As I write this, Serious Gaming Journalists are rushing to scoop each other about the Dust 514 announcements and various changes to EVE gameplay uncovered at Fanfest 2009. In about a week we’ll be able to link to interviews, EVE-TV clips, random embarrassing photos and new gameplay footage; CCP has apparently been waiting to release a host of new dev blogs describing the Dominion changes until after the playerbase has recovered from its collective hangover (or flu, since allegedly 30%+ of the CCP staff caught some kind of plague over the weekend). But the real purpose of Fanfest swiftly became apparent after our arrival – not so much to talk about spaceship games a lot, as to get absolutely wrecked in Reykjavik. Here’s a guide for prospective Fanfest newbies or veterans looking to eke out a little more debauchery in 2010.
Scheduling Your Trip:
Boring but critical stuff: Show up at least a day early and stay a day or two late; next year I’m aiming for Wednesday to Monday. If you’re coming from the USA, know that Icelandair tends to group most of its flights to arrive at approximately the same time in Keflavik, and that they’re mostly red-eyes: you hop on a plane at 8 in New York or Boston and you land at 6am in Iceland. You may think to yourself (like I did) that you’ll sleep on the plane and be fine – but the actual flight is only five hours, and that’s not enough. If you have to schedule a connecting flight to get home, make sure you have at least a 3 hour layover. Don’t try to return on a Sunday night when most US airports practically shut down and service slows to a crawl; perhaps non-JFK airports are paragons of efficiency, but I nearly missed my NYC -> DC connection despite a two-hour delay.
Hotels: We stayed in the Park Inn. If you split a hotel with a friend, the rates are quite reasonable; 3 nights ran me $168. Veto Corp, of lowsec fame, rented an entire house/condo for their group. One of the main hostels for budget travellers is within easy walking distance of the Fanfest venue, as well.
What to Bring/Arriving in Reyk:
Chapstick. Iceland is cold, and you’re going to be drinking a lot. A raincoat; Iceland has a nasty habit of spitting freezing rain. CCP apparently is planning on moving the Fanfest up a month to September 2010, so hopefully that won’t be critical next year. If you have an iphone, you can download and set up Skype such that you can make international calls on the cheap and SMS without getting screwed on extra charges; the convention center has free wifi. Heavy doses of painkillers such as Aleve or Xanax and B-complex vitamins for hangovers.
As soon as you land in Keflavik and escape customs, you’ll be confronted with a massive Duty Free store. Smart drinkers will load up on hilariously inexpensive, tax-free high quality vodka. The rest of the alcohol you’ll find in Reyk is much more expensive; don’t be so exhausted when you land that you miss out. The Fanfest food stands sell Polar Beer and Smirnoff Ice; the Smirnoff makes for a perfect vodka mixer (obviously enough) so plan accordingly.
Keflavik is way the fuck outside of Reykjavik, some kind of international-traveler quarantine. There are two ways out: “Flybus”, which most travellers use, and a taxi. The bus will drop you off in front of your hotel, and it only costs about 10 bucks USD. The downside is that, if it happens to take you to your hotel last, you’ve wasted an hour and a half of herky-jerky stop-start-stop-start when you’re already in a miserable, just-got-off-a-redeye state. Pro move is to split a taxi with four friends; a taxi will cost you almost 80 bucks, it’s at least twice as fast, more comfortable and you won’t have to smell unwashed spaceship nerds and listen to them complain about the critically important nuances of faction warfare.
There will be an ATM at the airport for you to get ISK. Skip it. You can pay for everything with a credit card in Reyk, even 2-dollar hotdogs. You’ll just end up with leftover fish-money at the end that you dump into the chairty box on your way out of Keflavik.
Icelandic water smells like a particularly nasty fart, due to the high sulfur content. Try to ensure your hotel’s water is filtered. On the other hand, the bathrooms are universally spotless.
Holy Shit I’m In Reykjavik, Now What?
