Greetings from Reykjavik

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“You’re going … where?”

That’s the general reaction from almost everyone who’s learned that I’m headed to Iceland to cover CCP Games’ fourth annual Fanfest, in the developer’s home town of Reykjavik. I admit, it’s not exactly a central tourist location, but I’m always up for an adventure. Besides, it’s about time I gave my passport some use.

CCP Games is using the event to officially roll out the Macintosh and Linux versions of EVE Online, its massively multiplayer online game set in outer space. It’s a game I’ve been really excited about seeing on the Mac ever since I first learned about CCP’s plans this past March, at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. It’s yet another game that’s being brought to the Mac by TransGaming, creators of the Cider technology that EA recently used to bring six games to the Mac, including Madden NFL 08 and Need For Speed Carbon.

EVE Online hasn’t been released for the Mac just yet, but keep your eyes peeled—announcements should be forthcoming later this week.

While Reykjavik may not be as big a media hotspot as New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, it makes a lot of logistical sense, beyond just being CCP Games’ home town. It’s smack- dab in the middle of various points throughout North America and Northern Europe, two geographical regions where EVE Online is the most popular.

Besides, Iceland is cool. I mean, beyond the obvious—it’s cold, too. When we landed, it was minus-2 degrees Celsius. I’m glad I packed my parka.

“Iceland” is something of a misnomer. It’s pretty temperate, given its northern latitude, thanks to being on the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream—warm waters from the Caribbean make their way up from the south. According to Landnámabók— Iceland’s official book of settlement—the area was named by a Scandinavian explorer named Flóki Vilgerðarson; the folk tale version of the story suggests that he yelled, “Bah, Iceland” as he left, after suffering a particularly harsh winter.

Iceland is warm for another reason, too: It’s rich in geothermal activity, so much so that the country’s government has a very realistic goal of weaning the entire nation from fossil fuels by 2050—converting all vehicles to hydrogen and other zero-emission systems. That’ll be an impressive feat to see.

The people, descended from Nordic and Gaelic settlers who came here as far back as the ninth century, are every bit as preternaturally good looking as their reputation suggests. (Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino once remarked “Supermodels working at McDonald’s!” when asked about the ladies here.) But they’re not all uniformly blond haired and blue-eyed. They are incredibly friendly, however, polite, and almost everyone speaks English, which makes it easy for an ugly American tourist like me to get around.

Back to the Fanfest: it takes place at the Laugardalshöll, a large sports venue in Reykjavik. This is the fourth annual Fanfest, and it’s grown in leaps and bounds each year it’s taken place. Last year it was in the Hotel Nordica, and past attendees tell me it was jam-packed. Everyone with whom I’ve spoken is expecting to have a really good time while they’re here.

If you’ve never heard of EVE Online, you’re not alone — while the game has quite a cult following, it lacks the tremendous worldwide popularity of World of Warcraft. It’s understandable: I’ve been playing EVE Online for a few months now, via a Mac with Boot Camp installed, and I can tell you that it’s a bit daunting for the newbie. There’s a lot to understand. Fans of the game tell me that they come back to it over and over again simply because there’s so much to do and explore in the game, and so many different ways to play it, it never gets boring.

In EVE Online, you assume the role of the captain of a spaceship. You start out with only the most modest, simple craft, going on basic missions that involve mining and salvage, gradually increasing your skills until you can engage in more sophisticated missions. Many, many EVE Online players ultimately join guilds and corporations, sharing the wealth and experience among many other players.

And unlike World of Warcraft, players aren’t fragmented into individual servers, each with a few hundred players online at any given time. In fact, EVE Online maintains a persistent universe where everyone plays together—tens of thousands of gamers have amassed in the EVE universe all at once. Even better, you don’t need to be online in order for your game characters to build skills. As this is set in the far-flung future, you can depend on cybernetic implants to build your proficiency even when you’re not playing.

There will be a lot to report from the Fanfest, so please stay tuned for more details. I’ll be posting from the show daily.

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