions and panels

While Fanfest focuses on revealing new information to players, the event is as much for CCP's benefit as it is for player attendees. It gives developers a rare opportunity to engage directly with some of their games' most dedicated and enthusiastic fans. Developers have reported that events like these help to regenerate their own enthusiasm, and the roundtable discussions between developers and players serve a very practical purpose. Players often generate fantastic ideas together, and they can really help steer the game in the right direction, highlighting problems before they turn into development disasters.

The roundtables are typically not livestreamed as part of the EVE TV coverage, which is a shame as they're some of the most interesting parts of the event. Last year's Wormhole roundtable demonstrated the enormous interest players actually have in the feature, with three to four times the number of people showing up than could even fit in the room. There are likely to be discussions on wormholes, faction warfare, walking in stations, territorial warfare, lowsec and more. I'll be at Fanfest again this year and hope to attend a few of the roundtables between important talks to gague the mood of the playerbase on those important features.

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It's been almost 10 years since the first ever EVE Fanfest, and in that time it's grown to become a major event in the gaming year for over a thousand attendees and thousands more watching at home through livestreams or catching up with the news on blogs. What started out with a few dozen players sitting in a tiny room to be shown prototypes of planetary flight gameplay that would never see the light of day has become an industry event covering four games and dedicated to the EVE Online community.

DUST 514 will likely take a back seat this year to EVE but could potentially reveal an upcoming release on PC or PS4, and World of Darkness will probably give us a small progress update. We'll also get a hands-on with the latest version of EVE: Valkyrie, but with its recently revealed exclusivity to the Oculus Rift gaming headset, we know it won't get a firm release date.

Fanfest will always be primarily about EVE Online, and the focus this year is likely to be on the summer expansion and how it ties into Senior Producer Andie Nordgren's grand vision of deep-space colonisation. It could be just another iterative step like Odyssey or Rubicon, or a massive leap forward with features like player-built stargates, controllable wormholes, or opening Jove space. Whatever is revealed at this year's EVE Fanfest, I'll be there representing Massively this year to report on everything as it happens.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the biweekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.