Fanfest 2017: All The Things

 

As I write this, I am waiting for a connecting flight from Copenhagen, enjoying the hangover only a five day binge can bring, and suffering from Nerd Flu ™ – the actual 100% non-RP plague of nerd gatherings – having gotten it on day one. All of my social media channels have gone nuts. All the feels have been had. All the beers were drunk. In other words: Fanfest happened.

 

(most) of the wonderful EVE TV team

 

Before we explore this retrospective of Fanfest, I would be remiss not to mention the fantastic support CCP have given us, the EVE media, in covering this the greatest annual internet spaceships event. CCP Manifest went out of his way to make sure we had what we needed. Devs were happy to take time out and talk to us and answer our dumb questions. I, along with J Mcclain, Drechlas, Reload and Elise Randolph, was also lucky enough to be selected as one of the EVE TV hosts for the event, working with great devs like CCP Mimic, CCP Tara and CCP Antiquarian, to name a few – always a great experience. In short, CCP’s inclusive policy is a large part of the reason we’re able to talk about Fanfest from all angles, and for that we should all be thankful.

Also, before we go into turbonerd mode about the actual game, allow me to illustrate for those of you who have never been there what this gathering on a mostly unlivable rock of fiery death and ice in the north Atlantic is actually about.

The people on the other side of all the things that actually matter in EVE

The uninitiated might think that EVE is about spaceships and complicated mechanics. It isn’t. It’s about people and the interactions they have, and nothing drives that home more than Fanfest. The people on the other side of all the things that actually matter in EVE are who you meet there. It’s easy to get lost in this mechanic or the other, but never forget that the primary goal of EVE is to leverage the community itself, to facilitate the interactions of individuals and groups in a meaningful way.

Every dev knows that EVE fans can get carried away when something looks to be threatening their way of life in-game, but that is actually a reflection of how embedded this “game” is in their lifestyle. It’s kind-of like punk rock culture: it may be a mutant freak that sometimes breaks stuff and scares people on the outside, but it’s our mutant freak – one of a kind – going places no one else can, and beyond. Bending the rules of what online gaming and community can be about.

Also, it’s about beer. Lots, and lots of beer.

 

Refineries

The new era of moon mining that looms on the horizon was naturally a major topic in several presentations and roundtables, as well as on EVE TV where I got the chance to talk to CCP Fozzie about it.


Refineries represent a tectonic shift

Refineries represent a tectonic shift in one of the most fundamental resource generating systems of EVE, and there are two main aspects that have been discussed ever since they were announced, but especially at Fanfest.

Firstly, there is the adaptation players will have to undergo from what is now a passive income source easily run by one person, to an active model requiring cooperation between not only miners, but also combat elements able to secure mining operations during the sensitive period when the space rock has been pulled up from the moon and shattered into an asteroid belt.

The shift to active income generation, rather than passive, seems to have been universally well received by the community. Essentially, moon mining today offers no valuable content until it is under attack, and it has been CCPs principle to eradicate as many things that feel like “chores” as possible, instead promoting group gameplay and meaningful interaction.

 

 

The other aspect that was discussed (especially at the roundtables), and this stemmed largely from the lowsec community (listen to the special CZ episode on the subject here), was conflict driving. Essentially, the consensus amongst many lowsec diehards, such as Waffles and Snuffed Out, is that POSes represent the primary mechanic of generating fights and that Refineries might not perform as well in this regard due to so called “timezone tanking” since they are using Citadel rather than POS reinforce mechanics. As most will know, Citadel reinforce mechanics have received a fair bit of criticism since their launch and space is littered with Citadels no one wanted to fight past the initial anchoring timer.

In a related discussion, the lowsec community seems convinced that no one will actually mine moons in lowsec to any major extent because of the inherent danger. Essentially, lowsec groups don’t extensively create “safe zones” for their members to operate money-making operations, as is done in nullsec. Essentially, why attempt moon mining in the most dangerous area of EVE when you can do it tucked away under the skirts of a large nullsec alliance or coalition? On the other hand, as Fozzie pointed out, no one would do level 5 missions in lowsec with expensive ships either, right?

CCP are counting on the ingenuity of EVE players

All of this rhetoric was countered by CCP Fozzie in a number of ways. Firstly, CCP are counting on the ingenuity of EVE players, essentially saying “add the carrots and they will come”, figuring it out in new ways, previously unthought of. Secondly, Refinery vulnerability windows will be the longest of all the structures working under citadel mechanics. If in fact the former assumption and latter fact work well together: mining operations open up all kinds of play and counter-play since both the miners and the rocks themselves will be vulnerable, and it will presumably be easy to see when a moon fragment has been blasted off and slowly moves out into space. A second level of gameplay that may change how moons are used is the fact that the new Ledger system will make it relatively easy to tax miners if you control a moon, opening up possibilities for renting.

