If you follow my Twitter feed at all… and hell, it is there on the side bar down towards the bottom, so no excuse even if you don’t… you probably figured out that I went to EVE Vegas this past weekend.
EVE Vegas Baby!
My wife and I actually flew in Thursday afternoon to have a bit of time for ourselves in Vegas before events started to take their course. And then, suddenly it was Sunday evening and I was in a cab to the airport and the whole thing was winding down.
So, in order to try and organize my thoughts, possibly for future posts, I am going to go over some highlights of the whole thing. This is more stream of consciousness than any attempt at a strict summary of things.
The EVE Vegas Keynote was the big reveal, the introduction to the upcoming features, some of which had been talked about before, like the upcoming structures, and some new ones, like the capital ship rework. Both of those appeared to be slated for the Citadel expansion in the spring.
Coming Spring 2016
There were also some smaller items, coming sooner, such as the new ice mining frigate. the endurance, and new hit effects for ships. For the latter, some shield hit effects were shown, and they look really cool. (They start at about 50:30 in the keynote video on YouTube.)
There are also changes coming to the camera. You will be able to move the camera with being focused on a ship or other in-space object and you’ll be able to focus on things more than 100km away. There is also a first person mode in the works.
Then there were media and goodies. CCP had stuff for sale at the convention and announced that some items would be available before Christmas through the site Think Geek. There was a mention of Andrew Groen’s upcoming Empires of EVE book that so many of us pledged for in the Kickstarter way back when, and a new initiative between The Mittani.com media and the author Jeff Edwards to create a pilot’s view telling of the 2013 war in Fountain. (For those who need a reminder, I have my own timeline of the war.)
Then CCP Seagull finished up by thanking us all for coming, said she would see us at the pub crawl, waved, and walked off stage. The audience then, almost as one, stood up to leave… at which point somebody came out to remind us that the EVE Valkyrie keynote was up next and we should all leave. I stayed for that… though I cannot recall a single thing… but most people wandered off. Sucks to be the poor relation.
Anyway, unlike Noizy, I came out of the keynote quite upbeat. Yes, that was in part because nearly every game related item they spoke of involved null sec, though I would point out that capital ships are a thing in low and WH space, while citadels will be everywhere… except Thera… which is where Noizy lives, so I guess I can see his point of view.
A mistake on my part was to arrive in Vegas without any plan to meet up with anybody. Going to a convention where I know nobody personally and, thus, have little or no chance of actually recognizing anybody and being somebody who can find it difficult to approach and start speaking to strangers, especially if they are already in a group and talking… well, not an optimum scenario.
Still, I muddled through, largely thanks to my wife, who was a sales rep for years and is the type who makes lifelong friends in the line at the grocery store. Of course, there were some false starts.
In line for badge pickup… because a couple hundred of us decided that we needed to pick up our badges right at 11am when registration opened… I resolved to speak to the people around me in line. So I turned to the two guys behind me who were chatting and said that we were all obviously EVE players and asked what part of the game they played in.
And they said that no, they did not actually play EVE. Their boss plays EVE and he had sent them down to collect his pass. This is who I end up standing next to.
Though it wasn’t too bad. They were game devs and they had both tried EVE at some point. They worked on the game Gray Goo, which is available on Steam. So we talked about video game industry stuff, the price of living in Vegas, and where to find alcohol cheaper than the cash bar that was setup near the registration desk. My wife had them covered on that front. a conversation that spilled over to the people in front of us.
An extra shot is just $2.00 more, making them reasonably potent
Soon several people had very large beverages in tow.
I did end up talking to some other people in line, including fellow Reaver Victor Fel. But I was not particularly social. I spent a lot of time at sessions and such sitting by myself.
I did however, manage to find some people to hang out with. Thanks to the fact that Gabby uses an actual picture of herself for her Twitter profile, so I was able to spot her at breakfast in the PBR Rock Bar. (Which, by the way, serves the most excellent tater tots as a side with many of their breakfast items. This was the only place we ate at twice.) Later we caught up with her and some of her fellow corp mates from Signal Cartel, the people who run the EVE-Scout site that is so near and dear to the hearts of many space travelers.
Rather than go on the pub crawl, which was sold out in addition to likely being beyond my ability to handle, my wife and I joined Signal Cartel for a bit of Las Vegas exploration. We were headed to Lotus of Siam, a place alleged to be the best Thai restaurant in the US. I am not sure who says this, but that was the story and we were willing to run with it.
There were nine of us with a vague idea as to were the place might be at the cab stand. But we figured how could a Vegas cab drive NOT know where the best Thai restaurant is.
