The 10th anniversary EVE Online Fanfest is beyond massive, with over 1,400 players piling into Reykjavik's Harpa building for three days of intense internet spaceshippery. Players fly from across the world to meet their corpmates and chat with other players as passionate about EVE as they are. CCP runs a packed schedule of game design presentations, reveals, and roundtable discussions with players, but for many attendees, the event is about being a part of a tight-knit community that usually exists only inside a game server.
CCP made the bold statement to the press team this morning that its goal is "to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life," and with so many people flying across the world to meet other players face to face, I'd say the studio has succeeded. Today saw talks on EVE's hugely successful Retribution expansion, ship rebalancing, map generation in DUST 514, and lowsec PvP, and of course, we attended the DUST 514 keynote speech. There were also some hilarious shenanigans with the wormhole roundtable room filling to bursting and a guest science lecture on the possibility of faster than light travel in real life.
Day one highlights: DUST 514 keynote
The big event of the day was undoubtedly the DUST 514 keynote, a talk that has now grown to rival the annual EVE Online keynote address. This year's DUST speech showed off a lot of stuff we'd already heard about at GDC 2013, delving into the nuts and bolts of the upcoming Uprising patch. Uprising is a free update for DUST 514 that adds much-needed territorial control gameplay and completely overhauls the game's graphics and user interfaces. Gone are the old, dingy brown maps; in their place are some stunning new vistas and awesome indirect shadows.
The overcomplicated skill list is being replaced with a more intuitive node-based tree that should be more familiar to console players, and character progression has also been upgraded. Dropsuits have been simplified into small, medium, and large sizes that then specialise further for individual roles like logistics or sniper, and all the DUST gear is due for a rebalancing pass. Players cheered when it was announced that the voice transmitter microtransaction items were going away for good, as this now means every player gets voice communications for free and can voice chat between EVE and DUST.
I was hoping for some news on upcoming planetary conquest mechanics in DUST, and the keynote certainly delivered. Developers did a great live demo of a battle taking place inside EVE and DUST simultaneously, taking us through the story of two corps declaring war on each other, the military buildup on a nearby planet, and then the final attack on the enemy planet. We learned that DUST players who sieze a planet can install upgrades that give bonuses to that planet's industrial output in EVE; taking out those facilities will remove the bonus and even help switch ownership of the planet. This level of persistence is something you wouldn't typically find in an FPS, but CCP remains hopeful that players will make the switch, stating that "there are millions of Halo and Call of Duty players waiting to be liberated from a prison they don't know they're in."
Day one highlights: Wormhole roundtable
During the Retribution roundup presentation, CCP made it clear that iterating on EVE's wormholes is not a high priority for development right now... but maybe it should be. There are plans to introduce personal starbase hangars to lessen the logistical nightmare of living in a starbase inside a hidden wormhole system, but the wormholes themselves may not get any special attention in this summer's Odyssey expansion. CCP added a wormhole discussion later in the day that wasn't advertised on the maps throughout the convention center, but players nevertheless turned up in force. Most roundtable discussions are attended by between 15 and 30 people, but around 200 showed up to have their say on wormholes.
During the discussion, developers confirmed that Odyssey will allow players to access starbase structures from anywhere in the force field, and private hangar arrays are definitely en route. We also learned that CCP never intended for wormhole space to be mapped out and colonised as thoroughly it has been, so developers are looking into ways to rekindle the element of danger and the unknown that wormholes had at launch. Wormhole mass may get a larger random factor added, and the devs are considering ways to possibly remove inactive starbases from a wormhole.
One major point of contention between CCP and fans was the issue of capital escalations. Sleeper sites in class 5 and 6 systems have a defense mechanism that causes additional deadly battleships to spawn if you warp a capital ship into the site. This was intended to discourage use of capitals, but players quickly learned to use the feature to farm the extra battleships for ISK. Capital escalations may be nerfed in a future patch, either by removing them or by making the spawn more random. Other ideas thrown around included anti-capital ships spawning or energy neutralisers being used. It's a real testament to 2009's Apocrypha expansion that its features are still so important to so many players four years on.
Day one highlights: Lowsec PvP talk
Low-security space is currently one of the most neglected areas of the game, as it provides only marginally higher rewards than high-security space but comes with a lot more risk. Many of you wanted me to get as much information as possible on lowsec updates coming in Odyssey, so I went along to the lowsec PvP presentation to see what the future holds for piracy. Developers drilled down into the gritty details of an upcoming change that will decouple CONCORD faction standing from security status and what this could mean for players. The big news is that it lets CCP implement new ways of gaining or losing security status.
The current plan is to let players with negative security status buy their way back into CONCORD's good books by turning in one of four new pirate tags. Dropped by new trainer NPCs that only spawn in lowsec asteroid belts, the new tags can be turned in along with some ISK to boost a player's security rating from as low as -10 to as high as +0.
Since the tags are tradeable, rich players may end up just buying up a stockpile and then suicide ganking in Jita, safe in the knowledge that they can buy their way out of the security status hit. However, the tags have to initially come from someone ratting in a lowsec belt and so will increase the number of targets for pirates. It's a clever system that feeds pirates with asteroid belt prey while also providing the means to buy your way out of the -10 security status hole.
I'll be back tomorrow with more news from Fanfest!
Whether you're a die-hard fan of internet spaceships or just a gawker on the sidelines, EVE Fanfest is the EVE Online event of the year (and the key source of new DUST 514 and World of Darkness scoops!). Follow Massively's Brendan Drain as he reports back on this year's Fanfest starpower, scheming, and spoilers from exotic Reykjavik, Iceland.