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Closer to reality: Hands-on with Eve: Valkyrie on Oculus' retail prototype Crescent Bay

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CCP is showing Eve: Valkyrie on Oculus Development Kit 2's for most of Fanfest, taking place this week in Iceland. The company also has two Crescent Bay units, the prototype for the Oculus Rift retail hardware, they're using to demo the game to the press.

This afternoon I had a chance to play Valkyrie on the more advanced virtual reality hardware.

Hitting a moving target

"It's certainly different and exciting developing on a platform that is still changing and developing underneath you," Owen O'Brien, executive producer on EVE: Valkyrie told Polygon. "And luckily all these changes are, by their very nature, improvements and allow us to do more. Getting higher resolution really helps with the UI, for example. Reading text in the early headsets was very challenging."

The difference is startling. The cockpit isn't just easier to see, it feels more real. The Crescent Bay hardware swaps out the single, 960 x 1080 resolution per eye screen for two screens of unknown resolution, one for each eye. The Development Kit 2's screen operates at 75Hz, while Crescent Bay runs at 90Hz.

That means that the game has to run at 90 frames-per-second when using the hardware, which also helps your sense of being there. Virtual reality or not, higher resolution screens running at an extra 15 frames-per-second are going to make a major difference.

"There are new headsets coming out all the time, it's an interesting place to be"

Just in case you think virtual reality is going to be an inexpensive hobby, CCP announced that these demos are running on systems loaded with the brand new Titan X graphics cards. High resolution, 90 frame-per-second space games are going to require some serious hardware.

O'Brien described virtual reality development as a "roller coaster ride." No one, to our knowledge, has finished hardware in the hands of developers, so as each prototype is improved and released, development has to adapt.

"There are new headsets coming out all the time, it's an interesting place to be," he continued. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, but it will be good when things start to settle down and there is 'OK, this is what we're going with.' Then we can really start to hone and polish."

The result is, once again, hard to describe in words. The 3D effect is more pronounced. Everything feels more solid and immediate; without the obvious pixels on the screen it feels as if you're looking at actual objects and not a screen showing you an object. Every detail on the cockpit pops, and the vistas in space are stunning.

This is actually the first time an actual, in-production game has been shown to the press using the Crescent Bay; the existing demos used to show the hardware have been non-interactive experiences. Using the hardware with a game, controller in hand, makes it clear just how much the hardware has advanced.

"Obviously the resolution is a bit higher, so the UI is more crisp. You'll be able to read some of the small details and stuff in the hologram UI we have," Sigurdur Gunnarsson, the senior programmer of Valkyrie, told Polygon. "You don't really notice the pixels anymore, you just forget about them and the world is so much more solid because of the higher framerate. It's just smooth. So smooth."

He's right, everything about the experience is a marked improvement over playing with the Development Kit 2. The version I was able to play today represents a closer look at what you'll be playing once the game, and the hardware, hits the market. Time to upgrade your PC.

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