Ambulatory Things

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to begin discussing all things Fanfest 2013 of the past week.

I am now back home after a busy week of Fanfest and Honeymooning, and I can see that I have a considerable amount of typing to get through in the next few days!  This won’t be helped by the fact I managed to come home sick, I’ve picked up a sore throat/chest infection/mild fever which I’m guessing probably had something to do with the biting cold winds and hopping on and off hot tour buses.  Ah well.

This was my fifth Fanfest but the first I’ve been to at the Harpa.  It really is such a better venue!  It looks great, the rooms are better laid out and sound-proofed, there is just generally more space to move about in and the town centre (along with most of the hotels) are right there too.  I went to the EVE Symphony event and really enjoyed that too, with just a couple of caveats.  I was really expecting someone to come on stage at the start and end of the performance to introduce things and to indicate that the show was over.  It felt a bit weird that things just stopped and after a bit of pause the audience decided that we were all meant to leave now. 😉  The other thing was a bit more serious but probably would not have been apparent if you were watching the stream.  For the symphony (but not during Fanfest itself) a camera on a long arm was used to capture sweeping shots and close-ups of the orchestra.  That arm kept cutting across the audience’s eye line and casting shadows over the screen.  Which was annoying.  I was relieved to see that they removed it for the actual Fanfest!

Speaking of the actual Fanfest and people wandering around in social spaces, I had a few comments on what CCP presented on their avatar-based gameplay projects.  There was a World of Darkness presentation which I was curious about so made a point to attend, wife-in-tow.  For most of it CCP talked about the tools they have been developing to create the game world, to the point where I was starting to think that they weren’t going to show us anything juicy at all.  I was also starting to feel bad about dragging the wife to another ‘techie’ presentation (her first experience of Fanfest in 2011 was a roundtable about server hardware, as there was literally nothing else happening at the time!).  She wasn’t totally bored to tears as Chris McDonough (WoD exec producer) is an engaging presenter, but things abruptly got interesting when the presentation changed direction and Chris said that they were going to show us a work in progress video that their art team had produced internally as a visual target.

This is interesting as it isn’t a marketing video as such, but that it showed much more of the look and feel of the game than last years video of an empty street scene.  The player character moved much more fluidly than you’d normally see in an MMO, leaping between buildings, balconies and gripping to ledges like a superhuman acrobat.  The little combat we saw was fast and brutal.  Overall it is looking very good so far.  But what was really surprising was that before showing the video, CCP very seriously asked that no-one record or stream it!  They genuinely don’t want the sort of heavy media attention that trailers generate at this point, to the extent that they had CCP staff posted around the room looking out for anyone recording it.  They simply wanted to show it as a thank-you to the fans, so I hope that no-one did manage to break the embargo.  If they did, it might be the last time CCP do this, which would be a shame.  Regardless, don’t expect CCP to take the covers off WoD until Fanfest 2014 at the earliest.

In the Q&A afterwards, someone asked “When will WoD start giving back to EVE?”, by which he meant technology/resources that were (arguably) funded by EVE over the years.  I’m not sure if the guy understand where Incarna’s avatar tech came from or why CCP were so keen on that project, but it led to an interesting comment from CCP along the lines of “Oooh…not sure we can say.  Listen out for more about that later in the weekend”; implying heavily that CCP had an announcement coming up about Incarna…

The next day I went to the ‘Prototyping the Future of EVE’ presentation with CCP Bayesian.  That was an interesting insight to how CCP’s design process has learned from the Incarna debacle, as they are now placing a much stronger focus on quick and simple prototyping of new game mechanics ideas before committing heavily to something that might not turn out as expected.  Several experiments in new ‘active’ mining mechanics were shown along with a couple of other things.  Strikingly however was the obvious omission to what was shown – last year’s experiments into avatar-based gameplay.  Bayesian was pretty direct about this – management had told him he wasn’t allowed to show any of it!  Combined with the previous day’s hinting I was starting to get very curious what CCP had to say on the topic…

Final day.  CCP PRESENTS!  Lots of good/interesting stuff being said, eventually Hilmar took a visibly deep mental breath and announced that the future of Incarna is…. That they aren’t working on it at all and have no plans to change that in the next year at least.  Which struck me as weird.  CCP seem to have gone out of their way to announce that they are not actually announcing anything and that their plans had not changed.  Huh.

I went to Fanfest expecting no developments on the Incarna front, but it really did seem an odd way to make such a fuss over something they publicly declared off the table a year ago.  Ah well, WoD is slowly coming along and EVE/Dust look to be set for another good year, which I’ll comment on soon.

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