We ended up split across three cabs. The guy at the cab stand knew where we were headed and gave the driver the cross streets to head to, but before we got to the street in front of the hotel, the driver had lost all of that and was asking where we were going.
Pro tip: Short term memory is a very important trait for a cab driver.
We told him what the guy at the cab stand said and he started off in what we assumed to be the right direction, burning down the road in that little cab like he had an extremely lucrative fare to pick up after he dropped us off. At one point, when he was weaving in and out of lanes and thrashing that poor little motor for a bit more speed, my wife dryly asked what sort of race car he was driving. The driver, bereft of both short term memory and a sense of irony explained that it was a Scion xB and a very reliable car.
We did manage to arrive at the destination, though not before the drive had to pull out his Android phone, get Google maps running, and have my wife say the name of the restaurant so that he could get directions again. I was a bit worried, as from the street side the place looked like it might be abandoned. But the parking lot side of the building showed it to be open for business. Gabby paid for the cab and, though I bought her a beer, I still owe her some money from that ride. Next Vegas?
Of course, with nine of us showing up on a Friday night, there was something of a wait. Fortunately they had a huge bar area… large enough that one might wonder which that wasn’t a dining area… where we were able to push some tables together and sit around and talk for a bit. In a stroke of luck, Johnny Splunk brought along his wife Jamie who, like my wife, doesn’t play EVE, so they were able to have a non-video game conversation at one end of the table while the rest of us recounted tales of internet spaceships.
Eventually we were dragged from our reverie and had some dinner. It was decent Thai food, but no better than the Thai place I go to near our house, so it seems like there is a very fine line separating “best” and “runner up” in the whole Thai restaurant category.
Sitting at Dinner
I like this picture because due to the way we present ourselves and my own short term memory issues (I could never be a cab driver or a waiter, I forgot stuff in two seconds) this is the only common baseline I have for everybody’s name. I know some of their real names, I know some of their in-game names, for those who blog I know their blogger handles, but Twitter is the only place where I can identify almost everybody.
Anyway, a great time was had and a few of us decided to walk over to the Las Vegas monorail for the trip back to the hotel. This involved a stretch through a pretty sketchy neighborhood… and, as always, everything in Vegas seems closer than it actually is… but we arrived safely and took a ride on the rail.
The party at the Chateau club at the Paris Hotel was quite a thing. We were running late but felt we had best eat BEFORE starting in on the drinking. As there were no snacks or hors d’oeuvres at the party, just free alcohol, that turned out to be a good plan. My wife and I hung out with the Signal Cartel team for a bit and then circulated some.
EVE Vegas Party Time
We ended up talking to some smaller groups of people around the edge of the party. The stratification seemed to be large groups of null sec players clumped about and smaller packs of low sec and wormhole pilots a bit further out. I am sure this says something about the social structure of EVE Online.
We sat with a couple of low sec pilots from Edmonton for a bit, and my wife got to show her hockey chops as the Oilers now have Todd McClellan as their coach after he was cut by our local team, the Sharks. We also hung out for a bit with a Provi bloc pilot who, when he found out I was in TNT, wanted to know where the hell we went during the Provi invasion. He lives in one of the constellation that TNT was supposed to attack, but then we got called back to defend UMI-KK against MOA.
We also saw this guy
We stayed past the 11pm mark, at which point the EVE players got pushed over into a roped off section of the club to keep us away from the high rollers. I suspect we did not stay long enough for such high rollers to show up however, as I didn’t see anybody ordering thousand dollar magnums of champagne from the menus they laid out.
Eventually we decided to call it a night, at which point we were faced with the trial of getting out of the club. There are stairs, but that is an emergency exit only. You have to line up for an elevator… and then walk a ways to line up for another elevator… before you are back in the casino. This may have been the only club I have ever seen that had a line as long to get out as to get in.
During a lull I spotted a short line for the demo and queued up for a try.
I was happy to find that the VR headset would fit on my own fat head, something that is more of a problem than you might think. When the game came up I immediately started moving my head around to test the whole VR aspect, which prompted the person from CCP to ask if things were okay.
Fortunately I was given a pretty good briefing on the controls. How missiles work was explained correctly, which I gather from talking to some other people, was not always the case, so I was able to blow some stuff up. The Gatling gun was more problematic. I *think* I hit some things with it, but aiming was odd.
Mostly I was just impressed with being in the VR space environment and seeing the big ships. I could see CCP giving their new first person camera view a VR option. But I didn’t walk away dying to get a VR headset. 15 year old me would have had to be dragged away from the game, but current me is a bit more jaded. At least I didn’t feel any motion sickness.
My wife made an Interbus Jacket for me, which is the official Reavers jacket.
