I just got back from Reykjavik, Iceland, where I attended EVE Online Fanfest 2009 thanks to the gracious folk at CCP Games, whose game tie-in books Tor Books is publishing. They wanted their editor, Eric Raab, and I to check out their fanbase and their headquarters, so they flew us out for the weekend. What an experience.
First things first: these guys are amazing. They put out a top-notch product, are incredibly passionate about their work, and to a person are fans of the franchise. I didn’t meet one single CCP employee who didn’t give off the vibe of being part of a big, extended family, where everyone watches out for each other. It was pretty amazing. Also, the level of outreach to their fandom was remarkable. I mean, I suppose that’s part of the nature of running an MMPORG, but still, coming from a culture (publishing) where the fans/readers/customers are barely an afterthought, it was eye-opening.
Additionally, as a casual gamer, I found their plans for expanding the scope of their intellectual property very compelling. I won’t go into detail here, since I’m unclear as to how much is public knowledge and how much isn’t, but suffice to say that their plan of attack for the next 18 months is formidable. Their keynote presentation, which was conducted by Hilmar Veigar Petursson, the CEO of CCP (and one of the chillest fuckers I’ve met), was a pitch perfect combination of new information, showcases for new tech and demo videos, self-deprecating fun, and liberal Kool-Aid dispensing. Additionally, the panels I attended—from the lectures and QA sessions about the in-game economy, featuirng CCP’s in-house PhD in economics, Dr. Eyjolfur Gudmundsson; to the panels featuring prominent members of the alliances that for the core of the player associations in game—were fascinating.
Aside from the EVE-related events, we were, of course, in Iceland, and at a con, so there was much partying. I’ve learned a few key facts about Islanders: they like to drink heavily, and have a penchant for staying out all night—I never made it to my hotel room earlier than 6am. They apparently like to break drinking glasses—it wasn’t unusual for the dude standing next to me to drain his glass and not-quite-nonchalantly fling it against a wall. The streets are literally covered in broken glass by 4am. And they make the best goddamned hot dogs known to man. For reals.
On the food tip, Eric, Shane (one of the marketing people for CCP), and I decided to embark upon a night of morally ambiguous dining: we had whale (both as sashimi and cooked), puffin, and horse all in one night. All were delicious. But nowhere near as amazing as those hot dogs. Hm.
I also discovered Skyr, which is similar but not quite the same as yogurt. It’s a bit more sour, and I absolutely loved it. Mary Robinette Kowal, who lived in Iceland for a year, tells me that it’s available here in NYC at Whole Foods, so I’m going to have to check it out. I hope it’s the regular, untreated kind, and not the more commercial stuff, which is infused with fruits or vanilla, or caramel. That stuff is all right, but the raw stuff is better.
Unfortunately, what with the Fanfest, and the drinking, and the meeting the EVE developers, and the drinking, and the panels, and the drinking, we didn’t really get to leave Reykjavik at all. Eric and I tried to find a way to see the fabled northern lights (or Aurora Borealis), but unfortunately, circumstances conspired against us: according to locals, it’s hard to catch the lights in the light-saturated city; it wasn’t cold enough for the lights to be visible (although this sounds like misinformation; I don’t understand how temperature can affect a magnetic event); or it wasn’t the right time of year. In any case, an excuse to go back.
Another excuse to go back are the geothermal seawater baths, specifically the Blue Lagoon. Our contact person for CCP, Yohei Ishii, took us to this world-famous spot on Sunday, right before we got on the plane back home. Wow, what a relaxing experience, and what a great preamble to the hassle of international flying. I’ve never slept better on a plane in my life.
In all, an amazing trip. More crappy iPhone pictures here. Eric and I will be getting together to hash out the thousand-and-one ideas we both jotted down with regards to working with CCP over the next week, and I’m looking forward to going back to Iceland someday on a personal vacation, to get to know this beautiful country better.