Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Inside your own head

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.

Ho-lee shit.

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. 

26 comments:

  1. You know what all this HD talk reminds me of?

    The HD texture pack for EVE.

    *cough*

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    1. This definitely hasn't fallen off the radar.

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    2. Could you please just burn your NDA and tell us?

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  2. Looks like Chris Roberts will need to wok hard with the OR integration in Star Citizen...

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  3. i have the feeling that valkyrie would make a great sports game in the world of new eden

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    1. They're clearly thinking about it. One thing I forgot to mention is that they had two side monitors randomly flipping between outside views of various players and what they were doing/what was happening to them.

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  4. First off, I envy everyone who had the opportunity to try Valkyrie. From the screenshots and opinions I can only tell it's an amazing experience: in a way Valkyrie is much more immersive EVE experience than EVE Online itself.

    Secondly, I will be advocating that Valkyrie it should become a mobile game besides PC/Oculus Rift platform. I'm not experienced enough as a programmer to prove that myself, but the tech is out there, and it's doable. It would make one hell of a mobile game and for sure it would quickly become AppStore/Google Play bestseller.

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    1. The interesting thing about this is the lack of situational awareness playing this game on any platform BUT OR would instantly put you at a massive disadvantage... all the time. Think flying T1 frigates against assault frigs. The disadvantage you'd be playing under would be that dramatic.

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  5. As a context for the game... we are Space-Rich bastards right?
    This Dog-Fight scenario screams for eSports and integrating it into EVE as Gladiator arena like the good old unreal tournament with team death matches and a couple of other play modes.

    I think it doesn't need to have a lasting effect in the game, it just can be our fun platform. Surrounded with betting and prices and what ever you can imagine. There are many players out there who like to waste money on gambling and supporting your favorite Valkyrie team with betting and paint jobs for their ships could tie it into the community like soccer or baseball is into the various nations of real world.

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  6. I would have bought it at Fanfest, I was wildly enthusiastic about it too.

    They need to evolve this from simple one-on-one dogfights in nippy ships into something that's a lot more elaborate.

    Ideally they should find a way to introduce this into EVE. If you could have dogfights like this, if that is even possible in the context of EVE, it would spark an interest that TQ could not cope with :-).

    Looking forward to this.

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  7. Jester, if you have the privilege to talk with the EvE-Vr team and make suggestions, please please please, tell them to release it as stand-alone. The game is valid on its own....there is no need to make it complex integrating it with EvE or anything like that...it has enough kick and presence to be an absolute gem.

    However, what it needs is a profoundly rich and engaging background storyline to fit it within the EvE universe. Just saying you are a pilot for a carrier does not cut it....you need to be a pilot within the NPC fleets, fighting agaisnt raiders, pirates, sleepers, FWar and sometimes deploying in "illegal" ops behind other empire borders fighting other pilots (pve + pvp).....

    The "guild" concept in EvE-Vr must be tied to a single squadron or wing of a carrier/super-carrier.....you don't need a corporation, you don't need large groups...EvE-Vr is a the small gang wetdream.

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    1. The wrapper doesn't have to be complex but there does need to be SOMETHING going on in the background. Every game like this has some kind of wrapper, whether it be player skills, different ships, ship upgrades, etc. Something that makes you want to play the game when you're not playing the game.

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    2. It should start as a stand alone, and progress from there. Lets not let perfect become the enemy of good. This doesn't have to be integrated into the sandbox to gain context.

      Think about normal FPS video games. Think about storyline style solo play and network team PvP. Eve lore is deep and vast, full of stories to provide context for both, and its already written and waiting to be tapped. Revisit the old classic Heavy Gear for ways to integrate different hardware and upgrades to add rich complexity. I'm not sure what capabilities the OR has for DLC, but this situation is begging for the ability to have DLC storyline and match play content. This also provides additional income that can sustain the game beyond the 3 - 6 month console cycle.

      CCP wants to show they are a game company with more than just a flagship product. The solution is staring them in the face.

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  8. A lot of ideas have been let into the wild since Valkyrie was shown at Fanfest about how to implement it into the sandbox, but even if any of them conform to the way CCP wants to implement it we all know how long that could take. It'd be nice to have actual pilots in fighters spitting out of carriers, for instance, but who knows if we'll ever live to see it.

    I hope something meaty does come along though. I've heard nothing but good things about the game, and I'd love to play it. But as you say, I don't want to spend all that money for a very short life expectancy.

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  9. """ But I don't feel like anyone has a good idea how that's going to happen yet. """

    So Valkyrie is being developed as a shallow Eve-themed lobby shooter ... just like the Dust514 failtrain?

    CCP needs to develop a serious strategy for how to actually integrate these games. Hint - that means more then a "wrapper" (that's essentially what Dust514 has).

    Without serious and meaningful impact and cross game play noone will find Valkyrie (or Dust514) stands out from any other Oculus game. I'm guessing there will be tons of space games just like Valkyrie when the Oculus ships commercially.

    The advantage Valkyrie has over Dust514 will come down to it being on the PC. Eve players will be much more likely to try it and then rage at CCP for making it such a trivial part of Eve.

