by Tony Tamasi

Living in a wormhole can sometimes be lonely business.

Happily, game developer CCP hosts an annual gathering of the wormhole dwellers, null fleeters, pirates, industrialists, freighter and all manner of spacefaring riffraff that reside in EVE Online at the EVE Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland. At this year’s event, CCP and NVIDIA announced the PLEX for Graphics Cards program.

It’s now possible to acquire a high-end NVIDIA video card exclusively using in-game “PLEX” currency – earned through mining, running L4’s or clearing DED complexes, etc. The PLEX for Graphics Cards program allows players to exchange 20 PLEX units for an EVGA GeForce GTX 560 video card, and have it shipped to their home. Players can acquire one PLEX on the EVE market for about 500M ISK each (depending on region), so players have the opportunity to acquire the game’s most popular graphics card through in-game activity.

The program goes live April 12 and is limited to the first 100 players (one graphics card per account).  As a player, and a long-time gamer, I personally think it’s yet another incredibly cool idea. And only a company as creative and willing to push the envelope as CCP could make the PLEX for Graphics Cards program a reality.

Details on this offer can be found here (starting April 12, 2012 at 16:00 UTC).

I’ll admit that I’m not the most talented or knowledgeable EVE player – far from it – but I’ve been playing the game for a while. I’ve been playing PC games for about 20 years now, been working at NVIDIA for about 13 years and have been gaming since 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I can honestly say that the EVE Online experience, the company behind it and the bash they throw each year are truly unique in the industry.

EVE Online is an amazing game.  As a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, it’s one of the very few to boast a continuously growing population over nine years.  It offers a fantastic, open-ended universe of space exploration, discovery, combat and politics that derives virtually all of its game play through player interactions.  By creating a few core game mechanics, CCP provides the fuel that seeds an incredibly immersive experience for more than 350,000 players.  EVE is also unique in that political intrigue, betrayal, scams and all sorts of skullduggery are not only allowed but, in fact, celebrated by players.  What other game’s fan magazine boasts the “top 10 scams”?

EVE is also special for its approach to technology. The folks at CCP have never been shy about pushing the performance envelope. On the client side they embrace cutting-edge technology such as GPU-based physical simulation using PhysX, bleeding-edge Optix ray tracing, advanced use of global illumination and a huge array of rendering techniques that make spaceships, flight and combat an eye-catching experience.

Beyond that, the entire population of the EVE universe plays on a single server. EVE typically sees tens of thousands of players logged in concurrently, with regular fleet battles pitting thousands of ships against each other in epic confrontations.  The notion of 1,000 players vs. 1,000 players in essentially real-time combat would be considered madness for any other MMO, but the folks at CCP bring this unique brand of warfare to their fans.

To make such an innovative game, it takes a special group of people, and the folks at CCP are a fantastic bunch. I’ve met and worked with developers the world over, and I can honestly say that Hilmar and Halldor, CCP’s CEO and CTO, respectively, have collected some of the finest technical and creative folks on the planet. They also know how to have a hell of a good time.

Which brings me back to EVE Fanfest, the yearly gathering of EVE Online’s loyal fans and partners. This celebration of all things EVE offers sessions with the developers, where players are encouraged to speak their mind; panels with the Council of Stellar Management, which are often full of excitement; keynotes demonstrating some of the latest innovations like DX11-based tessellation of Sansha carriers and upcoming games like DUST 514; and, talks laying out the strategy and vision for the future of the EVE universe. The developer pub crawl is a classic, bested only by some of the legendary closing parties.

EVE Fanfest is made all the more special by being held in Reykjavik –  a truly unique city that feels simultaneously welcoming and alien. This was my second EVE Fanfest, and I had a blast.  I’m looking forward to chatting with fellow players about our online exploits (nuke ‘em from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure …) at Fanfest 2013. Jovian T4 battle cruisers, anyone?

See you in Reykjavik next April for the 10th anniversary EVE Fanfest!

Check out highlights from EVE Fanfast 2012 in the photo gallery below and read more about PLEX for Graphics Cards here.