It remains to be seen how things will pan out, but at this time, as CCP Fozzie and CCP Larrikin put it, they are quite happy to let the chips land and see what players do with it, rather than adjust things to knee-jerk reactions. The question becomes how far CCP are prepared to turn the knobs once the feature has been out for a while and whether the community and CCP will view what needs to be done in the same way.

 

Pirate Battleships

The proliferation of pirate battleships has been a hot topic in the community quite some time, but especially in the past few months, reaching a natural culmination at Fanfest. It was mentioned on the main stage and I got the chance to talk to CCP Fozzie about it on stream. It was also discussed amongst players and devs off camera. I soon found out that Larrikin was the man to talk to, as this would be landing on his desk. So I stole him away for a couple of minutes in the press lounge of Harpa to get some insight about CCPs perspective on the matter.

It will have escaped no one that pirate battleships, especially the Machariel, are overly dominating the fleet PvP meta of EVE and smothering a lot of other interesting choices – flattening the variations of what actually gets fielded.

From talking it over with players as well as CCP Larrikin and CCP Fozzie, it seems that most are in agreement that the core of the problem right now is related to availability and Citadel mechanics (void bombs having made the passive tank Machariel an obvious choice for anyone fighting a Citadel), rather than ship balance. Pirate battleships used to be the hallmark of highly skilled organisations, especially in lowsec, getting good performance out of their ships but also risking a lot to get it. In lowsec, a properly fit Machariel would routinely cost well over one billion ISK (back in the day, the hull itself cost almost a bil). This dynamic meant that they represented the core of CCP design philosophy: an interesting choice.

drastically increasing the scarcity and therefore price of pirate battleships – rather than nerfing them

A Machariel costs just above 300m ISK today, a Rattlesnake around 365m – hardly an interesting choice, but rather, an obvious one. There is nothing wrong with the Machariel or the Rattlesnake, for instance, from a balance perspective – if they had come with the drawback of being serious investment for those confident in their skills and willing to risk it. But when everyone is driving the Ferarri and Lamborghini equivalents of spaceships, it becomes boring, predictable, and a lot more about how many nerds you can muster, rather than risk, dynamics and the skill to punch above your weight.

Hopefully, CCP will find the time to alleviate these problems and give other ships, such as the navy/fleet battleships, room to grow back into the meta, by drastically increasing the scarcity and therefore price of pirate battleships – rather than nerfing them.

 

Strategic Cruisers

If pirate battleships have become oppressive due to low prices, Tech 3 cruisers have simply become boring over the years. I attended a PL dinner where Apothne and I chatted about it and he actually put it best: they’re just good at everything, meaning they have no character and don’t represent much of an actual tactical choice – the antithesis to what is supposed to be a dynamic ship all about choices. People who have little experience with T3C’s might be fooled by the sheer amount of subsystems available, looks very creative doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. The reality is that the composition of T3C subsystems for fits has long been pigeonholed into a set of predictable standards, while also making them an obvious and oppressive choice over heavy assault cruisers due to their power level – something CCP are wisely considering toning down, beginning with upping their signature.

the unique ability to unfit rigs without destroying them

The obvious roadblock to making subsystems a real strategic choice has always been rigs, and CCP are choosing to give T3C’s the unique ability to unfit rigs without destroying them – probably the most elegant and easiest choice as opposed to removing rigs from them and buffing the ships themselves to compensate. That means a fleet can dock up, switch things around, and head back out within minutes. It also means deployments using T3’s become much easier since you don’t have to move more than one of each kind you intend to use.

Secondly, the multitude of subsystems, some of which were very rarely used, are being consolidated into much more logical choices, hopefully landing the T3C’s of tomorrow on a good balance between choice and usability throughout the options.

Personally, of the ships in my hangar, I am least excited about undocking one of the T3’s, save maybe the Legion, because instant ammo switching feels very responsive to quickly understanding the battlefield and it looks sexy AF. Hopefully, the ability to quickly switch into new and dynamic combinations of subsystems will make T3 cruisers a more interesting choice and open up a lot more on-the-fly gameplay, rather than the glorified F1-boats they are today.

 

Roundtables

Given overlap with other things and work on the EVE TV set, I could not personally attend that many roundtables, but I made sure to make it to the two I never miss: balance and lowsec.

