Sunday, January 19, 2014

EVE: Valkyrie & Oculus Rift - "Whoa."

"CCP Torfi Frans?"

"Yeah. That's me."

"Hi.  Um... My EVE character name is Manic Velocity.  I just want to say that it's an honor to meet you."

"Oh... hi!  I thought you were my interview.  They're late.  I've been waiting for about an hour."

And that was my introduction with the Creative Director of EVE Online.

His hair was much nicer than mine.
As I entered the New Frontier exhibit of the Sundance Film Festival, I immediately recognized the EVE: Valkyrie logo displayed on the other side of the room.  I saw two people sitting in chairs, with big black boxes strapped to their faces and game controllers in their hands.  Occasionally their heads would turn and tilt, mouths agape.  Then I glanced behind me and saw CCP Torfi Frans sitting  by himself on a couch, casually tapping away on his phone.  Everyone around him was bundled in thick coats and scarves.  But Torfi seemed quite comfortable with Utah's winter, sporting only a light shirt and slacks.

That's when I introduced myself and we got to talking.  He asked how long I'd been playing EVE, and what I enjoyed doing in the game.  I'll admit I was a bit star-struck.  Hopefully he found my enthusiasm more endearing than creepy.

As our conversation rolled on, he reached into his pocket and took out his phone.

"I can show you this because you're obviously not wearing Google Glass or anything like that."

He gave me a sneek-peek at an upcoming CCP project that he is working on, with some insider info that he humbly requested I not share with anyone.  So I'm only vaguely mentioning it here for bragging rights: I know something you don't know.

"It will be interesting to see how people interpret it.  It will probably make some of them very happy, and a lot of them very angry."

Such is the nature of CCP's relationship with the EVE community.  You can either please a few people some of the time, or you can piss off most people all of the time.

He then walked me over to the Valkyrie sign-up sheet.  I put my name on the list before introducing Torfi to my wife and daughter.  My wife had painted the EVE logo on her nails to show support for the exhibit, and Torfi quickly ran to get his camera to snap a couple pictures.



I thanked him for his time and he disappeared.  Possibly to go find that interview he was supposed to conduct instead of talking to me.  As I waited for my name to be called, I tossed out a few questions to the CCP employee running the booth.  
  • Will Valkyrie have a real-time skill training system similar to EVE?
  • How will Valkyrie be technically integrated with EVE, if at all?
  • Will there be various roles in combat such as bombers or logi?

Every question was answered with, "I'm not allowed to talk about that."

The most common question from the other patrons was, "When can we buy it?"  And the answer to that was much more definitive.  Valkyrie will be a "launch exclusive for the Oculus Rift", which I took to mean the game will come with purchase of the Rift.  As to when that will be, the CCP employee stated that the Rift is aiming to release at some point in 2014.  So when the Rift launches, so will Valkyrie.

Eventually it was time to actually sit down and play the game for myself.  So what was it like to "jack in" to my first virtual reality experience?


I've heard a lot of people who try the Rift say, "It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't tried it." and I can see what they mean.  This is more than just a head-mounted display.  You immediately begin to feel like you are in the game.  It is an incredible feeling to look down and see your virtual body strapped into the cockpit of a fighter drone.

After a few seconds of looking around and taking in the detail of the cockpit design, I found myself being launched out of a large tunnel.  I pressed back against the chair as my brain instinctively expected to feel the g-force of flying forward.  And before I knew it, I was zipping around an asteroid field towards oncoming hostile forces.

COMBAT & SCALE

I tried firing my blasters, which work by shooting straight in whichever direction your ship is facing.  But staying true to EVE's design, Valkyrie's combat takes place on a very large scale.  When you're flying through space, your target has the potential to be so far away that it is often barely visible on the screen.  If it weren't for the bright red circles outlining each of my opponents, I probably wouldn't even know they were there.  It would be like trying to find a lump of coal floating near the moon.  Unless I was right on top of my target, my blasters were pretty much useless.

So I switched my tactics to the one mechanic that Valkyrie wants you to take full advantage of: Tracking missiles.

The tracking missiles work on line-of-sight, and this is what makes Valkyrie work so well with the Rift.  You hold the left trigger to activate a targeting lock on whatever you are physically looking at, and you turn your head to hold your target on your opponent as they fly around you.  Your opponent can be coasting right over your head, and instead of rotating your ship to fire at them, you simply look up.  The missiles take care of the rest.  The visuals and audio for this are just perfect, giving clear indication of when to hold the trigger and when to release.

IMMERSION

Part of me really wanted to take a break from fighting and just fly around for a bit to explore the battlefield.  When my blasters and missiles weren't going off, simply flying around felt very serene.

The first time I died was a bit of a shock, and my body actually jolted in response.  A blinding explosion was suddenly extinguished to a black screen, with a simple prompt telling me that my consciousness was in the process of being transferred to a fresh clone.  Within seconds I was back in the hangar, ready to be shot out into space to try again.

Before I knew it, my three minutes were up.  Taking the Rift off was a little disorienting.  I had to get my bearings and remember that I was actually just sitting in an exhibit hall.  But that feeling of sitting in the cockpit of a futuristic spaceship is still fresh in  my mind many hours later.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I really wish I had more to say about the game other than I had a lot of fun with it.  But CCP are steadfast on keeping many details under wraps until the game gets closer to release.  I've always admired CCP for their transparency with their fans (save for monoclegate back in 2011), so to have them so tight-lipped on Valkyrie kind of rubs me the wrong way.  But the year is still young.  The brightest flame burns the quickest, so ultimately I think it's smart for CCP to hold onto their fuel reserves for a while.

I ended up not taking many pictures of the venue because frankly, it was rather small, and the abundance of red light was not at all conducive to photography.  But if you are still interested, the full album can be found here:  http://imgur.com/a/ZIGfL

If you have any questions about Valkyrie or the Rift, feel free to post them in the comments below.  I'll do my best to answer them.

4 comments:

  1. It's insane what a game changer that the rift can be.

    I played at Fanfest, and at Eve Vegas. Big change between the builds. And the Crystal cove headset they're looking at looks even better.

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    Replies
    1. Dam it, release already, I am almost at the point of buying one off ebay, even though I know its only a dev kit.

      The only thing holding me back is the fact there are no games out yet that have been specifically designed for it.

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    2. I would absolutely wait. From what I understand, the standard dev kit is miles behind what we will see in the final product. No point in spending $300+ on something that is already out of date. :)

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  2. Thanks for this little peek inside the game.

    ReplyDelete