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    1. Difference: DUST 514 is a mediocre FPS on a platform with lots of stellar FPSes.

      Valkyrie will be a stellar first entry into a new genre, using new technology, that will sing to a recently-neglected market. There will be a lot of 20-somethings and 30-somethings with enough income and fond memories of Wing Commander, Freespace, or the X-Wing/TIE Fighter games to provide an immediate market, beyond the FPS guys who'll go, "ooh! What's that?"

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    2. Evan is precisely right. Nine times out of ten in the gaming industry, it's not about who does it the best, it's about who does it first. Valkyrie will be the first game of its kind on Oculus Rift, and so it's already guaranteed success. Dust514, on the other hand, is a free-to-play first-person shooters on a platform full of first-person shooters. Because it's a new entry in the market, anything special it advertises itself as is drowned out by the established Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises.

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    3. You think CCP is the only company that's developing a space fighter game for the Rift? Um no.

      Strike Suit Zero, on sale for $5 on Steam TODAY is Oculus enabled, and is the tip of the iceberg. Remember the Oculus consumer doesn't ship until mid 2014+

      CCP is going to yet again competing outside of their element with a shallow lobby shooter that will have tons of "stellar" competition.

      Until CCP gets its design house in order for these eve themed addon titles (HINT: you might have to actually change Eve to make room for new stuff) they will be playing catchup in genres they have no core competence in.

      P.S. pretty sure Newcastle(? the ones working on Valkyrie) put some of the "polish" on Dust514...


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  10. I have to admit I would have thought it was a lot cooler if blinking didn't knock the lenses out of alignment for me. That's an engineering problem on the Rift end, though.

    Amusingly, the game seems plenty playable (at least for locking and launching missiles) even when blurry, and it's still entertaining.

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  11. If carrier fighters had real pilots and wern't the drooling morons that drones are now, enemy fleets would be incredibly out classed by any such manned fleet. Drop carriers, launch fighter wings and watch the fireworks as you remote rep fighters while they clear the sky of drones, frigs and light up cruisers. Sentries could be droped for ship engagement and viola, fights just got a LOT more complex in Eve and the term "Wing Commander" then carries some real weight.

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    1. And how does this work if your group cannot afford the head gear, and you are fighting a group that can?

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  12. This wrapper you speak of needs to be two-fold. Give it some decent single-player content; story-line, challenges, survival modes and so on and let the players looking to play online flag that somehow. Then, while they are waiting in the middle of the SP content let them know there is opportunity to join a fight.

    I don't think forcing a connection that is available all the time will be a good thing. Let it happen naturally in the sandbox and then enrichen it by having the available, willing Valkyrie players jump in.

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  13. 1: Flight School. No-loss 'simulator' flight for training.
    2: 'State Games Series' -- Caldari State sponsored 'wagered' matches, where DUSTies, EVE pilots and Valkyries can wager on watches played by 'Wings,' the formal Valkyrie term for corps/squads. Occasional tournaments sponsored by Amarr or Minmatar groups for fluff. This also allows for more game styles-- destruction derbies, hot and cold time trials, etc. As non-simulator play, equipment and clones are destructible; the reward is a cut of the wagers, or tournament prizes. Use automated CREST system so that all matches are watchable.
    3: Faction Warfare. This old beast. We need an EVE McGuffin for 'places player ships can't enter,' which then allows for pockets of Valkyrie contention in FW systems. Allow Valkyrie FW to directly effect system contention-- so that Valkyrie can put systems into contested state. This is an easy way to get proper Valkyrie PvP. Match-making systems 'launch response fighters' to opfor Valkyries attacking a node, or CAP Valkyries run defense for probing attacks. These matches start with one side on the field attacking or defending a site, and the other hits it. Rewards LP and small amount of ISK-- but success is needed to build up the bucks.
    4) Alliance/Sov play. We'd need a way to structure this so that alliances have a reason to have wings, a reason to take and contest McGuffin pockets. Possibly tie local in nullsec to ownership of deadspace pocket/asteroid belt/hostile environment sensor arrays? Other bonuses?

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  14. Actually.

    So. Perhaps there should be a FW tie-in. But what about instead of going empire-v-empire as we always do, empire-v-pirate? More varieties of fighters. Reasons for this to be happening off-the-radar in nullsec and lowsec. And it'd also explain why it hasn't been on the radar-- CONCORD's losing the security war against pirate fighters hitting its infrastructure, and institutes a new pilot training program.

    Just need to tie it into a new dynamic system security status-- which means CCP'll first need to divorce system security from resources, the same way that they split security status from CONCORD standing. ;)

    (obviously, pie-in-the-sky stuff here.)

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  15. creating a believable sorry for a campain would be so easy. A few carriers managed to go through a wormhole and lost contact to k-space. They are now fighting each other and you are a pilot. bam. Eve lore proof and an explanation for no link to the sandbox. In future they can add a full link, but rushing it just increases risks for minimal gain.

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  16. This is a space fight simulation like X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter was. It does not not need more than XvT had: immersive Battles with lots of fights going on and some tactical decisions to make. XvT is unbeaten in this respect, would love to see Valkyrie beat it ;-)

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