All Oculus Rift preorders will include exhilarating VR space combat game EVE …

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All Oculus Rift preorders will include exhilarating VR space combat game EVE: Valkyrie.

It’s been at least a decade since I last threw a LAN party at my place. The first game I ever played on the Oculus Rift might become the first game you ever play on the Oculus Rift, thanks to a new partnership between CCP and the virtual reality headset maker.While many people have already gotten their hands on a demo of the space dogfighting game EVE: Valkyrie, nobody knows as of yet how or when they can actually own a copy. Last week I got a chance to play about an hour of EVE Valkyrie in its latest incarnation, running on (I think) consumer Oculus hardware, or what I was told were “Engineering Samples” of the final headset. Valkyrie’s come a long way since my hands-on during E3 2013—though some of the finer details, like menus, still show the struggle developers face while designing virtual reality games.

Eve: Valkyrie isn’t necessarily news to anyone following virtual reality, since its single-player demo has been flooring us (and if you suffer from motion sickness, literally) for the last year at various virtual reality events. Battling your friends (and enemies) in multiplayer space dogfights is the ultimate VR thrill, and we’re excited to partner with CCP to bring this experience to Rift owners everywhere.” While it’s awesome to see Oculus Rift supporters getting games to play immediately, we still don’t know when gamers will actually get to start playing. Each participant sat in front of a massive gaming rig PC, whose specs I couldn’t quite scope out, with an Oculus Rift headset and a Xbox One controller attached. Next CCP ditched Unity, porting the game over to Unreal 4 and revealing that Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff would voice a character in the game.

These ships are capable of many styles of play, but the trade-off is that they don’t necessarily specialize in anything, either, flying around with armor and weapons that are mostly middle of the road. And it was interesting to see CCP fall into some pretty standard VR traps, despite being one of the foremost developers in the field showing off one of the most fleshed-out games. The starting Heavy contains a sort of space shotgun cannon and a warp drive that is Eve’s take on a dash mechanic (except you have to charge it first).

Controller behavior that doesn’t mesh with what your brain expects (like the A or B buttons not registering unless you’re looking in a specific place). I say it to point out just how damn hard developing for virtual reality is at the moment, with few hard-and-fast rules and no real expertise for studios to draw on. The industry’s been making normal games—shooters, RPGs, driving games, fighting games, et al played on normal, two-dimensional monitors—for a long time now. The people who create games have iterated on ideas, found convenient and consistent methods of solving problems, developed a wholly unique language (both actively and subconsciously) for “How These Things Are Done.” Virtual reality doesn’t have that yet.

We’re headed that direction, hammering out a few obvious rules, like “Games built for VR are better than games ported to VR.” But developers are just now starting to understand how to, for instance, do something as simple as build menus. Ship exteriors and interiors cab be custom as well, with a variety of paint jobs, decals, panels, instrument consoles, and flight sticks, that are also unlocked through experience points. For instance, each respawn puts you in a fake cloning tube (the central conceit of Valkyrie) where you can see your four ship options as tiny models arrayed around your lap. You look, you understand, you make your choice, you get back into the game with a minimum of hassle. (Unfortunately we don’t have any screenshots of that environment, presumably because it’s a work-in-progress.) What I find especially interesting though is that this skeuomorphic design tendency would be a terrible way to present the same choice on a monitor. Barrel rolls, probably the most dangerous two buttons on the controller if you’re sensitive to motion sickness in virtual reality, are the two bumpers.

This is especially innovative considering that some weapons’ aiming systems are tied to where you’re looking, not the direction the ship is flying. There are some balance issues—heavy ships feel slow and vulnerable rather than slow and powerful, while fighters dominate every encounter due to their lock-on missiles.

But the maps we played are ambitious, my favorite being a massive space station made up of hundreds of interlocking beams of metal, the perfect size for a brave pilot to dive between to shake off a determined foe. Where this look-to-aim control scheme was most effective was when I was trying to chase down an especially squirrelly target that I couldn’t consistently lay my Gatling gun’s target on. And I’m happy to hear the game will ship with every Rift preorder—not so much because I expect it to be a system seller, but because I think the Rift will sell enough units to swell the Valkyrie community. This also presented a unique challenge, since it becomes tempting to try to fly just outside of an enemy player’s view and start locking on with the viewpoint system. You have blind spots in the usual places, since I’m inside a space ship with support beams and control panels, but I can mostly see everything going on.

It’ll also have a scout mode, which CCP Games claimed was the most requested feature, where players can simply fly around without actually engaging in combat. Although CCP Games claims it won’t have single-player campaign, Eve: Valkyrie will have Recall, a mode that will present short mission-based objectives. Although the game is still in prerelease and this is, technically a preview, I am convinced Eve: Valkyrie has the chops to be one of virtual reality’s first killer app for gamers.

Whether my friends want to drag their PCs out to my house to experience it on a LAN connection, like everything virtual reality, it’s going to take some convincing.

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