Long Jack and I arrived in the icy, volcanic motherland of CCP’s EVE Online the day before the official event started. A friendly (but expensive) cab driver played tour guide en-route to our hotel and we docked at Reykjavik I – Grand Hotel Station in the mid afternoon. Our contact with other EVE players had been non-existent to that point, although we were seeing the most likely demographic, pale-skinned men between twenty and forty, with increasing frequency.

After checking in, we unloaded our cargo then re-fitted into more appropriate attire when a Tweetfleet distress call was received via Twitter. TheSlayerEVE had arrived early at the Celtic Cross and was unable to establish contact with any other Tweetfleet members. Refuelled, we set out to assist our Tweetfleet ally.

We needn’t have worried for him. When we arrived, the small Irish-themed pub was already bustling with loud, drunken activity. Getting served was an issue as the poor mid-week barstaff were over-run by an unexpected crowd of slavering, glassy-eyed EVE players. Striking up conversations with the nearest obvious capsuleers, it soon became clear that we had stumbled upon several groups of null-sec alliance players, who’s opening conversational gambit was invariably “What alliance are you in?” Being sans-alliance and, at least from their perspective, carebears, they were polite enough to hide their derision but soon wandered back to their tribes to imbibe some more Brennivin.

As the evening wore on and the pub filled far beyond expected capacity, we met players from Goonswarm, Wildly Inappropriate, Against All Authorities and Razor. Where were the casual players and the high-sec dwellers? These guys were hardcore professional players and the idea of just playing EVE for a few hours a week seemed anathema to them.

Fortunately, we spied an equally bewildered-looking bearded fellow called Petter, who turned out to be a reporter for GameReactor. Finally, someone who wasn’t all about the alarm-clock Call to Arms and trying to destroy their braincells with The Black Death.

A later influx of folk saw us have the opportunity to meet EVE luminaries like Crazy Kinux (he’s a big lad), DiannaLynnETC (a Tweetfleet member and a really nice lady), Song Li of the Missions Collide podcast (he mineswept my pint!), Quivering Palm and Luminous Ardokay (the Planet Risk Show podcast, now videoblogging my tonsils), Omber Zombie (a very laconic Jazz Club owner) and many others. A few CCP devs were in the mix too, but it was tricky identifying who was who in the throng.

It was clear that many folk had met before and there was a sense of old friends catching up, but for the first-timer it was quite bewildering and difficult to keep up with the pace. The social etiquette of whether to use real names or character names was a bit of a minefield – essentially having to remember two names for every person you met. The whole evening was a strange social experience which I am sure I will reflect upon again, but now I’ve dipped my toe, there’s no going back.

Onward to Fanfest.

[Photo: Offroad monstrosities with CCP livery parked outside the hotel this morning, presumably whisking the Sisters of EVE tour participants off to a mountain somewhere.]