OK! I'm back from EVE Vegas with a lot to write about. And I'll write another post tomorrow that's more specifically about EVE Vegas as an event. But the first thing I want to write about, before that, is the new high-definition version of EVE Valkyrie.
I got a chance to play EVR at Fanfest... and I thought what I saw was an amazing technology demo. But what was being shown off at EVE Vegas is a second order of magnitude jump over what was shown at Fanfest. Valkyrie was being shown off in the EVE Vegas PvP room and while standing in line for PvP or for Valk itself, I got the opportunity to watch a lot of people playing it... and lots of people trying on the Oculus Rift with Valk running for the first time.
Common reactions: "My God." "Oh wow." "Holy crap." Or just whistling noises.
Needless to say, the new HD is quite impressive, immersive in a way that I have a hard time describing. In addition, while the prototype Oculus Rifts at Fanfest were somewhat heavy and clunky, the prototype HD ORs at EVE Vegas feel both lighter and much more solid. I was a little concerned about the survivability of the hardware when I saw it at Fanfest. So many of us frequently drop our peripherals on the floor, you know. I no longer have that concern. I wouldn't drop the OR intentionally, of course, but it no longer feels like doing so accidentally would be an instantly fatal incident.
Enough with the hardware, let's get to the software.
I've already said that the game is immersive in a way I have a hard time describing... but I'm gonna try. ;-) The HD version of Valkyrie is soooo immersive and soooo natural in terms of the very simple controls that very quickly, you literally forget that you're wearing sets of hardware on your head. You are in space. You look up, or to the left, and you're not seeing a room, you're seeing the inside of your spacecraft. Two minutes into my first match, I realized that I had forgotten I was wearing the hardware. My brain had just enough time to think, "Wow, I'd forgotten I was wearing this stuff!" and then I was back in the midst of an outer space dogfight.
It's been said already, but it's so true: this is the game that Wing Commander and Descent and X-Wing and TIE Fighter players have been waiting their whole lives for. I've hinted once that I think this game is the OR's killer app. That impression is reinforced after seeing this much improved version.
The controls, as I've mentioned, are still quite simple: roll, pitch, and yaw off one thumb stick and two bumpers. Guns off the right trigger. Speed boost on A. Brake on B. And a missile launcher on the left trigger. The combination of boosting, braking, and yawing/pitching in combination creates a lot of possible tactics. I myself became a fan of pitching and braking behind an asteroid when locked by missiles, waiting a couple of seconds, then boosting past the asteroid and then yawing around to find the platform that launched the missiles in front of me. I got four or five kills that way -- very entertaining! But it's the tip of the iceberg.
And the fantastic thing about it is it all feels very natural. Instead of using the right thumb stick to control the way you're looking, you just turn your head. To find a target for your missiles, you look at the target... that's it. Hold down the left trigger, look at the target, wait for target lock, release the left trigger, missiles fly. The controls quickly become completely intuitive. Instead of playing a console game, you are playing a game that seems to happen naturally inside your own head.
All in all, the Valkyrie team deserves massive congratulations for how things are going! They've made tremendous progress in the last six months.
The next thing that has to happen, though? This game needs context. I can see Valkryie being fantastic for an hour, maybe two hours. After that, to become a product, it needs a wrapper. There was various discussion at EVE Vegas by various CCP employees about putting Valkryie into the sandbox... somehow. But I don't feel like anyone has a good idea how that's going to happen yet. Will Valkyrie be skill-based? I don't think anyone knows. Will there be campaigns? Same. It's grown from a fantastic demo to a fantastic part of a game... but now CCP has to come up with the rest of the game.
I for one can't wait to see it.
EDIT (21/Oct/2013): Just to be clear: I don't think the wrapper
has to be hugely elaborate or complex. But it does need something:
different ships, ship upgrades, boosted skills, player levels somehow? I
have no idea what that wrapper should look like but the game needs one
to get players invested in the overall experience even when they're not
in a match.