The balance roundtable naturally revolved a lot around T3 cruisers, pirate battleships, the HML changes, and other things you might expect, but nothing groundbreaking was asked or said that’s not covered already elsewhere in this article. Questions were asked, ideas were pitched, but over the years I’ve learned to not put much credence in what is proposed as “maybe at some point we could.” We’ll just have to see if any of it actually comes around.

The lowsec roundtable was… well, a bit disappointing, but not surprising in the least. It was virtually the same exact roundtable we’ve had for years, with the same topics being brought up and CCP admitting that this and that would be cool, but that they hadn’t had time to specifically devote to lowsec. Speaking to CCP Masterplan before the roundtable, where we basically both agreed that this would be more of the same old, he added “Well, make 10 more of me, and we’ll make all of these things happen.” As much as some people seem to think that CCP don’t really care about lowsec, I can see exactly what Masterplan is saying; given all the other things CCP have been working on these past couple of years, there really hasn’t  been time to devote to lowsec-specific things.

Some of the standard issues making a return were from those silly roleplayers – I mean Factional Warfare pilots – about the ever elusive four-way war (something players have unanimously said yes to for years), and nerfs to warp core stabs in plexes, as well as the removal of security status loss when defending a plex and shooting first when a neutral comes in.

Naturally, given that the debate around Refineries has been hottest amongst the lowsec community because we rely so heavily on POSes for fights and passive income, the new moon mining system was brought up, and the concerns that lowsec players have with it.

Again it was confirmed that CCP’s strategy is to let the chips land, see how it plays out and tweak things later on, although CCP Fozzie stressed that the vulnerability timers for Refineries would be the longest in order to allow for as many fights as possible.

Lowsec player’s concerns are quite valid, and CCP is trusting in emergent gameplay. We’ll have to see how things pan out. At this point it’s a good idea for players to cool their jets, but continue giving level-headed feedback, while also looking for new ways to go about profit and war in lowsec.

It was also noted that because carebears – I mean players with positive security status – are getting ship bonuses with the new Concord ships, that pirates should get their own version giving bonuses to the outlaws of New Eden. Just call it the Negten and give it bonuses to smartbombs and scan res and we’re good, thx CCP.

 

Ooh shiny!

The new suns making their way to EVE will have escaped no one. Everyone agrees these are the coolest thing ever and CCP found all kinds of excuses to have them on the big screen – no one complained.

The new Vexor was shown off, utilising the ship animations feature to beautiful effect, as well as some preliminary designs for the Rupture and Osprey (finally), probably two of the ugliest ships from the old line still left in the game.

The projection system for SKIN has gone from alpha state last year, to a working tool. I sat down with CCP Pointy Bits and CCP Salvo to talk about graphics and artwork and they explained that it would now be a lot easier for CCP to implement SKIN designs rather than waste a lot of time on meticulous texture work, allowing for more creativity and volume, putting cool SKINs in player’s hands.

The concept art of environments shown during the EVE keynote represent a stunning new future in EVE landscape design and it was evident that these guys were keen to start making locations come even more alive.

Looking at recent and future EVE design, CCP Pointy Bits explained that they’re working a lot more with real life references, rather than a derivative sci-fi style, lending EVE a sense of realism which I think we can all get behind. Citadel structures are a good example of this.

The beauty of EVE is one of those things that made it stand out back in the day, and it still remains one of the most stunning games out there, but the art and graphics team is going to have to stick to it to keep that edge.

 

Blood Raider Sotiyo and the new AI

Ok so that sounds like an anime movie title a little, doesn’t it?

This is as close as Fanfest 2017 got to a big reveal, and it’s probably a more important than many players realise. The new Blood Raider capitals – the Dagon force auxiliary, Chemosh dreadnought, and Molok titan – are actually an excuse to launch a pilot version of the new NPC AI, which is a much bigger deal than the capitals themselves.

it’s probably more important than many players realise

Essentially, there will only ever be one Blood Raider Sotiyo and it will not show up on overview, scan or probe scan. You’ll have to follow NPC miners gathering materials for the shipyard in order to find it. Taking the Sotiyo down will be the only way to get your hands on BPCs of the capital ships. The snag is that it’s defended by NPCs using the new, dynamic AI and actual fitting.

As CCP Larrikin explained, the AI these Blood Raiders use much more resembles how players behave. They will form up in numbers appropriate to the attacking force, use actual fittings like players’ ships, use fleet formations with tackle at close range, DPS at optimal range, and logi perpendicular to the enemy. They will select primary targets, move intelligently, and even use pings to warp on top of you.