It was crafted from the finest materials the Minmatar Republic could provide… which is to say that it was done up largely with duct tape. Not quite my in-game avatar come to life, but what can you do?
Wilhelm Arcturus in game
However, Reavers were not heavily represented at EVE Vegas, so far as I could tell. I ran into Viktor Fel, but that was about it. And not many people outside of Reavers know that we wear this jacket, so I while I got a few compliments, though the comment “We don’t see many Interbus Cosplayers” probably sums up the average reaction.
I was a bit nervous about wearing the jacket. There is a pretty large impulse to not draw attention in my psyche. But for the most part people didn’t seem to notice. When it wouldn’t fit in the luggage for home, I just wore it through the rest of the last day, in the cab, and through both Las Vegas and San Jose airports. Nobody looked twice.
Still, I did get my moment in this sun, a pose with Maximilian Singularity VI.
Looking into a bright future…
And, having dressed up as such, I then HAD to buy the Interbus luggage tag that they had for sale.
That yellow matches my duct tape!
The only other cosplay I can recall seeing was this guy.
I had to explain to my wife what a chicken had to do with EVE, though honestly I was stumped for a bit until he let his Fweddit flag fly. I hear they are recruiting, if you want some fun in Cloud Ring.
Las Vegas feels like a very appropriate place to hold an EVE Online convention. For practical reasons alone it is pretty reasonable. It is setup for these sorts of events. It has many distractions. It has a large and pretty well run airport that handles direct flights from a lot of locations. People can get there, stay there, and find things to do.
But for all the lights and excitement, it can be as hard of an environment as New Eden. If you forget for a moment that the place exists to separate you from your money, it will quickly remind you. I ordered a Jack & Coke and a Vodka Cranberry for myself and my wife at the Heart Bar down in the casino and would have done a spit-take if I had had a drink in my mouth when the bartender laid out the drinks and said it would be $23.50 for the pair. Plus a tip, you know.
Over at Bellagio I got two scoops of mint chip ice cream and goggled a bit when that came up as $7.50. That seemed extreme until I ordered a single scoop from a place across the street and it rang up as $6.25. The Bellagio serving had about four times as much ice cream and seemed like a deal after the other place! (Also, it was very good ice cream.)
And let’s talk about cigarette smoke. It is always bizarro world odd going to Vegas from California. It is a short flight, but we’ve been in the process of banning smoking for 30 years. I don’t think people have been allowed to smoke indoors for the last 20. So to be in a place where smoking is fine in most every public venue is strange… and painful. Smoke in the eyes, smoke in your face, the burn in the back of your throat from being around it for a while. That was why I was buying ice cream, to sooth my throat.
Then there is the reality of Vegas, which includes a lot of people working there… look at all those people in the casino… who are likely priced out of the glamour of the whole thing and live off the strip in a place that was essentially carved out of a desert.
I think Vegas was best summed up by a scene that took place outside of Planet Hollywood on our first day. A person working for tips… and they are all over the strip… dressed up in a somewhat worn and dirty Hello Kitty costume accosting a pair of tourists who had taken a picture with her (or him, who knows) but hadn’t left a tip. It was like a Sanrio version of Goodfellas, with Hello Kitty ready to get all, “Fuck you, pay me!” Put Joe Pesci in that suit and let the camera roll.
I am sure I am forgetting half a hundred other things, but a few items that spring to mind that I want to call out.
Andrew Groen’s presentation about his book The Empires of EVE. He has a great voice and stage presence and now I want to back the Kickstarter for him reading the audio book version. He only had 30 minutes on stage, but could have kept us all interested for two hours if he had been given the time. Really cannot wait for that book to arrive.
CCP Quant’s presentation and the return of the EVE economic newsletter, coming again in November. Numbers! We love numbers!
Max Singularity’s NASA session. The man is passionate about far more than New Eden and gave a moving presentation.
The Broadcast 4 Reps video. Help your fellow capsuleers when they need it.
A lot of being able to sit down and talk about the game with other EVE Online players. Noizy and I sat at a table in a quiet area between sessions to talk about the CCP Quant presentation which itself sprawled into other topics. As interesting as the presentations were and as much fun as the party was, I want more of that.
I’ll mention Signal Cartel again! It was great to meet you guys. Mynxee was back in the original EVE Blog Pack with her old Life in Low Sec blog back in the day.
And, finally, I have to give a huge shout out to my wife who pretty much made the trip possible.
My wife and I at the party
She put up with the internet spaceship stuff, and still managed to have fun… enough fun that she was already talking about next year.
Now to get back to playing video games. The irony of such a convention is that I was away from games for four days.