I'm currently at this year's EVE Online Fan Fest, hoping to find out what's new in the universe of spaceships and lasers. You don't have to be here to find out for yourselves, though. At 3pm BST, the Fan Fest keynote is going to begin, and you can watch it live. Read on for details, and live updates of any big announcements.
The fan fest is a mixture of seminars with developers, beer and snow. The key seminars are being streamed for free online at the official EVE Fan Fest site. If you open that page at 3pm, you'll be able to tune in.
The keynote is going to be led by CCP's Senior Producer Arnar Gylfason, and will cover the last year in EVE Online, and include some news on EVE's immediate future.
If you're unable to watch the live stream, I'll update this post with any major revelations. And I'm going to be interviewing Dr. Eyjo, EVE Online's chief economist, later this afternoon. Leave any questions you have for him in the comments.
Update #1: The keynote is starting with some numbers comparing 2010 to 2009.
In 2009, CCP had 84 development staff. They now have 138.
The game's record for concurrent users in 2009 was 53,850, but is now 63,170.
Overall EVE players was at 302,657 in 2009, and now 360,6434 in 2011. That's a 20% increase.
Update #2: Arnar is now discussing how communication with the Council of Stellar Management has forced the company to improve. They now have dedicated teams for working on different areas of the game, and a renewed focus on updating old systems. They have 12 years of legacy code to improve, but they're working with improving UI, security, and balance.
One example of security improvements is the looming release of key fobs, which will authenticate your account and stop anyone else from being able to hack your account.
Update #3: Two other developers are on stage now, discussing how they're fighting back against lag. The dedicated team working on it at CCP is called Team Gridlock. Battles featuring 500+ players now take place every week, and they're attempting to make performance improvements every week to address the increasing battle size. There's a session about this subject in the next hour, which I'll be attending.
Update #4: They're showing graphs representing player population in single systems, and pointing out the massive spikes when players pile in for a fight. They can now handle battles that feature 1000 players in a single solar system, but the biggest battle they've seen had 3200 players. That's insane. "We're not done yet," says developer man.
They've built a "Frankenstein" server, which will handle 1200 people and be lag free, and be "playable" with 2000 people.
Update #5: They're building a new framework that will allow them to create a better, prettier AI. They showed some concept images, and the crowd went crazy. "That's gorgeous," said the man sitting next to me. Are you reading my screen, man sitting next to me? ...Nope, doesn't seem to be.
They're also adding a new font: "Comic sans." Just kidding. Wingdings?
They're now bringing the leader of Team BFF up on stage. He's working on polishing the old parts of the game.
Update #6: CCP are trying to develop the game by adding both big features and small. The big features are the character creator, the Captain's Quarters, the planetary combat, and the new ship additions. These are important, as they provide new experiences for existing players, attract new players, and stop the game becoming boring.
One of those big new additions is Incrusions. It's about "Love," says the Power Point presentation. They want to encourage players to group with strangers more often, to fight off common enemy's even if they're not in an organised corp. The aim is to crease human interaction in the game.
Update #7: They're expanding on PvE content, adding objective-based missions that are about more than just killing. NPCs will also have better AI, more able to play different roles than just firefireshootshoot.
The early stuff they've tested has been received well. Hundreds of players have been playing together to do PvE, and the devs are now able to run live events that tie into the game's lore.
Update #8: They're also working to fix all the small things that piss players off on a daily basis. These are issues mostly collected from the community, via the forums and via the Council of Stellar Management.
Update #9: Their focus is on "Push button, receive bacon". They want less clicking with greater reward. Handling looting is now easier, managing items in your hangar is easier, there are more "default overviews" to help new players. It's a smoother experience for new players, "rather than saying, 'Welcome to EVE Online, here's a rubik's cube, go fuck yourself.'"
He's about to reveal info about new changes.
Agent missions are currently somewhat random. If you want to do a kill mission, you'd go to the guy that had a 50% or 97% chance of giving you what you want. They'd still have a 3% chance of pissing you off. Now agents will give fixed types of missions. If you want killin', go to the killin' guy.
Agents no longer have a quality rating. People seem excited about that; I've no idea what it means.
You can now tell the difference between blueprints and blueprint copies.
You can now plug in your implants without stopping training.
The audience whooped for all of these, more than, you know, being able to fight battles 1000 people in size or walk around with their character. Polish is everything if you've been playing the same game for seven years.
Update #10: They're polishing up the art, too. They're going to be able to add corp decals to ships, and people are super excited about that. Artist dude-o is saying, "It's not a game. It's a universe where you all live." He wants to make sure the world is immersive and coherent, especially as they expand out into character creation and explorable stations.
They're adding tattoos to the character creator, which have always been a big part of EVE's universe. It's worth noting that CCP hired a bunch of people who worked on Real-Time Worlds character creator, so it's possible the tattoo-creator will work in a similar way.
There are going to be character customisations in "Collections," which will be corp themed, faction themed, etc. Sexy space clothes for your spaceguy. I assume this will relate to the planned introduction of micropayments.
Captain's Quarters will be added soon, probably this year. They "have to look and feel like EVE." That means lots of slick grey walls. In the future, there is no wallpaper. Or pillows.
Update #11: Skinned ships and decals are coming. Not clear how far the skinning will go. Can I rock out in nullsec with a green, Moomin-adorned Titan?
He showed a Duke Nukem created using the in-game character creator, cigar and all.
Update #12: Folks are now on stage to talk about the character creator. They're pushing the polycount high on the characters, because to begin with, they won't be interacting with other players. Incarna is rolling out with character creator and Captain's Quarters, but the space station interaction won't come till later.
The character creator works by grabbing and dragging on parts of the face, instead of using sliders. But while other character creators put constraints on your controls to make every character look attractive, EVE wants you to create monsters. The great thing about EVE's old ship designers was that you could often learn about people's personality just by looking at the cave-cheeked scowl. That'll remain.
When the character interaction stuff comes in, they'll do level of detail optimisation to simplify the characters a bit.
Update #13: They're aiming on adding to the character creator with sleeve tattoos, player-placed scars and more clothing options.
They're wrapping it up now. The last part of the presentation is a sneak peek at the Captain's Quarters. I saw this earlier today, because I'm awesome. It's third-person walking in a small room with metallic walls. It looks at once great, and entirely mundane.
The CQs are designed to help introduce new players to the game. Aside from the aspirational element of being able to walk around with your cool-looking EVE character, the tools available to you will introduce you to different elements of the game. There'll be computer interfaces in your CQ to help you find a corp, to give you video updates on what's going in the world, and to customise your character.
The video updates will tell you about what's going on in the world, but they'll also give you hints about things you could do in the world. Did you know you could go mining? Well, here's an in-game advert for a fiction mining corp, with details of a nearby asteroid field you might want to visit, maybe. Go mine.
To be clear, the Captain's Quarters are found within spacestations, not within your own ship. Not yet, anyway. They'll roll it out with a simple, small CQ, with different types for each faction, and with a hangar bay in which you can see your ship. They'll then add more customisable Quarter's, upgradres, and eventually the ability to explore the entire space station.
They're showing the first footage of the game now, with a work-in-progress hangar bay. It's partly untextured, because they're not done yet. From here, the character walks straight down and into their Captain Quarter's , where a big holographic video screen sits in the corner. It's pretty.
The CQ will be added to the beta in a couple weeks time, so you can try it for yourself.
Update #14: We're all done for the keynote. There'll be more new stuff to show tomorrow, which I'll keep you posted on. Bye!