Fine, you’re thinking, I’ll just escalate the shit out it. You might want to reconsider that since these Blood Raiders will happily deploy capitals, supers and titans and DD the shit out of your SRP.

Basically, this is a controlled environment where CCP can fine tune the new AI in order to mature it and make it ready for other areas. The possibilities are set to revolutionise PvE in EVE and could be a real game changer for the future. Watch for updates from Team Phenomenon on this feature.

Guristas capitals were also hinted at with some graphics but with nothing confirmed. Presumably, assuming the Blood Raider Sotiyo goes well, CCP want to go ahead and do the same thing with Guristas.

 

Concord Promo Ships

You only have to look at the new Concord sips to know they’re different. The concept art team knocked it out of the park with some clean and sharp designs to make the ships stand apart. CCP are really thinking out of the box with the Pacifier frigate, Enforcer cruiser and Marshall battleship, giving these rare, promotional Concord ships bonuses depending on how high your security status is. They are not powerful combat ships in a traditional sense, but definitely unique in the way they work and hopefully something CCP will do more of in the future. Naturally, when it was proposed that outlaws might get their “own” ships, the Tranquility main hall erupted in approval. Fingers crossed, neg ten 4 life yo!

 

DO IT

Eventually, outposts have to go, and DO IT is the outpost removal program designed for that purpose. As far as we know, after being phased out mechanically, outposts will be replaced by new, unique faction citadels, and a landmark will be placed at the site. The owner is then free to pack up the citadel and move it to wherever.

First of all, these faction citadels will be extremely valuable since this is the only way they can be created and they will also have better bonuses than regular ones. Those with outposts in their possession the day this hits TQ stand to gain a lot of money. There is definitely potential for some amazing conflict over outposts, one last time.

a long and storied player history where some of these outposts have played host

Secondly, the landmarks placed at each site will be capable of containing the written history of the place, a very important aspect as EVE – now well in its teens – has a long and storied player history where some of these outposts have played host to key events that turned tides.

CCP will be looking to work with players to get these stories written and out there for future generations to see and learn about. This goes to show CCPs respect for player history, something a majority of the active community cares about as evidenced by the popularity of Andrew Groen’s marvelous book, Empires of EVE.

 

The Kyonoke Plague – Lore vs. Players

Insanity ravaged the Harpa as nerds went full turbo, enacting the Kyonoke Inquest with cosplay, smeared makeup, corny speeches and loud screaming. Essentially, the inside of Harpa was turned into the inside of the H4-RP4 Keepstar. Players and experienced LARPers were given a solid storyline, a set of rules, and a competition to see who would be allowed to handle the Kyonoke Plague – the Amarr, Gallente, Minmatar or Caldari.

For more coverage on the actual LARP event, check out Jakob Anedalle’s article right here on Crossing Zebras.

I’d like us to focus on something else: player culture and lore interacting in a very direct and real way. You see, CCP unwisely selected the spot in Harpa for the Gallente Pleasure Hub where Pandemic Legion hang out literally every Fanfest, it’s a PL tradition at this point.

What ended up happening was that PL “invaded” the Pleasure Hub, covering the walls with their flags, like they always do, and squatting in the sofas. This complicated things for the roleplayers, but I cannot personally think of a better homage to roleplay in EVE than this. Pandemic Legion made it real, this was player culture and history making its mark on the universe, not a made up story. This is the kind of thing that contributes to the rich player-generated history of EVE. Ignore it at your own peril, because it will sit in your sofas, hand out swag and Hygienic Legion deodorant.

 

Space – The Final Frontier

Last year’s Project Discovery citizen science effort helped scientists map human proteins and was considered a great success. This year, EVE players will be helping the good folks at University of Geneva to look for exoplanets – planets where life is possible – out in the great reaches of space. It doesn’t really get much more EVE than this as far as these projects go. So far, the details aren’t clear on how exactly this will work in the game, but people are excited and it’s evident that this is something that speaks to the EVE player base. Dreaming about exploring space is, after all, something most of us share.

Hopefully we get to name a planet. Please? EVE players literally shitposting in space, it’s gonna be epic.

 

Bombs

In an effort to lend fleets and their FCs another level of gameplay, albeit only in nullsec, CCP are introducing a trio of new, non-DPS bombs that will be affecting battlefields in the near future.

Not breaking reps? Call on your bomber wing to deliver a smattering of the new anti-rep bombs. Is this Proteus fleet moving too fast to get a clean shot? Some well delivered web bombs might do the trick. Are NC. being “elite” again and your dread bomb just isn’t going to cut it? A score of friends with anti-capital bombs might tip the scales in your favor.

