Countdown to EVE Online Fanfest: Questions for the Spaceship Althing
It is almost upon us; the gathering of a thousand spaceship nerds to celebrate 10 years of internet spaceships. I will be amongst them.
In preparation for the EVE Universe's premier fan convention, I have done my best to examine many of the hot topics and the underpinning history of EVE in order to be prepared for the barrage of information that lays ahead.
However, even with the best of intentions, I have barely scratched the surface. There are so many facets to EVE Online, DUST 514 and the communities they sit astride, that even with 8000 words across 10 painstakingly researched and lovingly written Countdown to Fanfest articles, I have yet to cover other vital elements of EVE's gameplay and the questions they raise.
"Is nullsec broken?"
What plans for the future of null-sec sovereignty? Arguably the jewel in EVE's gameplay crown and certainly one of the unique aspects of EVE, with its vast swathes of space territory bargained for and fought over by thousands of pilots in huge fleet battles. It is the ultimate virtual arena of politics and war.
Yet it is incomplete. Features such as treaties were promised but never materialised. The repetitive grinding gameplay necessary to facilitate the warfare is a turn-off for many. The proliferation of immensely powerful super-capital ships threatens to strangulate the gameplay further. All is not well in the darkest reaches of New Eden. How can it be improved?
"Why are starbases POS?"
EVE's intricate industrial gameplay is based almost entirely around starbases, commonly referred to as “POSes” (Player Owned Starbases). However, both the construction and the operation of these complex corporation-owned orbital structures are a relic of game design from another decade. As with many elements of a game whose design began in the late nineties, it has not aged well - many players would argue that POS stands for something else entirely.
Recent announcements that POS redesign was not on the developmental horizon met with player outcry. Interim changes have been announced, but the story of the Starbase is one to watch.
"Can mining be interesting?"
Mining was once described by EVE's lead designer Kristoffer 'CCP Soundwave' Touborg as the perfect gameplay for a hangover. The sedentary, hands-off process of gathering building materials in EVE has long been criticised for its dullness. But there are rumblings of change. High-end concepts like last year's ring-mining showcase are likely still a way off, but things may be afoot in other aspects of the art of space-rock collecting.
"What next for the EVE Universe?"
No longer are CCP's marketing information brokers telling us exclusively of EVE Online. Now it's the “EVE Universe”. The connection to the MMOFPS DUST 514 on the PS3 has been the catalyst for this re-branding, but why would they stop there? With Executive Producer Jon 'CCP Unifex' Lander shifting his Sauron-like focus onto the mobile market, could there be more spin-offs? And how will DUST 514 continue to integrate into the EVE Universe?
"Will THAT door ever open?"
The ill-fated launch of avatar gameplay in EVE Online resulted in one of the most polarising events in EVE Online's history. As a result, no gameplay was ever developed to accompany the slick Captain's Quarters engine whose introduction nearly broke CCP. Will it remain a white elephant for all time, or will abandoned prototype avatar gameplay showcased last year be revisited or re-imagined?
"What happened to World of Darkness?"
Lurking somewhere in the dark recesses of CCP's development schedule, it is fitting that the White Wolf MMO concept of vampiric power struggles wheezes like a corpse that refuses to die. Tragically even more fitting is that a skeleton crew remains as guardians and carers for the creaking cadaver. However, this past year has been good to CCP. Are they now in a position to infuse the laboured beast with an infusion of new mortal blood?
"Who are all these strange people?"
At the centre of all this are the aforementioned spaceship nerds; the single most eclectic, devious, creative, conniving and passionate gaming community you are likely to find anywhere - a nation of players from varied cultures and backgrounds, yet united under one virtual flag (well, when I say “united”, that's a gross over-simplification, but I've got a word count to consider).
After ten years of success, the eyes of the industry will be turning to Iceland to ruminate on how this strange phenomenon has occurred. Not only will EVE TV be on hand to deliver the official scoops as they break on their live stream, but a cavalcade of coverage will be streaming out from Reykjavik.
Petter Mårtensson and co. will be filming their A Tale of Internet Spaceships expose, renowned British journalist Keza MacDonald will be returning after her written coverage of last years Fanfest, Internet Spaceships Are Serious Business, this time with a camera team in tow. A team of Danish film-makers will also be circulating. Then there's usual horde of bemused-looking games journalists who will be trying to make sense of all the crazy, the bloggers and podcasters who have a foot in both camps and the information hungry players who will be screaming for more whilst simultaneously telling CCP developers how to do their jobs.
Will we all find answers? Who knows, but we'll certainly be asking a lot of questions.
Including the most important one:
“Whose round is it?”
This is Fanfest.
[Check out our other daily Countdown to Fanfest features for more information and speculation on EVE Online's Second Decade and the Party on Top of the World.]