Eve: Valkyrie throws you into the game in a way that's more Disney World than Battlestar Galactica.
You begin in the cockpit of your ship, and you can look around, check out the controls, and even lean forward to get a closer look at the instruments now that positional tracking has been added to the Oculus Rift development kit and the game itself. Valkyrie is one of the prettiest virtual reality games on display at GDC, and the sense of actually... too late. The alarms begin to ring in your ears.
The moment you get comfortable inside the ship, the battle itself begins. The alarms sound; the ship you're inside spits you out a long tunnel and into space. And space is much more crowded in the latest version of the game: There are asteroids to avoid and what appear to be space stations to fly around when trying to lose your tail, or when attacking the enemy ships. This is the geeky dream of virtual reality: You're given the chance to be a flashy pilot in an agile space fighter.
In fact, we were told that the team created around 100 names for the bots in the single-player version of the game I tried behind closed doors, and those names were pulled from all sorts of popular culture. You'll kill bots that were named after Star Wars, Top Gun, and Battlestar Galactica characters. One was named Topper, after the Charlie Sheen character in Hot Shots. I doubt these names will make it into the final version of the game.
The latest build
David Reid is the chief marking officer for CCP Games, and he explained the changes made in this version of the game. "We have multiple ships in the game now, we're working with a rock-paper-scissors sort of mechanic," he said. "One ship is slower but takes a lot of damage, one ship is more of a sniper, that sort of a thing."
"But what we don't have yet in the game are things like a support role. What is a healer or a bard in Valkyrie? We have some ideas and we're working on that," he continued. "Beyond that, what you're going to see are multiple modes." We've only seen the standard deathmatch so far, but there will be things like capture the flag or king of the hill, and they're working on things like escort missions, where one side tries to protect a capital ship while it's being attacked by the enemy.
There will be a tech tree and the ability to upgrade your ship and abilities, but the focus is going to be squarely on multiplayer fighting. "As far as single player PVE stuff? We're thinking about that, but I don't foresee us having a fully blown out campaign mode," Reid said.
"But you can play a game with bots, and there's no reason we couldn't have some kind of single-player mode. But like any CCP game, we think the magic happens when the players are mixing it up with each other in good or bad ways, so we're encouraging people to get into that rather than investing deeply in the single-player side of things."
"We think the magic happens when the players are mixing it up with each other in good or bad ways"
Oculus is co-publishing the game on the PC, and it's going to be "exclusive" to the Oculus Rift on that platform, but Sony announced that Valkyrie is coming to its just-announced Project Morpheus virtual reality platform as well.
"It started soon after Eve VR started to hit… we got enough excitement out of the build at Fanfest that we took it to E3. It was after the acclaim we got at E3 that we decided to make this a full game and not just a tech demo," Reid said. Sony shared its virtual reality plans with CCP around that time, and the two companies were already working together on the PlayStation 3 exclusive Dust 514. It was a natural fit, and if you want to play Valkyrie on a console, you'll need a PlayStation 4 and Project Morpheus.
There are around 25 developers working on the game right now, and it's in full, active development. Valkyrie will ultimately tie into Eve Online and Dust in some way, but that has yet to be determined. Right now just getting it to work well in virtual reality is challenging enough.
"Gamers don't have a whole lot of experience of what VR gaming is, and we as developers don't have a lot of successful case studies to look at... As a result, we're really focusing deeply on the VR experience, the latency, the frame rate, making sure the tracking works and that you don't feel like you're in the wrong place," Reid said. "Then from there, we'll get a lot more focused on the actual integration with the Eve universe."
The game is already a thrilling experience in virtual reality. It's fast, requiring you to whip your head around the cockpit to keep track of all the targets in the sky, and you have to use your boosters to avoid missile and the weapons of the enemy. It feels like war, albeit a science-fiction version of war, and it takes concentration in order to stay calm long enough to be effective in battle.
On the other hand, we've only seen the dogfighting. CCP still has to create the menu system, the skill tree and every other part of the experience that doesn't take place inside the ship. That could be the game's real challenge. "Once you get beyond the cockpit," Reid said, "it's going to get more interesting."