If you did the smart thing and got here early, you’ll want to take a nap. The cycle of Fanfest isn’t based on days and nights, since everyone is on a catastrophically fucked up schedule; expect instead to nap, party, nap, recover from hangover, party, nap, repeat ad nauseam (quite literally). If you screwed up and showed up on Thursday morning, Fanfest opens at 10am. The good news is that practically nothing of note happens on Thursday at Fanfest until the Alliance Presentation at 6pm. We showed up early to sign up for the ‘pub crawl with a dev’, were told that the signups for that had been shifted to Friday, and promptly passed out until Darius warned the playerbase to tighten their shot group.
If you have extra time, go to the Blue Lagoon and wander around Laugavegur drinking. Of critical importance is the “Bill Clinton Hotdog Stand“, which sells hotdogs with everything for only 260 ISK (like 2 bucks, quite possibly the single cheapest item sold in all Iceland) which Bill Clinton himself declared to be the best hotdogs he had ever had. They’re especially good when you’re three sheets to the wind. Get them with everything; the toppings are completely unrecognizable to an American, but they live up to Bubba’s hype.
Polar Beer, Smirnoff Ice spiked with vodka, Brennivin. When you get your Fanfest goodie-bag, you’ll find a couple of food tickets and beer tickets. There tend to be some teetotaler types at Fanfest, so see if you can convince them to give you their beer tickets. Polar Beer is fairly weak but comes in a huge can and at the high price of free, it gets the job done. If you can’t scavenge beer tickets (hint: CCP gives the CSM members and their employees a pile of both types of tickets) try to participate in the ‘Live Agent’ missions; most of them are silly and mildly entertaining, but you can get beer tickets for winning. Better still, one of the Live Agent missions tasks you to do shots of Brennivin; several goons I know did three shots of Brennivin for free, then won a free beer for their trouble.
Pub Crawl With A Dev: This is a waste of time and money. You have to pay an extra fee to some tour company to go on this, and it’s pretty easy to drink with a dev at Fanfest without paying a fee. They provide you with a bus to Laugavegur, a ‘guide’ whose patter is missable, and a free condom. Seriously. The first bar we were taken to was so shameful that an anonymous CCP employee turned to me and said, “Wow, this bar is so shitty, I’ve never even been in here.” The experience was entertaining because of the crowd of space nerds, but at the end of the pub crawl we found out that the bus which took us there wasn’t returning; we’d have to make our own way home. A simpler, cheaper way for CCP to help attendees get their pub on would simply be regular shuttle busses to and from Laugavegur at regular intervals throughout the fanfest. If CCP doesn’t shift to the ‘shuttle bus’ system in 2010, save your money and just catch cabs.
Round Tables: There’s a lot of them at Fanfest and by and large they’re a lot of fun. You’re in a conference room with 30+ people and a couple of devs, and you sound off about whatever. The Capital Ships, PvP and 0.0 roundtables were a blast. The ‘Economy’ round table was full of a bunch of highsec pubbies whining about being scammed, and was a much less convivial atmosphere. There are signup sheets for round tables, but the truth is that these signups aren’t checked at all; just walk on in. Also, don’t be the guy raising his hand like he was in elementary school waiting to be called on; you just talk.
Rock Band Competition and Poker Tournament: These are a blast. Next year, however, the Rock Band contestants must be allowed to choose their own songs; due to a foolish last-minute decision, every band was forced to play “White Wedding” and “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I love Billy Idol as much as the next metrosexual, but hearing the same two songs over and over again took the steam out of the event quickly. A shout out to the 2009 Rock Band champions, “Dick Butt and the Jaypegs”.
Cosplay: The Devs say that they want more people to cosplay (ie: dress up in silly outfits) at Fanfest. CCP hires some fashion models to wander around in full-out gear which look pretty awesome, but about the only player cosplayers in 2009 were some CVA guys dressed up in Jedi robes. I suppose that they were supposed to be Amarr Priests or whatever, but it just pissed everyone off and made CVA the consensus candidate for “alliance most likely to be obliterated after Dominion.” Use the force, Luke.