These bombs will be another powerful tool for the nullsec FC punching above their weight, and if done right, they might help create some spectacular fights.

 

Modules, balance and other tidbits

  • The great tiericide continues with the balancing of 709 modules.
  • Faction guns will now be able to use T2 ammo.
  • Slave implants become Amulet implants, and the new Slaves become the shield buff set (being Sansha-related). This is set to put quite a spin on the PvP meta in lowsec.
  • Sansha modules will now affect Sansha-type things, such as shields.
  • Rapture implants will be introduced, affecting capacitor, Rattlesnake and Nightmare pilots rejoice.
  • Regeneration of capacitor or shield from modules is getting buffed, but also receives stacking penalties, intended to promote fitting one or two rather than a rack of them.
  • Scythe and Boson doomsdays are being rebalanced.
  • CCP hope to save the medium autocannon and will give it 10% buff to… falloff? Ehm. thisisfine.jpg
  • Heavy missile launchers receive a 5.6% buff to damage
  • Rapid missile launchers get their reload timer nerfed to 40s.
  • We finally get alliance logos on citadels \o/
  • The new intro is amazing, check it out at the bottom of this article.

 

Nova, where art thou?

At Fanfest last year, I was lucky to be one of the first people who got to try out Project Nova outside of CCP and (I’m assuming) the CSM and any test groups. As you might recall, my review was basically “Solid FPS, but not unique enough and not EVE enough. Needs work, but the foundation is there for a solid future, fingers crossed.” It seems like CCP heard feedback similar to mine and have taken it to heart.

Needless to say, Dust 514 was at the time a sore topic, with the Rouge Wedding still fresh in player’s minds. So, seeing a new EVE FPS coming out of CCP brought the hopes up of a lot of EVE and former Dust players. Since then, however, we heard nothing. Until now – when we were told almost nothing.

Basically all we know – and all CCP are willing to say – is that Nova is still very much an active project, and that the development was being moved to Reykjavik. That basically means that a lot of the Nova devs I spoke with in person last year are no longer on the project, RIP.

It might seem meagre, and certainly we would all have liked to see more about Nova this year, but the fact that it’s confirmed Nova is still alive and that it’s being moved to Reykjavik are good signs. Naturally, moving a project of that size to a new location and with new devs is going to take up a lot of time, which I assume is the reason we didn’t get to see anything more.

As I mentioned earlier, CCP are taking community feedback to heart, and what better way to make Nova “more EVE” than to move it to the home of EVE – Reykjavik? It will allow the devs on the project to access and use EVE assets much more easily and get in touch with the EVE devs that produce them. As a developer, being able to rock up to someone over at the coffee machine at work and ask about a few bits and bobs does a lot to speed up and increase the quality of work.

It’s a fair assumption that Nova (and Dust) fans will have a lot more to talk about come next Fanfest. Fingers crossed, again.

 

Hype

Overall, Fanfest was a success for those that managed to make it there. Meeting everyone and hanging out together is always a good time, but opinions were divided as to Fanfest itself. I met more than a few players who felt that there was not enough actual content. They would prefer some things be held back so we get big reveals and hype back into Fanfest – basically a little more of what Fanfest used to be.

Large portions of presentations revolved around what has happened, and many of the things players can look forward to were already known. Of course there is value in being able to talk about everything on the horizon with devs having had some time to think it over, and it’s all consistent with CCP’s still relatively new strategy for Fanfest, but the players I talked to are saying that perhaps a little more should be reserved for Fanfest to work some of the old hype into the event.

Any road up, Fanfest is an absolute blast. This was my third year and to me it just keeps getting better. If you play EVE, you should visit Fanfest at least once in your life – there’s nothing like it.

See you next year o7

 

 

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About the author

Niden

12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.


  • Bill Bones

    Hmmm… so Nova is being moved to Reykjavik…?

    Kiss it good-bye boys. The new ownership probably will cancel it and CCP just salvaged the expats in Shanghai which might be of use for other projects in Reykajivk. There is a small chance that Nova is moved to Rek for predevelopment and then development manpower is hired back in Shanghai and development team moves back there, but, chances are slim. With only Gunjack and the TianCity deal for show, the jobs at Shanghai office are a liabiltiy for selling CCP. Nova probably underperformed in customer feedback as to grant the continuity of Shanghai for a undefined project which might take forever to pre-develop or just be cancelled by new ownership.

  • BAH-bah

    What about wormholes!?!?!!!!

  • Caleb Ayrania

    Wonderful write up. Its always good that if the CCP content is a bit “underwhelming” the players and devs in the flesh more than makes up for any short comings. 🙂