EVE Online Fanfest wrap-up

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Saturday was the grand finale of CCP Games’ fourth annual EVE Online Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland. Highlights of the last day of the event included a hilarious presentation by the game’s executive producer, Nathan Richardsson and an illuminating keynote by the company’s CEO, Hilmar Pétersson.

Richardsson was there to show off some of the highlights of EVE Online: Trinity, the massively multiplayer online game’s (MMOG) latest expansion, which will offer both a richer graphical experience while playing EVE and will also provide many new features and new content to explore and exploit in the game.

In between short bursts of video and screenshots showing off the game and interviews with key CCP Games team members responsible for Trinity, Richardsson filled his time on stage by invoking everything from ninjas to lolcats to Technoviking, to the delight of the laughing crowd. It was quite a departure from the staid, staged and dry presentation you might expect from other high-tech companies—it’s clear that while CCP takes its business and products very seriously, executives and employees don’t take themselves too seriously.

Hilmar Pétersson, CCP’s CEO and the resident “Red Lion” (so named because of his red hair), delivered the keynote address to the crowd almost immediately after Richardsson’s time on stage was done. Universal domination was Pétersson’s theme, and to that end he brought up on stage Vikas Gupta, the CEO of TransGaming, makers of the Cider technology that is letting CCP Games bring EVE Online to the Mac and Linux platforms.

Gupta revealed that EVE Online will be released for both platforms on Tuesday, November 6. In fact, some enterprising gamers have found links to the Mac download already, although “Tranquility,” the shared online server that all players connect to, won’t accept connections from the Mac client until Tuesday.

EVE Online has been designed so that all players connect to the same server—the same universe. Unlike World of Warcraft, for example, it’s not broken into “shards,” each containing mirror images of the same online world, each limited to a few hundred or thousand players. Instead, all of EVE’s 200,000-plus players can connect to Tranquility and share in the online experience together, simultaneously.

So far, no number close to that has been recorded on EVE—the record is around 50,000, although Pétersson said that EVE continues to set new weekend records on an almost weekly basis. He also rather painfully confessed that Second Life, the virtual reality/game, recently surpassed EVE Online for having the most number of players simultaneously online—a record CCP hopes to regain soon.

To that end, Pétersson also revealed that CCP is collaborating with Microsoft and IBM to develop a new High Performance Cluster (HPC) technology to enable EVE to scale much larger than it can now, and he hopes to see the fruits of that labor manifest themselves sometime in the next year or so.

Pétersson admits that this will be a big transition, but with CCP expecting EVE Online to steadily increase its user base, doubling it within the next few years, a radically new approach will be needed.

While Pétersson admitted that Richardsson had somewhat stolen his thunder by providing the audience with a funny presentation, his own piece had its moments too. Talking about EVE Online: Trinity’s gorgeous new looks, he showed a slide comparing Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt’s former wife, to Angelina Jolie, his current significant other.

While EVE Online didn’t look bad before, Pétersson said, EVE Online: Trinity looks fantastic, too. And CCP Games, he said, is giving players the opportunity to be Brad Pitt and make up their own minds. The male-dominated audience appreciated the reference, based on their laughter and applause.

That evening, CCP Games held a blowout party in the back of the Laugardalshöll, the sports arena where this year’s Fanfest was held. The company band, RoXor, put on a raucous set, and then the rest of the night was whiled away to the pumping beat of a DJ and light show. Most fans departed for their respective corners of the globe the next morning, a little worse for wear but grateful for the experience to mingle with other fans and the game’s developers.

For many with whom I spoke, it was their first Fanfest. For many others, it was their most recent one of many. No one, however, said it would be their last. And with CCP Games’ bright, multiplatform plans for the future, it looks like the best is yet to come.

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