CEO's Letter: EVE Fanfest

It seems like just a session change ago that we first decided to truly test the mettle of EVE pilots and see if they would be equally as willing to venture to Iceland for a real life get together as they were to rampage around nullsec. Turns out they were—more so than our wildest dreams imagined. As developers who holed themselves up for dozens of hours at a time in a small office arguing over the philosophies of human behavior and how to harness it using game design while at the same time arm-wrestling the impossible technical hurdles we faced, it was truly an epiphany in every sense of the word to see the enthusiasm and share the experience with those attending the first Fanfest. Tears and beers galore.

Fanfest 2011 is just a few weeks away, and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about it and why you, no matter the personal or professional cost, should join us to celebrate the serious business of internet spaceships. Fanfest is about celebrating EVE Online and about making it better. The first was a lot larger than we’d expected and it has only grown exponentially since. As hundreds of pilots from all walks of life and all corners of the Earth (and the EVE universe) come together, a deep, volcanic like power is born. A real, palpable force that stirs the fires within. It’s impossible to conceive of until you experience it. People from across the globe descend upon Iceland, a country that has fewer people than there are EVE pilots. Amazing.

And there you are in the middle of it—a player who, if you are extremely lucky, knows a dozen EVE players in real life. Suddenly you’re surrounded by hundreds of others who, like you, have built their own experiences out of EVE’s sandbox. For me, it was a complete shift in how I regarded EVE, even though I loved it so dearly before. After my first Fanfest it seemed so much bigger…

For that reason, it’s incredibly cathartic to have so many people with whom you can talk to about one of your hobbies, whether that’s about the stressed existence of being a miner during Hulkageddon, how best to fit a Hurricane for your particular type of mayhem or how to seduce a top pilot from a rival alliance. Epic battle stories are celebrated and regrettable EVE blunders confessed over a pint—and they don’t fall dead to the stoic face of your non-playing-but-kindly-smiling-and-nodding spouse (we do have Sisters Of EVE tours for them). EVE inherently generates some of the most intense rivalries ever seen in any gaming system. One of the most impressive things to me about Fanfest is that it is a few days where all of that is put aside, and everyone comes together to celebrate EVE.

You do come to realize, through conversation about a shared experience, that these are your people. While you may exist on opposite sides of a conflict, you are in the same social corporation – EVE players.

It’s also very “sci fi” when you think about it. Hundreds of virtual opponents existing in an imaginary universe, many of whom have sat across mostly-anonymous battle lines and lost billions of ISK worth of ships at the other’s hand--all joining in one place in real life. Characters manifested in the flesh. Many of the best pilots in EVE come to knock heads in the PvP tournament, taking combat even deeper because, at Fanfest, it is not some abstract opponent on screen or in local, but a human who you can see and talk to, sitting just a few feet away. It’s sort of like the early 2600 meetings mixed with a collectible car show that happens to be held on New Year’s Eve.

And, well, Pub Crawl with a Dev and the Party at the Top of the World? Those are the sort of things that you will never ever forget, even after you make it out of the other side alive, surviving whatever torment you put your body through.

But it isn’t just about the unavoidable camaraderie, the chance to blow up a geographically closer opponent’s ship or the “weirdness” of traveling to Iceland for a “hobby”. It’s about discovering our vision for EVE and then helping us realize it.

It is, universally, the dev team’s favorite event of the year because it means a real, face to face dialogue with the fans in an energized environment. At the panels and round tables, brainstorming and feedback flows back and forth between attendees and CCP. The ability to clarify ideas, roll up sleeves and delve deep into the guts of EVE’s spaceships is unprecedented—because it’s face to face. The conversations don’t end there. They extend into the halls of Fanfest, a quick conversation outside in the smoking tent or even into the night beyond in downtown Reykjavik. Laser-focused EVE devs and laser-focused fans mean this is an incredibly generative event for the future of EVE itself. The potential energy is massive.

Fanfest always has an eye towards the future. This year will be no different. It is essential that we bring what we have to the table to see what you think about it--to hear the ovations of approval alongside the occasional quizzical skepticism. All of it is important. It is our World’s Fair, with as much as we can bring from CCP in as much pomp and circumstance and depth as possible.

It is a wide open atmosphere where we have lifted the curtain on our pencil sketches for the future more so than nearly any other entertainment company out there. Sometimes what we show is in a pre-alpha state. Other times we get the opportunity to unveil something much closer to reality. This year we’ll be talking a lot about spaceship stuff (as always), the continuing deployment of EVE Online: Incursion, further outlining our Incarna plans and showcasing exciting nerd porn with some of our industry tech partners. As always we’ll have panels on economics, pvp, EVE fiction, marketing, content events and all corners of our development and publishing efforts.

As the CEO of CCP, I know how much work has gone into putting on Fanfest, the sacrifices the dev team has made and what hard work they’ve accomplished since the previous one. I also know the sacrifices the audience has made to travel to Iceland and the hours they have given to make EVE what it is—a breathing, deadly universe. Being one of the ambassadors for that combined effort during the CCP Presents session on Saturday night is truly an honor because of it.

I’ve often been told by the people who make the trip from the Keflavik airport to Reykjavik that the land around them is unmistakably EVE. It finally clicks for them how EVE was born from this improbable locale. It’s all around you – a dark (half of the year) rocky landscape in the middle of the north Atlantic that’s populated by a determined, self-sufficient people. The spirit of EVE’s harsh universe bleeds from every cave, the inspiration for Veldspar just underfoot. The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon: transplants from some distant world. The Aurora Borealis burning the sky. It is an entirely EVE-ish place. The original EVE-ish place.

I hope that you can join me in Reykjavik March 24-26th. If it is physically impossible though, I urge you to tune in as closely as possible (see future dev blogs on how to do so) and to figure out who in your Alliance is going and make them your emissary to Fanfest.

-Hilmar Veigar Pétursson // CCP Hellmar // CEO of CCP