With the discussion of SOMER's participation out of the way, I want to cover EVE Vegas with a couple of posts, one giving my own impressions of the event in isolation, then a second post about the larger implications and What It All Means(tm).
First, this isn't intended to be day-by-day coverage of the event. Sugar Kyle did a terrific job with that on her own Life in Low-sec blog and if you're looking for that, I urge you to go read her impressions. She both did a better job covering the sessions in detail than I intend to and clearly had more time to attend them than I did. ;-) Instead, I'm going to focus on impressions: what was done well, what can be improved for next year, plus a few amusing stories.
EDIT 23/Oct/2013: Bah. Why do I keep thinking of Sugar Kyle as a he? Fixed, with apologies toward Sugar.
What was done well
First, the event was quite well-organized. Running a large gathering is not easy! The event planning staff at a venue can help quite a bit, but there's still a large amount of organizational work that has to be done. In this case, the EVE Vegas staff should feel very pleased with themselves. Everything presented the appearance of being well-run, quick, and professional. Registration opened early and the line moved quite fast and never built up at any point. The events were well organized and the event ran on time with few or no technical glitches that I could see. So, from an infrastructure point of view, thumbs up!
Similarly, I never got the impression that anything was cheaply done or that corners were cut... quite the opposite, in fact! The schedule and other printed material were good quality, as was the swag t-shirts, the swag bag itself, et cetera. Water bottles and snacks were provided both days in the main hall, and there was water available in the round-table room as well. The food and drink at the Saturday night party was excellent. There's every reason to believe the ticket cost was spent making the event comfortable, fun, and memorable.
CCP seemed to be in charge of the PvP room, and it was outstanding: sixteen or so PS3s and monitors on one side for DUST 514, 10 PCs in the middle for EVE, six Oculus Rift HDs and the supporting hardware on the other side for Valkyrie. The arrangement of the lines started out a little bit chaotic but sorted itself out in due course and all of the systems were pretty busy all weekend. I myself got three runs at Valkyrie, two of them by arriving very soon after the PvP room opened both Saturday and Sunday. The sizing was perfect: even at its peak, the Valkyrie line never seemed particularly onerous.
Instead of prizes for winning EVE matches in the PvP room, CCP Bro instituted a series of unknown "achievements" to win prizes, which were Steelseries-donated gaming keyboards, mice, headsets, and mouse pads. The matches were all 5v5, with fixed ship fittings provided to CCP Fozzie by Duncan Tanner of HYDRA Reloaded and Elise Randolph of PL (plus additional members of both alliances) and the two sides were designated the "Hydra side" and the "PL side." The fits were... interesting. I myself received the first achievement: my team lost our first match with me flying a Osprey. I did my job, stayed untackled, stayed alive, and repped my team as well as the five small reppers on my Osprey would allow. When my teammates all died with me still alive, I turned my Osprey toward the edge of glory then stood up to congratulate my team-mates and the opposing team. Bro approached and asked which chair I'd been sitting in and when I confirmed I was in the Osprey, he announced I'd won a gaming keyboard for getting the "first person to cross the edge of glory" achievement. Hee! Other (better) achievements were for things like logis saving their whole squad and the like. But it made the competition fun.
The party at the end of Saturday night was quite well done and again, no expenses were spared. The bar was open for about three hours or so, and the food was very good. The music was a bit loud for my taste given that almost nobody was going to be dancing, but hey, it's sort of de rigueur at this sort of thing so I can understand why it was there. Unlike Fanfest's Party at the Top of the World, though, there were very few quiet corners where an older guy like myself could hide out from the noise. ;-)
Prizes were handed directly to people. Compare and contrast to Fanfest prizes, which were to be shipped to the winners, some of which still haven't found their way to their owners. There was a UPS store right outside the venue that would ship your prize home if you couldn't carry it home on the plane.
Improve next year
Many of the presentations were quite good: Fozzie and CCP Rise on the first day was quite good, CCP Guard and CCP Saberwing were fine, Rise's "Elite PvP, Vegas vs New Eden" was very cute, and I'm told the Goon Logistics presentation, the lore presentation, and the NASA presentation were interesting and well done (though I missed all three, the last one because I was waiting to be interviewed on EVE TV). But a lot of presentations were not quite as good and there weren't enough of them. So this is the biggest goal I'd express to the organizers for next year: more presentations, particularly player presentations. Try to draw in more of the community: get streamers and pod-casters and bloggers to come out and to run a panel or perhaps even give a full presentation. The round table room was paid for both Saturday and Sunday but was only used about half the time.