Eating: Most people ate pizza from the food stands at Fanfest. Problem: it was almost indistinguishable from cardboard – but free, if you acquire enough food tickets. There’s an excellent Pizza Hut next door to the Nordica, barely 5 minutes away. Hike there. I didn’t know you even could have an excellent Pizza Hut. Try not to eat the native “food”, hakarl (piss shark), sheep heads and ram balls are only acceptable when you’re a starving viking trapped on a volcanic treeless island. Also, apparently no one knows what ‘Cool Ranch’ flavor is, so the Doritos in Iceland are labeled ‘Cool American’, and chocolate chip cookies are from the ‘Maryland’ brand.
The Big Saturday Show: This was absolutely amazing. If you’re planning your partying, save your best drunk for Saturday night. CCP apparently has hired a dev purely to plan and coordinate Fanfest, and the extra attention showed. The hall was decked out like a Caldari club, complete with Quafe bars and a lot of leather couches; I wish we had a nightclub space like that in DC. The sound system was perfect. The Dev Band Roxor exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations, playing a lengthy and dead-on cover set of pretty much every awesome metal and punk song you could think of. Somehow, a symphony was conned into coming, and played orchestral versions of all the EVE game music which no one listens to; apparently we’re going to be able to download those tracks on MP3 to replace the ingame music with. Then 2ManyDJs, who tore the place up, absolutely wrecked it. Amazing stuff.
Mingling with the Locals
If you’re going to drink with the locals, you should know a couple of things in advance. First, working for CCP or playing spaceship games does not make you a cool, desirable person even in a country where a ton of the hard currency comes from CCP. Hide your fanfest badge, or you will be gently mocked for going halfway around the world for an internet spaceship game. The appropriate response, when questioned, is to just pass Fanfest off as an excuse to drink and party with your international friends; Icelanders take their drinking seriously, regardless of what they think about EVE, and seem to respect those with similar attitudes. Expect to see locals smash their glasses in the street as a sign of good humor/excitement/whim, piss in the middle of the street like it’s no big deal, and puke on the floor of a bar only to drink more. If you’re an American, ‘bar territory’ is not respected/understood in Iceland; if you and your party claim a booth but aren’t taking up all the available space, locals will happily come and sit with you. This is a good thing once you get used to it, as it means you’ll be able to either make some new friends, or at least seize a place to sit yourself when push comes to shove. And push will come to shove – Icelandic bars appear to have no conception of fire codes, so they’re absolutely jammed. Don’t be a fat nerd in an Icelandic bar. If you’re not a fat nerd and you’d like to meet some Icelandic women, you’re in luck; like a lot of more developed countries, women in Iceland have no problem whatsoever with initiating first contact and hitting on men.
Hanging Out with Mortal Enemies
Probably the most refreshing thing about Fanfest is that, except for one demographic, even mortal spaceship enemies are happy to see each other and go on bar crawls together. I ran into a number of former BoB people, all of whom were extremely friendly. Fanfest is a fairly old crowd; the average age was probably around 30. If you’ve recently pissed someone off ingame, at Fanfest you probably don’t need to worry about getting punched in the face. The exception is the kids. There are a few teenagers there (perhaps three?), and they seem to be so coked up on hormones that they’re unable to get out of the chest-beating mindset. Avoid them and simply focus on the partying; that’s what everyone else does.
Take a goddamn shower, you greasy nerd. Some people there didn’t seem to realize that international flight + convention center full of nerds + drinking results in an awful lot of smell. Don’t be that guy; no one likes him.
Protip: avoid Jagerbombs when on camera at Fanfest, and Russian mafiya who spike your drink with home-brewed absinthe off-camera! Heh. 2009 was a blast, probably one of my favorite Fanfests – it was before everything got weird and people started asking me for autographs over a bloody internet spaceship game, and had the best music of any Fanfest since.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by The Mittani.