EVE Online's tenth anniversary Fanfest promised to be its biggest yet, with over 1,400 players packed into Iceland's Harpa convention centre to find out the latest on EVE Online, DUST 514, and World of Darkness. The first day focused mainly on DUST and its link with the EVE universe, but today the focus largely switched back to internet spaceships. There were plenty of roundtable discussions, and the CSM and Alliance panels were as awesome as ever, but it was the EVE Keynote that really blew the crowd away.
The day got off to a good start with the highly anticipated World of Darkness talk. Most fans were probably expecting to see more airy game design ideas and another shiny trailer, but this year CCP just came out and put all its cards on the table. We saw that the game is still firmly in pre-production, with much of the previous work going into developing the engine and cool content creation tools and shaders. While I was initially disappointed at the lack of gameplay progress or shiny cinematics, I found this approach of being open and direct with fans very refreshing. As I told WoD art director Thomas Holt, honest beats shiny every time.
Read on for a full run-down of the EVE reveals from the second day of EVE's tenth anniversary Fanfest, including in-depth details of the Odyssey expansion's features.
Day two highlights: EVE Keynote
The first hour of the EVE keynote was understandably taken up with a huge look back at the decade gone by. CEO Hilmar talked about his first experiences actually playing the game in 2004 and how getting a friend's Thorax blown up showed him how "real" events in the sandbox can be. I got an odd sense of deja vu when he described the mining corp he joined and the people in it; I think Hilmar and I may have been in the same corp! Jon Lander went on to look at development throughout 2012 and the success of the Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution expansions and threw up some interesting stats and graphs.
The second half of the keynote looked toward the future, with details of the upcoming Odyssey expansion and even more ambitious plans for the far future. CCP's new approach to expansions is to think of an awesome science fiction theme and use it to frame updates for every major part of the game and every type of player. It's the magic formula that made Apocrypha so successful, and CCP hopes it'll work just as well second time around. Odyssey is themed around exploring deep space, and the next two or three expansions will apparently use a theme of space colonistion. Developers amazingly plan to let players start building their own stargates, raid each other for resources, and possibly find new star systems.
Day two highlights: Odyssey expansion
Information on the exploration-focused Odyssey expansion has been trickling out of events and devblogs for months, but thankfully CCP was keeping a few aces up its sleeve to reveal at Fanfest. CCP Soundwave rattled off a list of features and got a round of applause for each one. Player-built outposts will be upgradeable to match the level of facilities in a normal empire station, ore minerals are being rebalanced, tech 2 production bottlenecks should be solved, and ice belts will be moved to anomalies.
The expansion will also bring in a ton of graphical and audio updates, with new music for wormhole space and lowsec, a cinematic pod-death experience, and some fantastic-looking ship model overhauls. The most impressive thing by far was the new jump sequence, which replaces EVE's current jumpy transitions between systems with an incredible seamless wormhole-like travel visual that actually appears to warp space and bring the two systems together. Check out the video below of the effect in action, as it really has to be seen to be believed.
Day two highlights: Probe changes and the Discovery scanner
A huge wave of cheers followed the announcement that Odyssey will include a new streamlined scan probe system. Players will be able to launch seven probes at once (the optimum number for probing) and can even set them up in a default formation to take all of the frustrating parts out of probing. The Discovery scanner was also demonstrated live to a cheering audience during the EVE Keynote, but looking back over the footage has left me unimpressed. I originally hoped that the Discovery scanner would replace EVE's current directional scanner, but now it looks as if it may not even be any kind of scanner at all.
The feature can be switched on and off at any time and just seems to make cosmic anomalies in the system appear as highlighted celestials on the screen. The scanner sweep effect seems to just be a graphical effect that automatically happens every time you undock or jump into a new system rather than an active scan you perform that returns dynamic results. This may have been just an early gameplay prototype to show how the finished product will work, so I'll reserve judgment until June 4th when I can see it for myself.
Day two highlights: New hacking minigame
As part of its focus on exploration, Odyssey aims to completely revamp the aging archeology and hacking miniprofessions. Players currently use the Hacking and Archaeology skills to open giant floating loot containers in COSMOS mission areas and a few low-value exploration sites. Retribution overhauls both professions with a new hacking minigame in which you inject a virus into the target system and work your way through layers of circuits to get to the mainframe. The computer you're hacking can throw up firewalls and other nasties. We saw only a brief prototype of the system in action, but it looks awesome!
The current gameplay of hacking open giant floating loot containers will also be replaced with a more realistic co-operative loot gathering minigame. When you successfully hack a structure, its contents will be jettisoned into space and you have to grab them one by one before they disappear. This will hopefully encourage people to take friends when investigating ancient ruins as they'll get a lot more loot with a few companions around than you will on your own. The loot containers themselves have also been replaced with more realistic structures for a more immersive exploration experience.
Day two highlights: EVE goes virtual with Oculus Rift
One of the more impressive things CCP showed off at the EVE keynote was a new EVE virtual reality game named EVR that is compatable with the upcoming Oculus Rift headset. The tech demo has led players to speculate on the possibility of integrating this with EVE itself, which is an interesting possibility. The real story here is the incredible dedication that went into EVR's unorthodox creation. Tune into Sunday's EVE Evolved column where I'll give my hands-on account of EVR in action and look at how it came to be and what it could mean for the future of EVE.
Whether you're a die-hard fan of internet spaceships or just a gawker on the sidelines, EVE Fanfest is theEVE 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.