I was warned about this beforehand and it's quite true: your enjoyment of EVE Vegas will be based at least in part on your enjoyment of Las Vegas as a location and a casino as the venue. If you're not a Vegas guy the way I am not, you'll be a little disappointed. There isn't really enough going on to occupy an entire long weekend unless you take advantage of the locale.
This isn't really the fault of the organizers, but EVE Vegas is expensive. It's $200 for a ticket, plus the hotel room, plus venue food, plus cab fare to and from the airport, plus the pub crawl ticket if you buy one means that you can fairly easily end up spending $1000 U.S. before your travel arrangements. I myself was able to side-step a good bit of this because I drove to Las Vegas, parking is free, and I spurned the Rio itself for a much less expensive off-Strip hotel. You can definitely see where the money is going, and the free ship model for all attendees and the other perks made it nice, but it's not a casual expense. Hopefully this will improve as the event grows.
This is also not the fault of the organizers, but this year EVE Vegas was very cliquish. If you weren't willing to step in front of people and introduce yourself or didn't come with a group, you might not have talked to very many people. I myself went out of my way to try to introduce myself to people (and people came and introduced themselves to me, which was nice) when I was standing in line for things or just watching things and I probably ended up talking to about one hundred of the 350 attendees. But I saw lots and lots of clustered groups, surrounded by not a few wallflowers at the edges. Because of the concentrated venue, the off-site events, and the subsidiary activities provided at FF (a game table area, the EVE arcade game, vendor booths), players end up chit-chatting a lot more.
That brings me to my next suggestion: more subsidiary activities, and try to persuade some vendors to come. I have no idea how much it would cost to add a third room to the proceedings for table-top gaming, chatting, writing, vendors, and maybe even a LAN party, but if it's at all reasonable it should be done. One of the advantages of a player-run gathering (and I'll discuss this more tomorrow) is that such ad-hoc gathering areas are expected and welcome. As for vendors, I'm not sure how feasible that is at EVE Vegas's current size, but it should be attempted.
Next year's venue: someplace with a public wireless network, please!
Just odd, or funny
At the Saturday night party, one guy was apparently paid to show up in a fighter pilot's uniform (for Valkyrie?) and two booth babes were hired to dress in Amarr and Gallente regalia. It was... cute, I guess. But I'm not sure it fit the event.
The organizers rented a pair of electric wheelchairs to make getting around easier for them -- the Rio venue is enormous with a lot of walking -- but by about an hour into the first day, CCP devs had appropriated both of them for racing. They were having fun, I guess. There's lots of cute pictures of Guard and Bro and CCP Tyr enjoying themselves on them. One of them even made an appearance at the party and The Mittani drove it around the roof.
EDIT 23/Oct/2013: I'm told Bro and Tyr rented those themselves for fun.
It took me six tries to win my 5v5 PvP match, and two of my attempts were disrupted by -- believe it or not -- awoxers! That's pretty ballsy, awoxing someone who is sitting right next to you. ;-) In one case, a PL-heavy team apparently slipped a guy onto my team to fly a Vexor. He spent the match orbiting the edge of the arena, never launched drones, and never fired a shot until he was caught and killed. He lamely claimed that he didn't know the match had started. PL try-hards, don't ever change.
One of the bouncers at the Saturday night party is taller than CCP Gargant (who recently took over as the tallest CCP employee). Gargant was crushed. It was quite a funny moment that I got to tease him about.
David Reid (CCP Pokethulu, CCP's Chief Marketing Officer) was there and gave a presentation that was half about expanding the sandbox of EVE to include DUST and Valkyrie, and half a pitch about making an impact on the universe. He meant the EVE universe, of course: EVE is of course a game where in-game actions can resonate right across the entire game. But it was hard not to tease him that his talk had convinced me to stop wasting my life with a make-believe space game and go make something of myself in the world. He laughed. Pokethulu is one of my top five favorite people in CCP.
And I think that about covers it. All in all, I'm glad I went! It was a fun event and it was great to meet way too many players to name here. For those of you who were there, thanks for passing by and saying hello! For those of you who didn't, maybe next year. Tomorrow, a much shorter piece on how EVE Vegas might fit into the big picture.